Camera for very enthusiastic amateur

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Smileyguy, Aug 18, 2007.

  1. Smileyguy macrumors 6502

    Nov 29, 2004
    Hi everyone,

    I posted a thread somewhat similar to this a few months back, but I want to bring it up again now as I wasn't too sure what I was looking for back then and am more certain now.

    My question is very simple (I think!). I work as a freelance journalist and have some experience of print design as well. I've long had an interest in photography and this is now becoming much stronger, to the point where I'm becoming strongly attracted to the idea of trying to get into it professionally, or at least as a serious amateur (first steps first, of course).

    Of course, I don't think it would be wise to go out and buy an expensive, professional standard camera right away, and besides, I couldn't afford to anyway. So I'm looking to buy a quality digital camera that will enable to me to become a good amateur photographer, experiment, and decide if I want to become more serious or not. My main interest is outdoor/nature photography. I'm looking for something with a high resolution that will enable me to produce print quality images, that I can blow up a bit if possible.

    I previous owned a Canon Powershot - I think it was the G3, or one of that series - and I absolutely loved it. It produced great images - and had a fantastic x10 optical zoom - and because of this I wanted to take photos as all the time, which made learning and experimenting fun and easy. Unfortunately it went missing after I let a colleague borrow it. :mad:

    Of course, the Powershot fell into the "SLR-like" category I believe, rather than being a true digital SLR. I'd love to get a true digital SLR because it would allow me to experiment a lot more and really learn photography, but right now I don't think I can afford one (especially when you add in the cost of lenses etc, if I understand the necessities correctly), so I might have to make do with something like the Powershot.

    In summary, I want something that will take high quality images, has a pretty good zoom feature, and be a good starting point for someone with a really strong interest in getting more seriously involved in photography. I'd really rather not go over $500 dollars, $600 at the absolute most.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for models? I'm sure some of you wise folks do!

  2. Scarlet Fever macrumors 68040

    Scarlet Fever

    Jul 22, 2005
    Canon S5 IS or S3 IS. They are awesome cameras. They have a full manual mode, which gives you full control over everything, and a full automatic mode, which gives all the control over to the camera, as well as steps in between (aperture mode and shutter speed mode). The S5 has a 10MP sensor, and the S3 a 6MP sensor. I've made prints from pics taken with my S3, and they look awesome.

    Have a look at my deviantART site (link in sig) for some pics taken with it.
  3. MacUserSince87 macrumors member

    Aug 18, 2007
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Entry level DSLR...

    I was a long time film SLR user, both 35mm and Med. Format who eased into digital with a 2.1 MP Kodak DC290 in 2000 and a Minolta D7Hi in 2002 before the DSLR resolution / price points reached what I felt I justify and meet my quality expectations with the 8 MP Canon 20D in late 2004. I recently bought a Canon 400D for use at work and it is better than the 20D in most respects.

    So predicated on my experience I'd suggest you get an entry level DSLR like the 400D. Even with the "kit" lens you will note several differences. The first is the narrower of depth of field the larger sensor produces. Selective focus is an important means for isolating a subject from a cluttered distracting background and that is very difficult to do with small sensor cameras due to their very short actual focal lengths. The other thing you will notice is improved image quality. Larger sensors allow larger sensor sites with translates into less noise and long dynamic range.

    The IQ and DOF of the larger sensor is the main reason I switched from the all-in-one 28mm - 200mm zoom of the D7Hi to the 20D.

    Chuck Gardner
  4. Digital Skunk macrumors 604

    Digital Skunk

    Dec 23, 2006
    In my imagination
    High end short lens point and shoot. (Canon G7 or Nikon P5000)

    -- OR --

    Entry level SLR (Canon Rebel XTi or Pentax K100D or Nikon D40 or Sony Alpha 100)
  5. Smileyguy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 29, 2004
    Thanks for the help everyone.

    I suppose this is the big decision I have to make now - to get a high-end compact or to get a digital SLR.

