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Thread: New and confused - need camera decision help

  1. #1

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    New and confused - need camera decision help

    Hello,

    Like the title says, I'm new and confused. I know a little about photography due to my current research and am learning more each day, but I still do not have any gear. For the past couple of months, I have been looking at cameras, researching cameras, reading reviews, and trying to narrow down my search for a good camera that will help me learn as well as grow. I've hit the proverbial brick wall and need the calming text of photographers that know more than me, which at this time, is -- everyone.

    I have looked at bridge cameras to maybe get a feel of taking pictures for an easier look into how exposure works, but I don't want to buy into something that I may grow out of soon (more control, higher ISO, depth of field). One of the cameras I was looking at was the Panasonic LUMIX FZ150. I have looked into entry level DSLRs, but fear of getting something that doesn't fit the bill. Two DSLRs I have looked at are the Pentax K5 and K30 for the weather sealed bodies. I have looked at hybrid systems, but they seem overly expensive for what I can get cheaper with a DSLR (NEX7).

    Things I enjoy or would like to shoot with a camera include: (Wife put a limit on my photo hobby adventure of starting off at $1,000, but I think I can slide in a little more)

    - Nature (smooth waterfalls, creeks, rivers, etc...) Long shutter time?
    - wildlife (some with background, some with blurred background) closer depth of field?
    - The entire beautiful world around me!
    - sharp pictures (gorgeous clarity)
    - HDR photography (looks really neat)

    I know it might be asking a lot for the limited fund range, but it is what I would like to grow into.

    I need some beginner, enthusiast, and professional input into what camera would work well for what I wish to do and look forward to any input that may help sway my decision or increase my understanding.

    Thank you for your time,

    Steve

  2. #2

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Hi Steve-I'm a Nikon user with extensive gear - you may get lengthy answers in this forum,if you search previously same question you will find excellent hints.

    1. You are unlikely able to persue all your photographic interests at once

    2. A DSLR is a must for you to grow

    3. Start with a kit which usually comes with 2 lenses,a bag,a card etc

    4. Recommend looking at Canon or Nikon-I don't know Canons so therefore I would recommend Nikon D5100 as it can shoot for raw processing

    5. Go to a camera shop and decide which model feels best in your hands and that's the one for you

    6. The more you research the more confused you'll get

    7. With the kit you'll start taking photos of still subjects in good light

    8. Getting to know even an entry level DSLR is complicated enough so with a basic kit you should be happy for a year or two

    9. Joining a camera club is advisable

    10. Budget for a tripod,filters,flash etc before looking at additional lenses for the near future
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 12th July 2012 at 09:21 AM.

  3. #3

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    I'm sure other will chip in with more lengthy answers, but I just wanted to add "don't forget about the 2nd hand market". In a Canon camp you'd be able to pick up a used 30D / 40D well under budget.

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Personally I wouldn't get too hung up on the specific camera: for the purposes you described, any decent DSLR or Micro Four-Thirds (mirrorless interchange lens) camera should serve you well. You mentioned the Sony NEX-7, which is in fact a great camera and some professionals have been using it exclusively. Check out the review on the Luminous Landscape site, for example. I have the NEX-5n and am very impressed with it, although I would have loved it more with the manual controls of the NEX-7 instead of the touchscreen interface of the 5n.

    Some of my best photos were taken with a simple point-and-shoot or a camera that was one step up from that (Canon G9). They might have been "better" if I'd had a better camera, but not dramatically so. I'm not suggesting you start with a point and shoot, because you have serious intentions which means you want a camera you can grow into and that gives you control over everything. I'm just saying that great photos come from being in the right place at the right time, with the right lightt. Having a good camera simply allows you to take the best advantage of that situation. For the purposes you described, any good camera should be up for the task, and your choice may boil down to specific features that you're personally interested in or factors such as size, weight, or ruggedness.

    I agree with Colin on getting a used camera: people are always upgrading, and you can get an excellent camera that can serve you a decade or more at a very reasonable price.

  5. #5

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    This is a situation which we have all encountered at some time, Steve.

