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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 11:01 am 
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Hello all!

I want to migrate from my point-and-shoot to a new SLR camera. So in this sense I'm a total beginner. I'm trying to finalize me decision but so far this is proving more difficult than I first thought.

I've got quite a limited budget and I would only reluctantly pay more than £550/$880 in total (including lens).

Now, I really enjoy travelling and taking photos of architecture and insides of churches and galleries (so low light photography I suppose). I really started to struggle with in low light with my old camera. This however doesn't mean that I will not be interested in other types of photography.

Right now I managed to narrow down my choice to Nikon, Canon and Pentax. I briefly considered Sony but the ones that my local shops were offering (A390) just don't seem to get very good reviews.

Because of my budget I mainly looked at Nikon D3100, Nikon D5000, Canon 500D and Pentax K-x. I know there is Nikon D3000 and Canon 1000D and they are cheaper, but I'm not sure weather I want to go for the least sophisticated camera in case I might regret it in the future.

Now, I'm attracted to Pentax because of the price. It seems that it's almost comparable with the Nikons and Canons listed above. However I'm not sure about their lenses among other things as
a) there doesn't seems as much support for Pentax as for other cameras in my local shop (which may or may not reflect the selection on the market)
b) for example I was looking at good and cheap 50mm primes. Nikon and Canon offers them but I can't find anything as cheap for Pentax.

Nikon and Canon are more expensive which means I will be really pushed towards my budget if I want to buy additional lenses. This leaves me with a question: Should I invest more for the camera and then buy lenses later on or should I start with more lenses straight away? At the moment I have my eyes set on the basic 18-55mm, 55-200mm for some zooming and 50mm primes since they are meant to be great for low-light photography. But I can't buy them all straight away. What would you do?

And another thing. Unlike with Canon, budget Nikons don't support autofocus with all their lenses :? . I know there is still a good selection but for example it seems that I would have no AF if I went for the cheap 50mm primes. Would that be an issue? I can't imagine taking a photograph without one as a total beginner...

Thank you very much!

:D


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 4:35 pm 
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Any entry level camera should suit you well -- in the end, it will come down to ergonomics and interface.

BTW -- all nikon DSLRs will work with the newer lenses which have AF built into them -- including the D3000, D3100, D5000 -- heck, even the D40 works with the newer lenses. I think what you are referring to is the older Nikon AF system which is in-body motor driven rather than lens-based. On that count, you are correct -- you would need at least a D80, D90 or D7000 if you want to have AF functionality with all Nikon lenses. But -- don't let that stop you if you think the Nikon is right for you.

Generally speaking, I find the entry-level Canons well equipped feature-wise, but the plastic feel leaves me with the sense that they aren't as well built. Nikon, on the other hand, feel really solid, but their entry level cameras tend to be thin on features such as auto-bracketing. Pentax tend to be more weather-proof.

All-in-all, you would be hard pressed to go wrong -- so long as you get into a proper camera shop for some hands-on shopping.

The notion of buying better glass and less body to start is good advice -- and what I would recommend. Check out this video on that front -- you'll find some very interesting results.

http://www.youtube.com/user/DigitalRevC ... k5IMmEDWH4

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 4:39 pm 
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First off, as you mentioned the D3100, D5000, 500D, and Pentax KX - my own personal opinion would be that the Canon 500D is a step behind the others in higher ISO performance, which could affect your needs in low light. The 550D is a true competitor for high ISO with the others, but the 500D isn't quite up to the others at the higher ISO range. I'd tend to agree on avoiding the older Nikon and Canon you mentioned.

On Sony, I'd agree that the A390 just isn't in the same class as the others. I'd encourage at least considering Sony though, as their A500/550, or newer A580, are right up with the D3100 & KX, or better, at high ISO work as well as features and speed...so they are worth strong consideration in that regard and fit within your budget. I'd wonder if another shop nearby might stock them to handle in person, as it would be worth considering the widest selection of cameras as possible, and Sony's 500-series models have some unique selling points and compare well with the others you're considering.

The Pentax price is pretty unbeatable - the KX is an older model, but was top-spec for speed and high ISO work at the time, and still holds up near the top of class for APS-C for this (the Sony sensor it uses, shared by the D3100 & D5000 & Sony A500/550, really is a solid one). Lens selection is decent with Pentax because of the ability to use even ancient manual focus lenses with no adapters...however, the few holes in the Pentax system as you noted are finding a few key cheap lenses. Going used might help a bit...but they don't really have the super-cheap plastic-fantastic type primes. Having stabilization in the camera body is a nice perk that Pentax and Sony both have, which means you don't have to think on buying IS lenses, and can even get your fast primes stabilized. Pentax overall is a smaller player - Sony is larger, and Nikon & Canon are the real superpowers in the DSLR market.

