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Digital SLR Pointers?

August 18, 2005

It’s time for a new digital camera, and point and shoot is so 1998.

I’ve been considering moving into the world of digital SLR for some time now. Though consumer level cameras have improved quite a bit since I was last in the market for one, and though my last camera (Canon A40) was really quite good at the time for what it was, my mounting frustration at its limited manual settings means it’s not used much anymore. I became a little too proficient at taking mediocre photos.

The idea of an ultra-compact, feature-filled consumer camera was appealing when Mike Davidson wrote about his Casio a few months back. Lugging a full-size camera around when there are such tiny alternatives feels a little archaic. And with the high end consumer models hitting the 7 and 8 megapixel range, the resolution is almost the same anyway.

So why an SLR, despite that? There are a few potential reasons offhand, although I’m still doing my research on this one.

  • Image quality. We’ll start with the obvious point that an SLR’s core strength is the ability to ‘see through’ the camera. An LCD viewfinder is nice, but I’ll happily trade it for accuracy. Though it’s possible to achieve depth of field in some form or another with a consumer camera, I’ve found the results are generally disappointing at best. (Your milage may vary.) A higher ISO rating means better shots in low light. And the ability to shoot in RAW mode is something that strikes me as important, though I have yet to actually do so.
  • Lenses. Telephoto, Wide-angle, Macro, etc. And with a few other locals to pool ‘em with for more choice, all the better.
  • Speed. 3 to 5 FPS shooting? Holy moly. I currently get 5 SPF, if I’m lucky.

It seems to come down to a choice of quality over quantity. Yep, you’ll probably take a lot more photos with a consumer level camera because you’ll have it with you more often. But they probably won’t look as nice as the ones you’ve shot with an SLR. Luckily, it’s not an either-or choice for me as I already have a point and shoot camera, so the case for going with quality is looking awfully compelling.

Presuming I go this route, I’d be curious to hear about the experience of other SLR owners out there. I have a particular manufacturer and a few models in mind, but I won’t mention those just yet in favour of hearing about actual first-hand experience.

I’m also curious about photo management when dealing with such large files. iPhoto, I’m quite certain, just won’t cut it. What kind of software should I be looking into for organizing and cataloguing? Presumably I’ll also be looking into a large chunk of Flash or SD memory, but then there’s the issue of longer term storage. DVD vs. a dedicated external hard drive seems likely to be the main choice, and I’d imagine a decent catalogue application could handle either. But that’s just a guess.


1
I donthink so says:
August 18, 01h

I have used both. RAW is nice if you REALLY REALLY need the quality but it will waste quite some space on your flash card (which isnt such an issue in the day of 2GB cards then back when 128MB was 200USD, your battery will run out of juice before probably ;).


Image quality on the SLRs is much better (no wonder, the lenses are much wider) but so is cost and size. I generally only use the SLR in studio settings, whereas I’d rather have a cell phone with good optics for point and shoot (they don’t yet exist for all i know, even 3mpix cellphones have appalling optics)

Dave S. says:
August 18, 01h

“…whereas I’d rather have a cell phone with good optics for point and shoot”

That went unmentioned, but it’s exactly where I’m at right now too. I only want to carry a single device on me. I have a camera with me at all times as it is, it’s just astoundingly bad.

In three years time though, I’d expect the problem will be largely solved. So I can wait until then for my semi-decent point and shoot camera. For now, investing in quality seems like the better move.

Bob Aman says:
August 18, 01h

I love my Canon Digital Rebel, and I’m thinking about getting a second one and ripping out the infrared cut filter so I can do IR photography with it. I’ve played with a few Nikons that my photo-geek friends from RIT let me borrow, but I really prefer the Canon, especially since it also tends to be fairly inexpensive as DSLRs go. I am, however, a comp-sci geek myself, and I honestly know next to nothing about photography. I’m nothing more than an amateur that happens to snag decent looking pictures now and then. So, big grain of salt, etc.

But I do highly recommend spending some time on the http://dpreview.com/ site.

August 18, 01h

I have a Canon Digital Rebel. The picture quality is great and the manual controls are really nice. On the down side, compared to my 35mm Rebel GII, not digital, it is extremely clunky and chunky.

They’ve made improvements with the XT but I have yet to use it. My words of warning would be to buy a case. I had my camera in a backpack and went on a flight, when I opened my bag the LCD had shattered inward.

I second dpreview completely.

I’ll make sure my next digital SLR is a bit more compact.

Bob Aman says:
August 18, 01h

Also, for photo management… Actually I do just use iPhoto. It works OK for me because I compulsively delete anything that I don’t think was a really good shot. Mainly I use it because of the Automator integration. Being able to easily do batch image transforms is really handy because I tend to upload stuff either to flickr or deviantART, and the default state of the images as they exist coming out of the camera, is of course, not ideal for those settings.

6
Casey Gollan says:
August 18, 01h

I also forgot to mention that although I do use it, iPhoto is extremely inept at dealing with the several megabyte files. I have yet to find another suitable solution.

August 18, 01h

Depending on your budget, I’d give the new Nikon D50 a look. It seems like a winner in its price range.

I’ll be buying one at some point, too. I went through the same ultra-compact vs. dSLR thing as you are going through. I was also interesting in Mike’s Casio and some other “high-end” ultra-compacts. Ultimately, I decided the best route for me was the most expensive one: buy both.

Since I plan to get both, I didn’t need as many features in the little one as Mike’s Casio Z750 has – so I picked up a Canon SD400 a few days ago. So far, I’m enjoying it a lot.

When I can afford it, I’ll be dSLR shopping. :)

August 18, 01h

One more thing:

http://www.dcresource.com

Great site.

neil says:
August 18, 01h

As for image management, get yourself a copy of iView. There’s iView Media[1], which is cheaper ($50) and works mostly with photos (no RAW, though), and the way more expensive (and equally more advanced) iView MediaPro[2] ($199). Also check out the comparison grid[3].