    You seem to have a rather substantial list of requirements with regard to what you wish to photograph; but the best of the newer 'Bridge Cameras' can cope with most of this list. And are relatively compact and lightweight.

    Most people who purchase their first 'decent camera' will find that these bridge cameras will fulfill everything that they want; and at a reasonable price. A lot of these photographers wouldn't manage to produce any better results with unlimited equipment.

    However, if you wish to embark on a serious hobby which will gradually grow in equipment as your skill increases and you want to produce really good quality work, you should look at the dslr route.

    If you do decide on a dslr, I would agree with what has been said about looking for good quality secondhand equipment. But get it from a reliable source like a proper secondhand camera shop or someone you know.

    Looking and holding a camera before purchase is certainly advisable. For example, Canon produce two ranges of dslr cameras, ignoring the pro range for now. Although the basic specs and price aren't massively different between these ranges there is quite a bit of variation in the opinions of users.

    The Canon 000D range (like 300D to 600D for example) are good reasonably small and lightweight easy carry cameras. Their 00D range (like the 30D to 60D for example) are chunkier and heavier so tend to have larger and easier to operate controls.

    Some people like the compactness of the 000D cameras but find the 00D range too heavy and cumbersome to hold. While others find the 000D cameras too fiddly and prefer something more substantial.

    Personally, I like a chunky camera which I can grab hold of without worrying about where I'm placing my fingers and gives a better balance when used with heavy lenses.

    Nikon produce similar ranges of cameras; and other makes will also tend to fall within these basic divisions.

    Once you decide upon the basic camera range, we can start looking at best buy lenses etc. Also, editing software needs to be considered.

    And remember that if you decide to go down the serious dslr road, you will keep spending money; even if you are able to do it in gradual stages. But adding extra lenses etc to a good quality body may well end up cheaper than changing between systems. Such as the route which involves, compact camera to bridge to basic dslr and eventually to what you should have purchased in the first place!

  6. #6

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Having used a panasonic FZ for the past few years there is nothing on your list that it cannot do ecconomically. You do NOT need a DSLR and IMO that is a backward step before you have even taken one forward. However you need to appreciate that the camera and a good editing programme are complimentary tools in producing your photos. My camera is the FZ50 and I have two of them, buying a second one as back-up when they went out of production. I did not go to the FZ100 or FZ150 becuase of the change in design and I looked to M4/3 which gives me a larger sensor [ 60% of the APS-C camera ] meaning I can use higher ISO satisfactorilly than the bridge camera. Here I have the Pany G3 with the x10 zoom lens to give me what I had with the FZ50 but with the extra capability mentioned. However it may be more than your budget and it is certainly more expensive than an entry level DSLR. But I was buying the tool I wanted and was able to manage the finance.

    The trouble with the DSLR for those on a limited budget is that becuase you can interchange the lenses there is the pressure to buy more and more lenses. A newbie often falls into the trap of thinking that a bigger and better camera will improve their work when they really need to learn how to use the gear they have properly.
    With the bridge camera all you need is a moderate close-up lens and a polarising filter and particularly with the FZ150 you have considerable reach at an ecconomical price, though I think the FZ50 with a Raynox 2025 is better. The Raynox is an adaptor which multiplies the x12 zoom by x2.2 to give a 950mm Angle of View.

    If you can swing the M4/3 that is superior to the bridge camera but with limited finance the FZ150 is without question superior to a DSLR you can buy with your money. The only thing stopping you progressing will be you. I suggest you visit or join the Lumix Group at http://lumixuser.co.uk/forum/ for further opinions.

    Even if you fall by the wayside [ IMO ] and get a DSLR after buying the FZ150 I am sure you will appreciate it and continue to use it as your prefered camera.

    My preferance for a useful editing programme is Paint Shop Pro which I have been using since I started. It is resonably priced and will do everything I want to do anyway. But if you think you might get into the graphics industry I would suggest an up-to-date version of Elements by Adobe ... early versions were a joke but recent versions have come right as useful editing programmes.

