Camera Wanted

So I’m looking for a good camera. I’ve got a little Canon Powershot, which I love for day-to-day picture taking. But I want a nice SLR. It’s something I’ve been wanting for a while, but Silke and I are planning a nice vacation in July, and that seems like a good excuse to buy one now.

I’d like the opinions from the peanut gallery.  I know a lot of Gnomers are photonuts.  I do want a decent camera with interchangeable lenses.  But bear in mind that I’m a total n00b, so I want something that’s going to be fairly easy for me to use.  And I don’t want to spend too much.  If the price tag has four digits, it’s too much.

I’ve heard good things about the Canon Rebel.  Thoughts?

24 thoughts on “Camera Wanted”

  1. Nikon has better but more expensive lenses. Canon has more reasonably priced telezoom lenses. Nikon has better flashes. For SLR gear, don’t buy any other brand because you don’t know if the vendor will be there long term and the existing selection of lenses from Canon and Nikon is excellent (nice second hand prices for good eq. etc).

    Maybe for a newbie you can go with a kit lens at first. However, it’s the _lens_ and not the camera that will get you that great quality. Go for low aperture lenses, it’s worth it even if they seem expensive at first.

    If you’re getting just one decent lens, get this one:

    Now that’s a freakin’ _nice_ lens and suppose you buy several lenses trying to get better and better ones… then you will eventually end up with this one anyway.

    I’m sorry to say that the proprietary Adobe Lightroom (that isn’t supported on Linux) is _by far_ the best software out there today for professional image processing / managing your library. Having Lightroom makes it orders of magnitudes more fun to experiment and view the images you’ve taken. Sure, F-Spot has NEF support but it’s like comparing a vintage Porche 911 to an old tired donkey with ADD.

  2. Are lenses from different manufacturers interchangeable? Is there some sort of standard, or do they all do their own thing?

    One of the big reasons I want an SLR is so that I can take motion shots without a flash. It’s not so important for this trip, but I’d love to get some good pictures out of the dance events we go to.

  3. Well, any recent DSLR will do nicely, so go and hold some in your hand to see how it handles.

    For me, it was a Nikon D80, but the D40, D60, D80 and the D200 are really cheap these days and will leave you with enough money for a nice lens.

    Another option, if you go the Nikon route, is the newer D90 with the kit lens, which should be at the upper limit of your budget.

    Whichever camera you get, I hope you enjoy it!

    Have fun!

    PS: a 50mm f/1,8 lens is really cheap, and you’ll be glad you have it, for both portret, and low light photography.

  4. Moin

    I own the Canon 400D. Perfect camera for you, I think. I got it for… 420 Euro I think including the kit-lense which is quite good. 399€ on right now.

    For starters you will only need one more lense (for tele). I have the

    Canon EF-S 55-250mm f4-5.6 IS

    which is really really good (relative to the money, of course, a 1000 Euro lense is much better!). Please note the IS (which means image stabilisation). There is a 55-250mm without IS, but you don’t want that!

    Together with a good camera-bag you will pay about 400+250+50 = 700 Euro.


  5. You can’t exchange lenses between different manufacturers because they use different lens mounts. Third-party lenses (Sigma, Tamron, Zeiss, etc.) do come with your camera’s specific mount.

    Motion shots without flash? Dance pictures? In lowish-light quarters?

    If close-range, you want a large-aperture wide-angle (not horribly expensive).

    If long-range (shooting an auditorium), you want a large-aperture telephoto (horribly expensive).

    Nikon D200 is heavy, built like a tank, and 800 USD on amazon, no lens. It’s what I have. Heavier than I like for traveling, but if it falls to the floor, the floor will sustain damage while the camera won’t. It can take light rain.

    Nikon D90 is light and easy to carry, 900 USD without a lens. I’d probably look for this without a kit lens; if traveling you probably don’t want a heavy camera. You probably don’t want to get it wet.

    Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens is 200 bucks (fits a full-frame couple if you are about 6 meters away from them, and you can shoot in really low light).

    Nikon 28mm f/2.8 is 270 bucks (fits a full-frame couple if you are 4-5 meters away from them, and you can shoot in medium-low light).

    Nikon 20mm f/2.8 is 570 bucks – It’s what I have, and what I’d use for close-range shooting (fits a full-frame couple if you are 2.5 meters away from them, medium-low light).

    You can get even wider-angles, but they start being horribly expensive and way too bulky for my taste.