[1]: http://www.iview-multimedia.com/products/media/index.php
[2]: http://www.iview-multimedia.com/products/mediapro/index.php
[3]: http://www.iview-multimedia.com/products/compare.php

iVM is just incredibly good - fast, tons of features, well-designed, and does absolutely anything I would want from a resource management program. You can use it to catalogue more than just photos - I have database of fonts, PDFs, etc. - plus you can create specific catalogues and send them to people to view using the free catalogue viewer. It’s perfect for handling client work.

Personally, I use a combination of iView MediaPro and iPhoto to handle digital photography. I use iPhoto as the front-end to import my photos onto my system, so that they’re available to programs that access iPhoto libraries. I then use iVM to import the iPhoto library (it can import without having to make duplicates of the image files) and use iVM for everything else.

It’s expensive, but it’s totally worth it.

Bob Aman says:
August 18, 01h

Re: the case issue, I *love* the camera backpack I got.

http://www.adorama.com/DEPROBP33.html

Plenty of padding, compartment for my 12” PowerBook, easy method of toting the tripod, built-in rain-cover that comes out of a pocket under the bag, and the photo compartments are all modular and adjustable and such. Being modular, you can also turn the bag into a textbook-toting bag as well by simply pulling out the dividers.

It’s definately on the pricey side, and it’s a bit heavy too from the padding, but I don’t usually have it on my back for extended periods of time anyhow, so the weight doesn’t really bother me much anymore.

It is very well designed. Highly recommended if you plan on having more than one lens for your camera (which, seems to be the main reason for a DSLR, so far as I’m concerned, anyhow).

August 18, 01h

I’ve owned Canon EOS 20D for about half a year now, and have been satisfied with it. The overall “feel” is very good, nice and solid. Controls are where you’d expect them and so on. Having to press a button to see the current ISO setting is a significant flaw, though. Image quality is very good, pictures taken in good conditions are suitable for 1:1 web use. That said, I’d appreciate lower high-ISO noise, and 1.3 or 1.0 crop factor.

The only way I feel limited by this camera is that it’s not weather-proofed. If it rains, you’ll have to come up with some contraption to keep the camera dry.

Sometimes I also wonder if I would have been better served with Minolta Dynax 7D. I like available light photography and want to avoid flash as much as possible. Because 7D’s image stabilization system is built to the camera body, you could have stabilized 50mm equivalent, for example.

Bob Aman says:
August 18, 01h

iView looks interesting.

The one feature I really want though would be a flickr-esque multiple sizes kind of thing, where the different sizes don’t show up in the database as different photos. IE, group multiple versions of the same photo together.

Do you know if iView can do that?

13
Sarah says:
August 18, 01h

I have a Nikon D70, mainly because we’re a Nikon SLR family and already have the lenses. I’m really impressed by the quality, and shooting RAW on a 1gb CF card gives me just under 100 shots–so three rolls of film equivalent–more than enough for the average day shoot (You can tell I’m still not mentally digital). Only thing in comparison with my uncle’s Canon DSLR (don’t remember the model) is that the Canon is quite significantly lighter.

Dave S. says:
August 18, 01h

neil – thanks for the iView tip, it looks great.

Aapo – “it’s not weather-proofed” – is that specific to the 20d, or is it generally true for all digital SLRs? My current camera probably isn’t even weather-resistant, but as long as it hasn’t been a strong downpour, I’ve found the odd spot of rain or snow didn’t seem to phase it.

August 18, 01h

I just recnetly baught a Nikon D70s and I love it so much. I was just like you where I was frustrated with my canon powershot because it limited me.

A very compairable camera is the Nikon D50. It is the cheapest DSLR on the market right now pricing around &$899 US.

brian says:
August 18, 02h

I’m a big fan of the Nikon D70 too. I bought it before the D50 came out, and I probably would have gone w/ the 50 for price reasons, but I’ve been so so happy with the D70. I carted it all around central Europe for a month and I”m glad I did. It worked beautifully. It’s fast and easy to control all the manual settings. I left it in manual 99% of the time I was there.

One nitpicky thing I like about it over the Canon Digital Rebel I got to play with. There are two dials you can adjust on the Nikon, one where you right index finger is near, and one where your right thumb goes. One can adjust the shutter speed the other the aperature. So if you spend alot of time in manual, you can appreciate how easy this is to do. With the Canon, you get one dial for shutter speed, and have to hold down a secondary button while moving the same dial to adjust the aperature. Nitpicky, yes, but inconvenient for someone who spends all his time in manual mode.

Yes, there were times I wish I could have had a smaller camera to pull out for more convenient shooting, but after I got back to my computer and looked at all the shots I got with the SLR that just were impossible with a point and shoot, I was very thankful.

WIth iPhoto, it does get bogged down a bit with lots of pictures in it, but I just deal with it. You can try iPhoto Library, so keep a few different libraries going. Or do what I do, I have my main library on my iMac g5, and a somewhat more slimmed down one on my powerbook. I transfer all my shot photos over via ipod or whatever’s handy. The g5 does fine with multi-thousand-picture libraries.

Dave S. says:
August 18, 02h

Brian – “One nitpicky thing I like about it over the Canon Digital Rebel I got to play with.” – not nitpicky at all, this kind of interface silliness with manual settings is what I hate about my current Canon. If I’m spending the money, I want two dials.

August 18, 02h

If you want top of the line, go with Canon EOS 20D. If you want to get best buy for your money, go with Nikon D50.

Other options are simply not worth considering. As for the D50, this review says it all: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond50/

19
Duncan Wilcox says:
August 18, 02h

My understanding of DSLR quality:

- the sensor is normally off because you’re looking through a real viewfinder, so you don’t get thermal noise on the sensor

- the sensor is larger so the individual dots on the CCD are larger and capture more light, so there’s a better signal/noise ratio

- larger sensor means larger focal length, means wider apertures with less purple fringing, means less aggressive DSP-massaging of your picture

I haven’t bought a DSLR yet because I’m annoyed by the sensors not being full-frame, so my 50mm lens is equivalent to a 75mm, and I certainly can’t afford a good 18mm that would be equivalent to a 28mm.

All this might change when the Canon EOS 5D (full-frame 13Mpixel sensor) is released around year end.

20
Karen says:
August 18, 02h

I used to use a Canon EOS 10D, but I was never very happy with the colours that it produced, its tendency to over-expose skies, or the fuzziness of the Bayer filter. My partner has a Sigma SD10 and I ended up selling the Canon and getting a Sigma too.