  7. #7

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Steve,

    You might want to consider adding your location to the information displayed on the left side of your posts. As an example, if I knew that you live in the U. S., I would highly recommend KEH.com as a reliable, trustworthy source of used equipment. They rate the quality of their equipment and buyers' reports are always consistent with my own experience that the product, once it arrives, usually exceeds the published quality rating and always meets it at the very least.

  8. #8
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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Steve, I would agree with Colin's suggestion - I have two Pentax cameras, and both were second-hand. I took slightly more risk with one and got it from eBay, but it is exactly as described by the seller - low shutter count and perfect condition. The other, in equally good order, I bought from a dealer. Both cameras were less than 2/3 of their cheapest new retail prices. The dealer is the safer option, as you are likely to get a good warranty included in the price. For example, here in the UK there is a national chain (CEX) that give a 12 month warranty on DSLRs.

    If buying second-hand, one (of many) plus points about Pentax is that the majority of lenses have little to go wrong, because the focus motor and image stabilisation mechanisms are in the camera body. The two bodies you mentioned (K-5 and K-30) are excellent, although it is less likely that a K-30 will be found second-hand just yet, as it is a new model.

    Cheers.
    Philip

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Hi Steve,
    It is aways a very difficult desicion. You should make that decision yourself.
    If you know nothing about photography, aperture, shutter, ISO white balance etc. and all the settings going with it be careful.
    You want to learn how to control settings like this and not shoot in auto all the time, have a good look at a SONY SLT.
    Sony SLT cameras have an electronic viewvinder. In the viewvinder you can actually see what the picture is going too look like when you change settings. This is extremely helpful to any newcomer to photography.
    Just remember with a DSLR you buy into a system, not only a camera.

    PS: Just remember to read all the reviews you can find on the cameras you are interested in.
    No matter new or used - read it.
    Last edited by AB26; 12th July 2012 at 02:05 PM.

  10. #10
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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Time for a few more thoughts. Learning photography is all about progression and frankly if you are starting out, then a camera phone or a point and shoot will likely be more than adequate without getting into some fairly serious expense. Getting in over your head with gear that is too complex is going to be rather demotivating to someone just getting into photography. I personally find that the time to move up into something more complex is when you become frustrated by the limitations of your gear. While the cost and quality of the equipment do have some impact on the final product, but not nearly as much as most people think. The weakest link in any photograph is generally the photographer.

    To demonstrate my point: Here are four images. One was taken with a point & shoot, one with crossover, one with an amateur DSLR and amateur lens and one with a high-end DSLR camera with a pro lens. Can you figure out which camera was used for the different images?

    1.
    New and confused - need camera decision help

    2.
    New and confused - need camera decision help

    3.
    New and confused - need camera decision help

    4.
    New and confused - need camera decision help

    To boot, these images are from fairly ancient right through extremely modern digital cameras, using small to huge megapixel counts. The images are taken with:

    1. A 2001 3MP Canon Powershot S30 (Point & Shoot);

    2. A 2004 5MP Panasonic FZ-20 (Crossover);

    3. A 2008 12MP Nikon D90 with a 80-400mm lens (amateur DSLR and amateur lens); and

    4. A 2012 36MP Nikon D800 with a 70-200mm lens (pro DSLR and pro lens).

  11. #11
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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    I would agree with Manfred and the others, if you are just starting out, look for a camera that you are comfortable with learning and save some of your budget for things like a tripod, camera bag, memory cards, filters, post processing software, etc.

    At this point you'll get much more out of learning how to effectively use whatever equipment you purchase and learning composition than an expensive camera. More than half my Project 52 and SmugMug images were taken with a Point 'n Shoot. For examples of what you can do with various cameras, take a look at the links in my signature and decide for yourself.

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I'm sure other will chip in with more lengthy answers, but I just wanted to add "don't forget about the 2nd hand market". In a Canon camp you'd be able to pick up a used 30D / 40D well under budget.
    Steve, I don't know where you are located. Since this is an international forum you could be anywhere in the world. I am operating under the assumption that you are located in the USA since you are talking about a $1,000 budget. Otherwise, the prices I quote will not be valid...

