General discussion

Help choosing digital SLR

Mar 31, 2007 3:43PM PDT

Photography has been a long time hobby of mine. I am venturing out to buy my first SLR camera and I need advice! I have been researching and I still can't make up my mind. Originally I had my heart set on the Olympus EVOLT point and shoot camera is an Olympus and I think it does an awesome job. Then I looked at the Sony Alpha and was really impressed with the 10 megapixels. Then a friend recommended the Canon XTi...I got to reading reviews on it and also added the Canon XT to my list. I really appreciate any advice you can give!

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re: SLR
Mar 31, 2007 6:49PM PDT

Well Sir,

I would highly reccomend the canon, the range of lens's are fantastic!! I live in the uk so we have the 400D which I think is the xti in america. The image quality is fantastic, its light and like the sony and olympus it has a dust removal system. One draw back it doesnt come with IS as standard like the sony, meaning you normally have to buy the L series lens's to achieve this. Fortunatly the noise you get from the ISO is very low indeed! Meaning shutter shake will be cut to a minimum. Also the software you get is extremley good!

If your not keen on canon, you can look at Nikon which also has a good range, the nikon's are also a little more rugged, but the lens range isnt quite as good as canon's

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Nikon lens
Apr 1, 2007 2:26AM PDT

I'm a Canon user and agree with you that Canon has great lens and accesory selections. The Canon body choices are more diverse than the Nikon (since Canon offers full frame body and Nikon doesn't), and the pro-line is as rugged as the Nikon pro-line. The Nikon and Canon entry D-SLRs are both made of plastics and not weatherproof, so neither of them are rugged, even one may feel more solid than the other.
But I think a lot of Nikonians will disagree with you about the Nikon lens selections. Nikon has manufactured more than 36 million lenses, and their lens line-up is quite similar to Canon, with some differences. And Nikon is well known for its lens quality, so is Canon. I know some people with Nikon, and they are all loyal fans. I haven't heard of any Nikon user having any complaints about being limited by lens choice. There is one lens that Nikon has and Canon doesn't, the 18-200 mm VR. Not that I will want to use such a superzoom (vacation) lens routinely, which has compromised image quality compared to the traditional zooms. But such a move by Nikon, along with their introduction of the econo D40 line, tells us that Nikon is trying to lure the PS users or the more casual amateurs. This move may be motivated by competitions from the industry giants like Sony, Samsung and Panasonic. After all Nikon is a smaller company compared to Canon, Sony, Panasonic and Samsung. It needs to expand its fan base to survive competitions in the long run. We have seen the fate of Minolta, a smaller company with high quality products that did not survive competition. Nikon has a wide fan base, especially among pros. It is doing well and is recruiting a new fan base from PS users. Once the PS users get a taste of what the D-SLR can do, and what limitations they have with the kit-lens, they may move up to the more expensive lines, at least that's what these companies hope for.

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D-SLR choice
Mar 31, 2007 6:54PM PDT

There are many factors that will affect your choice. But you should look at the whole D-SLR system, including camera body, lenses and accessories. Of course Canon and Nikon both have the widest selections in all categories. Canon offer full frame bodies for wide angle fans and the 35 mm sentimentalists (Nikon doesn't have any full frame camera body). Canon used to have better low light (high ISO) performance than Nikon, but the newer generation of Nikon (eg. D40) shows that Nikon is catching up in high ISO performance. Sony still has more noise at high ISO (they make the sensor for Nikon, and the Sony A100 has similar sensor as the Nikon D200, but Nikon has better image processing engine, so Nikon images look better in the review test shots). Nikon's flash and metering system is legendary, but Canon is catching up.
Olympus has the 4:3 ratio format, different from the traditional cameras (3:2). So the lens choices are more limited, there are not as many companies making lenses compatible with 4:3 format. Leica and Sigma both are making cameras and lenses in this format now, so selections may get better in the future.
The main advantage of Sony and Pentax is that they both offer camera bodies with built-in image stabilization. This saves a lot of money on lens especially if you buy 3rd party lens (eg. Sigma, Tamron, Tonika, etc). Sony has some great G series lenses with Carl Zeiss, but they cost more than those from Canon and Nikon.
The camera body is not going to make a big difference despite some performance differences. In good day light, all D-SLRs and lenses will give you good results. In low light action and night photos, the lenses are going to matter more than the camera body itself. On the average, many serious amateurs and semi-pro spend more money on the lenses than the camera body itself.
Image stabilization is very important, unless you plan on carrying the tripod. It is crucial in low light, but it also helps to get better image in day light. Lenses with IS cost $500-600 extra, that's why camera body with built-in IS will save you a lot of money. IS has saved many of my shots.

You can look at your choices this way. If you don't have any problem with budget, then Canon and Nikon have the best selections, and that's what the pros use. If you want to save money, then Sony and Pentax will save you money in the long run, mainly on less costly lenses without IS. You can save money on the camera body, but you need to get the right lens for the right situation. And don't skimp on IS if you plan to do low light or night photography. You can fix a lot of things with Photoshop, but Photoshop cannot fix a blurry poor image from subject movement (when using a "slow" lens in low light) or from camera shake while you handhold it (without IS).

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The problem with Nikon, which you confirm, is that they are
Mar 31, 2007 11:44PM PDT

'catching up' with Canon's low noise performance by using noise reduction. Noise reduction blurs small details in the image when it smooths out the noise. Thus, lower noise is acheived at the cost of resolution within the image. This has been frequently pointed out in various camera forums. My take is usually that the 'improvements' such techniques yield are not worth their cost in image quality unless they are selectively applied. I don't think a camera can apply the level of judgement needed to produce good results.

