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PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 4:27 pm 
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, focus. But, how many times have I gone in my life to an air show? Once. 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)
- price
- 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.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 5:06 pm 
Wow! When I read the topic's title I tough "This guy must be CRAZY" :shock:
Then I read your text and tough: "Ok.. he's got a point"

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 5:57 pm 
It's why I keep the D40 in my arsenal. Very valid points raised though. There comes a point where you need to balance specification, functionality, and practicality - this is most often on vacation where travelling light is at a premium.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 6:52 pm 
I think your experiences illustrate very well the reality gap between how people imagine using/want to use a camera and what in real life is practical. No use having great gear if you don't have it with you most of the time. Thanks for taking the trouble to write it all down. Interesting read.

I must confess that although I really would like some of the performance aspects from a DSLR I am not really eager to get one because a smaller all-in-one camera is so very practical and has so much to offer. I wonder how you would take to a superzoom.

You should keep in mind that the E520 will give you the option to use a micro 4/3 body at a later stage which will make it even more compact. Any investments you make in lenses would be future proof for that option. You won't have that option with the 450D.

Happy snapping.

When in doubt..... Press the shutter.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:01 pm 
Hey Ant1,

Nice story, although as you describe it, I wouldn't take out a 450D with one hand off a tuk-tuk. Nor an E520. If you had trouble carrying a DSLR when going with the missus, then it shouldn't be different than going with the smaller one (450D/E520) on your neck. They would grab less attention than a D300, but not by much, since its still a big black electronic lens mounted jewel to steal off of you.

Now. What about having a crumpled bag to put a DSLR in, and only pull it out when shooting? This bag could be a Crumpler for instance.

Here's the "5 Million Dollar Home" model (haven't an idea what the name means):




See how it discreetly holds your gear, without anyone knowing that inside ... you've got this 8)

This way your hands and neck would have been free, and only your shoulder would carry this 1.5kg, which should be bearable. Considering D300 and 450D are ~400 grams apart, I think you'd only notice the difference on long hiking or many hours (>4) of treks.

I think I would have stayed with the D300. I'd just organize things differently for the same purposes as a 450D would do.
No going back now, is there?

If your looking for a more fun and pleasure DSLR now than a D300, then between the 450D and the E520, I would pick the Alpha300.
Just my 0.02$ ...

Regarding Micro-4/3rds: You can mount a 4/3 lens on a Micro-4/3 body with an adapter. Not the other way around. Buying an E520 for this "future" purpose of "Micro" is a waste of your money. Wait for a Micro-4/3rds body in the first place, with a Micro-4/3rds lens (which should out-do any lens of the normal 4/3rds you lug around today in regards to size / aperture). Even if you buy the excellent 12-60mm lens, it would still feel like dragging your hand forwards when placed on the smaller E520 (was meant for the E-3), and will for sure feel like a two ton weight on a future Micro-4/3rds body.
If you like the E520 - go for it. But not for the 4/3rds reason imo ...


- Cheez

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 01, 2008 8:54 pm 
Cheezbrgr wrote:
Regarding Micro-4/3rds: You can mount a 4/3 lens on a Micro-4/3 body with an adapter. Not the other way around.

Exactly. Which is why any investment in 4/3 lenses for an E520 would not be wasted if later you wanted an even smaller micro 4/3 body. Since size is an issue here that might appeal. Of course micro 4/3 lenses would make it even smaller but you'd have to wait for that option and Ant1 is in the process of buying now. Whether you would like that combination of 4/3 lenses with a micro 4/3 body is a matter of personal preference of course and currently a theoretical question because these bodies aren't available yet. But both bodies would work with 4/3 lenses. I imagine the option to have both bodies and being able to select which one to take in different situations will undoubtedly be used by many current 4/3 owners.

When in doubt..... Press the shutter.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Sep 03, 2008 4:22 am 
Cheezbrgr wrote:

If your looking for a more fun and pleasure DSLR now than a D300, then between the 450D and the E520, I would pick the Alpha300.
Just my 0.02$ ...