It may not be the popular choice, but I love the colours that the Sigma produces and the software that comes with it is excellent. I can get back to trying to improve my photography skills (and I need to!) without having to agonise over the quality of the picture. It is a bulky beast, but then once you get beyond a compact camera any slight difference in size is pretty academic.

I have iView Media Pro and must admit I’ve gone back to using iPhoto. With v5 it is good enough and its integration with other programs is really handy. Mind you although I only found it recently, ViewIt is now a must have. I like being able to see full screen slideshows of my photos without having to build a slideshow in iPhoto.

August 18, 02h

I’ve had a Nikon D70 for almost a year and have been extremely pleased with it. I had a brief opportunity to compare it with a friend’s Digital Rebel and feel that the Nikon has a much more solid and “professional” air about it.

The recently introduced D70s sports a larger LCD display than the D70 but otherwise the cameras are functionally equivalent. Nikon have a great policy of releasing firmware updates, so my D70 now sports the same firmware improvements as the D70s. The 18-70mm lens supplied with the D70 kit is a winner and a great starting point for your inevitable glass collection. Expect to spend more on lenses than for the initial camera body.

One down-side; if you’re into night photography with very long exposures (30sec+) then the D70 has a flaw in that the electronics interfere with the CCD causing purple fringing on the image. I know several people who’ve opted for the Canon 20D for that type of photography.

August 18, 02h

Dave, I just rented an older Canon D60 from Leo’s downtown here in Vancouver (good place if you ever need specialty lenses once you buy the SLR, and very close to you, too) and I was pretty impressed with it.

The thing that really sold me on the Canons is that there seem to just be so many more lenses available. I rented out a tilt-shift 90mm lens for some food photography, and I’ve heard that Nikon users have way less options. Hopefully I’ll be getting one of my own soon.

BTW, if you’ve never been to Leo’s, check them out… (Nelson and Granville); they claim that their pricing on high-end models is very good, and the staff there is pretty honest about the pros and cons of each model…

August 18, 02h

I was going to mention, too, that some of the high-end compact Panasonics are phenomenal cameras… I have a very small Panasonic (LC-80) and I love the speed and image quality, but some of the bigger ones with true Leica lenses are a really nice alternative to the dSLR if you want something a little less expensive and a bit lighter.

August 18, 02h

You wrote “3 to 5 FPS shooting? Holy moly. I currently get 5 FPS, if I’m lucky.” Did you intend for the second “FPS” to actually be “SPF”?

brian says:
August 18, 02h

A few days after I got my D70, we had a lunar eclipse. Using my back porch chair as a tripod a.k.a. something steady to put my camera upon, I took a few photos of it using a 1 sec exposure (granted that’s not 30secs) and the pretty cheap lens I got with it. A little grainy, but no purple fringing.

http://bw.watchtan.com/article/52/lunar-eclipse-and-a-new-camera

August 18, 03h

I bought a Nikon D70 as my first SLR (digital or otherwise) about a year and a half ago. It has been absolutely fantastic. Check out my blog for sample shots http://seansantry.com/ ) as well as my flickr page (http://flickr.com/photos/seansantry ).

One of the best things about the D70 is that the battery lasts forever. Seriously. I’ve never ‘had’ to charge the battery, as it’s never run out on me. I’ve shot 400 RAW frames, including long exposures and flash in one night and the charge barely lowered by a bar.

I’ve done a fair bit of night photography with it as well, including 30+ second exposures (http://seansantry.com/articles/2005/08/16/fenway-park ) Even the compressed jpeg version I put on the web has no visible noise.

When you get the D70, be sure to pick up a Nikkor 50mm f1.8. It’s an amazing low-light portrait lens, especially considering it’s $100. I just picked up the 35mm f2 for $260 as well.

Also the D70 kit has a rebate deal going on through the end of August, I believe. Good luck!

August 18, 03h

I have one word:

EOS350D

August 18, 03h

One more thing, I always shoot RAW. You get so much more flexibility during processing you’ll find you can’t live without it. You can correct exposure, white balance, sharpening, contrast, etc., without degrading the image. I bought a 4GB MicroDrive CF card off eBay for $200 and that’s all the space I’ve needed.

For workflow, I dump my RAW images into iPhoto just for storing and organizing. I then export the original RAW images to a folder and use Photoshop with the Camera RAW plugin. The processed shots usually go straight to flickr.

brian says:
August 18, 03h

Ah i forgot about the battery life issue. That is a very nice feature of digital SLRs. I recharged my battery twice in a month of heavy shooting (~1000 pics) when we went to Europe.

August 18, 03h

What strange timing, I’ve been thinking about getting a dSLR for a while too. I already have a consumer-level point-and-shoot digital, and I get some good photos from it, but I’m really becoming interested in photography and would like to get something with a little more power. The lenses are a nice thing about dSLRs, as well as the generally better quality.

I’ve looked at several different dSLRs, and like a comment mentioned above, the NikonD50 seems to be the best value (which is important for me - I’m an amateur, and don’t need what a pro would need), where a Canon model would be the top choice if price was not an issue. I was lucky to find the Nikon D50 in a local Black’s, I don’t know if it’s in Vancouver as well (I’m in Victoria, just across the water), and was able to examine it. It’s fairly light, and with the included lens, seems well-balanced (doesn’t tend to tip forward or backward), and not that large at all. The grip for the right hand is great. The shutter button is in the perfect location. One thing I had read about the D70 is that it’s heavy, and apparently it has a metal casing. The D50 is mostly plastic, but feels very sturdy.

At this point, without having yet looked into other brands/models, the D50 seems to be my dSLR of choice. The big obstacle is the price: about $1100 CAD, for the camera, included lens, battery, charger, manual, software, and case. Even with all that, that amount is just a little high for me at this point (and supposedly the D50 is the CHEAPEST dSLR in the market right now!). I think I’ll have to check some other stores and see if the same set is available cheaper. Or I might wait a while for the price to go down as the holiday season approaches.

