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Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Digital Cameras and Accessories : Digital Cameras

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Photography Question 
Richard A. Curle

member since: 12/27/2005
 

Digital Camera Suggestion Wanted


Hi. Great Web site and forums! I am an old 35mm SLR guy. I mostly shoot landscapes, primarily waterfalls. I enjoy manually manipulating the shot by varying the exposure time primarily. I use a 28mm-70mm and 70mm-200mm zoom.
I want to try digital and would like recommendations under $500 for this first purchase ... unless a DSLR would be sooooo much better for a little bit more.
Another question is on "zoom". With the type of shots mentioned, should I go for a 12x optical zoom as opposed to a 3x optical with 4x digital? Or is there little difference?
Thank you!

12/27/2005 8:51:56 AM

 
Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  Richard, please understand that you are getting advice on a digital camera from a dedicated film guy so my knowledge is limited. If you have been shooting with a film SLR, I don't think you are going to be happy with a digital P&S camera. I would spend a little more and get a digital SLR, if digital is the way you want to go. If, however, you decide to go with a high-end digital P&S, stay away from the digital zoom. It doesn't really zoom like a zoom lens on an SLR does. It just crops the picture, and you won't like the results.

12/27/2005 8:58:53 AM

 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Richard,
I just recently made the switch to D-SLR and love it. I have to agree with Kerry. Depending on the SLR camera you have, you may want to look at buying a D-SLR body that will accept your current lenses. I had a Nikon N75 and went to the Nikon D70S. All my lenses work with my D70s. You may want to look on Ebay. You can probably find a used D-SLR for a good price. I think the D70S body sells for around 800-900 bucks new.

12/27/2005 9:47:42 AM

 
Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Richard, like Todd said, you may want to investigate getting a DSLR that can use the lenses you already have. However, be aware that if you've got Nikon gear, it doesn't necessarily mean that your older lenses will work on the DSLR. While the higher-end DSLRs will work with the old lenses, the entry level and mid-models either don't work at all or are quite limiting.

That said, a DSLR might be a better approach than a fixed lens type - but understand there are really two types of fixed lens digicams. The smaller point & shoots are made to be compact and easy to use - they usually don't give the user the ability to set aperture or shutter speed directly. Also, there is quite a big diffrence between all-optical and optical/digital "zoom"; the latter is really a marketing ploy - all the camera is doing is cropping out the outer portions of the image area so you only see the middle - and lose resolution detail along the way. Stay away from digital zoom.

The higher-end digital cameras; Nikon, Panasonic, Fuji, Kodak, Sony et al - with the 10 or 12x optical zooms and the additional size over the P&S' often do give the shooter a lot of options. Sure, they have an "all auto" mode, but they also have the traditional aperture preferred, shutter preferred, etc. So they shoujldn't be written off, particularly in your price range. I would recommend against the 8MP and go for the 5-6MP chips anyway - the higher MP (megapixel) count is another marketing ploy as much as anything else - aat those sizes "noise" (similar to grain) becomes an issue anyway, expecially in darker scenes.

Eventually you may want to move to a DSLR directly, where the chips used are a cut above those in the lower-priced models (the CCDs in DSLRs are made for still shooting, the P&S and fancier fixed lens units' CCDs were originally made for movie use - that's why there'a a noticeable lag between your pressing the button and the shutter firing). But get your feet wet first; by the time you're ready to "move up" the technology will have improved drastically anyway.
Heck, I have a Panasonic FZ20 that I'll sell you (6 months old) since I'm getting a full-blown DSLR anyway.

12/27/2005 11:08:40 AM

 
William Koplitz

member since: 2/28/2004
  I'm a film guy who made the switch about five years ago. Get a digital SLR and skip the point and shoot cameras. As for lenses, you will get the quality you pay for. Stay with Canon or Nikon. Digital SLRs solve many of the problems that film cameras "own".

