D40(x), E-510, XTi...my head is spinning. Help? (newbie DSLR on a budget)

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by rogersmj, Feb 1, 2008.

  1. rogersmj macrumors 68020

    rogersmj

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2006
    Location:
    Indianapolis, IN
    #1
    Just today I've decided I'm finally going to dive into the pool I've been eyeing from a distance for so long...DSLR. I've been reading for about 8 hours, my head hurts, and now I'd just like some opinions from real people.

    My goals: learn about photography (I know nothing, I am the very definition of a casual photo shooter), be able to take quick, clear, crisp images of everything from landscapes on vacation to people at parties, and not spend more than about $500-$550 to get started.

    With my research today, I think I've narrowed it down to three (or four, depending on how you look at it) models: The Nikon D40 (or maybe the D40x), the Olympus E-510, and the Canon Rebel XTi.

    From my vantage point, I love the number of features the Olympus has -- live preview via the LCD, image stabilization, dust cleaning -- over the Nikon and Canon. On the other hand, the Nikon seems to have slightly better image processing/overall image quality than the Olympus, according to reviews. Also, the Nikon and Canon have larger "systems" of lenses available for them, even if I have to limit myself to AF-S or whatever it is on the Nikon. I'm wondering, never having owned an SLR, how important those three big features on the Olympus would really be for me. I pretty much never make prints, and if I did they certainly wouldn't be bigger than 8x10, so I don't think the 6MP/10MP argument is a big deal here.

    Since price is a big deal to me, let's talk $$$. I prefer to get something with a good kit lens, since that's what the reviewers use, and the Nikon and Olympus are supposed to have very good kit lenses. I can get the Olympus E-510 with 14-42mm and 40-200mm lenses for just over $500; I can get the Nikon D40 with a 18-55mm for $363(!!!) or add the highly regarded Nikon 55-200mm VR and bring it to $533. Although the Rebel XTi has only a mediocre kit lens, I can get the XTi body for $427, so what's a good general-purpose lens for ~$150? Maybe this Canon 28-105mm for $140? Or this Tamron 28-80mm/75-300mm dual lens kit for $150? Keep in mind I'm coming from a crappy 4 year old point-and-shoot, so I don't need the best lenses on earth.

    The price, the helpful beginner features, the wide system support, and the compactness of the D40 are making me lean slightly toward it (D40 with 18-55mm kit lens and 55-200mm VR for $533 total), but the XTi looks very compelling too ($427 + $150 high-rated Tamron kit for $577 total)...I'm completely open to suggestions. Thanks for anyone who can take the time to respond.
     
  2. blackstone macrumors regular

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    Dec 12, 2005
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #2
    (1) If you know that you'll just be a hobbyist and won't end up trying to go pro, you should also consider the Sony and Pentax systems. Both generally offer more bang for the buck than Canon/Nikon, and have enough different types of lenses to cover all but the most exotic needs.

    (2) Don't buy a 28-105 or 28-80 lens. These focal lengths are better suited to full-frame or 35mm film cameras, not the smaller sensors that most DSLRs have.

    (3) Don't buy more than one lens to start. It's way too easy to go nuts buying too much equipment at the beginning, before you have an idea of what you'll actually use and what works best for you.

    (4) Don't get too fixated on pixel-peeping and trying to compare 100% crops from different cameras. The differences in image quality between different DSLR models are small, and they are all far, far better than what you get from a P&S. It's more important to get a camera that feels comfortable in your hand and has controls that make sense to you.
     
  3. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #3
    I would also consider getting a Pentax. You said you're a casual shooter and want a good camera at a low price. The Pentax is it.

    Olympus lenses are superb. You never seem them do poorly on lens tests because none of the lenses are bad, especially when you're paying a bit of money for one. It may have something to do with their small size, or their age (they're all newly designed lenses). With other manufacturers, paying more doesn't necessarily mean you get amazing performance.

    I own a Nikon, and I think the D40X is a great camera. I would choose between the Pentax and Nikon. Nikon has fantastic consumer lenses, and Pentax has low cost cameras with great features, and good lenses.