But, all in all, so far, the Nikon D50 seems like a good choice.

brian says:
August 18, 03h

Speed is another thing - not just FPS, but the time it takes to be ready. I can turn on my D70 and hit the shutter button and it always takes the shot. I can’t beat it to the punch, so to speak. I can’t try to take a picture faster than it takes for it to “boot up.” I’m pretty sure that goes for any DSLR, but I’ve only played around w/ the D70 in that realm.

August 18, 03h

I can’t say that an SLR is right or wrong for you, but I’ve taken to cautioning people against jumping to one. Prosumer SLR-style cameras offer a lot of amazing features and–is some ways–they’re notably superior to DSLRs. I wrote a little something on this subject that applies, I think: http://www.danandsherree.com/2005/03/12/comparing_a_prosumer.php

33
Ludovic Halary says:
August 18, 03h

The D70 (recently updated to D70s as stated before) now has an enormous fan-base, not without reasons: this DSLR is fantastic.

However I find that the Canon EOS350D gives somewhat better shots than those of the D70, and does not feel too limited compared to the more professionnal EOS20D.

…oh, and managing everything from DVDs (unless your shots are grouped in themes) is, at least for me, hell.

August 18, 04h

I have a canon digital rebel XT and I enjoy it immensely. Due to a mix-up at Dell, I have two. Email me if you want to buy it (XT is 350D)

35
Aaron Tan says:
August 18, 04h

I’ve don’t owned any of these digital SLR’s yet but considering into buying one as well. I thought of getting the digital rebel from my cousin if he upgrade to digital rebel XT.

I found this guide in the link below to be quite helpful if I were to get one of these SLR’s

http://www.canon.co.jp/Imaging/enjoydslr/index.html

ray says:
August 18, 05h

I highly recommend the Nikon D70. I’ve had mine for about 3 or so months now after upgrading from a Nikon Coolpix 4500.

I’m still learning all its ins and outs, but have had no complaints thus far.

Dan says:
August 18, 05h

The most important bit of information that needs to be said before any decent advice can be dished out is this: What do you plan on doing with the camera? What are you going to photograph and what are your needs?

You’ll find good advice much more rapidly with that information in the open. In the mean time, all I (and anyone else) can do is speak in generalities.

So here goes:

In my experience as a professional photographer and “digital post production technician” these are some things to consider in looking at a camera:

1. Viewfinders
The viewfinder in any camera is very important to consider. If it’s too small or too dark you will have difficulty composing images and it could strain your eyes.

Of course even the weak viewfinder of the Rebel (300D; my current camera) will be a step up from a LCD screen but you’ll probably tire of it sooner or later. The viewfinder in the 300D is very small which I have found causes me to squint tightly to try and see what I’m shooting. This can’t be good for my eyesight. the 350D (Rebel XT) is worse with an even smaller viewfinder.

2. Image Quality
This is a given with all current DSLRs (esp. if you shoot raw). A non-issue if you will.

3. Handling
As you’ve noticed with your P&S, a camera needs to behave like an extension of the photographer. It should not get in the way.

Cameras I’ve used:

1. Canon 300D (Digital Rebel)

-Good-
*This is the camera I own currently. It’s a performer for what it is, especially with the Russian firmware hack. This camera is basically a “parts-bin” camera made using leftover 10D parts. It shares the same sensor, (similar) processing chips, and even runs on the same OS (DOS!). The image quality, as expected from a Canon camera is top-notch; the limiting factor in image quality is in the lens used and the skill of the photographer. This goes for any of the cameras I mention in this post as well.

*Despite the fact that it’s plastic it’s solidly built for a budget camera with a metal skeleton inside.

-Bad-
*Slow. When using this camera it feels like I’m working around it rather than working with it. This is especially true when shooting raw.

*Don’t plan on using Microdrives with this camera. I own a 4GB Hitachi and the camera can’t handle it. The camera constantly crashes and then reboots if I shoot too quickly. This happens on the 10D as well.

2. Canon 10D

-Good-
*Solidly built, good ergonomics IMHO

*Bigger viewfinder than the 300D.

-Bad-
*Like the 300D, this camera slows me down. It’s actually slower than the 300D when pulling up thumbnails of images you’ve shot (for skeptics out there, I’ve used 5 separate copies of this camera and it’s the same on each).

*Don’t fill the CF card fully. Doing so will cause the camera to blink it’s activity light for a good 30 seconds. If you open the door during that time you 1) corrupting data and 2) you will loose the last one or two shots you’ve taken. Leaving two to three shots on the card avoids this issue (it’s the same with the 300D but not as badly).

*It’s still selling in the $700-900 range. While good for those trying to get something back on their investment I don’t think it’s worth any more than $600.

*This is no fault of the camera really but this camera is not a heck of a lot better than a 300D with hacked firmware.

3. Canon 20D

-Good-
*Fast. This camera does not get in my way. it handles like, well, a camera and not a slow computer.

*Awesome noise handling at high ISO. You’ll get about one extra stop with this (i.e. ISO 1600 looks like ISO 800 from the previous generation 10D/300D). Aside from the 1D MK II, there is no other camera in existance that is as noise-free as this camera.

-Bad-
*Very loud mirror. Seriously, this mirror is much louder than the 10D was. Ka-klack! Very distracting if you plan on photographing people and the only reason why I have not bought one.

Other cameras:

Nikon D70:
I’ve had my hands on D70 on a couple occasions. The controls are very different feeling than that of the Canon cameras but I could get used to it if needed. It’s a nice camera but nothing about it impressed me much.

Minolta 7D:
This is the camera I was heavily deciding to upgrade to until I got work of rumors of Canon making a 13mp 5D.

Image stabilization on any lens is a very appealing thing.

Here aer some opinions on it that are well worth the read:
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/minolta-7d.shtml
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/sm-june19-05.shtml
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/sm-june26-05.shtml
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/sm-july03-05.shtml
http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/sm-july10-05.shtml

My sediments mirror those found in the last four links above quite a bit.

Sigma SD10:
Turd. The Foveon technology is a great idea and I’d love nothing more than to have something like it. The idea of not needing a AA filter or Bayer-matrix interpolation is very appealing. Unfortunately like most new technology is suffers from certain (and significant) shortcomings.