12/28/2005 8:03:57 AM

 
Erica Butler
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/3/2005
  Hi Richard!
First of all, I don't really think that a digital point and shoot is going to be something you will really be happy with if you've already got a 35mm SLR. They are convenient at times, but nothing compares to an SLR. Most of them do not have the control over exposure times like your SLR does. You CAN get some that do in your price range, but you don't have the luxury of adding your own lenses.
As for zoom, if you are set on a P&S, buy one with the 12x OPTICAL and stay away from the digital. It lowers your resolution dramatically, and your pictures look awful... pixellated and stuff. If you have a camera with digital zoom, turn it off. You can do your own cropping later on your computer if you must.
To the person who said to skip the 8mp or higher models- you are right. 5 or 6 is usually more than anyone needs, anyway. Unless you are blowing up poster size pictures constantly... which I doubt.
I don't know if you like to do wide angle, but something else you might want to consider is the crop factor (on the DSLR's). You have to multiply the focal length of your lenses to get your actual 35mm focal length by 1.5 or 1.6. Which will change the focal length of your existing lenses as well. You might not want to just buy a body, but a kit lens as well because they are usually equivalent to a 28-80 or similar lens on a digital camera.
I'd suggest buying the DSLR if you are going to go digital, but that's up to you. I had a Nikon N65 and got a Nikon D70. I also have a Nikon 4300, and it doesn't even compare to either of my SLR's. I would urge you to go with the DSLR, but if you don't, then I would go with a point and shoot that has manual controls and an optical zoom.

12/28/2005 9:33:33 AM

 
Ted Meikle

member since: 11/21/2005
  A follow-up question, if I may:

In the film world, I understand that a SLR camera's advantage is that you are seeing the image through the actual lense, rather than a separate viewfinder, and thus are seeing a better representation of what will appear on your developed photo.

In the digital world, wouldn't the video image on the camera actually give you a better representation of what you ultimately will get than will the viewfinder? Both are showing what the lense is seeing, but the digital image is showing what will appear after the digital magic?

Thanks,

Ted

12/28/2005 10:56:20 AM

 
Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Actually, Ted, the direct view via the mirror and prism of an SLR is extermely high resolution - after all, you're looking right at the subject. Compare this to the television-level resolution that currently exists on the displays used in digicams, and you will see that the digital version makes it quite difficult to do critical focus.

For example, if you concern yourself with depth of field and want to ensure that the bush in the background is blurred out while the child in the foreground is sharp, this is simple enough to see in an SLR. With the digital display, however, the nuances of focus are lost.

Remember, except for exotic mil-spec stuff, video screens are essentially about 75 line per inch in resolution. COmpare this to the infinite resolution of photons reflecting off mirrors and into your eye and you get a sense of the difference.

12/28/2005 11:02:12 AM

 
William Koplitz

member since: 2/28/2004
  Ted,
With a DSLR you compose through the viewfinder, just like your SLR, not on the video display. Once you photograph you can see what you just shot on the display and can use it as a confirmation, the images in the camera will be better in all respects, especially if you use the raw file format.

I'm constantly shooting 2/3's of a stop less than auto recommends because I like heavily saturated colors and I also lower the contrast on all photographs through the camera controls because if I loose the highlights they are ususally gone. Also, I no longer bracket.

You'll notice that the depth of field in digital is very small, much smaller than 35mm, more on the order of 4x5" and to maintain the same depth of field you are looking at 4-5 stops more in digital than film.

