Hello fellow camera-people (don't like the word "shooters"...)
I thought I'd share my ever-changing path in the world of camera-buying-selling with you all. To me, it has been quite an enlightening experience...
Note that I am sharing my experiences with you all in order to give a different perspective to - and hopefully help - those of you who are contemplating the purchase of a new digital SLR. This is not so much about features as it is about what I believe to be the crux of it: what are you going to do with your next digital SLR? Home-bound, or with you on your trips?
Short re-cap: Bought an Olympus E510 a while back; didn't like the tunnel-like viewfinder so I sold it and bought a Canon 400D; felt limited/fell in love with the 40D, so I got it, together with the 24-105mm L lens. Then came the Nikon D300 and I got it, together with the 18-200mm. Meanwhile, I also wanted to have a point-and-shoot, so I got the best (in my opinion): the Canon G9. Problem: ergonomically, it's a pig...everytime I used it and my hands felt a little sweaty, this brick-like sucker felt more slippery than a bar of soap! And it's weighty...So much for a "point-and-shoot" (read: portability, in my book, henceforth: p&s). So I sold that one too, and got the Panasonic Lumix 10x zoom. I still got it, and I love it. That much for a "short" recap...
So I had the Lumix p&s and the D300. Sounds great, doesn't it?
Then, comes a great recent holiday to the Philippines with my then-girlfriend (now fiancée). Great photo opportunities, and then-some, in Boracay, an idyllic island there. Did I take the D300? Nope. Why? I was already super-loaded with baggage, and I realised that I wasn't going to be having long walks on the beach/shopping in Greenbelt (Manila) with my gf on one arm and the D300 in the other. So I took only the Lumix.
That worked great. She could throw it in her bag without me being handicapped by a huge camera (D300), or fearing to be robbed because of it/or looking even more like a "Cano" (= ameriCANO, or, tourist - choose whichever you prefer).
Was the Lumix perfect? 90% of the time, yes. It took some great day shots - really nice, clear and saturated. The 10x zoom was a real bonus at times. Disadvantage: night-time shots, although with a tripod I could have achieved much better results. So it's more a p&s-camera handicap rather than a fault specific to the Lumix, since all p&s do not handle well high iso. But I surely wasn't going to lug around a tripod on the beach, or at the restaurant...
What about the D300?...Well, it sure was a wake-up call for me, not to take it in my holidays...A few months ago I was sure I would take it anywhere, but, as I said, when the day to pack and leave arrived, I didn't hesitate. The D300 stayed back...
So when I came back, I decided: the D300 must go. It's simply not for me. It's a fantastic camera - no doubt about it, and I cannot fault it. There is nothing wrong with it, and the fault (if fault has to be named) lies with me. I came to realise a few things about the D300, which I will share with you. This - I guess - is where the "Reader's Feedback" part comes into play:
- 3-D tracking: never used it. I just don't follow people moving between the left and right parts of the screen. So I don't care if the camera can follow them.
- 51-point autofocus: kinda undecided on this one. ON the one hand, I realise I tend to use the centre focus point most of the time, because the camera - as "intelligent" as it might be - doesn't always focus on what I want it to focus. On the other hand, I took some pics of some aerobatic planes going past, and the 51-point AF kept them, well...in focus. But, how many times have I gone in my life to an air show? Once. Anyway...as I said, undecided about this particular feature.
- The 960,000+ pixels screen. Nice, but to be frank it wasn't something to make me go "Wow!". I certainly could not say that it was 3x better than, say, the Canon 40D's screen.
- Most of all: this is a big, heavy camera. Big physically, and 1.5 kg with the 18-200mm lens. It is not something I see myself carrying in holiday, as I like to be un-encumbered as much as possible.
However, don't get me wrong: it's a fantastic piece of kit. But to me, it's big, and with some features (for which you pay...) that I don't really need. Some would/do need them. I don't.
Morale: what do you ACTUALLY need in a DSLR camera, dear new camera-buying friend?...
I really enjoyed, for instance, riding in one of those "tuk-tuk" tricycles, getting my Lumix at the end of my stretched arm extending outside the cart in which we were rding, and snapping away at the traffic, people - whatever. Got some interesting shots this way. The point: chuggability/portability/small-size/one-hand operation are great attributes, for me. Small is beautiful. Imagine trying to do that with the D300. I probably would have come back with one D300 missing (and the arm holding it maybe too...)
So that's why I am going back to the small-form DSLR. Because I want still to have creative freedom that only a DSLR can offer, but in a small-enough format that I will actually take with me on holidays.
What am I experimenting with a the moment? The Canon 450D and the Olympus E520. I got the Canon 450D, and I've got 14-days exchange from the shop where I got it from. Why did I choose the 450D (although I have not decided 100% to keep it as yet)? Because it's small, and fully-featured, and I can always attach an "L" lens to it one day if I want. The 3' screen is nice, live view is good, it's got pretty much everything, including great high-ISO handling (although it doesn't go to 3200 or 6400 ISO, "only" 1600). Another thing that pushed me toward it was the kit lens. It got stellar reviews from Photozone, and yes, it's very good, I find. THe viewfinder is nice and big and bright too.
However, I am not 100% convinced. Why? Because the Olympus E520 feels much nicer in the hand. Much more chuggable. And, I have to say that the Olympus's way of navigating the back panel and making changes to settings has to be - by far - the quickest and most intuitive way I've seen on a DSLR (in other words: push the "OK/Set" button in the middle of the 4-way controller, then navigate to the setting you want to change, and change it). Brilliant. The problem for me with the E520 remains two-fold:
1. the viewfinder still sucks. It's small and the settings are hard to read, to the right of the screen as they are.
2. not sure whether I like the 4:3 photo format when it's on the screen. It reminds me of those old computer monitors that were squarish, just as the image ratio of the Oly...
But, the E520 is being heavily discounted in Australia (AUD$900 with the 14-42mm kit lens, or AUD$1000 with the additional 40-150 thrown in). Great value for a fully-featured camera. AND, regardless of whether I like the Oly's aspect ratio or not, it's capable undeniably of talking some beautiful and sharp pictures - the kit lens is renowned for its relative quality.
So, to recap about the Olympus E520: Main advantages to me are:
- size/compactness/way it feels in the hand (better, by about 30%, than the 450D)
- ergonomics of changing settings
- and it does take nice pictures.
But I do believe the 450D is the better camera overall (Canon lens range, better and bigger/clearer screen (what's with the E520 screen?...), better viewfinder, ISO in viewfinder, better high-ISO handling. In short, more sorted.
But which would I take with me on my next trip?...That, to me, is what it boils down to. What's the point of having a camera - ANY camera - if you are reluctant to take it with you, and, ultimately, take pictures with it?...
(Tentative) morale to this story:
1. Don't buy on specs or features alone - you might not need them and you might get the wrong camera
2. Imagine going on a trip (not the smoking kind...the real thing). Would you take the camera you're thinking of buying with you? What's the point, otherwise?...
to be continued...Maybe the E520 will win the day.
Last edited by Ant1 on Tue Oct 07, 2008 10:00 am, edited 4 times in total.