The worst is noise. Your exposure with this camera needs to be dead-on. Otherwise green, ugly and blotchy noise becomes readily apparent in an image. Don’t believe it? Just download some raw files from PBbase and see for yourself.

Second is the fact that it’s limited to Sigma lenses. Sigma lenses are just not that good. Period. The lens systems from Canon, Minolta, Olympus, and Nikon are far superior in many ways.

And I don’t care how you cut it, 3mp is still 3mp. It is not 6mp, that’s just pure marketing BS.

Dan says:
August 18, 05h

Software!

I don’t really find a need for any sort of fancy image management software.

I simply place the images in a good directory structure which in itself provides metadata for searches. For viewing thumbs and processing I use Bridge which comes with CS2. It has an excellent raw converter built into it, a very useful ranking and color-labeling system, it’s integrated with Photoshop and it’s quick.

If more functions are needed, then there is the previously mentioned iView Media Pro. I’d mention Thumbs Plus which gains favor by a few but I don’t believe it supports raw images and it’s Windows only.

Another to look at is Photo Mechanic which many seem to like as well.

If, and I say if, I ever had a need to buy some management software it would be iView because of how quickly it can find images. Then again with Tigers Spotlight, that may negate that benefit to some extent…

Storage:

Don’t rely on DVDs for storage! Considering the lack of achievability of CD-R media I don’t expect DVDs to be much better. External hard drives are currently the best solution for storing images available today.

DVDs are good for transporing images or throwing a backup into a desk-drawer. If you only shoot occasioally then DVDs probably wont’ be bad for backups but if you manage alot of images, going through the process of burning DVDs will get long in the tooth real quick.

And on that note, don’t keep just one copy of anything. Make sure you have a back-up; two copies of your photos at all times. Hard-drives are dirt cheap. Don’t worry about taking up space unnecessarily.

bobk says:
August 18, 05h

As the proud owner of the 20d, I can say that I highly recommend it. I won’t rehash what other people said, except to say that Canon has a great selection of lenses, and overall makes a quality product.

One thing I will point out is that comparing ISO’s between point-and-shoots and DSLR’s is difficult. You have to remember that p&s cameras generally have MUCH smaller pixel sizes in the sensor than a DSLR. This results in higher noise problems. It’s why you’ll usually see reviews of 6+MP p&s’s crap out at ISO 400, whereas my 20d rocks 800, and does very well at 1600. Important stuff if you’re going to do any indoor or twilight stuff.

Hope you enjoy your new toy!

bobk says:
August 18, 06h

As the proud owner of the 20d, I can say that I highly recommend it. I won’t rehash what other people said, except to say that Canon has a great selection of lenses, and overall makes a quality product.

One thing I will point out is that comparing ISO’s between point-and-shoots and DSLR’s is difficult. You have to remember that p&s cameras generally have MUCH smaller pixel sizes in the sensor than a DSLR. This results in higher noise problems. It’s why you’ll usually see reviews of 6+MP p&s’s crap out at ISO 400, whereas my 20d rocks 800, and does very well at 1600. Important stuff if you’re going to do any indoor or twilight stuff.

Oh, and I’ve settled on buying a nice 250gb internal drive and a usb2/firewire hard drive enclosure for my backup needs. That should keep me for a little while…

Hope you enjoy your new toy!

Dave S. says:
August 18, 06h

Wow, Dan, those are two of the most useful comments I’ve ever had on this site. Thanks for your insight, it has cleared up a lot of the lingering questions I had.

August 18, 07h

One thing I did forget mention is that the RAW files that the D70s makes aren’t supported with Camera RAW 3.1 so if you are using Photoshop CS you need another way of porcessing the RAW files. Right now I am useing C1 Pro but I don’t like it as much as I like Camera RAW in the bridge.

The good thing about the RAW files is that you can capture the maximum amout of data and always process them, save them as jpgs and delete or archive the RAW files on another media.

43
Michael Cronin says:
August 18, 07h

I’ll confess that I haven’t worked my way through all the comments, but just to add my $.02… One thing that often is overlooked is the size of the sensor itself. It is possible to get a better looking image with a 6MP sensor that has better dynamic range and greater sensitivity than an 8 or 10MP sensor, differences in lenses discounted.

How shameful that in my first post to this site, I’m too tired to press further! Hopefully someone can elaborate.

Dan says:
August 18, 07h

Sure thing Dave.

If you have any questions or need any help, feel free to drop me a note ( http://www.dynamicartwork.com/contact/ ).

Your articles have been a indespensable help in my web-designing pursutes and I would be more than glad to return the favor.

45
C. Michael Cooper says:
August 18, 08h

Dan makes exactly the points that need to be made, but for the situational photographer the most important question that needs to be asked is whether you want to carry those extra lenses around with you all the time. With the 1.6x multiplier on digital sensors, it’s very difficult to get a truly wide angle shot, even with a short lens. It can be very frustrating having to switch back and forth between lenses in any situation other than a controlled photo shoot. If you’re mostly going to be shooting situations on the fly, with a DSLR it’s difficult to get a wide enough focal range, even with a versatile lens like the Tamron 28 - 300mm. I think useability is a very important concern in situational photography, and having to switch lenses often will kill the useability of your camera.

ramin says:
August 18, 10h

On the weatherproofing issue that Aapo raised. I’m not sure how the Nikons are, but Canon’s 1D series is the only weatherproofed series. Not all of Canon’s lenses are weatherproofed either.

However I’ve used my 300D (Rebel) in light rain and fairly heavy snow (I live in Finland ;) and haven’t had any problems. Of course, I protect the camera from the elements between shots.

One important factor with a dSLR is the feel of the camera. I’m glad I got a 300D and not the 350D simply because of the size. I’ve got big hands and use large lenses so the smaller body just doesn’t feel right. I’d also seriously consider getting a battery grip since it’ll add weight and stability to the camera body.

And since a dSLR does weigh more than any point-and-shoot you’ll be grateful if you look for a better strap for carrying it. I’d recommend Op-Tech USA’s straps. I’ve had significantly less neck aches since I got mine.

47
Neuro says:
August 19, 01h

Check out iPhoto Buddy to help manage your photos.