12/28/2005 12:19:29 PM

 
anonymous A. 

member since: 9/19/2005
  I bought my wife a digital nearly 2 years ago and was so impressed with it that I bought myself a Panasonic FZ10 a month or so later. I thought of it as a backup to my Canon EOS5. I took both to Africa shortly after, and found that I hd to make a real effort to get out the SLR! Shutter lag was not an issue, nor was the issue of focal length: the 12x zoom gave me the equivalent of a 35-420mm lens (yes, for wide angle I had to pull out the SLR). No-one (including me) has ever been able to pick which system was used for emlargements up to 16x24 inches. And despite the common cry, I did use digital zoom (giving me an apparent 1200+ focal length) and you STILL can't tell: the only reason to do it is to be able to see something that far off in the viwfinder...otherwise cropping after the event is the better way to go.
I came back from Africa with unused film; unheard of!! I still have some of it left; with the Lumix in the house I just stopped using film.
This year I bought a Canon 20D. There is no dought that it is the better camera; at nearly 3x the price it had better be. Now I use both about equally. Have a look at my gallery and see if you can tell the difference: you are welcome to print a couple for comparison if you want.

As previous writers have said, noise (especially at higher ISO raings is annoying at times, but macro shooting is sooo simple: no accessories and you can focus down to centimetres; I think William K. may have the DOF question backwards(apologies, William)~ the depth of field is actually greater with digital, and it is sometimes tricky to get that soft, out-of-focus background that looks so good in portraits (I read somewhere that DOF is affected in the same proportion as focal length; expect it to be 1.6x greater; that seems about right from my own experience).
I prefer using a "real" viewfinder, but I really miss being able to compose using the LCD screen when I am at ground level or shooting over my head or setting up a macro composition.
RAW is available in the best compact systems, but I wouldn't make it a buying point. I'd say try a few cameras; see what fits your hand and your eye. By all means keep shooting film with the equipment you know well, get a GOOD digital compact and go to DSLR later if you feel you want/need to.
Good luck.

12/28/2005 1:31:53 PM

 
Donald  E. Wooden

member since: 9/19/2005
  Richard,
I was going to get on here and share my wealth of information. However after reading all the ones above I see you are already being led the direction I would have led you. Basically your $500 figure is "out the door" but you are being led a trustworthy direction.

12/28/2005 1:34:50 PM

 
Brendan Knell
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/17/2005
  I don't know if the 500$ figure is totally out of the door. You may be able to find a Rebel for right about that. Or you may have to check into a few used cameras.

12/28/2005 3:45:10 PM

 
Ben N. Salmon
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/9/2005
  Richard,
You might look in to geting the Canon EOS D60 DSLR. It's in the $500 price range that you are looking at. If you look on Ebay you could find one for around $400, and it's got 6mp. I got a Canon EOS D30(that's the one under it) it's got 3mp but I have gotten very good results from it. And it only cost me $200. So just look around!
Good Luck!
-Ben

12/28/2005 6:55:35 PM

 
Simon  A. Stone

member since: 9/21/2005
  If you want a point and shoot I would deffinately recomend a canon powershot sd55o it has 7.1 megapixels, almost inumerable modes and settings,if you get it at ROYALCAMERA.com it is usually cheaper than ebay.it is kinda pricey about 400-500$ and is tiny enough to take with you anywhere.
if you want a DSLR then get one that is the same brand as the one you have,
it will be easier to learn and you might have accessories that fit it. another option is a DSLR without interchangeble lenses like a konica dimage, they have a lot of settings but I find the menu layout illogical but my brother loves them. I would suggest going to a electronics store and trying them out. but you know what you like and want so don't let the salespeople talk you into anything. that's all

12/29/2005 9:05:58 AM

 
Simon  A. Stone

member since: 9/21/2005
  If you want a point and shoot I would deffinately recomend a canon powershot sd55o it has 7.1 megapixels, almost inumerable modes and settings,if you get it at ROYALCAMERA.com it is usually cheaper than ebay.it is kinda pricey about 400-500$ and is tiny enough to take with you anywhere.
if you want a DSLR then get one that is the same brand as the one you have,
it will be easier to learn and you might have accessories that fit it. another option is a DSLR without interchangeble lenses like a konica dimage, they have a lot of settings but I find the menu layout illogical but my brother loves them. I would suggest going to a electronics store and trying them out. but you know what you like and want so don't let the salespeople talk you into anything. that's all

12/29/2005 9:05:59 AM

 
Brendan Knell
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/17/2005
  Simon, when you say "a DSLR without interchangeable lenses", what you're talking about is probably a Prosumer camera. They look like DSLRs but they're not. They also usually(at least mine does) don't have as big as sensors as DSLRs.

