F.A.Q.s, Photography
Comments 8

F.A.Q.’s Which camera should I buy?

I’m asked this question just as frequently as What lens should I buy? and it is even harder to answer.

If you want a simple point and shoot,  then I’m still a big fan Pentax’s waterproof Optio series. I’ve mentioned them in previous posts, and their latest model is the W90. I also have friends who are very happy with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 the Olympus Stylus Tough 8010 and the Sony DSC-TX5. They all do a similar job, they’re waterproof, shockproof and take reasonable pictures / video.

PENTAX OPTIO W90

PENTAX OPTIO W90

The next group to consider are the entry level digital SLRs.

Moving from a Point and Shoot to an entry level SLR has several advantages and a few disadvantages.

Advantages include a larger sensor, minimal shutter lag, and more creative control. This means you tend to have higher quality images, you are less likely to miss the moment , and you (rather than the camera) can easily adjust things like focus or depth of field.

Disadvantages include cost, size, weight and maintenance. Digital SLRs are great, but the best camera is the one that you have with you. If you’re going to always end up leaving the SLR at home and just using the camera on your phone, then you’re “investing” in an expensive paperweight.

Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony all make good entry level digital SLR cameras for  around 500 dollars. The prices I’ve quoted are all current prices on Amazon.com, but it’s worthwhile shopping around for the best deal, or if you want personal service or advice support your local camera store.

Rather than list megapixels, frames per second or auto focus points, here are a few general things to remember when buying your first SLR.

You are buying into a system, a Nikon body will only work with a Nikon mount lens. Any flash with have to be Nikon compatible. The lithium batteries are usually specific to a particular brand or even model. All camera brands have a wide range of lenses and accessories, but you should check that they are readily available in your area.

If you have photographer friends it would be worth considering getting the same brand of camera as them, even if it’s not the same model. As mentioned above, this compatibility will allow you to borrow each others lenses and accessories. Perhaps more importantly it will mean you have people who can help you with more technical aspects. A Canon film camera was quite similar to a Nikon film camera, but digital SLRs have so many buttons, options and menus that the differences between brands can make them seem like different beasts. If you have no photographer friends and haven’t joined a camera club, then there are online forums for every camera brand. Digital Photography Review is a good place to start.

If you can get to a camera store then you should try and spend some time holding the different cameras. Different people have different hand sizes so what feels comfortable and ergonomic to one person may feel unnatural to another.

Possible entry level digital SLRs (in alphabetical order)

Canon Rebel XS with 18 to 55mm lens $499

Canon Rebel XS

Canon Rebel XS

Nikon D3000 with 18-55mm lens $449

Nikon D3000

Nikon D3000

Pentax K-X with 18-55mm lens $514

Pentax K-X

Pentax K-X

Sony A380 with 18-55mm lens $495

Sony Alpha A380L

Sony Alpha A380L

Usually entry level cameras are sold with a reasonable but not great kit lens. All the above cameras include a basic 18-55mm lens. The à la carte option would be to buy the body only and select your own lens. (You could then get a 50mm 1.8 lens as mentioned in the previous FAQ post).

All the above cameras will allow you to take great pictures. Yes they are “entry level” but they do a good job.  You can spend more money, or even a lot more money, but I’ll leave the discussion of those cameras for another day.

8 Comments

  1. Tord S Eriksson says

    Seems things are moving very fast just now in the DSLR field: the D3000, is replaced by the D3100, the K-x by the K-r, and so on.

    But the K-x is an excellent buy, still available, for a while longer. It has few thrills, but some nice extras, like HDR, and a good dynamic range (better than a lot of other DSLRs) and fairly decent high ISO performance. The K-r is better in every way, but a bit pricier, of course, just as the K-5 seems to be on par with the D700, which the K-7 certainly isn’t!

    The K-x (and, as far as I am aware, also the K-r) are fairly noisy, in a mechanical sense, while the K-7 (and the K-5) are among the very quiet on the market!