This awsome little app works with iPhoto so you can create multiple libraries. You can create seperate libraries for different jobs/clients etc. Very handy! And its free.

I use a 20D in a professional enviroment. Great camera. Just ask my happy clients. :-)

Dunstan says:
August 19, 01h

I seem to spend about 10% of my day researching digital cameras, so maybe I’ve got some useful advice:

[1] I’ve been using a Canon 10D for a couple of years now. It’s a great camera, with a great UI and takes really great pictures. The ability to move the ISO up to 800 or 1600 and still take relatively grain-free photos is a joy.

[2] However, the damn thing does get a bit heavy. In a time when we can buy tiny little pocket-cameras it galls me a bit to have to carry this great lump of a machine around. As a consequence I’ve long been planning to sell the 10D and swap to the Canon Digital Rebel XT. It’s smaller, lighter, has more MP, and while it loses a few features they’re ones I’d gladly trade for the weight/size savings I’d gain.

[3] Shooting RAW. Lots of controversy around this. I thought it was a waste of time until a friend sat me down and showed me two photos taken one after the other, one RAW, one JPEG. The difference in detail was astounding, and the things he could do to the RAW file were amazing. I’ve only shot RAW from that day on and I’m very pleased I made the switch. Yes it takes up more space on my CF card and HD, but I bought a DSLR to take the best photos I could, not to penny-pinch on cheap hardware.

[4] Photo management software. In my opinion, there’s just nothing out there that does the job. I’ve tried every single piece of mac software I could find. I spent _months_ researching it (I had 11,500 files to look after, some 60GB+) and downloaded a ton of different apps. For each app I uploaded 1,000 files to it, added meta-data, and generally fiddled about.

In the end I decided that I needed 4 features from my software:

[a] The ability to archive original images off to DVD, have the app recognise this, and point me in the right direction when the time came to find the original file.

[b] The ability to have small thumbnails which link to large previews so I can preview images in detail without having to dig out the archived DVDs all the time.

[c] Speed!! I hate hanging around for slow apps.

[d] Nice UI for entering all sorts of metadata.

After a few weeks of testing things I narrowed my choice down to a single application: iView Media Pro. It was the only app that offered all the features I wanted and was by far the quickest of the few that made it to the ‘final round’.

However, after a uploading all 11,000 photos I found even IvMP started running like a dog (like a dead, dead dog). My index file grew to 2.something GB and so became unmanageable. I would have to wait the better part of a minute to do simple tasks like scroll up or down. It drove me mad.

So I ditched IvMP and swapped back to my old system – dated and named finder folders. It’s not as fancy, and if someone asks me for all the photos I have of ‘dogs’ I’m screwed, but it’s better than sitting for 40 seconds at a time waiting for the screen to refresh IvMP.

[5] Storage. This is a bit of a bugger. Ideally I’d like to backup to some external service (on the web), but that’s not practical atm. Second ideal would be to have two gigantic HDs and constantly mirror to them. Third choice (and what I’m currently doing) is to mirror to one HD and archive off to 2 sets of DVDs.

The DVD option isn’t ideal for me because the folder-organisation approach means logically I need to keep everything from one day’s shoot in the same folder. If things are archived to DVD and I produce a changed version of an image, I can’t put that new image with it’s parents and siblings without burning a new DVD, which is daft.

I think I might start paying for some external secure storage and slowly backup to that. Then maybe buy some huge HDs as well… my parents just lost all their photos after a HD failure and I couldn’t bear for that to happen to me.

[6] Lens. Oh, I have a Canon 28-135 I USM lens. It’s wonderful, especially the Image Stabilisation feature as that helps compliment the low-light abilities of the DSLR. I also have a Sigma fisheye. I think I’m going to invest in a macro lens as well.

[7] Strap. Buy a neoprene strap and replace whatever one comes with the camera. The neoprene straps make the camera feel about half the weight, which, as I mentioned, is a blessing when you have a heavy lump hanging from your neck all day.

[8] Buy a big CF card, and get a spare battery.


[wrap up] I think that’s about all I have to offer. Buzz me if you think I can offer any help.

Dunstan says:
August 19, 01h

Always forget something…

[9] The lack of weather-protection (for almost all digital cameras) is very annoying. I’ve produced a few homemade weather-proof bags in my time (for taking out on speed boats or in light rain), but you can’t beat a professional case… it’s just a shame they cost so much and are so inconvenient.

[10] As Dan mentioned, to browse my directory structure I either use finder or Photoshop’s browser (which is called The Bridge in CS2). Since I’d be opening my RAW files in PS anyway it makes for a great match, and lets me flag files I want to delete or keep (depending on the situation).

[11] Remember the thing about the image sensor size, and the magnification factor. On my 10D it’s about 1.6, so my 28-135mm lens is actually 45-216mm.

August 19, 03h

Hi Dave, I’m no expert on the SLR thing but for managing your pictures I think Portfolio from Extensis could be usefull: http://www.extensis.com/en/products/product_features.jsp?id=prod60005
I have tested it for other stuff like storing all kinds of finished projects, software ect. But I think the program is more suited for Photographers.

Olly says:
August 19, 03h

Friends of mine have had a lot of success with the Canon 10D, 20D (newerbiggerbetterfaster) and for less money, the 300D (and no doubt the new 350D is good too).

Me, all I can afford is my little Canon Powershot.

HTH, HAND :)

August 19, 04h

Gotta agree with Mike Davidson on the Casio Z750 - it really hits the sweet spot -only downside is the underpowered flash and a little too much saturation.
My wife has a Canon Digital Rebel - it’s cheap and it takes great pictures (better color balance than the casio).

J Brien says:
August 19, 05h

I have a Canon Rebel with a multitude of lenses and love it. I put a lot of research into Digital SLRs before I bought and truely liked the Canon optics and construction much better. I tried the Nikons and the just felt like there should be something else to them. The interface takes a while to get used to but one you get it down it make sense and is fast.

I have since bought the Rebel XT for my girl because of it smaller size, too small in my opinion, but I have large piano-player hands and fingers. And just picked up a MK1 from a photographer that was closing his studio and like the fact all of my lenses work beautifully with it, even the lensbaby, www.lensbaby.com.