12/29/2005 10:35:22 AM

 
Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  I think that you would enjoy using a DSLR but realize that you'll have to do a fair amount of your own editing to the digital file. I'm never really proud of an image from my 20D until I can tweak contrast and sharpen on the computer. That's just my feeling though. I know people always say about money and that it will be worth it to jump to a higher model. Obviously, that's not always possible.

My dad is looking for a digital camera to take to Europe. One of the cameras that I'm looking into for him is the Canon PowerShot S2 IS. I enjoyed playing with it at BestBuy but it's hard to know what would be the best for him. Anyway, I would look at similar cameras that have the "Priority" modes and ones that don't use digital zoom as a large part of their selling point.

If you go to B&H, you can find a few models to reasearch further by clicking Digital Photography (on the far left), and then Advanced Digital Cameras. Again, that's if you can't spend some extra money on a used camera like the Canon Digital Rebel, or something like Nikon's D50.

Hope this helps you out!

12/29/2005 5:43:19 PM

 
Koen Van den Beld
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/2/2005
  Get a D-SLR of the same brand as the film camera. You can most likely use your old lenses but remember that because of the size of the sensor the focal range appears longer. E.g. my Canon 20D has a crop size of 1.6 which effectively increases the focal length of your current lenses by a factor of 1.6 . Only the Canon 5D and 1DII cameras are full frame (35mm frame) but VERY expensive.

>You'll notice that the depth of field
>in digital is very small, much smaller
>than 35mm, more on the order of 4x5"
>and to maintain the same depth of
>field you are looking at 4-5 stops
>more in digital than film.

This is absolutely not true. It is exactly the opposite and depends on the size of the sensor. The smaller the sensor the bigger the DOF. Most D-SLRs has sensors smaller than 35mm film and therefore a bigger DOF. A P&S camera has a tiny sensor and thus a huge DOF. Means, not good for portraits etc.
A 4x5" camera has a huge film area and thus a shallow DOF.

The "DSLR without interchangeable lenses" are just P&S cameras in a SLR look-alike body. They perform like high-end P&S cameras but don't match an SLR. The optics don't come close to a good lens and they are as slow as a normal P&S camera.

Don't buy a 5 year old body if you're serious about photography. Spend a few hunderd more and you have a new, up-to-date body that you can use for years to come. Prices come down constantly. Canon 350D and 20D or Nikon D50 and D70S are bodies you can't go wrong with.

Koen.

1/4/2006 4:15:47 AM

 
William Koplitz

member since: 2/28/2004
  Depth of field is determined by the focal length of the lens and the size of the circle of confusion which is determined by the aperture of the lens. When you put a 50mm lens on a 1.5x camera, you now have a 75mm lens and less depth of field (the circle of confusion is larger - the smaller the circle, the larger the depth of field - a 4x5" camera has a very large circle of confusion).

In digital, in order to get to the same depth of field as a 24mm lens you need to use a 17mm lens. If you put a 24mm film camera against a 24mm digitial converted lens on a digital camera, you will find that the film camera has more depth of field at the same aperture, I don't know why, in my mind they should be equal but I have not seen this. Try it.

Even more annoying is that if you apply the f/16 rule you will see that the sensor in your camera is not really at the ISO the camera maker claims. My 200 ISO sensor is really about 50 ISO.

1/4/2006 6:04:07 AM

 
Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Boy howdy there's a lot of confusion in here...

William, depth of field is a funtion of three things - the focal length of the lens, the APERTURE setting, and the size of the projected image (that is, the film or sensor dimensions).

1) As focal length increases, DOF decreases at a given f-stop. That is, a 100MM lens focused to 10 feet distance will have less DOF than a 50MM lens focused at 10 feet distance, if both are at, say, f4. Of course, from 10 feet away, the 100MM lens will make the image twice as large as the 50MM - that is, it's angle of view is less that the 50MM lens'.

