Help me pick a digital SLR camera.

Discussion in 'Fine Living, Home, Design & Auto' started by mussel, Dec 20, 2007.

  1. mussel

    mussel Senior member

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    My budget is around $700 (with kit lense) with 10M pixel. So I narrow it down to 4 models:

    Canon 400D Rebel XTI
    Olympus E-510
    Nikon D40x
    Sony A100

    They all have great reviews from dpreview.com. Which one would you choose? I am leaning towards Nikon D40x.

    The next step up is Nikon D80 which is around $250 more than D40x. Worth it? What other choices in that price range? I am willing to pony up extra $$.

    Is there DSLR that allows you to compose the picture thru the LCD screen instead of the viewfinder. I am spoiled with the convenience that point & shoot camera affords me to do just that.

    How about lense? Suppose I pick the Nikon, which is the better all-purpose lense 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G or 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G ? How much heavier and longer is the 18-135mm?

    Nikon uses lossy compression for RAW files instead of lossless compression or uncompressed. Does it matter to you?
     


  2. ghulkhan

    ghulkhan Senior member

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    Its better to spend money on a good lens. Kits lens are usually crap. Bodies do not last nearly as long as a lens can. So when you say you are willing to pony up the extra cash for a higher body model--I would buy the cheaper body (separately, not a kit) and spend the extra cash on a better lens. You can always sell the body later and buy a better one if you want. Buy a lens you can have for a while.


    Also you said 250 more for a D80. I do not know the current prices but I have a feeling that you might be looking at grey market items. They are brought in from outside the country and do not have warranties regardless of what the retailer tells you. I would not spend money on that because if your camera breaks you're screwed.


    18-55 would be more practical as for the nikon lens options you mentioned
     


  3. Huntsman

    Huntsman Senior member

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    Is there DSLR that allows you to compose the picture thru the LCD screen instead of the viewfinder. I am spoiled with the convenience that point & shoot camera affords me to do just do.


    My Olympus E-10 from 2001 allows that, and likely the E-3 would also. The Nikon D300 will allow that, but it costs $1700. I'd suggest what I'm going to do -- buy a D200 on eBay for ~$800 or so.

    ~ Huntsman
     


  4. andrew.cmyk

    andrew.cmyk Senior member

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    I wouldn't touch Olympus or Sony with a 10 foot pole. I love Sony, but Canon and Nikon are the leaders of photography. When I was shopping this summer, it was a toss-up between the Rebel XTI and the D40x. I found the interface of the XTI a lot easier to understand. And I think it has a better selection of lenses and accessories. Mine came with the 18-55 lens which is ok for shooting random stuff, but it's worthless when it comes to professional work. It really depends on what you're using the camera for. You can pick up an XTI kit for around 600 these days.
     


  5. JetBlast

    JetBlast Senior member

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    +1 on the Canon/Nikon comment, they are definitely the way to go.

    I have shot a Nikon D50 for about 2 years now and I love it, it's showing a bit of wear and tear but I do use it almost daily so that may be a part of it. From shooting Canon DSLRs I have found that they do have a better choice of available lenses, but if you're looking for the quality of film, Nikon replicates that very nicely.

    JB
     


  6. A Harris

    A Harris Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Well, I have been using my brothers D40x lately. It takes really beautiful pictures, but there are a lot of small annoyances in the feature set, enough that I would spring the extra $$ for the D80.

    Also I found out that for what I do (product photography) the lack of an LCD viewfinder is a gigantic pain in the a** It is nearly impossible to frame things correctly.
     


  7. imageWIS

    imageWIS Senior member

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    +1 on the Canon/Nikon comment, they are definitely the way to go.

    I have shot a Nikon D50 for about 2 years now and I love it, it's showing a bit of wear and tear but I do use it almost daily so that may be a part of it. From shooting Canon DSLRs I have found that they do have a better choice of available lenses, but if you're looking for the quality of film, Nikon replicates that very nicely.

    JB


    Expand on that please. The range of Nikon lenses available is as wide as Canon's, unless you are writing about only digital-based lenses; in which case it may be wholly possible that Canon might have a larger selection.

    Jon.
     