Yes, the Alpha300 is a good camera, although I would probably favour the PentaxK20D with the Pentax 18-250mm in this case. However, either way would just be a swap from a big camera (Nikon D300) to, still, a big camera (Sony or Pentax, or Canon, for that matter). That would be useless, since the Nikon D300 is a fantastic camera. Why would I change to another brand or configuration? The issue here is, first, one of portability and - second - one of manual control that only a DSLR can offer (short of such point&shoots like the Canon G9). It's not about changing from brand A to brand B, but to go to a more portable size, whilst still offering, as I mentioned, manual control and good picture quality.


 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 2:35 pm 
I have settled on the Olympus E-520 with the 14-42 and 40-150 kit lenses. I took advantage of the 14-day exchange from the shop I bought the Canon 450D, to finally settle on the E-520.

The Canon 450D is a great camera, but there were a couple of issues with it for me:

1. I found it difficult to focus precisely on a subject with the 450D. This has proven to be the deal-breaker for me... Unless I choose multi-autofocus points for fast-moving subjects (which is rare for me) I prefer single-point focus to zero-in on precisely what I want to shoot.

The issue is that the viewfinder of the 450D presents the focus point with illuminated dots inside a rectangle that, however, is not illuminated. The rectangle is drawn on the focusing screen like the assist grid normally found on many cameras. That means that in many cases, you can't see the rectangle, such as when the subject is dark, as it blends-in with the subject (remember, the rectangle does not illuminate).

The issue is that the 450D does not focus where the dot illuminates, but rather it focuses on the area covered by that rectangle that surrounds the illuminated dot...So in practice, you choose your subject with the dot, but the camera will focus on a larger area. If you want to focus very precisely, say between two adjacent subjects, you might illuminate it with the focusing dot, but there's no way of telling where exactly the camera will focus on, because you can't always see the rectangle around the illuminated dot - and that's where the camera will focus on: on the rectangle, not the dot. To give you a comparison, the Nikon D300 shows you the focus as a small illuminated rectangle - in other words, what is illuminated is what will be focused on. On the Canon 450D, on the other hand, the illuminated dot is only the central part of a small rectangle where the camera will focus. But since most of the time you cannot see the rectangle, you don't know for sure where the camera will focus precisely. To summarise, I had many shots that were not focused on what I wanted the camera to focus on, which I thought was a big issue for me. No such problem with the E-520. Yes, it has only 3 point-focus, but at least I can focus on what I want.

2. I didn't like the ergonomics of the 450D. The grip never fell right, it's too thin and I always had the feeling that my fingernails were digging into the body as I was holding the camera. The E-520, in comparison, feels 100% better for me. The grip is fatter, and the camera feels more compact and right in my hands.

So, besides these issues, what else is there to say? Well, on the positive side, the 450D's kit lens is very good. It's sharp, and it's also stabilised. The 450D's screen is nice, and is better than the E-520's. The pictures that come out of the 450D are very good - maybe neutral would be a good description. To me, however, they lacked some character, even with tweaking of settings - they still didn't inspire me in the way colours are reproduced - a bit bland, although those who like a faithful representation of what they shoot might like it.

What about the Olympus? Well, I did start a while back with the E-510, which I didn't like. Some things I still don't - the small viewfinder, for instance. But many other things, I either grew to appreciate them, or they have been improved. For example, the back screen's colour rendition has definitely been improved (along with a bigger size, from 2.5" to 2.7"). On the E-510, no matter what you did to the screen's settings, images just looked weird. On the E-520, the screen is actually useable, and works.

The way that one can adjust settings with the E-series is just fantastic, I find. Definitely the easiest and most user-friendly system I encountered, for me, anyway. Of course, dedicated buttons are faster and better, but it's the way in which almost all of the main shooting settings can be adjusted very easily on the back screen, which I find great. I don't think I truly appreciated this when I had the E-510, and I surely noticed it when I had the Canon 450D.

Other great touches on the E-520: for instance, custom white balance. Assign the Function button to one-shot custom WB. Then when you need a custom WB, just press the Function button and take a shot of a white area. It's very quick, and custom WB does work. Another great thing is the quick erase option - enabled in the menus. This means that when you delete a picture, you just have to press the delete button without needing additional button-pressing to confirm. Not quite as fast as Nikon's system, but this works very well in practice nevertheless. Small details, but they add-up...

