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Thread: My first DSLR - making a good choice

  1. #1
    Dizzy's Avatar
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    First DSLR - making a good choice

    Hi all,

    After reading reviews and forums for the past few weeks, it's now a good time for me to select my first DSLR. I found CiC during a search for tutorials on how DSLR's operate, and have spent considerable time here and on other sites studying up on as many features and functions as I can comprehend without actually having a camera in-hand.

    I have been shooting images with a Fuji FinePix A700 for the past couple of years, and have made an effort to improve my shot selection and composition skills. I have added 2 images to my album (in profile). Those are 2 of my favorites so far, but there are a thousand other subjects within a mile of home I am just frothing at the mouth to get a decent image of with quality gear.

    Talked it over with the wife, and negotiated a maximum of $1500 to put towards the purchase. Considering that I need to get a few accessories (bag, flash, etc.) I've been looking at some of the combo deals that are offered on the retail camera sites, and aside from the camera's and accompanying lenses, my guess is most of those included accessories are not worth much (have read this in several forums, as well.) Still, I will need the frame, lens, a proper bag and other "must have's" to get started. Lens cleaning and quality tripod are covered with my existing astronomy gear.

    Read reviews on Canon's, Pentax's and Nikon's till my eyes are bleeding, and along with that have made a couple trips to the closest camera retailer which is a "Best Buy" about 35 miles from home. There I've had a chance to fondle the Canon 60D, Canon T3i (600D), Nikon D90, Nikon D3100 and D5100. Unfortunately, they did not have a D7000 in stock.

    Research says all of these are pretty decent cameras aside from the odd-duck that has spot issues on the lens/mirror, or back/front focus issues. These quirks seems to be somewhat universal, as I've read about people having those issues with almost every DSLR out there excepting perhaps the Canon 5DMkII and others at that level.

    My trips to BB to fondle were helpful in many areas. First I found that I did not like the feel of the smaller body sizes (T3i, D5100, etc.). I don't have that large of hands, yet they just felt small and uncomfortable. This lead me to remove the smaller frame cameras from the choices.

    OTOH, the 60D and D90 felt excellent in-hand. Having read about both, I had initially settled on the 60D. I like the articulating LCD, and the reviews have been good. The D90 was very comfortable in my hand, and I liked the layout of controls and features. Nikon says the D90 was improved on with the D5100, however that small frame issue put it out of the running.

    The 7D looks awesome, however it is out of the price range. Whatever camera is chosen will need to challenge me for awhile, as I tend to follow a fairly steep learning curve when I have great interest in a subject.

    Then I read up on the D7000, and it appears to be a true winner in many areas. It doesn't have the articulating LCD, but in every other technical respect it seems to be equal or better than the Canon, and according to reviews is slightly larger in frame size than the D90, so this is also good. I have no doubt that it would challenge me for some time to come.

    What kind of pictures will I be taking? Landscapes, wildlife, people, events (air and car shows) and although I do not have a telescope suitable for AP at the moment, the camera may eventually be tasked to do some LRGB astrophotography. It will definitely be doing some imaging of the night sky with whatever lens is included. Basically, I want it all..

    As a final step before I buy, it seems prudent to share the choices and seek some input from those of you with vastly more experience. Options are:

    60D - affordable and highly regarded, but seems to be in short supply at almost every site I look at. The included kit lens (18-135 IS or 18-200) did not feel very "robust" to me, but then I have never been a big fan of plastic stuff that costs so much.

    Nikon D90 - Well within budget, and has a great history to it. If I chose the D90 I could add a better lens and still be within budget. I don't feel I need to have the "latest and greatest", yet this camera is now several years old and technology has advanced quite a bit.

    Nikon D7000 - My preference, to date. It is within budget, and the Nikkor lenses are well thought of in comparison to those from Canon. Unless I buy from one of the online mass marketers it seems the standard kit includes an 18-105 that people seem to like yet no one raves over. I like the features and it has stellar reviews, and is often compared to the 7D (although I would think it's closer to the 60D?)