  8. JetBlast

    JetBlast Senior member

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    Yes, my apologies, I was referring specifically to digital-based glass. My bad. From the selection I have seen myself (and heard from other photogs) Canon seems to have a wider range of lenses available. Not to mention the white L-glass just looks kickass [​IMG]

    JB
     


  9. imageWIS

    imageWIS Senior member

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    Yes, my apologies, I was referring specifically to digital-based glass. My bad. From the selection I have seen myself (and heard from other photogs) Canon seems to have a wider range of lenses available. Not to mention the white L-glass just looks kickass [​IMG]

    JB


    Ah ok, thanks for the clarification. As far as the camera's themselves go, Nikon and Canon are the best 135-based sensor size SLR's available for the money. They are comparable and people in either camp buy them for a specific reason, not because one is truly better than the other in all respects.

    I've heard both positive and negative comments about the Sony Alpha system, so I think they might be 1 or 2 generations away from getting to Nikon or Canon levels of quality.

    If you have money is no object however, a Hasselblad 6x6-based sensor size camera is the one to own.

    Jon.
     


  10. Brian SD

    Brian SD Moderator

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    Okay first off, to be incredibly blunt, never, ever use the LCD screen on the back of the camera to take pictures. That's simply not photography. Digital SLRs use viewfinders because that's what makes them an SLR (single lens reflex), you're not spoiled by convenience, you're spoiled by laziness. If you want to take point-and-shoot photography, get a p&s camera, not an SLR.

    That said, in the past couple years, Nikon has really stepped up their game in the digital SLR bracket and there are many advantages of going Nikon over Canon, though I would recommend to anyone who did film photography before they venture into digital to just get whichever brand they have lenses for already because both brands make excellent camera bodies.

    As for the D40x vs. D80, there are a couple reasons why the D80 is better, but the single most significant reason is the size and build quality. I just can't get the D40 to fit comfortably in my hand, but this is entirely a personal issue and you should just go to a decent camera store (like Nelson photo) and hold them both, take a few pictures and see which one you like better. The only advantage the D40 has is it's exposure meter which is really quite good (incredibly accurate), especially at that price.

    If it were me, I would spring for the D80 (I did), because if you want to be taking thousands of pictures, the advantages of the D80 (huge, bright viewfinder, better sensor, better build quality, an amazing auto-focus) are going to be worth the extra couple hundred bucks.

    Despite contentions above, not all kit lenses are crap. The Nikon 18-55 DX lens that can come standard with the D80/D50 (or used to, at least) is really fantastic and will run you like $100 if you buy it in the kit. It's excellent bang for your buck.

    Nikon also makes one of the absolute best zoom-lenses in the field, the 18-200 VR II zoom lens. It runs about $750 - $800 and the wait list is usually several months, so my recommendation is to hang around with the kit lens (in fact, buy some second-hand prime lenses too so you can get used to the different focal lengths and see around what range you like to operate) and then buy the 18-200 in a year to two years so you can really appreciate the differences.

    Lastly I would really recommend taking some photography classes. There's an incredible amount of knowledge which is easy to learn and even easier to get the hang of through practice. A lot of people buy SLRs and use them like a p&s camera, which makes baby Jesus cry. I think Nikon has a neat deal where if you buy their little SLR starter kit (I think around $150-200, a good-quality carrying case and some accessories) you get a couple lessons from Nikon School, which is really a great beginner's place to learn some photography basics and get you on the road to good pictures.
     


  11. imageWIS

    imageWIS Senior member

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    Okay first off, to be incredibly blunt, never, ever use the LCD screen on the back of the camera to take pictures. That's simply not photography. Digital SLRs use viewfinders because that's what makes them an SLR (single lens reflex), you're not spoiled by convenience, you're spoiled by laziness. If you want to take point-and-shoot photography, get a p&s camera, not an SLR.

    That really can't be stressed enough.

    Jon.
     


  12. visionology

    visionology Senior member

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    The low end lines from both Canon and Nikon give you a great image. I personally was in the same situation and bought the Canon XT when it was newer.