    I would not recommend anything but a DSLR if you want an outfit which you will not outgrow. The P&S and Bridge cameras have a lot of faults and I would not ever use a camera that doesn't have an eye level viewfinder. That eliminates many 4/3 "type" cameras. Frankly, framing an image with only live view capability sucks. Additionally shooting with a P&S, brdge camera or most 4/3 "type" cameras will introduce the problem of a relatively long shutter lag. Shutter lag, or the time between pressing he shuter button and acquiring the image, is frustratng; especially when attempting to shoot moving subjects.

    First off, you need to decide if video capability is important to you. If you can do without video capability the Canon 40D (despite being an older model camera) is an excellent buy and is a very capable all-around camera. I still shoot with a 40D alongside my 7D and would rather shoot with a pair of 40D cameras than a single 7D. Forgoing video capability will allow you to set up a very capable kit at a relatively low cost.

    The used 40D camera (body only) has sold for between $300 and $400 (USD) on eBay USA. I would definitely buy this as a body only rather than start of with a kit lens of some type. The kit lenses are fairly good and quite good for the price but, they are very limited in capabilities.

    I would match the 40D with a used mid-range zoom lens that has a constant f/2.8 aperture. The constant f/2.8 will allow you far more versatility than the slower f/3.5-5.6 aperture of the kit lens. A Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 (non-VC) lens has been selling for between $250 and $300 (USD) on eBay USA.

    The 40D and Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 (non VC) lens would give you an excellent starting setup which you won't outgrow for a long while.

    Adding a telephoto zoom such as the Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VC would cost another $350-450 (depending if you purchase new or used) and would complete your kit.

    You should be able to cover just about any type of photography venue (excepting macro) with the 40D and the two above lenses at a cost of around $1,000 or so USD...

    Don't forget, you will need a few CF cards and perhaps an extra battery or two. However, quite often extra batteries are included with used cameras...

    If you can afford it, I would definitely suggest a used Canon 430EX flash or a new Metz Mecablitz AF-1 50 flash. Having a hotshoe flash will increase your kit's versatility and capabilities. You should be able to pick up a 430EX for well under $200 and a new Metz for right around $200. A used 550EX is also another option in the $200 range. If you are willing to live without manual flash capability, the old Canon 420EX flash can be had used for around $100. All of these flash units have ETTL capabilities and also have high speed sync capability. HSS is exceptonally important for me since I shoot a lot of images with fill flash and I don't want to be restricted to 1/250 second shutter speed.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 12th July 2012 at 08:11 PM.

  13. #13

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Lots of good advice here so far, and of course lots of conflicting advice that may leave you more confused than when you started. I've found it's like gardening: if you read just one gardening book you'll be fine, but if you read two or three you'll be paralysed because they all tell you something different. We bought an amaryllis a few years ago and I wanted to find out how to overwinter it so it would bloom again, and I read five completely conflicting sets of instructions from five equally reputable sources.

    But here's one bit of advice I haven't seen here yet and which I think is worth considering: Whatever camera you end up choosing, do yourself a favour and start keeping a list of the things you like and the things you don't like about it. The list may change over time as you learn how to use it. But that list will help you narrow down the search when you eventually decide to get a different camera.

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Hi Steve - I was in the same situation as you are. I started off with a P&S that had many scene modes but no manual controls. I learnt a lot from that little camera and it still works is great as a backup and is nice and compact. I then upgraded last year to a Panasonic FZ100 - this one does have noise issues but the FZ150 has solved many of the issues - I would highly recommend it. Yes a DSLR is an option but give serious thought to how much stuff you are willing to carry around. The seller for me on the bridge camera was the zoom range - Goes from a slightly wide angle to superzoom and yet is small enough to carry comfortably. Yes there are times when I wish for a DSLR for its low light capability - but I don't so a lot of that kind of photography. For me one of the most important considerations was portability. Those long range zoom lenses can be big, heavy and expensive.