    Whew..that's a lot of info to lay out there, but it's always better to ask too many questions than not enough. Basically, unless there is a good reason not to buy the D7000 I would like to go that route. I plan to make this purchase tomorrow, and would absolutely appreciate any bits of wit or wisdom you can cast my way to help me make a good choice. Thanks in advance for any suggestions, as the DSLR world can be quite confusing to the uninitiated!

    Mike
    Last edited by Dizzy; 28th July 2011 at 05:47 PM.

  2. #2
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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Hi Mike, I'm not sure if it is still on but when I bought my Nikon D3100 from B&H, I could get up to 2 Nikon lenses at a reduced cost provided I bought them all on the same sales slip. You can get the D7000 as a body only at a reduced price and add up to two nikon lenses of your choice at a reduced price. So, if you do not want to get the 18-105, there are other Nikon lenses to choose from.

  3. #3
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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    B&H is a better buy than Best Buy (which is certainly not "best" buy). You will almost always get a better price along with no sales tax (you do have sales tax in Washington, don't you. I can never remember if it is Oregon or Washington that doesn't charge sales tax). B&H is absolutely responsible and you will not be a victim of shady sales practices like some stores in New York and elswhere are guilty of...

    Another top-line camera store is Adorama, also in NYC.. The prices from either B&H or Adorama are pretty well in line and I would not be a bit reluctant to purchase at the store with the better price (total in shipping also - which occasionally is free).

    Quite often cameras packaged with one or two lenses (usually described as kit lenses) are the best buy. The kit lenses, while not the top floor in the photography hotel are quite serviceable.

    However, I would stay away from kits which include tripods, cleaning kits, filters, etc.. These are usually not worth the money and in many instances (such as poor quality filters) will contribute to poor imagery.

    The two Canon "kit" lenses 18-55mm IS and 55-250mm IS are pretty darn nice lenses and are exceptional values for the money spent.

    However, if you are looking for somewhat bettter quality (at still a reasonable price) a combination of Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 (VC or non-VC)and the new Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VC lenses might be a good set to investigate.

  4. #4
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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Mike - I can't help but comment when someone mentions the D7000. In reference to your comment about it not having an articulated screen, Nikon rates the viewing angle of that screen to be 170 degrees which is somewhat subjective on their part. I can say that the screen is excellent and can be viewed at nearly 90 degrees off axis. I have not missed having an articulated screen once. The camera has so many excellent performance and handling features that I wouldn't let that one issue affect your choice.

    Good Luck,

    John

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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Frank, I appreciate the heads-up on being able to make up my own combo kit. Had not thought of that, and it sure makes sense to do so if I can create something with a pair of good lenses.

    Unfortunately B&H and Adorama (along with several others) are showing the 7000D as "Temporarily out of stock". I can only presume that the earthquake in Japan has caused delays in production and delivery. I'll be giving B&H a call tomorrow morning to inquire about when they might receive more stock.

    Richard, I very much appreciate your input on the retailers. Another site had directed me to a "BestPricePhoto", and I was wondering about the quality of their customer service as they offer a lot of the multi-piece packages with the low-end tripods, etc. I would prefer to deal with a store that has knowledgeable people I can call on for assistance, if needed.

    The two Canon "kit" lenses 18-55mm IS and 55-250mm IS are pretty darn nice lenses and are exceptional values for the money spent.
    However, if you are looking for somewhat bettter quality (at still a reasonable price) a combination of Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 (VC or non-VC)and the new Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VC lenses might be a good set to investigate.
    Thanks for the heads up on the good combo's. Looks like another night of research..

    John, that is very helpful info. about the screen, and better yet to hear how pleased you are with your D7000.

    After writing the initial post I took myself for a lengthy walk, and along the way got to thinking that maybe I am biting off more than I can chew by going with the more advanced camera. Like any kid in his 50's, I get excited and want to go with the best when I can, but in this case I am wondering if those extra dollars wouldn't be better spent with a camera body that's a grade lower (D90?) and then spend the extra on some better lenses. I am aware of the lens issues with Nikon and Canon (not interchangeable), so I guess brand is the first thing to nail down.