I don't think you need to spend all that much on the camera body - your budget range is fine for now - I'd stick with the mid-rangers that might run you from $550 to $750 for the body and a kit lens, and pick up a cheap fast prime...then start investing in some nicer lenses as the money comes along. The good lenses will work fine on the entry-level bodies, and once you've built up a few nice lenses, it'll be time to invest in an upgraded body - you'll have the lens collection to get the most out of it.

Don't worry much on the image quality - they're all so close as to be a non-issue. Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Pentax all make models that could roughly equal eachother across the ISO range from low to high...and the lens & photographer will be the biggest differentiator between them, not the camera body or brand.

I'd likely hone your list down to the D5000, Pentax KX Pentax KR, Sony A550 or Sony A580. The D3100 also, but between the two I'd like the faster frame rate of the D5000. The newer Pentax KR and Sony A580 will both push your budget to the max - the earlier A550 and KX are both still competitive and fine choices, though both the A580 and KR do have some nice evolutionary upgrades. If considering Canon, I'd try to work the 550D into my budget to compare to these others...the 500D wouldn't quite match the others in continuous frame rate or high ISO ability, which would edge it out for me.

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Justin Miller
Sony DSLR-A580 / Sony 18-250mm / Minolta 50mm F1.7 / Sigma 30mm F1.4 / Tamron 10-24mm / Tamron 200-500mm / Tamron 90mm F2.8 macro / Minolta 300mm F4 APO
Sony NEX5N / 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 / 55-210mm F4-6.3 / Pentax K adapter / Konica K/AR adapter / bunches o' Konica & Pentax lenses!

Galleries:
http://www.pbase.com/zackiedawg


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 5:15 pm 
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I hadn't realised the Sony A550 kit had dropped in price so much, it is probably the highest featured body all round in its price range. A particular Sony advantage (along with Pentax) is they have stabilisation in body. You can combine that with a fast lens to go beyond what Canon or Nikon can hand hold in the same conditions.

The difference in high ISO performance between 500D and 550D or competitors is overstated a tad. You're not going to see much practical difference between them until you're past ISO1600 and beyond that point with any camera the image has already degraded compared to lower ISO.

Also, I wouldn't be worried about continuous shooting speed either, unless you know that you will need it for sure, most of the time it is little more than a nice to have.

The lack of AF with certain lenses did put me off Nikon too when I was starting out. While AF isn't a necessity, it sure is useful for speed and convenience the majority of the time.

Overall, you might want to consider the system as a whole. Where might you go later? Is there one more likely to provide it than others? For example, I started with Sony years ago and they were (and still are) strong on the higher entry level. But they're a bit lacking if you want to go much beyond that. Pentax have even less.

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3rd party: Zeiss 2/50 makro, Samyang 8mm fisheye, Sigma 150 macro, 120-300 f/2.8 OS, Celestron 1325/13
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 6:07 pm 
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The budget should cover the camera and a lens.

Depending on what subjects you wish to photograph will determine the lens.

For everyday/beginner use, the kit lenses (that come provided) are decent enough, but they have an aperture of F/3.5-5.6. Not the best thing to use for low light, but these are multi purpose lenses, at the end of the day.

I went for Canon because I like the simple design and layout, everything is where it should be.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2010 6:23 pm 
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Quote:
The difference in high ISO performance between 500D and 550D or competitors is overstated a tad. You're not going to see much practical difference between them until you're past ISO1600 and beyond that point with any camera the image has already degraded compared to lower ISO.


True indeed - I didn't mean to overstate it - I tried to stress the 'if it were me' part there - but I may be a bit of an odd duck in that I quite routinely shoot at ISOs of 1600 to 6400, so those little differences in ISO performance come out a bit larger for my own needs. That's the only reason I'd bump up to the 550D rather than the 500D, or the D3100 vs the D3000.

Quote:
Also, I wouldn't be worried about continuous shooting speed either, unless you know that you will need it for sure, most of the time it is little more than a nice to have.


Certainly a fair point. My caveat again was for me personally - If I were choosing between the D3100 and D5000, I'd go for the D5000 for the frame rate alone...though to be honest, that lens issue might crop up in my head and make me lean towards a D90 if I couldn't afford to pitch up to the D7000. Those are all just my personal preferences/choices though - the OP's needs could be very different - and I'd still stress ergonomics/feel as a very important factor to consider.

BTW, you're right on the A550 prices - amazing to see that they can be picked up so cheap - but since Sony lowered the entry-level price on the A580 to $700, versus the $900 that the A550 initially sold for, they had to really drop down the A550 price to keep it below the A580, or there'd be no reason at all to even consider still getting an A550! As it is, it makes the A550 quite a good deal.

