Picture Perfect?

Tuesday November 27, 2007 at 6:13pm cameras, photography, long freakin post Comments (2) »

Given the amount of time i've spent on it, it was destined to make it onto my blog sooner or later. The blog is a place to write down my thoughts, and this has taken up a fairly large number of thought cycles over the last several months.

I enjoy picking up new hobbies (despite the fact that I have less and less time for current ones), and ever since I held ginger's XT hostage for a few weeks back in July (during which time i played with it almost constantly), i've had a rapidly-growing interest in the art and technique of photography, doing a considerable amount of reading on terminology, practices and how cameras work.

So anyway, I've decided that I want a DSLR camera. I usually get a bit of money for christmas, I'm supposed to get a significant raise as of January, and a christmas bonus of some undisclosed amount. I figure between those boons, I may be able to save up for a decent camera in a (relatively) short amount of time. I hope.

Anyway, that brings me to the matter at hand: what to get.

I've spent hours reading specs and reviews on quite a few different cameras and lenses, made lists of pros and cons for several, and waffled back and forth on what I think I should go for at least 17 times (I'll probably add at least 2 more to that number as I write this entry).

Unfortunately, there seems to be some discrepancy between what I *want*, and what I think I'll be able to afford in some fashion. :-( See, the more I read and understood, the more I realized what some of the nicer (read: expensive) cameras have to offer, and part of me would rather have a camera that I can grow into, as opposed to out of. I'm usually the kind of person that will wait a little longer and spend a little more to get what I really want, as opposed to settling for something *almost* as good that i can get much quicker and cheaper.

Still, I would probably be happy with a less sophisticated camera, and as a first DSLR you can make the case that I really don't need anything more than that. Also, if I truly found that I had "out grown" the thing or really wanted some of the capabilities of the spiffier models, I would by that point have much more experience and perhaps a still clearer idea of what I'd really want to buy as an upgrade. True that I'd have already spent the money on the initial investment, but several years later i might be able to afford something a little nicer if it came to that.

The Specifics - here's what I've been looking at.

The first camera I looked at is the Canon XTI. This camera gets great reviews - esp as a first DSLR camera. It is lacking a couple of features I'd really rather have, but at only ~$580, it's the least expensive of the lot. Enough that I might be able to get a bit of a nicer lens with this one than with the others. As mentioned, I've spent quite a bit of time on ginger's XT, and so I already know a lot about how it works.

Pros:
relatively inexpensive, but still has most of what i want
large lcd review screen
dust detection/cleaning system for low-pass filter
Cons:
no dedicated info lcd
substandard battery life
a few missing features (no color temp, no spot metering, etc)


A camera that i've spent a bit of time actually playing with at Best Buy and liked was the Nikon d80. It's a great camera, and at ~$800 it's at a pretty good price considering, but the one thing that keeps me from saying "this is what I go with" is the fact that it has a sort of known issue with its metering being a little...wonky. It overexposes shots at varying increments between .3 and .7 ev. It's the inconsistency that many have commented on as being difficult to compensate for to the point that a shot often has to be taken two or more times to get the proper exposure - a luxury not always available.

Pros:
Dedicated info lcd screen
larger, brighter viewfinder
has features missing on XTI
better build and feel than the XTI
more nice, affordable lenses I want for Nikon
impressive battery life
Cons:
Uses SD not CF cards
More expensive than the XTI
Wonky metering
a *tiny* bit slower than the XTI (negligible)


A considerable step up on the quality/price ladder from either of those is Canon's 40d. This one sells for about ~$1300 for just the body, or about ~$1500 bundled with a decent kit lens.

Pros:
Much like the D300 mentioned below (though to a lesser extent), this camera has pretty much all of the things I like about the previous two and more, with none of the listed drawbacks of either.
Cons:
Expensive. I'd have to save a bit longer for this one and would probably go with the kit lens


The camera I would really like is Nikon's D300. Unfortunately, at ~$1800 for just the body, it's just too expensive. I couldn't get a decent lens to go with it and still keep the package under $2000 (not that I want to go up even that high) - so, barring something like an unexpected inheritance from a late and unknown great uncle, I think i can safely say that one's off the table. Sadness. As such, I won't bother rambling in greater detail about how cool it is.

--

So anyway, that's about how it breaks down. I looked over a handful of other cameras too, but those are the top 3 contenders - at the moment anyway. I didn't go into the lenses I've looked at and considered here, because that largely depends upon what camera I get.

If anyone has any input, I'd be glad to hear it - esp. if you've some knowledge of one or more of these cameras and/or photography in general. Leave a comment or send me an email.

As of now, I'm leaning toward one of the canon cameras. Not that that narrows the field too much...

~PS

the EP says...

Hey, don't let me forget to lend you my basics of photography book next time you're over for Mario Golf or something. :)

Penguinsushi says...

will do. :) ~PS

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