    The lenses you listed (the Tamron, cheap Canon, etc) are all bad lenses. The Nikon and Pentax kit lenses are likely sharper than any of those lenses. There's a reason they're so cheap. The Olympus are also quality.
     
  4. Airforce macrumors 6502a

    Airforce

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2006
    #4
    Have you considered the E410?

    I currently own the E410 (E510 but smaller with a different battery and no IS). This is my first DSLR and let me tell you, the E410 is just great! Very user friendly and I'm sure you would enjoy it. This camera is small enough to be carried around comfortably. In fact, due to its size, I've completely dumped my P & S camera.
     
  5. scamateur macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2007
    #5
    I would say that your own very thorough analysis points you in the direction of the D40 plus 2 good lenses for only $533.

    When I only have so much money to spend, I can find myself worrying so much about dreading "buyer's remorse" that my decision-making is impaired! If you choose Canon or Nikon, you can put to rest the concern that you might have bought something "better" -- both SLR lines are great top-to-bottom. Among your selections, however, the Nikon lenses are generally regarded as far better.

    In a couple of years, any camera body you choose now will be "out-of-date," and you may very well update. Your good-quality Nikon lenses will still be just as good then as they are now, and will work great with your new camera, and all the other Nikon gear you've bought between now and then.
     
  6. Kamera RAWr macrumors 65816

    Kamera RAWr

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    #6
    I also think you should look into Pentax. They make great cameras and lenses.

    Just remember, YOU will be the most important part of your dSLR system! ;)
     
  7. cube macrumors G4

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    May 10, 2004
    #7
    The Pentax rebates just ended January 31st. Wait a bit if you can.
     
  8. scotthayes macrumors 68000

    scotthayes

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    #8
    That is the best bit of advice you can get.
     
  9. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Location:
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    #9
    The truth is that you don't need to look at more options, just choose one of the ones you've already researched. Your images won't be materially different from any of the three.

    Quick will not get you good images. Slowing down to compose the right scene will, and you'll find that a tripod will do more for crisp than almost anything else you can do. Of course it's all relative, but for maximum quality it takes more than just pointing and shooting, no matter how much you spend.

    You've narrowed it down to two entry-level cameras and one 4/3rds system. Personally, I don't like the smaller sensors of the 4/3rds system, but if you're not going to get seriously into photography, then it's a small, light option.


    If you're not going to make prints, you're not going to get anywhere near the value of the camera- get the cheapest one and don't worry about it. You won't see a difference on the screen from any of these options.

    If you're just going to play "big point and shoot" then look for the faster lenses, overall you'll get better results from less work/technique if you can use a faster shutter speed.

    Get the body and one kit or other lens. Shoot for a while and see if you need more reach, faster glass, or nothing else. You're probably not going to want to switch lenses anyway.

    For what it's worth, I disagree with Blackstone. 28mm is fine with a smaller sensor, I could probably count the number of times I went south of 50mm on 35mm film the first few years I owned a 35mm camera. For most people wider is harder to get right than telephoto.
     
  10. rogersmj thread starter macrumors 68020

    rogersmj

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    Location:
    Indianapolis, IN
    #10
    Thank you everyone for your opinions.

    I did look at the Pentax K10D, but it had a couple drawbacks, including a higher price, that turned me off. In some of the in-depth reviews I've read, both the Olympus and Pentax, while great overall, had some minor niggles I just couldn't get past, most particularly in image quality at the high end of their dynamic range. The Rebel XTi looks great, except for the fact that it's more expensive and you apparently have to spend a lot more to get a decent lens for a Canon than a Nikon.

    So I think I've settled on the Nikon D40 or D40x. I'd like the D40x because it has a lower ISO base and shoots faster; since it was just discontinued in favor of the new D60 (which has nothing I particularly care about), I should be able to find some hot deals on it in the next few weeks.

