General discussion

Sony DSC-H9 upgrade to Nikon D90 or Canon xsi worth it?

I'm looking to upgrade my Sony DSC-H9 to a DSLR to get sharper photos (especially at high ISO) with better depth of field & better background color saturation (i.e. for landscapes). I'm looking at the NikonD90 and Canon xsi. The reviews for both have been great for starter DSLRs, but when I look at some of the images posted online from each of these, some are equivalent to what I can capture with my Sony. I realize some of this has to do with user experience, but I want to know if I upgrade to one of the above DSLRs, will I see a noticeable improvement in photo quality. If not, I may not make the upgrade or will look a bit higher on the DSLR scale.
To provide a little background, I use my Sony for everything from landscape (day/night), portrait, wedding, pet and some action shots. I anticipate needing more action shot & portraits capabilities (especially low light) as we start a family in the coming year. I want to capture as good quality photos as I can as our kids grown up. Thoughts? Suggestions?

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Objective Ratings

You can't use sample images to judge potential quality. Only test shots, like those at, can show the real differences between cameras. Using that site's image comparometer, you can clearly see the advantage the D90 and XSi have over the H9, especially as ISO rises. Also to consider is that a DSLR is a system, with lenses being a huge factor in image quality. Good quality lenses can be very expensive; lenses will cost more than the body. So if you're after better image quality, be prepared to spend a lot if you are trying to cover the same focal range as your H9, most especially if you toss in the low light requirement.

- Collapse - is awesome! Thanks.

Thanks, Piston. The above website is great for comparing similar shots using all 3 cameras. There is a stark difference as expected at higher ISO. No action, night shots or great landscapes to view here, but I've gotten a much better idea about some of the image quality differences between the Sony and the 2 DSLRs in question. Thanks again.

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Kids photos, PS vs D-SLR

If you want a sharp photo, use a tripod. It does not matter which brand of D-SLR you choose, unless you have some special need (full frame, tethering shooting, underwater photography, etc that will need some special gears that can be hard to find if you get something other than Canon or Nikon). Using a Canon or Nikon will not make a difference in your photo quality. You are more likely to be the limiting factor than the gears.

In broad daylight and when there is enough lighting, you will not see a big difference between PS camera and D-SLR especially when doing regular 4x6 prints.

It is true that D-SLR is superior in low light actions, something PS camera cannot do. So for night time and indoor sports your kids may do in years from now, you will need a D-SLR and a large aperture lens to get a good shot. As mentioned above, for low light actions, you need more than just a D-SLR, you will also need an expensive large aperture lens. These lenses will run above $1000. But this is something you can save and buy in the next few years if you think it's worthwhile. Otherwise you can use a camcorder or ask another parent on the team with those expensive equipment to take some shots for your kid. Sometimes there are professional photographers taking kids photos and sell them to parents.

For baby photos, you don't really need a D-SLR to get good shots. A compact with a hot shoe that can accept an external bounce flash can do a decent job. I do my own baby's photos with external lights. When I took the 1st week infant shots, I use some hot lights (tungsten) to keep the baby warm and cozy. After that, I use strobes to avoid excessive heat. You can get a large piece of black cloth or a colorful baby blanket to use as a backdrop. Use a tripod and place the baby in a secure comfortable place for the shot. If you like to be more creative, then you can buy a bright green bed sheet from Walmart and use it as a green screen. Then use Photoshop to create some Anne Geddes style photos.

If you like the shallow depth of field shots, then you can consider a D-SLR with a large aperture lens (the 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 is usually quite good for baby shots in natural lighting). The zoom lenses with f/2.8 also runs above $1000. On the other hand, you can create this effect with software under $200.

This is a long way to tell you that you don't necessary need a D-SLR to get good memorable photos of your kids. Sure the D-SLR will make the shots easier but will cost quite a lot if you get those lenses needed for low light actions or shallow depth of field effect. Good photographic knowledge and good use of lighting will likely improve your photo quality more than a brand new D-SLR. Of course buying lighting equipment is not nearly as exciting as getting a D-SLR.

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Some examples

Here is a PS photo of my first son (an old Sony PS with only 5 MP, no fancy equipment, and a cheap tripod):

Here is a D-SLR photo of my second son (10x more expensive than my old PS), using Tungsten hot lights to keep him warm and cozy:

There is not a dramatic difference, and I print them both 8x10 to hang on the wall.

However, having a good lighting set up can make a difference in the photo. Here are 2 photos, first one uses hot-shoe mount flash and the other external strobes with softbox:

The strobes definitely give a more pleasing lighting effect. These are both done with the same camera and lens, in the same room, and the same kid, on the same day.

If you like to be more creative and does not mind a little bit of Photoshop work (just do simple layering, only takes several minutes), then you can try the chromakey shots (or green screen). You can get a bright green bedsheet from Walmart if you want to save money and hang it behind your subject. Then pick a background from an old photo or a digital backdrop.

All the above can be done either with a PS camera (preferrably one with hot-shoe so that you can use bounce flash or synchronize the strobes) or D-SLR.

However low light action shots will need a D-SLR and a bright lens. Here is a photo that PS camera will not be able to do well:

Landscape a lot of times depends on the lighting and your luck.
Here is a photo on a sunny day, taken with an old PS camera:

Here is another photo I went to the same spot with a D-SLR but it was gloomy:

But for low light landscape the D-SLR is definitely better:

So you can get good shots a lot of times with a PS camera if you know how to manipulate the lighting and settings. Lighting often matters more than the camera itself. But there are certainly some occasions you will do a lot better with a D-SLR.

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This is awesome, hjfok!

Thank you very much for your helpful examples. This was excellent for me to see. It is interesting that there aren't many differences between the still shots (as long as they are well lit). Your kids are adorable by the way.

I was thinking the same would be true with outdoor shots that are not expansive landscapes. (The expansive landscapes, like your coastal shoot, is where I feel the DSLR will take a better - crisper & less washed out background - picture). For stills, my Sony doesn't have the hot shoe or strobe option, so already I am seeing two great benefits to upgrade to a DSLR.

I am very much an amateur. And though I've been told by many that I "have an eye for things," I have a lot to learn about lenses, additional lighting & software options to take my photos to the next level. Now, I do very minimal photo editing & have never used accessory lighting.

You've given me a great deal to think about in terms of what I need to learn/purchase to get the best out of my current (but more probably) my new camera. Thanks so much for all your input & examples. I know that took some time to write the above entries and I very much appreciate it!

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To me lighting is a key aspect of photography. Learning how to capture the light, or modify lighting to compose your image are all important to learn.

There are certainly good reasons to get a D-SLR.

To capture natural lighting in low light situation is a challenge to PS cameras, D-SLR makes it much easier (but often need an expensive large aperture lens).

Low light actions remain one of the main advantage of D-SLR that distinguish it from the PS cameras.

These are quick handheld snapshots at night or in the dark (something PS camera can do but will need tripod or struggle with multiple attempts):

Depth of field is another aspect that D-SLR excels at:

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Sony DSC-H9 upgrade to Nikon D90 or Canon xsi worth it?

Thanks, Composer. The above website is high for scrutiny related shots using all 3 cameras. There is a stark conflict as likely at higher ISO. No production, dark shots or large landscapes to aspect here, but I've gotten a often punter tune roughly many of the person propertied differences between the Sony and the 2 DSLRs in reflect. Thanks again.

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