As for software, I broke down and paid the money for iView Media Pro, due to the insane ability for huge catalogs and sorting speed. I shoot 100% RAW and do conversion with Photoshop CS2. iPhoto will crap out after about 1000 RAW images and there is no wat to have multiple catalogs easily, which was important for me as I shoot stock work for my design clients. And the bonus to boot is I can have a catalog of all my comps, images, and stock for projects and client reviews.

Hope that offers some insite.

August 19, 05h

I have the Nikon D70 and I love it.

Wayne says:
August 19, 05h

I don’t know if it works on Macs, but I have found that ACDSee will rip through a stack of photos (any size, any quality) faster than any other application out there.
http://www.acdsystems.com/english/index

Sports Illustrated uses it to check their Super Bowl pictures on the fly. Interesting read, btw:
http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=7-6453-6821

56
skurk says:
August 19, 05h

The crazy kids at the Ars Technica AV forum know more than you would likely ever want to know about digital cameras and photography: http://episteme.arstechnica.com/groupee/forums/a/frm/f/67909965

Matthew says:
August 19, 06h

I’ve come from a similar photographic background to you and am also investing in my first DSLR. I’ve narrowed my search down to the Nikon D70s and the Canon 350D (Rebel XT in other countries, I gather). As far as I can tell the Nikon has a higher ISO range but the Canon possibly has less noise at 1600; the Nikon has a depth of field preview which the Canon doesn’t; the Nikon is bigger than the Canon, which to lots of people feels too small (especially with heavy lenses); the Nikon comes with a better lense than the Canon, and I think that’s the major things that are making my decision. The fact that the Canon is 8MP versus the Nikon’s 6MP is less of an issue - 6MP is plenty good for me. Hope this is of some help.

August 19, 06h

I have had a Canon 10D for about a year and a half and the 20D looks very much the same but better in most ways. I love my 10D. It totally rocks.

It seems to me that the two major brands are Canon and Nikon, and Canon seems to put out more and better digitals than Nikon (but that is totally subjective). If I had to recommend a DSLR camera to someone, I would definitely recommend a Canon 20D… That is, unless they were wanting to spend a lot more. But, as others have said above, there have been rumors of a full-frame DSLR from Canon called the 5D. The verdict still seems to be out on whether or not it is real though.

59
Kuan says:
August 19, 08h

Hey,

You should check out the Olympus C-7070/C-8080 point and shoot.

It just won some European camera award and is also used by one of the Magnum agency photographers. Its a point and shoot but very high quality and also there is a wide angle and telephoto lens adaptor available.

Cheers and goodluck I am undergoing the same search and although dslrs are neat how much are you going to invest in lenses? The kit lenses are usually crap. Keep that in mind

Alan says:
August 19, 08h

I just upgraded to a Digital Rebel XT from an Olympus 4040, primarily for more control, and to get better response time in startup, photographing, and writing to disk. So far the Rebel is a dream, as I had missed a lot of action shots because the Olympus was a bit slow to respond.

I got a 1 Gb compact flash and a spare battery since Canon uses its own rechargable battery– you can get copy brand ones for 1/2 the cost of Canon brand.

I shoot mostly in the largest format below RAW for most stuff (~3000+ x ~2400, about 3+Mb each), and they work okay in iPhoto.

And yes, protect! invest in a skylight filter to protect the lens, and get a case… I was disappointed to not find a decent generic form fitted case (like my trusty old Nikkormat whose case has pretty much a thicky layer of duct tape). The case I found (Tamrac) is a bit bigger than I’d prefer, but good padding.

I’ll be looking for a compact digicamera for travel, biking, bacpacking).

August 19, 09h

Ramin and Dunstan covered the weather-proofing topic nicely. Basically, a 1D-series camera with a suitable L-series lens will withstand even a raging thunderstorm with no additional protection*. Being a person who enjoys strange weather, it’s unfortunate that this feature is only available with a pro-level price tag.

As Ramin mentioned, a few drops of rain won’t ruin even a lower-end model, and you can keep the camera inside your coat or in the bag between shots. In real downpour some kind of protector is necessary, and like Dunstan said, various solutions exist from “build your own” to model-specific sleeves and cases.

* Not all L-series lenses are protected, and some of them will require a protective filter too.

Marty says:
August 19, 09h

Dave,

I bought my wife a Nikon D70 for Xmas last year, and it got us both hooked (I already had a Nikon N80 film SLR). Recently, I went out and purchased my own Nikon D70, as well.

The camera performs well, and as my wife would attest, has a great learning curve. It’s convenient, it takes great shots, and it works with my previous Nikon lenses, although that’s not something you have to worry about, it seems.

The battery lasts nearly forever, and the firmware upgrades make it virtually the same as the now-higher-priced Nikon D70s.

What can you expect - great flexibility for manual shooting (my main reason for the D70 over the D100, which automates too much), fast shutter speeds and good color representation. I also get about 178 shots per 1GB card shooting in RAW format, and have never used that many even in days of heavy shooting. The camera also gives you a lot of customization to your own needs.

The downside is that there can be significant noise above ISO 500 (the one area that the Canon 20D really impressed me). But for the money, it is hands down the best dSLR out there. Feel free to take a look at my shots on flickr to see what it can do:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/martytdx

As for software, I’m a PC guy for now, but Adobe PhotoShop is a great start for handling the RAW files, although I’ve also enjoyed RawShooter Essentials, though the interface is a little more limited. Noise Ninja is a fantastic program to help compensate for high ISO shots and runs on Mac OS X. As for organizing shots, Picasa (via Google) works well on Windows, as long as your don’t use it to do any processing on the shots.

Hope that helps!

August 19, 10h

Well, I’m sure that plenty of other people have said it, but I’d just like to throw out my 2 cents and say that I’ve had a Nikon D70 for a little bit more than a year and a month, and I must say that I’ve been very impressed with it’s performance. It has suited me from everything to macro flower photography to landscape photography to animal photography.

I love it, and I think that it’s a great camera. The only issue that I have with it is that it doesn’t have a hole for a cable release, but that’s just me being picky.

