Starter DSLR

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KecheMukwa
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Starter DSLR

Post by KecheMukwa » June 19th, 2013, 5:23 pm

I've been looking into getting my first DSLR and was wondering if anyone here has any advice that might point me in the right direction. I've been considering a Canon EOS T3i or Nikon D3200 mostly because they seem to be the more entry level (and less expensive) options, but I'm wide open to suggestions.

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chrish
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Re: Starter DSLR

Post by chrish » June 19th, 2013, 8:03 pm

I would look at a variety of options offered by the major manufacturers.
Remember, you are buying into a "system", not just a camera body. Whatever system (brand) you buy, you will probably be sticking with that for many years, simply upgrading bodies, etc. over time.

A lot of people will tell you that one system (brand) is better than another. They don't know what they are talking about, IMHO. Most people have only used one or two of the systems at best. You will get a lot of advice that says "I bought the xxxxx brand model yyyyy and it is awesome. You should get that." OK, so what makes it more awesome than any other camera?

I own reasonably modern DLSRs from two separate systems, Sony and Canon. They are different. I prefer one over the other because it fits the way I use a camera better (sorry, won't tell you which, that would just add bias). I have also spent quite a bit of time using a couple of DSLRs from Pentax and have some experience using Nikon DSLRs. I have little real hands-on experience with Olympus. But my feeling is that none of them are better than the others.

Things I would think about/research (not in order of importance, there isn't any way for me or anyone else to know which of these things is more important to you):

- what type of image stabilization system (in camera or in lens)?

- what type of flash units are available?

- can I use wireless flash? Do I have to buy separate controllers?

- what lenses are available? Here's where you need to be realistic. The fact that brand x has 3,000 different types of lenses available isn't really important because you aren't ever going to use or own 3000, or 300, or 30 lenses over the course of your photographic life. What lenses do you anticipate you might want? Does this brand offer those lenses in those focal lengths? Can I get 3rd party lenses (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina) for that camera system.

- how easy is it to use? Are there buttons available to do the things I will want, or do I have to go down through 4 different submenus to enter some flash compensation? Some systems offer programmable buttons which are great as long as they can be programmed to do what you want.

- how does it feel in my hands?

- how field hardy is it? Some cameras are "weatherproofed", but don't be fooled by that. If you drop it in a creek or stand outside in a pouring rainstorm photographing frogs for an hour, no camera is weather proof!

- do I want live view? If so, compare the different live view systems carefully. They aren't the same.

- Will I shoot video? Compare the systems carefully for video. For example, some can autofocus while shooting video, some can't.

- how does it do in low light? Can I actually shoot at ISO1600 and get a reasonable shot?

If I was looking for an entry level camera, I would get online and do a lot of research. Be aware of the bias that exists on most sites. I would say the biases generally favor Canon over Nikon over Sony over Pentax over Olympus. But that doesn't mean the cameras are better or the systems are better, it just means their PR machine is more effective.

I think you should compare the entry level cameras for all 5 brands if you can access them. Olympus DSLRs are harder to find, but there is no reason you should be able to handle and get a feel for the Canon, Nikon, Sony and Pentax models.

Think about it like you would in buying a car. You wouldn't listen to someone who said "I have a 2012 Chevy Lumina and it is awesome, you should buy that!". You would investigate the cars you were interested and make your own decision.

Yes, this is a lot more work. Yes, it will take more time. But if you are methodical and take an honest, unbiased look at each system, you will end up being happier than if you just read someone's facebook post about how much they love their camera.

I like DPReview.com for camera reviews. They are about as unbiased as you can get. They also allow you to create a table to compare different cameras side by side for feature comparison.
For example, I don't know if these are the best to compare side by side, but something like this can be helpful - http://www.dpreview.com/products/compar ... pentax_k30

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periglenes
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Re: Starter DSLR

Post by periglenes » June 20th, 2013, 4:53 am

Excellent points, Chris! I would add one other consideration: what do your friends use? Not because theirs is better, but if you are going to spend many hours in the field with a particular person, it is nice to be able to borrow their flash/lens/ sync cord etc. if yours goes kaput. I chose to shoot Nikon 25 years ago because all the other grad students in my program were Nikon users. Not a very informed decision, but I have no regrets.

matt ignoffo
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Re: Starter DSLR

Post by matt ignoffo » June 20th, 2013, 6:17 am

You can save a lot of money picking up a used body - the money saved can help pay for lenses where you get a way better return on investment (=image quality) compared to camera body.

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Owen
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Re: Starter DSLR

Post by Owen » June 20th, 2013, 6:43 am

If you use it mostly for taking critter pix, consider getting one with a tilting rear screen. So much easier to do low level shots without spooking the subject:

Image

Image

bgorum
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Re: Starter DSLR

Post by bgorum » June 20th, 2013, 7:08 am

Disclaimer- this is my opinion only, it may or may not be valid for anyone else, and it wont apply at all if you only ever buy things new. Chris makes some excellent points, but I think Canon and Nikon have an important advantage over the other systems if you end up getting pretty serious about your photography. That advantage is the amount and variety of high end equipment that is available used. Because those two systems are the overwhelming choice of most professional photographers, and because well-heeled amateurs tend to want to emulate what the pros use, there is a huge market in second hand equipment. I buy almost every piece of photographic equipment used. Doing that allows me to afford some pretty nice equipment on a teacher's salary. In many cases I have bought a used lens, used it for a number of years, then resold it for as much or more than I paid for it. Its kind of like getting to use the equipment for free. So here's a case in point. I'm in the market for a 500mm lens. A year ago I would not have thought I needed one, but now I really want one. A new 500mm lens from Nikon, Canon, or Sony would cost between 8,000-13,000 dollars, and Pentax doesn't even make one. But because I shoot Nikon and I'm not apposed to buying used, I've got alternatives. The current Nikon 500mm f4 is the 6th version of that lens that Nikon has made over the past 25 years or so. It has VR, a bunch of carbon fiber to make it lighter, and Nikon's latest silent internal motor. By giving up those features, (which I really don't need anyway), I can get Nikon's second version 500mm lens for just over $3,000 used. That's a lot more doable! If I thought I could live with manual focus I could get the first version for under $2,000. Canon users would be in a similar position. Just my 2 cents.

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chrish
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Re: Starter DSLR

Post by chrish » June 20th, 2013, 6:20 pm

bgorum wrote:I think Canon and Nikon have an important advantage over the other systems if you end up getting pretty serious about your photography. That advantage is the amount and variety of high end equipment that is available used.
That is a good point. If you are going to buy used equipment, you do have more options in the Canon/Nikon world, although remember than Sony camera use the Minolta AF system which has been around for decades (predating both Canon's and Nikon's AF system).

KecheMukwa
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Re: Starter DSLR

Post by KecheMukwa » June 21st, 2013, 8:15 am

Thanks guys for all your advice! I really appreciate it. I ended up getting a Nikon D5100. I found Nikon to have the lens types I want at prices I could see myself paying in the near future. So far, I love it. It shouldn't be too long before I have photos to share with y'all.

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