Picture quality is great. High ISO shots are handled better by the Canon 450D, in the sense that they are cleaner from various noise, but the E-520's output is definitely useable. But it's the overall colour rendition - the picture - which I like better coming from the Olympus E-520. As I said earlier, the pictures coming out of the Canon 450D tend, for me, to look somewhat "clinical" and bland, albeit perhaps somewhat more colour-accurate than the E-520. But, I'm not shooting for a scientific magazine that demands accuracy, so I like some "character" in my pictures...

There are other differences between the Canon 450D and the Olympus E-520, of course. But you know what?...I don't really care if, for example, one has 14-bit processing and the other only 12-bit, because I can't see it. So the above comments that I made relate to what I actually see or feel, not just advertising numbers on a brochure.

That's it for now. Full-circle for me: Started with the E-510, and back now to the E-520. I got to say that I'm very happy with it. The Nikon D300 is a great camera, but it turned out to be too much a camera for me...The E-520 feels just right - and it's a great value at the moment.


PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:02 pm 
Sorry but sounds to me that you've got more money than sense! :shock:

You seem to be keeping the photography industry financially afloat single handedly!
Let me offer you some advice, if belatedly: Choose a camera system and stick with it!
Photography is about the quality of the pictures you take, not the equipment you take them on.
Nikon, Canon, Olympus theyre all good enough to get that quality.

On the subject of 4/3rds, the problem I see with a 4:3 format is that you have to crop your pictures before they'll fit onto 6 by 4's if you want to photlab them cheaply, which I often do.
For this reason I wouldn't buy an Olympus, much as I like compactness in DSLR's.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2008 7:08 pm 
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Joined: Sat Sep 30, 2006 4:30 pm
Posts: 9886
Location: UK
Hi azuretower,

May I offer you a welcome to the CameraLabs forums but qualify that welcome with some disappointment at your very first sentence of your first post.

Ant has very generously shared his experiences with us over quite some period of time now. This isn't so that he can show off how much, or how little, money he has but to help inform the buying decisions of other forum members.

That said, I really meant my welcome. You make a valid point about the four thirds format, though naturally it won't be an issue for everyone. We enjoy a friendly atmosphere here at CameraLabs where we all share the common cause of a love of photography and/or cameras and I look forward to you sharing more of your thoughts. 8)


Sony RX1R II. Olympus OM-D E-M1 + M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8, M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 + 1.4x T/C, Lumix 7-14mm f/4, Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 ASPH, M.Zuiko Digital 45mm 1:1.8
M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm 1:1.8, Leica D Vario-Elmar 14mm-150mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 ASPH.
OM-D E-M5, H-PS14042E, Gitzo GT1541T, Arca-Swiss Z1 DP ball-head.
Astrophotography: TEC 140 'scope, FLI ML16803 camera, ASA DDM60 Pro mount.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Sep 14, 2008 8:06 pm 
Awesome experience,Ant & excellent point! On vacations,a compact camera is your best friend. Rich colors,loads of details & ease to use+the lightweight you need,among your heavy luggage.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 1:00 am 

My main point about my feedbacks is to help someone else avoid making the same mistakes I made (and might still make...:)). It is easy to be caught in the technology and be impressed by the latest developments. Especially since everyone wants to buy the best they can for the money they spend.

To me the Nikon D300 was that. I thought it would be the most future-proof camera for me, so that in a few years I wouldn't miss features of newer models. I still think that, in that respect, I was right. However, I didn't take into account other factors that matter to me, such as portability. For a long time I struggled with this form-versus-function dilemma: The Nikon D300 is great, feels solid in the hand, is built well, but is a big and heavy camera, and one might just not use it as much as one ought to because of that. My feedbacks are meant to highlight this point, so that prospective buyers get another perspective on new cameras. My perspective is that of a user, in contrast with a technical review that one might read about a camera. If you go about a review and the results that a camera achieves, you might buy the wrong camera still, because in the end, it's no good getting the best camera if you will not take it with you and...well, take pictures with it! So that's my first key point.