    There is so much to be learned (and I know so little) that I can't imagine getting bored no matter what I choose, and there is no sense buying a high-end if I don't have a clue what to do with it.

    Time for some more homework..

    Mike

  6. #6
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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Homework done, and the D7000 is the winner. Cost difference with the D90 is not that great, and according to the many reviews the performance differences are well worth the extra cost.

    Found a few righteous retailers with the D7000 in stock, and will be making calls in the morning and placing my order with one of them. Amazon shows it in-stock, as well, but I would prefer to speak to a live person so I can add on a decent case, memory card(s), etc.

    Wife tells me she believes I can see one at Costco (another 70 mile r/t). I've checked their kit price and it's more than I care to spend, but perhaps they have one that I can get a good look at and see how it feels in the hand. Hoping Costco will be selling patience by the pound, also, as I'm gonna be impossible to live with for the few days it will take to arrive in the mail..My first DSLR - making a good choice


    Mike

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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Hi Mike,

    Questions like yours are fairly common - what a lot of people don't tell you though is that - in terms of picture quality - it really doesn't make a lot of difference. There isn't a "wrong" choice per se; in reality there is a HUGE overlap in capability between various brands - so my suggestion is to not get too caught up in all the specifications and reviews - it'll drive you nuts.

    Basically, both main manufacturers have similar models at similar price-points; traditionally, many suggest avoiding the entry-level range (in Canon that's the xxxxD and xxxD) due to poorer ergonomics and construction quality - so for most that means something in the xxD range (Canon) or the Nikon equivalent -- and I was pleased to note that you seem to be leaning that way too. So in terms of the Nikon 7000 or a Canon 60D, I'd bet I could shoot for a week with either, and nobody would be able to tell the difference. At the end of the day, the camera is just a box at the end of a lens that lets the light in.

    In terms of lenses - that's where you'll start to see a bigger difference in construction and image quality. Generally, kit lenses are budget price and so-so quality (personally I don't like them, but a good L-Series lens that i do like could easily cost more than the camera). Personally, I don't go off-brand for lenses, but that's just my philosophy -- but one that's shared by a surprising number of others.

    In terms of "where to by from", BE CAREFUL - there are some real sharks out there. B&H can be trusted, as can Adorama - but to give you an idea of what's also out there, check out ...

    http://www.resellerratings.com/store/Sonic_Cameras

  8. #8
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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Mike,
    I have been using my D7000 for a couple of weeks and it does every thing that is claimed for it and more.
    Most comparable cameras will do the same but you have made a choice and I don't think you will regret it.

    As far as Kit lenses, most modern consumer lenses will give great results.

  9. #9
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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    I have the D90 and I am extremely happy with it.

    Since embarking on photography as a hobby only last year, my thirst for new lenses has vastly outweighed my desire to upgrade my camera body, although I was in a quandry as to whether to get the D300s v D90 at the time. Instead I opted for the D90 and have since concentrated on building up a selection of lenses that in total will cover most scenarios that i am interested in shooting, without going over the top in cost. If I were you I'd think about what you want to shoot mainly and think about whether you're going to need any specific additional lenses.

    Eg. Looking at the two pics in your gallery it looks like you are keen on landscape photography. Therefore you may want a dedicated ultra wide-angle zoom lens (for dramatic landscapes), as well as a multi-purpose do-it-all lens like the 18-200mm (for geenral use), something that you'd possibly be able to afford if you opted for the less expensive D90 for instance.

    You may also want to consider some decent post production software. There's lots of things to consider.

    In a few years, when you have a selection of lenses that serve you well, and maybe a bit more free cash, then you can easily upgrade the camera body. Generally, if they are well looked after, your lenses will outlive your camera body and they are things that can grow with you.