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Justin Miller
Sony DSLR-A580 / Sony 18-250mm / Minolta 50mm F1.7 / Sigma 30mm F1.4 / Tamron 10-24mm / Tamron 200-500mm / Tamron 90mm F2.8 macro / Minolta 300mm F4 APO
Sony NEX5N / 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 / 55-210mm F4-6.3 / Pentax K adapter / Konica K/AR adapter / bunches o' Konica & Pentax lenses!

Galleries:
http://www.pbase.com/zackiedawg


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 12:37 am 
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First of all, thank you for all your answers. I found them all very helpful.

Quote:
I'd likely hone your list down to the D5000, Pentax KX Pentax KR, Sony A550 or Sony A580. The D3100 also, but between the two I'd like the faster frame rate of the D5000. The newer Pentax KR and Sony A580 will both push your budget to the max - the earlier A550 and KX are both still competitive and fine choices, though both the A580 and KR do have some nice evolutionary upgrades. If considering Canon, I'd try to work the 550D into my budget to compare to these others...the 500D wouldn't quite match the others in continuous frame rate or high ISO ability, which would edge it out for me.

I didn't notice the A550 anywhere but now I checked it out and it looks interesting. I will look into Sony once again. However the Canon 550D is just too expensive for me.

Also, I would personally not consider the faster frame rate of the D5000 to be a decisive issue. I'm not sure how much I would be using it. I think it's one of those things that would be nice to have but at the moment I've mostly tried taking photos which would not require such speeds.

Quote:
The lack of AF with certain lenses did put me off Nikon too when I was starting out. While AF isn't a necessity, it sure is useful for speed and convenience the majority of the time.

Yes, it's also putting me off a bit. There is still the 35mm prime, which is a bit more expensive, but it will Auto-focus. For what photography would it be suitable? Indoor (such as churches and museums)? What else?


I feel like I'm moving away from Pentax as they don't seem to offer the lenses I wanted for cheap (e.g the prime lenses mentioned above). And as a beginner I know very little about the camera second-hand market and so I'm not sure I would want to go down that route.

So I believe my options are now Sony A550 (which I will look more into), Nikon 3100D and 5000D, and Canon D500. Out of the last four, Nikon 3100D seems to be the cheapest and newest and so I'm leaning towards it (though the difference isn't that great).

This brings me to my question. Since all the cameras I mention above are quite close to my budget, I won't be able to buy all the lenses I want. What do you think I should go for, taking into account my main interests? Should I go for 55mm-200mm lens? Would I need them? Or should I rather leave them for later and get a 50mm or 35mm prime? I don't know, it just feels a bit weird not being able to zoom in on a camera, but that might only be because I'm used to having it around.

Cheers!


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 1:52 am 
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I would go for the kit lens(es) for starters and see how you get on with it/them. I have been using mine for nearly a year, and it seems fine for most things. I do mainly shoot outdoor stuff though.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:37 am 
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For starting out, if you wanted to stick to a cheap budget limitation, I'd probably take the camera with the kit lens package, since they practically give those away, then pick up a few lenses that you can find for $100 or under to cover a few basic bases - one longer zoom for the 70-200 range, and one fast prime like a cheapie 50mm. With Nikon, Canon, and Sony, you should be able to find a 50mm cheap, though I'm not as sure how to go about it with Nikon on an entry body, since the truly cheap 50mm is a body-driven lens. Canon's plastic fantastic, and Sony's Minolta 50mm F1.7 can both be found in the $50-100 range used. And a classic 70-200 or 70-210 lens that isn't super fast but can get the job done could probably be picked up on the cheap too - that would give you a kit of 18-55ish range, 70-210ish range, and a 50mm F1.7, probably all for right around your total budget. Since I'm most familiar with Sony, the following lenses are based around that system, but likely the same equivalents could be found similarly priced from Canon & Nikon. I'd recommend looking into a used 'beercan', which is a Minolta 70-210 F4 lens - a solid performer that can usually be picked up for $100 - it'll be a little faster than the kit-package 200mm zoom they offer with the new camera, and it's an old-faithful lens that has a lot of fans. A Minolta 50mm F1.7 can often be found under $50, or at most $70ish from a reliable seller...that would give a pretty good starter base. Then you could start looking into faster and better lenses to build your system as you come into more money to throw at the hobby.

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Justin Miller
Sony DSLR-A580 / Sony 18-250mm / Minolta 50mm F1.7 / Sigma 30mm F1.4 / Tamron 10-24mm / Tamron 200-500mm / Tamron 90mm F2.8 macro / Minolta 300mm F4 APO
Sony NEX5N / 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 / 55-210mm F4-6.3 / Pentax K adapter / Konica K/AR adapter / bunches o' Konica & Pentax lenses!

Galleries:
http://www.pbase.com/zackiedawg


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 9:36 am 
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Thanks.

Now supposing I had a choice between the two: a nice prime of 35 or 50mm or a zoom lens such as 55mm-200mm. Which one do you think I should go for at the beginning? I don't think both will fit into my budget.