    One thing that I want to look at is extra expenses. I mean, $500 to $600 is my overall budget, not including accessories and extras.

    If I were to get an SLR, would I need to get extra lenses right away? Are there any other costs I should be considering?

    I've found some great prices on eBay, this looks pretty good, almost too good to be true, am I missing something:
  6. JFreak macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2003
    Tampere, Finland
    No extra costs, just the cost of a body and one lens. That'll get you going. If you cannot afford Canon 30D, then get a 400D which is not that much different.

    I do not recommend a kit lens. Rather buy a mid-range prime such as Sigma EX 30mm f/1.4 or Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 — or even a cheapo Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 mark II which only costs about a hundred but image quality is superior to a kit lens.

    You could also consider buying a used body from the eBay to get you going and then spend some extra to a little better lens. I bet there are a lot of relatively cheap Canon 300D and 350D bodies for sale and once you have got used to it and bought some nice lenses, you might later want to upgrade the body to a better one (such as soon-to-be-released Canon 40D).

    In my opinion money is better spent on lenses so I'd rather take a Canon 300D with a quality lens instead of top-of-the-line body with a crappy lens.
  7. Kamera RAWr macrumors 65816

    Kamera RAWr

    May 15, 2007
    I'm where I need to be
    You should check out KEH for a used body, if you're open to that. Also Adorama and B&H seem to sometimes have good deals on refurb bodies :)
  8. tsk macrumors 6502a


    Jan 14, 2004
    If you don't want to go to an entry level DSLR, the S3 or S5 would be my choice. I might also look to see if there is a Fuji equivalent to the S5. It's been my experience that they often have the best sensors. And the real downfall of the S3 (not sure on the S5), is the high noise at ISO200 and up.
  9. Smileyguy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 29, 2004
    Thanks for the advice...

    I find the idea of buying a decent secondhand body and a nice new lens appealing. It probably makes more sense in the long-term too to get a nice lens that I can use regardless of the body rather than a compact, of which none will be of any use when I'm done with it.

    JFreak, do you think this is achievable for 500/600 bucks? How much do you think I should be devoting to the body, and how much for the lens?
  10. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    I don't like it when everyone who owns a DSLR thinks that every hobbyist and enthusiast needs a DSLR.

    However, with that budget, why buy a good point & shoot, sell it later, and get the inevitable? If you start now, you'll get the hang of things easier.

    I say start with a lightly used Nikon D40 and 2 lens kit. It's not going to be expensive. How about a Pentax K100D with 2 lenses? I don't know about US prices, but surely something can be done for $600 USD. They're fantastic value. There are so many people who buy a DSLR and sell it after 3 months because they didn't use it often. These are still perfect cameras in perfect condition....just cheaper than RRSP. Just look at Nikonians, or even the buy and sell section of the Fred Miranda website.
  11. M@lew macrumors 68000


    Nov 18, 2006
    Melbourne, Australia
    I reckon for someone just getting into photography, cameras like the Canon S3 are very good. You can learn with all the settings of a DSLR without the cost. Granted it's not AS good as if you got a DSLR, but if you're just getting started, you have to learn before you walk. :rolleyes:
  12. Smileyguy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 29, 2004
    Thanks. The real question now is whether I should stretch my budget to get the DSLR. Yes, I said above that my budget is $500-$600, but getting something that's closer to the $300 mark would be a lot more comfortable for me right now.

    So, I suppose the question is whether it is better to make a stretch now to $600 or just get a point-and-shoot to learn for a little while until the bigger spend is more affordable. The more I think about it, the more I think I don't really want to add anything else to my existing debt, which going over $400 would do.

    Can I learn a lot on a point-and-shoot by using the manual mode? If I can, than I might just get a Powershot or something similar and sell it in six months.
  13. JFreak macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2003
    Tampere, Finland
    If you can find a 2nd hand body that you trust the seller's word when he says the shutter cycle count is not more than about 15000, then by all means buy used body! It will probably last to at least 100000 (10-20-30D) or 50000 (300-350-400D) and by that time you might be ready to upgrade the body anyway.