    The zoom lens which Martin mentions is a very nice, general-purpose lens (and has a large aperture, mid-low light for your scenes), but it’s too bulky for my taste.

  6. General advice:

    – Go to a camera store

    – Ask for a camera and one of those lenses

    – Ask the guy to configure it for you in auto-focus, ISO 800, shutter-priority at 1/125 sec, continuous-mode shooting (3 frames per second or 5 frames per second depending on the camera)

    – Ask the guy to dance for you.

    – Shoot him as you would shoot in a dance event.

    See if the lens lets you get close/far enough. See if the camera feels right.

  7. The brand is your biggest decision. I agree with martin, stick with Nikon or Canon because you want to make sure that the company will still be around down the road.

    That said, I happily recommend Nikons. They can be a bit more expensive, but they’re great quality equipment and have been excellent at maintaining compatibility over the years. You can buy a DSLR body today and put a 20-30 year old, manual focus Nikon film lens on it no problem. (You won’t have all the bells and whistles, but it will work.)

    Since you’re just starting out, I would go for the lower end, consumer grade bodies, perhaps even a used one. You can find great deals on D40/50/60/70s on craigslist these days. As a rule, bodies come and go. Most of the features on higher end bodies you won’t use anyway, at least not right away.

    The real issue is the lens. Nikon has a phenomenal 18-200mm VR lens which is a kit lens for some of the bodies or can be bought separately. It’s a fabulous take-anywhere, do everything lens. That plus a low end body will set you up really well. Also, as Vic mentioned, getting one of the really fast (low f/stop) fixed length lenses is worth it if you can. I have a 50mm f/1.4 which is basically my default lens these days.

  8. Shaun,

    Lens mount vary between camera manufacturers, but there are third party lenses that have versions for different camera mounts.

    If you want to capture motion, you need a lens that lets in a lot of light, which can be recognised by the f number.

    As a comparison, a 50mm f/1,8, will give a 3 times faster shutter speed than the kit lens at 50mm; the lower the f number, the better (faster) and more expensive.

    A higher top ISO speed also helps, so a newer camera will generally be better in this regard, but faster lenses are still preferable.

  9. I’ve got the Nikon D60. Very user friendly, and comfortable grip for my somewhat large hands… Being a beginner, I won’t go into the technical stuff – that’s covered above. 🙂

    BTW: I bought some filters at hvstar – a lot cheaper than in Norway ( then again, most things are 🙂 )

  10. I’ve a Canon Rebel XSi (450D) and I love it. :]
    Only $650-$700 with the kit lens.

  11. I have a digital rebel XTi. It is a piece of shit. I had the original digital rebel and absolutely loved it. The XSi or whatever follows what I have should be better, but avoid the XTi like the plague.

  12. Federico, sadly there are no camera stores left in Champaign. The one we had closed about a year ago. Everybody just goes to Best Buy these days, so there’s no market in a small city for a camera shop. It’s a shame. I bought a really nice pair of binoculars there a few years back, and they were very friendly and helpful. I do try to support small businesses when I can.

    Unfortunately, I’ll probably just have to go to Best Buy. At least to play with a few. I might just get one online once I decide what I want.

    I’m not sure if Best Buy employees can dance. I guess there’s only one way to find out.

  13. Any of today’s DSLR camera manufacturers- and their cameras – are good .the duds disappeared years ago. So as far as quality, usability, maintainability and so on you could pretty much close your eyes and point blindly at a list.

    What you’re choosing is really the lens system. Canon, for instance, is good with long, high-quality and expensive tele lenses; the kind of stuff you want to shoot sports and wildlife. Not so good if you’re on a budget, though.

    Me, I use a Pentax (I used Canon for years before switching). The reason is that while other manufacturers have focused on zoom lenses, Pentax has also created a lot of good, modern prime lenses (lenses that can’t zoom). That means they’re any combination of smaller, lighter, faster, cheaper and generally higher quality than a zoom lens. Combine that with relatively small camera bodies and you get a DSLR that you can bring in your coat pocket (for a given size of pocket). Oh, and the Pentax cameras have anti-shake built into the camera. Any lens – including a forty year old manual one – benefits. Canon and Nikon build it into the lenses and resell you that mechanism every time you get a new lens.

    But again: Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus and Panasonic (very interesting extra small lens mount), even Sony are all good cameras. Their entry-level models are all in the same price and performance range and you’ll be happy with any one of them. Pixel peepers (like me) may argue endlessly about some minor image difference but the reality is that in practical use you’ll be hard pressed to actually notice any difference at all.