    Per your advice, I will just get my Nikon with the good 18-55mm kit lens (currently I can get the D40x with 18-55mm for $473) and then decide what telephoto I want to get later after I've gotten to know my camera.

    Now that I've decided, I can't wait to buy it! But technically this is a birthday present, so my wife is going to make me wait at least until the middle of the month :p ...maybe the D40x will be even cheaper then.
     
  11. cube macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 10, 2004
    #11
    The Pentax K100D is a nice inexpensive camera and has built-in stabilization, so every lens can take advantage of it, not only some more expensive special ones with that mechanism like in Canon and Nikon.

    The K10D is of a superior category to the other cameras you mention. You have to compare it to the Nikon D200 and the Canon 40D, but it's much cheaper.
     
  12. form macrumors regular

    form

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    #12
    The kit lenses are nothing fancy from either Nikon or Canon, though both have made recent improvements in the image quality and function of their 18-55mm kit lenses.

    I wouldn't really agree about the price of lenses with Canon vs. Nikon, either, especially considering the D40 and D60 variants don't have any way to drive some of the older lenses' autofocus systems.

    The D40 keeps up with and possibly beats the Canon XTi in noise (6mp vs. 10mp sensor), but the D40x falls behind at higher ISOs and image quality degrades.

    I don't see a D40x with kit lens for under $500, but maybe I'm not looking in the right place.

    Pentax also has cameras worth considering.

    Good luck with the goal of getting crisp, clean images of everything for that price with a dSLR. Better quality than a compact camera, yes, but crisp, clean...well good luck, again.
     
  13. form macrumors regular

    form

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    #14
  14. snickelfritz macrumors 65816

    snickelfritz

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    Location:
    Tucson AZ
    #15
    The D40 sensor has larger (theoretically less noisy) photosites.
    The difference between 6 and 10 MP is not that significant unless you're printing posters, and then even the 10MP is technically "inadequate." at 300dpi.
    [​IMG]
     
  15. rogersmj thread starter macrumors 68020

    rogersmj

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    Sep 10, 2006
    Location:
    Indianapolis, IN
    #16
    Regarding the price of these things, I was looking at an online shop that had great reviews through Google Products (Froogle) but after checking them out on ResellerRatings it turns out they're horrible, so I'll have to readjust my price expectations a little (e.g., $550 for the Rebel on Amazon with kit lens). That's OK though...I think at this point what I'll do is just see which I can get a better deal on, the D40x or the XTi, when I'm ready to buy in two or three weeks. Two of my friends have the XTi, and they've dealt with the kit lens just fine to get started. The D40x feels a little better in my hands, but for my purposes both cameras are about equal. I appreciate everyone's comments...although from what I see, form, I'll be able to get plenty of crisp, clean images with these cameras. I don't see the need for the cynicism just because I'm not spending $2k+. I just want to learn to take better photos than with a point and shoot.
     
  16. form macrumors regular

    form

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    #17
    No cynicism intended; I have some experience with the move up to dSLR land, and I know that good quality lenses help image quality greatly, and so do other things, like technique, image stabilizers, polarizers, off-camera flash, and tripods.

    And you don't have to spend $2k+ to get there. Sharp starter lens to go with the kit lens: 50mm f/1.8, $70. Good, fast standard zoom: Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, $320 new, $275 used.

    Or, if you're willing to break the $1k barrier for total camera expense, you can get a very sharp, high quality longer lens, 70-200mm f/4, $420-$475 used, $525 new.
     
  17. cube macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 10, 2004
    #18
    A lens starting at 70mm is quite hard to use on a crop camera.
    I'd prefer one that starts at 55 even if it's slower.

    Not terribly excited about a lens starting at 28mm, either. 17-18 is the way to go for these cameras.
     
  18. blackstone macrumors regular

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    Dec 12, 2005
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #19
    Having come from a little over a decade with film SLRs before I jumped to DSLRs, I'd organize the list of factors affecting image quality more like this: (1) technique, (2) technique, (3) technique, (4) being intimately familiar with all of the quirks of your camera, (5) lens quality, and (6) everything else.
     

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