My second point is that because I ended up trying a few cameras - at the expense of my credit card, because I'm not loaded...-I am in a position to offer a user perspective about similar cameras. Yes, I bought a few cameras, sold them, went back-and-forth, lost money on my sales. Whether you think that I've got more money than sense does not mean that I must hide in my cave and keep quiet about it. I would rather share with others what I learned along the way. And besides, who said that you should buy one camera and never seek another?

I agree with you that most digital SLRs nowadays are capable of taking excellent pictures. But, I guess, my main point is that cameras do not take pictures on their own, you actually have to take it with you and enjoy using it according to your lifestyle. I got great shots of all vantage points from my balcony taken with my D300, but I have scenery shots and people shots taken with my E-520. Using a camera is, in my opinion, more about the subjective feeling of holding it, using it and - to a great degree - the lenses available- than about its technical abilities of the camera per se. Yes, the 4/3 factor of the Olympus is a drawback for me as well when you look at the pictures. However, this format also allows some pretty excellent lenses to be built for that particular system, which might prove very difficult to achieve in other formats. The Zuiko 7-14mm and the 12-60mm being cases in point.

In the end, it's about balancing the subjective feeling of owning a digital SLR with the flashy technological capabilities that it is capable of doing. There are enough reviews that one can read about what a camera can do. My comments are that of a user, which brings the subjective aspects into it.

I actually don't have loads of money to burn - that's exactly why I'm posting my experiences. In the hope to help others consider the subjective aspects of buying a new camera, so that money spent is money well spent. Plus, I like this forum...:)


 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 11:18 am 
Two points:

@Ant1: Have you ever tried the viewfinder magnifier on the Oly? I'd be interested to know how you like it.
I've had both the 450D and the Oly here for trying out and send both back :? I totally agree with your pros and cons. It just makes me so mad, that especially on the often under-rated aspect of user-camera-interaction the verdict is very ambiguous: Better grip and settings operation on the Olympus, better viewfinder and display on the Canon. Aaargh...

Regarding your more general point of portability as a deciding factor:
You're absolutely right that this is key. Also, that many people going on endlessly about noise and DR will in the end leave their cam at home more often than not. One should add though that the crucial point here is not weight as an absolute number, but commitment. One of my favourite photo-sites, which I go look at every morning is This guy hikes with a 5D! He has posts about his equipment somewhere there too and admits that his photo-stuff weighs as much as his camping gear, so he carries twice as much as the guys he hikes with. Plus he often gets up earlier or arrives at camp later, because he's doing so much shlepping. That is dedication for you :D

So the formula for portability must be "weight divided by commitment". And I assume that many folk overestimate their commitment when they go search for the holy grail of the ultimate camera.


Last edited by sheygetz on Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 11:55 am 
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Joined: Sun May 25, 2008 12:48 pm
Posts: 8087
Location: UK
To me, they'll need to make a DSLR spec camera in ultra-compact format before I'm happy with a "carry everywhere". So for now I have an ultra-compact which gives barely ok results, and a DSLR (or two) for when I know I can take the weight and want the quality.

To me the body size/weight is a fairly minor consideration between DSLRs as there isn't that much difference between them. I find the weight of the lenses to be the killer. While looking at high end lenses, they seem to be significantly heavier too. I'm not sure my arms are strong enough to use them regularly... or if I do, I will soon enough get more arm muscle!

Canon DSLRs: 7D2, 7D1, 5D2, 1D, 600D, 450D full spectrum, 300D IR mod
Lenses: EF 35/2, 85/1.8, 135/2+SF, 70-300L, 100-400L, 100L, MP-E 65, EF-S 10-18, 15-85
3rd party: Zeiss 2/50 makro, Samyang 8mm fisheye, Sigma 50/1.4A, 150 macro, 120-300 f/2.8 OS
Compacts: Sony HX9V, Fuji X100.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 12:11 pm 
Thanks for sharing Ant1. I think you've covered an often overlooked aspect of purchasing a camera.

How about the D90? It seems to me, the closest camera to the D300 only without the bulk.

Good luck with your E520 though, may you finally find what you are looking for in that camera.

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