    With the full manual control you can still hone your skills without having to spend a lot of money. If you don't like the Panasonic, Canon, Fuji and Nikon have similar models. After all you are going to need a carrying case(s), tripod , maybe you want to experiment with some filters - it all adds up.

    As for your concern about outgrowing this type of camera - I wouldn't worry about that - it would make a very nice backup camera and is small enough and lightweight enough to take along when you really can't or don't want to carry more gear or even you are going somewhere where you don't want to risk losing or damaging the more expensive gear.

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    I'd like to add one more comment. Over the past 10 or 15 years camera models improved in leaps and bounds in virtually every new generation. Commodity cameras - point & shoot models could be updated in as little as 6 months, while higher end cameras had a bit more staying power and model changes would occur every two or three years.

    I paid virtually the same money for my first point and shoot, the first crossover and my first DSLR (if I omit the price of the lens on that one). If I were to replace them today, I would be paying about 1/5th of the money I paid for the P&S, about 1/2 for the crossover and about 75% for the DSLR to get something that is more or less equivalent today. At the time I certainly considered both the P&S and the Crossover as "throw-away" cameras that would be upgraded to something better after a few years, and was right about that.

    The situation, certainly at the mid to high end DSLRs and even the mirrorless cameras is no longer as straight forward, as these products starting with the previous generation (really anything about 4 years ago's models) were getting to be reasonably mature. The improvements in the latest models, i.e. the ones that were introduced over the past year versus the previous generation are not as revolutionary as they were in the past, in fact the upgrades seemed to consist of reasonably evolutionary improvements. This mean's today's buyer should be a bit more careful, as there won't be the overwhelming advantages of upgrading anymore.

    This means one has to be a bit more careful in choosing a path, especially if one goes the interchangable lens route. You are buying into a system, with computer controlled camera bodies, lenses and external flashes that work hand in hand. Upgrades in the future will likely be using the same brand of gear, because of the peripherals you have invested in.

  16. #16

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    I just thought of another idea. If you have a friend who is knowledgeable of a particular manufacturer's system, go with that manufacturer so long as the camera you decide upon fits comfortably in your hands.

    As an example, I have a good friend who is very knowledgeable of the Nikon system. He encouraged me to try two particular cameras, one from Nikon and one from Canon. When I told him that I had tried the Nikon camera and decided to buy it without trying the Canon camera, he asked why. The reason, of course, was that I knew I could call him any time that I ran into trouble. That's probably the best decision-making process I have ever used and it has paid off for me numerous times, including once when I was on vacation and really in a pickle.

  17. #17

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    This is wonderful! I did not expect so many well thought out replies -- nice ones at that. I very much appreciate the time you all have taken to help me in my hobby endeavor.

    Siggi, you read my mind! All of those things you listed I have been thinking of with more and more of the realization that the more I research the more confused I am. It's like walking down the cereal isle at the grocery store because I can't just choose one! I'll be going to a camera shop tomorrow to get my hands on a bunch of cameras. Not much of a camera shop, more like a copy center with cameras, but since the rise of the internet, there are not very many electronic stores here.

    Thank you, Colin for the suggestion of looking for used gear as those with more funding hand them down, I might be able to get a great deal. With my skill level I could possible get a nice camera setup to grow into and learn from.

    Brad, the salesman at the camera shop screams about how good the NEX7 is. He says he only shoots with that. Though, he is pretty aggressive at trying to sell the SONY cameras. He said he use to shoot with a 5D mark II, but prefers the NEX7 more. Maybe in the future when my skills and budget are higher, I can purchase a higher quality camera. I'm sure that the bug will never stop biting.

    Geoff, tomorrow I will be able to get my hands on some gear and I agree that holding them and getting a feel for them will without a doubt help me get closer to my decision. The bridge vs DSLR is where it's at right now, so thank you for your tips.

    jcuknz, I feel ya, the FZ150 is looking rather nice -- and that zoom looks tantalizing. I'll check out that LUMIX forum and see if I can read a review of the FZ50.