    The K-5 also takes fairly decent photos at 51000 ISO, not bad at all! The K-r does OK at 6400 ISO, but brilliantly at 1600 ISO

  2. Tord S Eriksson says

    I hasten to add that I own both the K-7 and the K-x! And hope to get my K-5 in the forseeable future!

  3. Hi Tord,

    Thanks for the comments. Some of the newer models like the 3100 were no longer close to the $500. I take it from the 4 options you would recommend the Pentax K-x.

  4. Tord S Eriksson says

    Yeah, I am partial to the K-x, especially now as they seem to have dropped in price a bit more. You could check the results I got with mine at Flickr.com:

    Buddha1

    This photo, and the photos older than this one are all taken with the K-x, until you get to the photos of Gothenburg harbour (in essence, the pictures from Thailand and those that have K-x mentioned in their comments below, are all K-x).

    Most of the photos of flying aircraft, and flying birds I’ve uploaded to dpreview, are also taken with the K-x (there might be one or two exceptions which have been taken with my K-7 – but not many):

    http://www.dpreview.com/galleries/5376374738/photos#page=1

    The review at dpreview.com gave a fair assesment of the K-x, by the way: It isn’t brilliant, but you get an awful lot of camera for your money.

    I’ve had mine for three-quarters of a year, and after updating its firmware, I’ve had no problems at all. Not even with using NiMHs (a known problem, initially, as the camera announced the batteries to be depleated when they were not. After firmware 1.01 – current is 1.10 – this has not been an issue at all).

    My own Pros, and Cons, list:

    Pro:

    Light and smallish – maybe not ideal for people with very big hands!

    Fast (routinely use ISO 1600.

    Uses AA batteries, including NiMHs. On a set of Energizer AA Lithium AAs you can take over 700 shots!

    Has an effective sensor shaking system – crude but works!

    Can use both old style Pentax/Samsung lenses, and modern, like the tiny, but superb, Limited series. Thus almost all lenses ever made for the so called K Mount can be used – try that with a Nikon and you’ll be very disappointed!

    The anti-shake is built into the camera body, thus even very old lenses can benefit from it (not possible with Canon, nor Nikon cameras, as they have their anti-shake function built-into their lenses).

    Cons:

    Not water resistant, nor perfectly dust proof (the K-7 is a better choice in dry, and wet, surroundings)! Have used mine in rain, without any problems, though – guess I’m lucky?!

    There is no indication in the viewfinder where the camera has focused, but there is an audio signal that it is properly focused. OK for me :-)!

    Slightly plasticy feeling, in sharp contrast to the K-7 that feels like it could be used as a hammer (obviously, the K-7 is slightly heavier, due to more metal and less plastic. The K-7 was designed with pros in mind, thus more expensive – approximately twice as expensive).

    The shutter mechanism is a bit noisy (not the best camera for candid photography: Thankfully, the K-7 is one of the quietest DSLRs there is on the market).

  5. Tord S Eriksson says

    A water-proof camera not mentioned here is the Sony DSC-TX5, which looks like a man’s wallet, or a slightly thick-ish iPhone (The display covers most of the rear, and the front is dominated by a big horizontally sliding door that covers the lens (et cetera), when not in use).

    Sony DSC-TX5 has a touch screen, and a lot of intelligence, so it makes its own choice of which program to use. It even switches programs along the way, if you suddenly happen to aim at something else. Cute!

    Excellent macro (some would say it is worth its price just for that), and not too bad otherwise, either! Its 3.3x zoom is really nice, easy to use, and there are a lot of other nice features, as well.

    In short: DSC-TX5 has excellent ergonomics, is far more stylish than the latest Pentax, or Olympus, offerings, and seem to stand lot of abuse. At least my wife’s does!

    As with most cameras with a lot of very tiny pixels (in this case 37MP/cm-squared, later models have even more) it is no king of swing in low light, even if it is equipped with a flash! As a comparison, Sony’s NEX-5 has 3.9MP/cm-squared!

  6. Katharine says

    I like the look of the new Pentax W90. The tough casing looks perfect for all the outdoor stuff that a waterproof camera is intended to do. My W10 is still doing a great job though after almost 4 years.

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