Some of you might remember that I bought initially the Canon 40D and 24-105mmL lens. Then, I sold them after about two weeks! I was coming back to SLR photography after many years of point-and-shoot (P&S), which I had enjoyed because of the practicality of small-size. Having decided to have more control, I ended-up with "the beast" - the 40D and the "L" lens... Way, way, too big and too much for me! Then I got the Canon Powershot G9, which which I'm very happy (together with Noise Ninja S/W to remove noise at high ISO).
However, I still had my eyes on a DSLR. I just had not found my "match yet... So, much soul-searching and reviews-reading. Here's the low-down. These are the general conclusion that I reached in my search for my perfect DSLR:
1. ALL current DSLRs are good as far as high ISO noise is concerned. I'm referring to a certain range of DSLRs, of course, that belong to the "Consumer/Enthusiast" category, not the Canon 1D, Nikon D3 (or even D300) range. In other words, keep reading if you think about buying the following, which is what I was considering myself:
*Canon 400D, 30D (discounted $$ nowadays) and 40D
*Nikon D40, D40X, D80
*Pentax K10D, and, finally
As I said, I think all of the above models perform well noise-wise. Some might have - under high magnification - a slight advantages over others, but, really, all perform equally-well for all intents and purposes. Let's put it this way: I really don't think that the ISO noise is what will make-or-break a picture taken with those cameras. Yes, you can blow a tiny part of a picture to 20X magnification, and yes, you might then see some differences. Personally, I think that this is missing the forrest for the trees. I would be perfectly happy with any of the DSLRs on the market, noise-wise. Well, maybe with the exception of the Sony A100...
2. I really like Live View. I noticed it first when using the Canon 40D, and I remembered it. The Nikon D300 has it, but it's way too much for me in terms of what I need. The other option: the Olympus E510. I read that Live View on the E510 was somewhat "clunky", but, to be honest, I really don't see much of a difference with that of the Canon 40D. Mirror up, mirror down, same, same. And the delay does not bother me, because I only use it when I have time, and can enjoy taking my time also...
3. I really wanted Image stabilisation. Really.I simply would not consider NOT getting a kit that is not image-stabilised. The tech is there, let's use it! However, big negative points for me when considering both Nikon and Canon, because it forces me to use only certain lenses, and not all of them are what I want. I am aware about lens-IS being more efficient than camera-based IS, but I don't care. I'll have less stops-advantage, but I choose the lens, thank you. Advantage Olympus and Pentax, here (once again, in my opinion only...)
4. I care less about pixel-peeping than I care about vibrant shots that draw you in. People often comment about the Olympus image quality, when they mention the vibrancy of the colours associated with the quality of their lenses. And...the advantage - some say -of the 4/3 format in terms of how the light hits the sensor. Don't draw me into this, though, I'm not technically "lubed' in that regard. I only claim to be aware of these comments, and do not really wish to start an argument about this. Suffice to say that it looks to me like the Olympus 4/3 format is in no way a disadvantage, at the least, when considering the end-product: what the picture looks like. So, to me, I feel drawn to the "quirkiness" of Olympus, and to their lens quality in enough a way to overlook the somewhat limited lens-range. After all, Canon and Nikon have more choices, but very few image-stabilised ones that I want.
5. I like my SLRs small. A very personal thing, I understand. There is no way in the world I would be going on holiday, on a trip - anywhere - carrying a backpack full o'gear, with 3-4 different lenses, etc. I like the photojournalist-type of yesterday: one wide-ish lens to shoot the World, and what shots were they! So small is beautiful. Also, small lens is important. Why not the Canon 400D, then? A few reasons, in my opinion:
* The 400D doesn't feel good in my hands. It's small, yes, but I don't enjoy holding it.
* I feel that I should wait for the 450D, if I was interested in the 400D. It's nearing the end of its cycle. It doesn't have Live View (maybe the 450D?), and there's the issue mentioned earlier about Canon (and Nikon's) lenses in relation to what's available with IS. There simply was not a combination of 400D/stabilised lens that attracted me. The 18-55 USM IS? It's huge, and it's expensive.
The Canon 40D or 30D: Simply too big. Don't care for 5 or 6.5fps. Three fps is plenty for me. Don't care for a zillion focus points either, as long as I can take a nice picture. Actually, I didn't like the 9-point focus on the 40D, or for that matter, any multi-focus point system. If I want to focus on what I am looking at, I certainly don't want the camera to start chasing things around the screen and focusing on other things than what I'm looking at. I kept switching to that centre-point focusing on the 40D (whatever the exact terms is...) so that it would focus on the object that I was looking at only. Horses for courses...
Nikon D40/D40X: Didn't like the limitations of that in-lens focusing system only, whereby only some lenses will auto-focus on these cameras. Too limiting. Plus, too much help from those help screens. Might take great pics, but not my thing...
Nikon D80: Really liked that one. but, as mentioned before, limitation of what stabilised lenses you can use. THe 18-200mm VR might be a great lens, but it's too big for me, and I really think that even Nikon cannot overcome the limitations of Physics vs cost when dealing with such a wide focal range, thus introducing visual quality compromises.
Pentax K10D. I actually really liked that one too. Especially if you are wearing glasses and you don't want necessarily to push them hard against the eyepiece. You can see very easily the aperture and shutter speed adjustments in the viewfinder with the K10D, nice, big and bright. Great quality of image (in RAW mode only, though). And, because it's internally-stabilised, you can look at a wide variety of lenses form different manufacturers, and find you perfect sharp lens and perfect focal range knowing that it will be stabilised. However, too "clunky" for me, too big. And I have no use for industrial-strength weather-sealing.
Sony A100. Nah....
So I ended up getting the Olympus E510. I love it. Feels great to hold, small but easy to handle. Great quality kit lens, and Olympus quality in other available lenses. Quirky, 4/3 way to approach digital photography, but maybe there's a reason to their madness as results seem to speak for themselves. The hi-tech also appeals to the geek in me. The camera looks good, you want to use it. Great interface, I find, with easily-accessible settings. Live View is a treat. And the pictures, even the really lame ones that I took around the house, show how promising this camera might be. I will try to give some more feedback as I go. But I really want to balance the talk, with actually taking pictures. Less talk and pixel-peeping, and more art. Well, at least try...