    But invest in a quality lens to begin with, that pays itself back during its lifetime. That Sigma EX 30mm street price shouldn't be nowhere near its 640 list price — at least my local store sells it for 384 no questions asked. And again, if you find a mint condition 2nd hand (quality) lens it is worth more than a new kit lens.

    I'd say skip the accessories at first and try to find a "good enough" body and one quality lens to go with it. Just remember that whatever lens format you choose you will most likely stick to it until you die ;) Very few people change their Canon to a Nikon and vice versa. Lenses are the key (IMO).
  14. JFreak macrumors 68040


    Jul 11, 2003
    Tampere, Finland
    If you can afford it now, then buy a SLR now. If you cannot, then buy what you can afford and upgrade when you can. It's that simple. You can learn a lot by using a P/S and really thinking about what you're doing.

    It will be a limited system though, but once you know about timing and aperture settings you will also gain knowledge about the *lenses* you will want to buy whenever you upgrade to (d)SLR. Once you know the limitations you know why you *need* a better (lens) system; it seems now you are just making a guess (a right one by the way) about what would be a better system for you.

    The key here in my opinion is whether you want to make it a short-term or a long-term commitment, but if you're already in debt it might be beneficial to wait for a while... you decide :)
  15. 840quadra Moderator


    Staff Member

    Feb 1, 2005
    Twin Cities Minnesota
    What you are asking, is exactly what I did before taking the plunge. At the time the obvious choice for me was the Powershot Pro1 (strangely it has LESS noise per pixel than does the new S5 IS at higher ISO).

    I wanted the EOS Digital Rebel (300d), but I knew my budget limitations (at the time) would restrict me to either a Kit lens, or an older lens with low image quality. The Pro1 (which I still have) was a great tool to continue to learn the canon menu system, ISO, Exposure, Aperture, and how to properly use flash (Hot shoe on that camera is the same as the EOS line (so is the S5 IS currently)).

    I was (and still am) able to take some amazing pictures with it, and it is a great backup camera, especially considering the fact that it has an adjustable view screen that I can use to take shots at multiple angles.
  16. jalagl macrumors 6502a


    Jun 5, 2003
    Costa Rica
    Both the Nikon D40 and the Canon Digital Rebel XT can be had for under $600 with a starter lens. If you can stretch your budget, I would recomend getting either one (I personally have a Rebel XT, and I love it!).
  17. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    There's your answer. ;)

    Get a good point and shoot. :)
  18. raptor96 macrumors regular

    Nov 5, 2006
    I really question the advice you're getting regarding getting a DSLR. As I read through the thread, only the last post by Abstract made me feel better.

    Your explanation of what you need is a bit lacking but based on what you said re: outdoor photography and nature I expect one of two things and I'm going to spitball from there: if you mean nature in the birds and small moving objects sense you will need a fast telezoom ($$$ if you get a DSLR), if you mean landscapes ($-$$ for a Wide Angle for your DSLR); therefore I think the DSLR is the completely wrong choice if you are looking to spend less than $600. Going back to your latest thoughts that a $300 price point is more fitting, if you can wait a couple more months I think that a perfect versatile fit for you might be the Lumix FZ18 which is coming out in Oct. It has 18x optical zoom (since you mentioned that you liked the high opt. zoom on your canon) and also has a decent wide angle. Plus the kicker - it's only $400 at intro so if you wait a little longer you can expect discounts or if you want ASAP it's not that much of a stretch. I also think that the suggestions of a G7 or the forthcoming G9 are great, those were what I looked at a few months ago when I was deciding (well not the G9 since that was just announced, but the S3 IS and the G7). Anyway, good luck!

    PS. In the interest of full disclosure, I ended up buying a D50 + kit lens because it was what I needed and wanted (want to be able to upgrade) but again, I don't think it's right for you with your budget + needs. Cheers!

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