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Eh, not necessarily true.
Apr 1, 2007 11:39AM PDT

It is true that the D80 uses noise reduction technology, and this can wash out some details in a full-size print, but ONLY at 1600 or especially 3200 ISO. I'm of the opinion that the D80's noise is not a bit worse than a comparatively priced Canon. I may be slightly biased simply because the D80 is such a tempting, lovely camera (ahem, pardon me while I regain composure), but I try to be accurate.

The new D40 is very impressive noise-wise, definitely the best in its price-range. Actually, there's a lot to recommend the D40, which is why I am going to purchase it. For a first SLR, it offers a lot of helpful in-camera info (helpful always providing you understand how to get to the help), as well as a great amount of manual controls, and programmability - the menu can be rearranged for your convenience and saved, plus there's a programmable button. Excellent performance, I've seen some lovely pictures from it, and best of all it's top-quality, not at all low-end. Solid, compact, reliable... Not trying to tout it too highly, this is just the reasoning behind my own purchase. But price is also a major factor, and the D40 is above reproach in that area.

It gets a lot of flack from professional photographers (mostly of the Canon persuasion), but so far I've never come across an actual owner's opinion that was anything but positive. That should say something.

Handle all of these cameras in-store. Personally I find the Rebel XT too bulky (and its technology is older; it's not really a bargain now that the XTi has gone down a bit), the XTi just a bit too light and plasticky, and the D40, well, close to perfect - would be too small if it were any lighter, but its weight is just enough to feel substantial.

Much of this is preference - I don't think you'd be unhappy with any newer model, be it D40, Pentax K100, Canon XTi, et cetera. Read up on them all, though. Find the features you know you need, then balance out the less important features and the price.

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Nikon D40
Apr 1, 2007 12:37PM PDT

To be fair, even though it feels more solid and substantial in your hands c/w Rebel XTi, the D40 is made of plastic and is not weatherproof. But then this is expected for a camera in this price range, and not surprisingly the D80 is also made of plastic. No doubt, for its price range, it is a bargin and it is a high quality and cleverly designed camera, cutting on features that entry level users won't miss much. There are a number of shortcomings, but nothing crucial (mostly some more advanced features that may not matter to the entry user). Like I said before, it probably does not matter as much which camera body you choose as the lens attached to it and the person behind the viewfinder. If you are on a budget, it is better to get a lower priced body and save the money for some better lenses. You will likely be able to use your lens longer than the camera body.

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Do you have a link to back up your assertions?
Apr 1, 2007 2:54PM PDT

Like objective testing?

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Do you?
Apr 2, 2007 6:51AM PDT

What assertions, specifically? Noise and the D80? No, I'm judging from pictures I have seen, from different places. Some were on, but I found them in the forums and am not quite sure where.

Would you really expect the D80 to have a noise problem at ISOs below, say, 800? I haven't heard of that anywhere.

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Apr 2, 2007 12:30PM PDT

Just want to make a point. Most of the reviews are done using good prime lens on the camera body. The noise level will go up or down depending on what lens you use. And also remember that the reviewers crop the photo to magnify the difference. The difference in actual smaller or regular prints are probably less noticeable, unless you blow up the image. More importantly, the lens will probably make a bigger difference in low light than the camera's actual high ISO performance difference. The kit lens with small aperture will force you to use higher ISO, and noise will increase on your photo. But if you use a large aperture, say f/1.2, then you can take the same photo in the same lighting condition at a lower ISO, and get a better image with less noise. If you are a perfectionist, then get the camera with the best high ISO performance and the largest aperture lens you can afford or carry. But if you use the kit lens anyways, then what is the point?

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Sure, check the DP Forums. There is much discussion of how
Apr 2, 2007 4:40PM PDT

Nikon uses noise reduction to improve its performance.

In case you missed the line of reasoning, the original post pointed out that both Sony and Nikon use the same sensor ( a Sony sensor), but Nikon has lower noise in their cameras than Sony does when using the same sensor. There's only one way to do that. Noise reduction. Noise reduction blurs fine detail no matter who does it, and Nikon is no exception.

If you can explain how Nikon gets lower noise than Sony from the same Sony sensor without resorting to noise reduction, post the explanation. I'm sure there will be much interest. I'll be looking for the post.

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Choosing a first DSLR
Apr 2, 2007 12:59AM PDT

I am a pretty avid photographer who has purchased (and sold) a Canon Rebel XT, Pentax K110D, Nikon D50, and has finally purchased a Nikon D40. Even though the Nikon D40 is designed with novices in mind, I find that this camera makes it easier than any other DSLR I have used to get great results right out of the camera. Plus its excellent menu system teaches you about photography basics in a very intuitive way. While it is only a 6 megapixel, it has an excellent lens and probably the best 6 meg sensor currently on the market. I like this camera because I can focus on composing the shot with the confidence that the camera will do its job. Check out these New Mexico landscapes I photographed at dusk with the Nikon D40 and kit lens.With no tweaking required, I got great results straight out of the camera. I shot the images in raw format and converted them using the software that is included with the D40. One other thing, this camera feels better in my hand than any of the other budget DSlR's too! Great ergonomics and fit and finish.

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Whoa !
Apr 2, 2007 1:39AM PDT

Nikon fans always love Nikon DSLR, and so do Canon fans. I really have no comment whether what brand or camera to choose. Try both Canon 30D and Nikon D80, you be the judge ! In my personal opinion, they are very good camera, comparing to Canon Rebel XTi and Nikon D40( old version and new version ). But, for Nikon D40, keep in mind that you're exposed to more limit lense choice. Good luck.

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Late to the party
Jul 6, 2009 11:19PM PDT
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This Thread is Now Locked by the Moderator.
Jul 9, 2009 12:44AM PDT

This 2 year old thread is starting to attract spammers wanting to sneak in a free advertisement.

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