2)A smaller aperture leads to more DOF. With a given lens, f8 has more DOF than f2.8.

3) The larger the sensor format, the more DOF a given focal length will provide. A 75MM lens on a 4x5" view camera at f8 has MORE DOF than a 75MM lens on a 35MM camera at f8. This is because the circle of confusion on a larger format is more forgiving.

Does everyone get that now?

1/4/2006 8:21:55 AM

 
William Koplitz

member since: 2/28/2004
  There certainly is a lot of confusion here. Lucky we have wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depth_of_field

1/4/2006 9:27:12 AM

 
William Koplitz

member since: 2/28/2004
  For those who are really interested in the differences, I found this site, which is exactly what I'm talking about. Compare a 50mm lens at F/8 on a D70 with a 35mm film camera. Focus at around 10 feet. An on line depth of field calculator:

http://www.dofmaster.com/dofjs.html

I don't know where he got his formulas.

1/4/2006 12:37:17 PM

 
anonymous A. 

member since: 9/19/2005
  It would seem both William and Koen are right! But to reconcile these apparent contradictory points of view, we need to consider the image size on the film or sensor. Depth of field IS smaller on the typical digital sensor (but not on a "full frame" setup like the EOSD1). But to get an image that fills the frame to the same degree on a digital, you have to move the camera further away, giving a greater dof for the image size, but not for the focal length, fstop combination.

1/4/2006 1:17:53 PM

 
Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  Well, this is a little off from what the original post was about but this isn't making sense. Just because you put a 50mm lens on a DSLR doesn't give it any more depth of field than if it were on a 35mm film camera. It's just cropping to the effect of either a 70mm or 80mm lens. It's just not using as much of the projected image which makes it look like an 80mm lens with the depth of field of a 50mm lens.

It would be just like taking a shot from a 50mm lens on 35mm film and cropping it and blowing it up to look like it was 80mm. The image is still the same, just cropped.

Unless you're talking about the point and shoot digitals, then I'm not sure about those.

1/4/2006 2:38:27 PM

 
Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  Well, this is a little off from what the original post was about but this isn't making sense. Just because you put a 50mm lens on a DSLR doesn't give it any more depth of field than if it were on a 35mm film camera. It's just cropping to the effect of either a 70mm or 80mm lens. It's just not using as much of the projected image which makes it look like an 80mm lens with the depth of field of a 50mm lens.

It would be just like taking a shot from a 50mm lens on 35mm film and cropping it and blowing it up to look like it was 80mm. The image is still the same, just cropped.

Unless you're talking about the point and shoot digitals, then I'm not sure about those.

1/4/2006 2:38:45 PM

 
Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  Well, this is a little off from what the original post was about but this isn't making sense. Just because you put a 50mm lens on a DSLR doesn't give it any more depth of field than if it were on a 35mm film camera. It's just cropping to the effect of either a 70mm or 80mm lens. It's just not using as much of the projected image which makes it look like an 80mm lens with the depth of field of a 50mm lens.

It would be just like taking a shot from a 50mm lens on 35mm film and cropping it and blowing it up to look like it was 80mm. The image is still the same, just cropped.

Unless you're talking about the point and shoot digitals, then I'm not sure about those.

1/4/2006 2:38:50 PM

 
Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  Well, this is a little off from what the original post was about but this isn't making sense. Just because you put a 50mm lens on a DSLR doesn't give it any more depth of field than if it were on a 35mm film camera. It's just cropping to the effect of either a 70mm or 80mm lens. It's just not using as much of the projected image which makes it look like an 80mm lens with the depth of field of a 50mm lens.

It would be just like taking a shot from a 50mm lens on 35mm film and cropping it and blowing it up to look like it was 80mm. The image is still the same, just cropped.

Unless you're talking about the point and shoot digitals, then I'm not sure about those.