Also, is there much of a difference between the different memory cards on the market? Do they effect the speed of the camera? They seem priced differently.


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:20 pm 
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Tough call on the lenses - probably depends mostly on the types of shooting you think you'll do most. If shooting often in long light, and often of subjects at similar focal lengths...or portraits, a standard prime or two would do fine. But if looking more for travel/all-purpose lenses, zooms do come in handy.

On memory cards - those also have a bit to do with your shooting style and needs. The slower, cheaper cards will take single shots as well as the fastest card out there - all cameras have at least a small buffer that can handle a handful of RAW shots at once, and the card speed merely impacts how fast the camera can offload the buffer to the card. With casual shooting, the slowest cards are fine. If you intend to shoot a lot of burst-mode stuff, lots of heavy shooting continuously in RAW + JPEG, or have any intention of using the video functions, that's where a slower card can start to get in the way unless the camera in question has a massive buffer (entry-levels usually don't have all that big of a buffer). Remember though that RAW vs. JPEG even makes a huge difference. If I need to use my A550's 7fps mode, and fire off 25 frames in RAW, the camera will max the buffer after around 17-20, and begin to slow down the frame rate until stuff can be offloaded from the buffer. If I've got an el-cheapo class 6 card in there, it can't offload fast enough...if I load one of the faster cards, a few seconds pause and the camera's ready to start firing 7fps again. However, if I shoot JPEG, I can run off 35-40 frames easily at 7fps without taxing the buffer even with a cheap card.

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Justin Miller
Sony DSLR-A580 / Sony 18-250mm / Minolta 50mm F1.7 / Sigma 30mm F1.4 / Tamron 10-24mm / Tamron 200-500mm / Tamron 90mm F2.8 macro / Minolta 300mm F4 APO
Sony NEX5N / 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 / 55-210mm F4-6.3 / Pentax K adapter / Konica K/AR adapter / bunches o' Konica & Pentax lenses!

Galleries:
http://www.pbase.com/zackiedawg


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2010 2:55 pm 
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Thanks!

Quote:
Tough call on the lenses - probably depends mostly on the types of shooting you think you'll do most. If shooting often in long light, and often of subjects at similar focal lengths...or portraits, a standard prime or two would do fine. But if looking more for travel/all-purpose lenses, zooms do come in handy.

Well, I will use it a lot when I travel. But I often use it in cities, taking photos of architecture. Often inside and outside of churches and galleries. So I'm wondering weather the 35mm lens would be most suitable for that. Of course I might be taking other shots so I'm thinking of getting a zoom lens one way or the other...but perhaps a bit later.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:16 am 
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Hi people, I just got rid of a 1000d & 450d and purchased a Pentax Kx. Now the 450d was older technology admittedly, the 500d was not an improvement in image quality, but the 550d is meant to be a lot better.

One thing I have to say is the Canon kit lens 18-55 is just horrible !!. ( the 55-250 was good ) The other brands including my new pentax lenses are much better quality. The Pentax team seem to have the drop on the others with image quality, and the dynamic range ( ability to cope with contrasting subjects ) plus the colours on the Kx was such an improvement over the 450d it was outrageous !!

However, I liked the Canon operating system and the complaints about plastic feel did not bother me.

Just go with what feels right, start taking photo's and when you become more knowledgable, make a more informed choice. I started with Canon because they had cameras in every shop and it was too tempting, however It did not take me long to find out that it was not the best choice for me and the Kx was far better all around than the old 450d. The change over to Pentax because of their pricing has cost me hardly anything. Now I feel at home..............


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 2:57 pm 
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Wait a moment. The 18-55 IS from Canon isnt bad, it's as good as the 55-250 IS or even better. I think youve had a bad example.

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Panasonic DMC-FZ18, Panasonic DMC-FZ28, Canon G5, Canon 350D, Canon 50D + BG-E2N
Tamron 17-50 2.8, Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM,
Canon 18-55 II plus lots of Minolta MD/M42 lenses and bodies


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 03, 2011 5:34 pm 
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If you can hold off buying the new lens until after you have the camera and kit lens, here is the test you can do to decide which to get next. Once you know how everything works more or less, go outside one day and limit yourself to photographing at 35mm, then at 50mm. See when you feel limited by a fixed focal length and whether 35 or 50 fits you better. I find that I do have to "zoom with my feet" often with the 50 prime, but that's a small price to pay for the image quality I get from it.

Similarly, when you go out with the kit lens, see if you keep wanting to zoom more, or if you are happy with the kit distance. (I always want more reach, even at 400mm sometimes, but that's me.)

My personal preference is telephoto zoom before prime, but with your plans for travel photography and buildings, I think you might be better served by getting the prime first, and then the telephoto.

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