    However now in hindsight I would have preferred a more solid feeling camera so I would spend a bit more and get a higher end line with a magnesium body because it offers a more solid balanced feel and better construction. The other items you get with a higher end camera are nice as well but this is my only real gripe with the XT, it almost feels like a toy because of the plastic body.

    Personally if I did Canon I'd get the 40D. I'd then get two good quality zoom lenses to start, personally I'd do an 18-55 f2.8 IS and a 70-200 f4L IS. Together that would cover pretty much the whole range you need and both are L quality optics. Then you can piece in other lenses later as you see the need.
     


  13. retronotmetro

    retronotmetro Senior member

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    That really can't be stressed enough.

    Jon.


    I know this argument has been had before, but I really don't understand why you and Brian have this "viewfinder is all" mentality that in essence dismisses the entire genre of street photography and other great work done by people using viewfinderless rangefinders.

    Moreover, if you implement the sunny 16 rule and focus using the focusing tables on your lens, you are using far more brainpower and judgment for controlling the exposure than someone relying on the multisegment metering of a modern SLR.

    There are times that I wish I had a pivoting viewfinder, such as shooting over heads in a crowd or taking low angle shots of small children. Does this mean I am fit only to use a P&S, and should give up the ability to use my FA35/2 and Limited 70/2.4 and 21/3.2 with image stabilization over a large format sensor on a K100D or K10D?

    Geez, you guys are as rigid as the Leica nuts who bitch about the M7 not being a real camera because it has autoexposure.
     


  14. retronotmetro

    retronotmetro Senior member

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    If you don't have much experience using SLRs, it is tough to advise you on what route to go. One of the most important things in my view is how well a camera fits your hand and how well you relate to the control positions. But if you don't have experience, you may find it hard to judge whether you like the user interface and control positions of a given camera.

    I'd suggest that you go to a well stocked retailer that lets you handle the cameras, and see if you can navigate the menus and operate the controls better on any particular model. Canon and Nikon really are the best systems to go with now, because of the system breadth and the deep secondary market for secondhand lenses and accessories. They are locked in a cyclical death match of one-upsmanship to add features and make incremental image improvements, but ultimately either system is going to give you satisfactory image quality. The control and menu layouts may actually make a bigger difference in how happy you are with the camera and whether you can get the right settings in an instant when it counts.

    Whatever system you pick, I think that you'd be better off as a beginner buying the least expensive model in that system, and spending extra money on lenses and an external flash. Don't get into a "latest and greatest" mode before you know what features you will actually need and use.
     


  15. imageWIS

    imageWIS Senior member

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    I know this argument has been had before, but I really don't understand why you and Brian have this "viewfinder is all" mentality that in essence dismisses the entire genre of street photography and other great work done by people using viewfinderless rangefinders.

    Moreover, if you implement the sunny 16 rule and focus using the focusing tables on your lens, you are using far more brainpower and judgment for controlling the exposure than someone relying on the multisegment metering of a modern SLR.

    There are times that I wish I had a pivoting viewfinder, such as shooting over heads in a crowd or taking low angle shots of small children. Does this mean I am fit only to use a P&S, and should give up the ability to use my FA35/2 and Limited 70/2.4 and 21/3.2 with image stabilization over a large format sensor on a K100D or K10D?

    Geez, you guys are as rigid as the Leica nuts who bitch about the M7 not being a real camera because it has autoexposure.


    All valid points. For the sake of my argument I will agree to say that it's partially based on personal experience and tastes. After all Cartier-Bresson disliked SLR's completely and would never dream of using one; whilst others are completely unable to use non-SLR cameras.

    BUT, when discussing SLR cameras one has to take into consideration that the viewfinder is the most decisive point of picture taking. The view from the viewfinder is as close as you can get to what the lens sees. And you can determine with your own sight what will probably be the outcome of that picture: how the focusing will look like, how much bokeh will there be in background / foreground, etc...

    For, if the SLR didn't have a viewfinder, what would be the point of having the mirror in the camera in the first place?

    I believe you are looking for a camera with interchangeable lenses that project directly onto the sensor which in turn transmits that data onto an LCD screen.

    Jon.

    P.S. Regarding the Leica comment I think you are mistaking us with LabelKing.
     


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