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I think the DSLR market is in quite an interesting situation at the moment. Prices seem to be coming down, especially on the "other" brands which are aiming to compete with the Canon/Nikon juggernaut.

I'm wondering what buying advice you could give to a prospective DSLR buyer, who has no prior investment in any particular brand (lenses, accessories etc.)

Put another way, brand prejudices aside, which would you get?
- Canon 350D: 8 megapixel sensor, very popular at entry level
- Nikon D70s: lots of "almost pro" features
- Nikon D50: cheap and cheerful
- Pentax *ist DS/DL/D?: super large LCD
- Minolta 5D: image stabilisation in body
- Olympus E-300: 4/3 system
- Any others
(Budget is a factor, price range would be towards the low end)

Amazingly enough, in Oz, I've seen the Olympus E-300 + lens at under a grand, while the 350D and D70s retail upwards of 1500. Another noteworthy observation is the Minolta 5D, which is essentially a semi-pro type DSLR, can be got at around the same price point as say a Canon 350D.
I'd say Canon, so you can GAS and L L L L L L L L L L L L L L L, *brand prejudice*
but out of those on the list,

I've only held a 350D (kombi's) and played a bit with the D70 (how similar is it to the D70s?); I think the D70 felt nicer to hold, both take pictures.
Hard hard decision, give me more time to decide (hard once I remove brand prejudice)
Of the ones on the list, I would get the D70.
But my choice would be the 20D. You can find them used for very reasonable prices, and even new they are a bargain. It's simply the best DSLR for the money right now.
For DSLRs - Canon or Nikon for sure - they are the only true pro quality rigs out there. Even if you don't currently want to buy pro quality glass - you may want to one day, and once you have an investment in a system, tou are essentially committed.

Pentax and Olympus are also players, but don't seem to have the committment to the market that the big 2 have IMO.

So - which camera? I am seriously considering a D70s which IMO is superior to the 300D and 350D - but frankly the diffferences are so subtle, that it really comes down to preference. Any of these will do the job for the serious enthusiast. I can't help believing that 6Mp and 8Mp are at end of cycle however - and given the way that I work with fragments of photos - I want 10-12 MP for my next camera body. That is why I am not considering some fine DSLRs that are in the 4-5 MP range.

Moving up the ladder, the 20D is an obvious candidate - probably the best DSLR in its price range. The Canon 5D is also a solid choice if you feel that you need FF and can afford the hefty premium associated with it. I am not sure what my price boundary is - but it definately falls below $2500 CDN.

But the winner (IMO) goes back to Nikon, the Nikon D2X would be my choice if money were no object. I prefer it to the Canon 1D series - and FF is not a big deal to me.

At the end of the day, I am in bed with Nikon because of my investment in glass. Nikon unfortunately has a huge gap between the D70s and the D2X (not considering the 4 Mp DSLRs). I am planning to wait until Xmas to see if Nikon has something for me under the tree... Smile
wait for the Nikon D200... due out soon. Big Grin
Toad Wrote:I can't help believing that 6Mp and 8Mp are at end of cycle however - and given the way that I work with fragments of photos - I want 10-12 MP for my next camera body. That is why I am not considering some fine DSLRs that are in the 4-5 MP range.

I tend to agree - I think the manufacturers are milking the 6mp sensors as much as they can at the moment - they're clearly past the used-by date.
jericho Wrote:wait for the Nikon D200... due out soon. Big Grin


It will come out soon after the second generation of the Canon camera that already had all its features.
RikWriter Wrote:It will come out soon after the second generation of the Canon camera that already had all its features.

LOL! Probably true!

Canon definately is faster off the mark with model releases, that is just their particular marketing strategy and not an indication of technological superiority. Being the first kid on the block with a new camera feature does not add one iota to one's skill as a photographer.

Canon and Nikon are both superior camera systems. The idea of switching from one system to another and taking a massive loss on your investment in lenses just to get a new feature or two is rediculous to most of us. I would bet that most of us use less than one half of the features are current SLR offers. So - for most of us - the decision of which "brand" has already been made. At dpreview, the posters constantly talk about switching brands to get one feature or another. I think they have rocks in their heads.

If you are starting over with no current investment - ignore feature listings. If you are not currently an experienced photographer ignore the 1D, 1Ds, 5D, D2X, D2Hs - they are way too much camera for you - and unless you are making your entire living at photography or are made of money, all cost way too much for the normal hobbyist.

Getting back to the original premise of this thread, a new photographer without an investment in lenses should realistically be looking at the entry level bodies: for Canon, the 300, 350, 10D and 20D - my pick would be the 20D. For Nikon: the D50 or D70s - I would go with the D70s.