1/4/2006 2:39:02 PM

 
Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  Well, this is a little off from what the original post was about but this isn't making sense. Just because you put a 50mm lens on a DSLR doesn't give it any more depth of field than if it were on a 35mm film camera. It's just cropping to the effect of either a 70mm or 80mm lens. It's just not using as much of the projected image which makes it look like an 80mm lens with the depth of field of a 50mm lens.

It would be just like taking a shot from a 50mm lens on 35mm film and cropping it and blowing it up to look like it was 80mm. The image is still the same, just cropped.

Unless you're talking about the point and shoot digitals, then I'm not sure about those.

1/4/2006 2:39:14 PM

 
Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  Well, this is a little off from what the original post was about but this isn't making sense. Just because you put a 50mm lens on a DSLR doesn't give it any more depth of field than if it were on a 35mm film camera. It's just cropping to the effect of either a 70mm or 80mm lens. It's just not using as much of the projected image which makes it look like an 80mm lens with the depth of field of a 50mm lens.

It would be just like taking a shot from a 50mm lens on 35mm film and cropping it and blowing it up to look like it was 80mm. The image is still the same, just cropped.

Unless you're talking about the point and shoot digitals, then I'm not sure about those.

1/4/2006 2:39:25 PM

 
Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  Well, this is a little off from what the original post was about but this isn't making sense. Just because you put a 50mm lens on a DSLR doesn't give it any more depth of field than if it were on a 35mm film camera. It's just cropping to the effect of either a 70mm or 80mm lens. It's just not using as much of the projected image which makes it look like an 80mm lens with the depth of field of a 50mm lens.

It would be just like taking a shot from a 50mm lens on 35mm film and cropping it and blowing it up to look like it was 80mm. The image is still the same, just cropped.

Unless you're talking about the point and shoot digitals, then I'm not sure about those.

1/4/2006 2:42:14 PM

 
Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  Well, this is a little off from what the original post was about but this isn't making sense. Just because you put a 50mm lens on a DSLR doesn't give it any more depth of field than if it were on a 35mm film camera. It's just cropping to the effect of either a 70mm or 80mm lens. It's just not using as much of the projected image which makes it look like an 80mm lens with the depth of field of a 50mm lens. I thought this was how it works. Maybe that's just making it more complicated.

1/4/2006 2:42:42 PM

 
Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  crap, I'm really sorry about that

1/4/2006 2:43:52 PM

 
Koen Van den Beld
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/2/2005
  I think we got very much of topic now but he, we are talking photography so how cares.

William when you do the comparison in the DOF calculator you have to compensate the actual focal length for the smaller sensor size of the D70 (=1.5)so to get comparable cases you must choose a focal lenght of 33mm for the D70 to have the same image size. Doing the calculations using 3 ft distance then result in:
35mm 50mm f/2.8 3ft -> 2.91ft and 3.09ft
D70 33mm f/2.8 3 ft -> 2.87ft and 3.14ft

This means the D70 because of its smaller sensor using the same aperture and effective focal length has a bigger DOF. Not smaller.

Also from the Wikipedia:
"As the equations above show, depth of field also related to the circle of confusion which is a figure of merit associated with each type of film format. Larger imaging devices (such as 8x10 inch photographic plates) have a larger circle of confusion, while smaller imaging devices such as point-and-shoot digital cameras have a smaller circle of confusion. All else being equal, depth of field is inversely proportional to the film format size.

In practical terms this means that smaller cameras have deeper depth of field than larger cameras. This can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on the desired effect. A large format camera is better for photographs where the forground and background are blurred (cf. bokeh), while a small camera maximizes depth of field, so that objects behind or in front of the focus plane are still in good focus"

Koen.

1/5/2006 4:25:14 AM

 
William Koplitz

member since: 2/28/2004
  Thanks. This page is a good discussion.

http://www.dofmaster.com/dof_dslr.html

1/5/2006 7:04:00 AM

 

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