  14. Go for the Rebel XSi. It’s rather cheap, and a fantastic piece of a hardware. Then read the manual back to back and you’re ready to go. I go as far as suggesting that you buy the body only and then stock it with a lens of your choice. My recommendation? The dirt cheap Canon 50mm f/1.8 II lens that you can buy for some $80. It’s not a zoom lens, but since I got it, I’ve not my “kit” lens at all.

  15. I’d probably go for something like a Nikon D90 (I have the D80, and it’s awesome)… The lower end ones (D40 and D60) I don’t really like because they don’t have a little dedicated LCD on top for info like the f-stop, shutter speed, white balance, iso etc. but that’s really just personal preference. Also, I think the lower end ones are a bit too small – the D80/90 and D300 just feel better to me, and are a bit heavier, which makes it easier to hold steady. If you don’t mind that though, the lower end ones are still very good cameras.

    But, like everyone else said, it’s all about lenses – while the lens that comes with the camera (if you buy a kit) is likely very good outside with lots of light, you’re not going to get that good photos indoors at night. For photographing people indoors at close range, a 50mm f/1.8 lens is a very good and extremely economical ($100 – $200) option, but it limits your framing options a little.

    Lastly, I’d recommend getting a real flash if you are interested in taking a lot of photos indoors – the ones on the camera don’t usually look that good…

  16. I currently use Pentax gear, because the Pentax K##[#]D series of cameras uses the K mount lenses that I’ve had for my K1000 and other cameras for several decades. That said, since you are looking to buy all new gear, I would go to a camera store, indicate you are looking for a 10-15 megapixel dslr with a decent 30-70 mm f2.0 zoom lens (with some play on either end of the zoom) for under $1000 from either Nikon or Cannon.

    The lens does not need to be from the camera manufacturer, but does have to use the correct mount for that camera. You may find specific features that are only available with the brand lens, for example Cannon anti-shake control is built into the lens, not the sensor, Pentax anti-shake is in the sensor, not the lens.

    As far as name brands, Canon and Nikon are both good brands. I don’t expect Pentax to go away any time soon, or Sony for that matter. In any case, if you have a good quality camera shop in town, you may want to see what they recommend simply because the people there are going to be better able to show you how to get the best out of the camera, and are likely to be more able to perform any service that you are likely to need in the years to come.

    I haven’t noticed anyone pointing it out but the camera mount issue is also of concern if you are thinking of upgrading to a higher quality camera down the line. If that D90 looks like something that might be of interest in a year or two, but is currently out of your budget, buying the Rebel now is going to be a problem as the lenses you get for the Canon are not going to work on the Nikon later on. You will be buying all new lenses when you update the camera body.

    Have fun. I would advise taking a couple of pocket camera’s as well. I’m pretty sure you are more familiar with them, and that familiarity may allow you to get a shot of something you encounter happening that completes before you remember everything for using the DSLR. And a jpeg of a 5MP (or so) image in the camera is going to give you memories that a 10-20 MP image that isn’t in the camera, certainly won’t.

  17. Shaun, I bought a Canon XTi 2 or 3 years ago, and love it. I’m no photo nut, but we wanted a SLR for the speed, as we always seemed to be missing the kids moments by just a second.

    I would echo Behdad’s comments, especially if you buy the XSi, which is just an updated version of the XTi and get the $80 lens – the reviews are phenomenal and it’s a big upgrade over the standard lens that comes in the kit. I have that and a telephoto lens, and am a happy customer.

    I didn’t buy a Nikon as a few years back because I had heard some models had a proprietary RAW format, but I don’t think they do any more.


  18. I had previously only played with compact digital cameras, and picked up a Canon EOS 450D (what the XSi is known as outside the US) last year. I’ve been quite happy with it so far.

    Using the fully automatic mode, it is about as easy to use as a compact digital but you’ll end up taking much better pictures. And there are a number of options between full auto and full manual, so it is quite easy to experiment with. The viewfinder and screen on the back are particularly nice too for a camera of its price.

    You’ll probably find similar features on the other brand cameras too, but the entry level Canon ones are quire nice.

  19. I bought a Canon EOS 1000D six months ago as my first SLR and couldn’t be more happy with it. Great price, really good battery time (500-600 images per charge) and not so heavy. The standard 18-55 lens that comes with it has an image stabilizer that the D400/D450 didn’t have when they were new.

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This work by Shaun McCance is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States.