    I totally agree with what Colin said and that lenses are what will improve your shots moreso than a slightly snazzier camera body.
    Last edited by RockNGoalStar; 28th July 2011 at 10:07 AM.

  10. #10

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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Well, it's like buying anything: buy the best you can afford. I know people say the kit lenses are OK, but once you have a bit more experience you will wish for a better lens, trust me. Having said that, what gear did those great photographers have? Nothing like what is available to us. As for other artists, it isn't the gear, it's the photographer's eye.

    Hope you are able to have what you want. I am looking forward to seeing the posted results of your research.

    Good luck

    Nihia

  11. #11
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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Beware of the spin!

    Being fairly new to this too, I did quite a lot of research before buying a dslr. One feature to watch out for, which if I remember rightly arises with the kit lenses from Canon, Nikon and Sony, is the spinning front element. When the camera focuses, the front glass and filter mount rotate, making the use of filters (and especially the commonly used polariser) rather more difficult.

    I settled on a Pentax K-r - its kit lenses do not have spinning front elements. However, I would suggest that if you are determined to get one of the other makes, avoid their kit lenses and go for a higher quality non-spinning lens!

    Philip

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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    The Fuji Fine Pix was my first camera too. I now have two Canon Rebels, the xTi (10 mgp) and now the T2i (18 mgp). I really like like Canon. However, because the image stabilization is not in the camera but in each lens, I kind of wish I had started out with Nikon. The camera costa a little more initially, but the lens are a little less expensive. With Canon, you can buy either the ones with IS or buy them without. If you don't mind using a tripod (I hate to), the lens without IS are wonderful. If I were starting all over, and know what I know now, I would probably buy Nikon.

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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Kathlyn, Nikon doesn't have IS in the camera body, either. The camera manufacturers that do are considerably smaller players than Canon or Nikon, which has its own set of problems. So relax and enjoy your choice (I am a Nikon shooter, and really like their line, but it's really six of one, half dozen of the other between Canon and Nikon AFAICS).

  14. #14
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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Quote Originally Posted by Dizzy View Post
    I'm gonna be impossible to live with for the few days it will take to arrive in the mail..
    Patience my friend, patience. Six months from now the extra time you take to make a good decision will be meaningless, but the results of your decision will live with you for what will seem like forever.

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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    I could not find any information on Best Price Photo or bestpricephoto which leads me to suggest that you avoid them unless other members have had personal good experience with that company.

    There are a number of Brooklyn, new York based Internet retailers who are scam artists and who practice bait and switch advertising and also advertise gear at very low prices but, once the money is sent in for the gear, it is never delivered. When you try to get through to customer service, you are directed to a hard sell salesperson who will try to get you to spend a lot more than you planned.

    I am sure there are some honest Internet retailers in Brooklyn just as I am sure that a herd of pigs just flew over my house.

    Stick with B&H or Adorama. I have also had good experience with 17th Street Photo in NYC but, have read of other people not having such good service.

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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Quote Originally Posted by tclune View Post
    Kathlyn, Nikon doesn't have IS in the camera body, either. The camera manufacturers that do are considerably smaller players than Canon or Nikon, which has its own set of problems.
    Although he seems to have made up his mind about the name on his dslr, I suspect that newcomer Mike ("Dizzy") who started this thread might still like to know what are "its own set of problems".

    As photography is an amateur hobby activity for me, it is not an important issue that there are hundreds of new lenses, etc., to choose from - I couldn't afford to buy more than one or two extras anyway. And, unless you are making enlargements the size of a house, there seems to be little difference in the technical and optical quality produced by the different manufacturers' equipment.

    As many have commented before on CiC, it is mainly the skill and imagination of the photographer that counts, so I would also be interested to know of the problems of selecting, e.g. Pentax, Sony or Panasonic gear with which to work. I have found none up to now, only advantages - e.g. a superb 25 year old manual focus but auto-aperture Pentax lens cheap on eBay, fully image stabilised by the K-r body giving pin-sharp images.