Which one to choose? Again: don't worry about features or lenses - they all have lots. Pick them up in the store and try them out - if possible rent one for a weekend and do some field tests. Then buy the one that you like best - the features will be roughly equal - but the feel and the usability will vary - and that will be user specific.

Best
Toad
Thanks for all the input so far... it has been very valuable indeed.

I'm surprised that the Minolta 5D isn't more popular - especially with IS built into the body...


Mr. T - seeing that you've got an A2 ... any thoughts about brand loyalty in that department? Big Grin
Another thing to consider: if you like having a battery grip, get a Canon. Nikon doesn't make them for their entry level cameras. And the aftermarket models available require a wire running from the grip to the camera.
I guess it depends on what features really interest you.

The 350D has good low light ability.
The D70s has good flash sync speed.
The Minolta 5D has IS.
The Pentax is light and small.
The Olympus opens up the world of 4/3 (small sensor though).

All will do the job - work out which lenses you need and could need in the future and price them up. See which camera will give you the best value long term.

Toad also has a good point on how it feels to use - very important.

Personally - I think a second hand 20D is really the best camera for cost around.

Cheers,

Chris
shuttertalk Wrote:Thanks for all the input so far... it has been very valuable indeed.

I'm surprised that the Minolta 5D isn't more popular - especially with IS built into the body...


Mr. T - seeing that you've got an A2 ... any thoughts about brand loyalty in that department? Big Grin


My A2 is a point and shoot. No lens investment. My previous P&S was a Canon. Point and shoots don't really establish brand loyalty in the same sense that SLRs do.

IS is fabulous - make no mistake - but Minolta just doesn't have the lens lineup that Canon and Nikon do.
RikWriter Wrote:Another thing to consider: if you like having a battery grip, get a Canon. Nikon doesn't make them for their entry level cameras. And the aftermarket models available require a wire running from the grip to the camera.

We are talking features here again. Features are in the eye of the beholder and one size doesn't fit all.

With all due respect, I don't want to get in a debate over features - each brand has a good set. I goto dpreview when I want to see people debate the merits of various features until you just want to cut your throat...

Its really all about the lenses. If you bought an entry level DSLR and great glass, you would be way further ahead.
Toad Wrote:Its really all about the lenses. If you bought an entry level DSLR and great glass, you would be way further ahead.

Don't forget too that these days you can get pretty decent third party lenses which fit mounts for all major brands...

But you're right ... entry level DSLR and great glass would be way better than the other way round. And Canon and Nikon seem to be the most advanced in the glass department...
Toad Wrote:
RikWriter Wrote:Another thing to consider: if you like having a battery grip, get a Canon. Nikon doesn't make them for their entry level cameras. And the aftermarket models available require a wire running from the grip to the camera.

We are talking features here again. Features are in the eye of the beholder and one size doesn't fit all.

With all due respect, I don't want to get in a debate over features - each brand has a good set. I goto dpreview when I want to see people debate the merits of various features until you just want to cut your throat...

Its really all about the lenses. If you bought an entry level DSLR and great glass, you would be way further ahead.


No, I disagree. Lenses are important (and I think Canon L lenses are the best) but features are important to me, as well. I don't dismiss them out of hand and I don't understand why you do.
Two of the guys I work with doing sports shoot with Nikon and both of them are considering switching to Canon purely for the telezoom/tele prime lenses. They both feel that on the wide end Nikon is ahead but for this side of things Canon is the way to go.

Now on the other hand I'm rather keen on the Nikon 200 f2 VR as I can't see anything similar except for the white elephant Canon 200 1.8 (without IS) which is a pretty rare and expensive lens.
RikWriter Wrote:No, I disagree. Lenses are important (and I think Canon L lenses are the best) but features are important to me, as well. I don't dismiss them out of hand and I don't understand why you do.

IMO chasing the latest features in digital cameras has become a pointless exercise given the speed of change in the industry. To listen to the prevailing chatter, we now seem to feel that we cannot take decent photos unless we have the latest and greatest hardware with all of the newest features.

I maintain that features do not make good photographs - photographers do - and that the most basic entry level DSLR with decent glass is more than sufficient to meet 95% of the real world requirements of photographers. The remaining 5% is highly specific to individuals. A pro sports photographer may need 5 FPS - but hardly anybody else does. My own style requires extra Mpx for cropping - but most people don't need that. If you spend long periods of time away from power outlets and take hundreds of photos between recharges, an extended battery pack might be just the ticket.