    Mike, location added, thank you. Also, thank you for the KEH.com website. I will look there and see what kind of used equipment they have to close the gap on my decision. My sister-in-law shoots with a Nikon D90 and takes great photographs, but says that she wants to switch over to Canon. I'll get my hands on some gear tomorrow and be able to make choice as to what kind of DSLR system I prefer based on what my hands like to hold.

    Philip, the pentax models are so tempting, because they come with weather-sealed bodies and are cold rated. I would like to do some winter photo shots and maybe that will help. I've been looking at a K5, but there are none here that I can hold. The camera shop has a K30 though and it feels really nice.

    Andre, thank your for the tips. I think that would be beneficial to see how the picture changes by what I'm adjusting and should help me up to speed a little quicker.

    Manfred, I'm glad that you typed the answers at the bottom of the pictures, because with my eyes, I can't see much difference between the quality. Though, the D90 shot looks very nice and sharp -- maybe I just love the bear. :-) Thank you for showing me that taking a quality picture is not always about the gear. Great point about buying into a system and knowing that you don't have to buy the latest and greatest, because a model one year older might have similar attributes, but at three fourths the price.

    Frank! Those pictures of yours are mostly taken with a point-n-shoot? I am impressed. You sir, have a gift. I forgot about accessories, tripod, filters, bag, card, etc... Going to have to buy some of those.

    Richard, thank you for the well thought out post on a possible setup for me. That gives me a better understandin of what kind of lenses I would need for a DSLR setup to take the kind of pictures that I want to, since I don't know anything about lenses. I can tell you really love photography by your wonderful and detailed response.

    Brad, yes, I do feel conflicted between what to purchase. However I now have a better Idea as to how to better read through those garden books to pick the right fertilizer for the job. That is a good idea to write down a list or even create a photo journal of what I experience and feel when capturing the world around me.

    Helen, great points about the bridge camera. On paper and in reviews, I do like the look of the FZ150 and to get that kind of a zoom at that price on a DSLR is impossible. I'm going to look at some cameras tomorrow and will hopefully be able to see some more bridge cameras that I can compare against the DSLRs.

    Thank you all again!

    I am very excited to be able to hold and play with cameras tomorrow. I feel like a child on Christmas morning, waiting to see what is behind the wrapping paper.

    Steve

  18. #18

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Steve: your sister-in-law has a D90, good camera, so help her out, take the Nikon and lens off her hands, so she can get the cannon, you happy, sister-in-law happy, everbuddy happy, smile don't worry, be happy. Store will not give her much for the stuff, but then turns around and selsl it at 80% of new cost, store will give about, I would say 25-30% of new value so offer her more than store, who knows.

    Cheers:

    Allan

  19. #19

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Nikon DSLRs - with a few exceptions which I'll discuss in a minute - have one outstanding advantage over their competitors: back compatibility of AF lenses going back to 1986, and almost to the year zero for manual focus glass. For example, I can use AF Nikkor lenses bought more than 20 years ago with my D90 and D7000, because both of these cameras have the auto-focus motor built into the camera body. Among the less expensive Nikon DSLRs, the D50 also has the focusing motor built into the body, and can be bought for a very modest sum second-hand on ebay. As a general rule, camera bodies depreciate in value very quickly, while the price of lenses remains high. If you go into the Nikon system, money spent on lenses will be a lasting investment, the lenses moving onward and upward with you as you upgrade and modernise your camera bodies. Nikon DSLR bodies such as D40 and D5100 have no internal motor, and so have very limited lens back compatibility, and I would not advise you to buy them if you intend to stay with the hobby. D90, mentioned above, is an excellent camera. In a word, if you can't take decent photographs with D90, you won't be able to take good pictures with anything else either.
    Last edited by Brocken; 14th July 2012 at 01:07 AM. Reason: spelling

  20. #20

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    Re: New and confused - need camera decision help

    Quote Originally Posted by Polar01 View Post
    Steve: your sister-in-law has a D90, good camera, so help her out, take the Nikon and lens off her hands
    That sounds like a great idea to me too. Your sister will be able to get you out of trouble even after she becomes accustomed to using her Canon system. Heck, throw in a nice dinner and a bottle of wine on the deal.

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