    Philip

  17. #17

    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    it really doesn't make a lot of difference. There isn't a "wrong" choice per se; in reality there is a HUGE overlap in capability between various brands - so my suggestion is to not get too caught up in all the specifications and reviews - it'll drive you nuts.
    Listen to Colin. He knows what he is on about. I have colleagues who have sweated for weeks agonising over their comparisons of tech specs that mean nothing in the real world of photography. Buy the cheapest body you are comfortable with (used if necessary) and then use the rest to get the best lenses you can. It took me approximately 10 seconds to choose my 40D. I held it and that was it. Never looked at the specs before buying. people were genuinely shocked when I told them I had upgraded to a lower pixel count

    You will love what ever you buy - nothing but nothing compares to your first DSLR.

  18. #18
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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    I have to agree with most of the posts here.

    I liked the Canon and my wife liked the Nikon. So I bought the 500D as my first DSLR and my wife bought the Nikon 3100. After playing a bit with both, I liked features on both makers.

    There really is very little difference. Its what you like, what feels right for you, and what you can afford. I am more than happy with my choice, as is my wife.

    Like everyone else, I put the emphasis on lenses.

    Good Luck!

  19. #19
    Dizzy's Avatar
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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Wow...I figured this thread was about done; but take a 10 hr. break and look what happens..

    So much helpful advice..THANK YOU, all!

    Colin: You likely saved me a bunch of misery by posting that link to ResellerRatings. The retailers I had been considering were not well thought of according to the reviews, and odds are good that the purchase would not have ended up with positive results. Not sure if I'll ever get to NZ, but if I do the first couple pints of Fourex are on me..

    Amazon sells the D7000 and D90 direct from their own stock, and based on the lack of availability of the D7000 elsewhere they might be my best choice. I will also need to get a memory card and a few other goodies, but those are not expensive.

    Tommy: I can't disagree with your wisdom about the lenses, and I would not have any reservations about going with the D90 except that the price differential between it and the D7000 is just to narrow. If if was several hundred dollars lower I could see the logic in investing the savings in lenses, but they are just to close, price wise, for me to pass up the better (on paper) performance of the D7000.

    Listen to Colin. He knows what he is on about. I have colleagues who have sweated for weeks agonizing over their comparisons of tech specs that mean nothing in the real world of photography. Buy the cheapest body you are comfortable with (used if necessary) and then use the rest to get the best lenses you can. It took me approximately 10 seconds to choose my 40D. I held it and that was it. Never looked at the specs before buying. people were genuinely shocked when I told them I had upgraded to a lower pixel count
    You will love what ever you buy - nothing but nothing compares to your first DSLR.
    Thanks for the encouragement Steve. I am afraid that I fit the profile for one who checks every spec (even if I don't understand them all). In the astronomy world, issues such as the type of glass, or what type of coatings are on lenses can make a noticeable difference in scope performance, and I guess I am imparting that same level of detail to the camera purchase out of fear (ie: lack of experience) for missing a critical spec among the available bodies.

    Patience my friend, patience. Six months from now the extra time you take to make a good decision will be meaningless, but the results of your decision will live with you for what will seem like forever.
    Thanks for the bit of wisdom Frank. I've learned to temper my impatience with the wisdom of life's experiences. In the end, I would rather go without than rush into something just because it was there.

    Heading to Costco this afternoon, as the wife tells me they have a large selection of cameras for me to look over, and it will provide another opportunity to insure that I'm making a right decision.

    What an awesome group of people...thank you all for sharing your knowledge with this beginner.

    Mike

  20. #20

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    Re: My first DSLR - making a good choice

    Quote Originally Posted by kathyw View Post
    I kind of wish I had started out with Nikon. The camera costa a little more initially, but the lens are a little less expensive.
    In this part of the world Nikon lenses cost more, and there's less of a selection.

    Couple of quick examples from B&H Website ...

    Nikon 24-70 = $1649
    Canon 24-70 = $1399

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