Having said that, I believe that there are time proven workarounds for all of the features I listed above, and not having those features does not prevent a photographer from getting great shots. How did we ever get by before the days of 12 Mpx sensors and high speed continuous shooting? With ingenuity and by developing our skills by taking lots of photos.

In the days of film, camera manufacturers would come up with an all new model about every 8 years - and pro photographers would probably replace their gear on a 5 to 10 year cycle. Now major new models with must-have new features are on about a 1 to 2 year cycle. Surely our requirements are not changing as fast as that!

It is ceretainly great business for the camera manufacturers if they can convince us that we "need" to upgrade that frequently to get the latest and greatest features.

This year's must have feature will be on next year's point and shoot. Technology romps along. Camera bodies have become loss leaders that we anticipate trading out every 2 years or so. That is why I say get good glass and don't sweat camera body features.
Toad Wrote:That is why I say get good glass and don't sweat camera body features.

I agree 95%.
Toad Wrote:
RikWriter Wrote:No, I disagree. Lenses are important (and I think Canon L lenses are the best) but features are important to me, as well. I don't dismiss them out of hand and I don't understand why you do.

IMO chasing the latest features in digital cameras has become a pointless exercise given the speed of change in the industry.

You're setting up a straw man. Choosing a camera based on features you like isn't "chasing the latest features." It could be that all the features you need are in the 10D, or you might be a pro who needs a 1DMKII. Either way, features are important. You can take good photos with anything, but some cameras make it easier to take the picture just the way you want once you find it.
I guess we should agree to disagree on this point.

Off topic: I see you are selling your 20D. What is next in your future - the 5D?
Toad Wrote:I guess we should agree to disagree on this point.

Off topic: I see you are selling your 20D. What is next in your future - the 5D?


5D isn't in my future...it's in my camera bag! Big Grin
And my 24-70 is now a wide angle again! Cool
Hey congrats Rik! Big Grin
Great Rik - I also wanted to get my 24-70 back to being a wide angle again. it is such a pleasure to use now - where as before I was constantly swapping lenses.

Enjoy!

In terms of features - it really depends on what style you shoot. Good glass is important and good features are also helpful.

If on a budget and you can not afford both I would suggest (as Shuttertalk did) that a good featured body with a reputable third party lens would give you a good start. Some of the Sigma EX lenses are excellent - I personally own a 70-200 2.8 EX Sigma because I wanted the better featured 20D. I think this is a good compromise.

However - I think the most important lens you buy is the one you will shoot with the most. For most of us this is a 24/28-70/80 zoom. This should be the best lens you can afford.
Most people would give advice based on their experience with a camera. Very few people would have actual experience with all those makes. If I were to give my plug it would be for Canon or Nikon. With preference towards Canon of course. It seems that Nikon may have the sharpest out of camera shot but Canon would have them beat in overall image quality. Canon workflow is much different. Canon seems to lead the pack in inovation. And Canon lenses L or non L seem to hold thier value amazingly well. On ebay some of these used lenses are selling for 98% of brand new. I don't know who buys them.If I had to pay even 90% of brand new cost, I'd just buy brand new.
I own three cameras, and agonized over the decision for each. I read review after review, and looked at dozens of samples to compare image quality. This is what I've learned:

There is such a thing as a perfect camera, one that takes THE BEST images at any given market niche / price point. Here's what you need to look for:

1) Charged batteries.
2) Room on the memory card.
3) It's in your hand.

The camera that satisfies those three criteria will take better photos than any that don't. Cameras that don't satisfy those criteria have image quality that's so bad that they're not even worth thinking about.

I call this the "One Metre Rule". Any camera closer that one meter automatically outperforms any camera that's farther away.

When it comes to deciding which camera to keep in your hand, I would suggest that you put image quality at the BOTTOM of your list. (There's always better image quality to be had -- think a 22mp MF camera is good? Try a scanning back on a large-format view camera.) What comes first on the list is up to you and your personal needs. I wanted reliability, useability, pro-level features, and affordability when I went shopping for mine. Other people may want high framing rates, vertical shutter release, a particular camera size, a particular shade of black for the body ... who knows? There are very few BAD cameras on the market right now. After that, it's all up to the pointing mechanism.

I don't generally get into the my-camera-can-beat-up-your-camera discussions. I can honestly say that I wouldn't trade my camera for any camera on the market, regardless of price. (If someone offered a temporary swap for a Nikon D2X, I'd consider it.) That means I bought the right one, and I honestly hope that everyone can say that about whatever cameras they've chosen. If, like my own mother, you've bought the Olympus E-300 based on my recommendation, I especially hope that you like it.
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