64
Shaun says:
August 19, 11h

Re: Matthew (57)

I’ve just moved from a Canon Rebel (300D) to Rebel XT (350D). So far I love everything but the size. While I love the light weight, as previously mentioned, it doesn’t fit ‘piano player’ fingers too well. But they both certainly have DoF preview (on the front, bottom left beside the lens barrel - under your left thumb on both models).

Mikulla says:
August 19, 11h

It really depends on how much camera you want or need. I would either recommend the canon 350D for size and quality, or the 20D for quality and build.

There will be a slight difference in image quality between the two with the 20D advantaged.

Also, you can’t compare the megapixel count between a slr and point and shoot. The sensors are totally different.

I personally use a canon 10D still and it rocks. The 20D has a better sensor, more pixels, less noise at higher iso, etc.

John says:
August 19, 12h

I’m going to start by assuming you’re looking at either Nikon or Canon. If not, you have some special needs that aren’t covered by the two big guys.

You can sit and argue all day about which is better Rebel, 120D, D50, D70s,e tc. What you really need to do is figure out your price range and go use the few options. It should be pretty easy to find a place from where to rent.

When I bought my camera I was compareing the D100 to the 10D (the Rebel’s silver color immediately removed itself from my options - eww). I incorrectly thought I could make my decision on the specs alone. I spent hours and hours debating between the D100 and 10D. If it wasn’t for the D70 at the time, I might still be comparing. Likewise, the 20D vs. D70s comparison is equally hard. When it came down to it, qualities that can’t be summed by a graph were important to me. The D70 was much easier to use, smaller, and lighter. And the shape of the grip just fit my hand better. Oh, and I was surprised at how much I liked having 1/500 flash sync.

What’s more important to you? A better metering system or higher pixel count. Faster focusing or simpler interface? Availability of more USM/VR lenses or sharper macro lenses? Better flash system or lower noise? You’ll never know until you use the camera in it’s entirety. And you may find that you can’t tell the differences shown on a graph produced by some theory-geeks sitting in their ivory towers.

So, don’t spend hours looking at charts and graphs on dpreview. Go take some pictures.

As far as management goes, IVM Pro is the way to go.

RAW vs. JPG? I used to shoot all RAW. 100%. I then realized how much time I was wasting in front the computer instead of taking pictures. Now I shoot JPG, and only use RAW on very important stuff. If you know your camera well, really well, high quality JPG’s are possible. I shoot way more now knowing that I won’t have the spend the entire weekend editing them (except for general USM).

While being a Nikon homer, Ken at http://kenrockwell.com has a ton of information.

Sander says:
August 19, 12h

Some 13 months ago I moved from my old Canon Powershot S30 - with which I got some results that I, personally, considered to be pretty darn good - to a Nikon D70, mostly to get away from the limitations like battery life and show startup, and partly because I’d reached the edges of what was physically possible with it.
Most of the alternatives available right now hadn’t even been announced back then, so my only other real option was the Canon D300 (blown off the table by the D70, basically), which means that I don’t have much to offer as far as product suggestions go. I’ve kept up ever so slightly, enough to know that the current cameras I’d consider most heavily would be the Nikdon D70/D70s, Canon 20D and Minolta 7D, but that’s it.

What I _can_ offer are my experiences with the switch from point ‘n shoot to DSLR.
First of all, I’m a traveller. I’ve been on the road for nearly two years now. Photography has become an integral part of this travelling, as I chronicle where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. It started out snapshot quality, but slowly… well, started getting kinda decent. If you practice doing something for long enough…

So, travelling. I have my laptop in my backpack, and the camera - inside one of those triagular toploading camera bags - manages to _just_ fit next to it. When I’m likely to take pictures, the camera bag moves to around my neck, and I can get the camera out of there and shooting in seconds. Instant-on is _so_ good.

I drool over these huge high quality (super expensive) lenses, but I doubt I’ll get any. They’re just too heavy, take up too much space. The default kit lens is 18-70mm, and reportedly of remarkably good quality (not having much to compare it to, I’ll trust the experts on this), and this is what I use - with only a single other lens in the reportoire, a zoomlens (the Nikkor 70-300mm f/4-5.6 G, which is dirt cheap and, far more importantly, relatively small and lightweight).
I never have to agonize over which lens to put on, it’s always the kitlens - which does everything - except when I very specifically decide to go shooting birds or other wildlife.
I think that’s a situation us non-professionals want to be in - owning a dozen different lenses won’t do you any good when you miss a shot because you had the wrong lens on the camera.

I remember being amazed at how quickly I got used to holding the camera. Twisting the ring to zoom, rather than sliding this little button - it came completely natural within minutes (and I’d never done much with camera in the pre-digital era). All the buttons are placed in the most convenient locations, and the camera just fits in my hand perfectly. It’s quite solid - somewhat heavy - but it doesn’t weigh you down too much, even after having walked four hours to get to this or that mountaintop.

What I notice myself doing with this camera, far more than before, is always taking the time to properly compose, and being far more critical of the pictures I take. I finally have the control and a camera which is technically capable of taking really high quality shots, and so I’m just not allowing myself to hold up the camera, click, quickly look at the result, and move on. I consider this to be a positive thing - but not always. Luckily I mostly shoot landscapes, but it’s hard to acquire spontaneity when being that fussy. (For (non-portait) people shots, I’ve gotten to just shooting continuously for about half a minute - the moment when people realize you’re not stopping shooting anytime soon, they lose the posed look and burst out laughing, and that’s when the pictures get really good.)

Photo management is just a decent directory structure, though the pictures only remain in there while I haven’t edited yet, as space on the laptop is at a premium. Backup is three separate locations (1x upload to server, and 2x DVD, one with me, one shipped to home). That’s not longterm though - I’ll need something better when I return home.

John says:
August 19, 12h

Additional comments.

CS handles D70 files just fine. Not sure if there’s anything different about the D70s, but I can’t imagine there is. Just make sure to delete/rename all the NEF plug-in files or all you get is exposure and white balance adjustments.

I also have a P&S Elph. It’s nice having both as I use them equally - just differently. I couldn’t image just having one.

I highly recommen http://neatimage.com for noise reduction.

Tobias says:
August 19, 12h

Hi,

first quesition is always: What do you want to achieve by using a (D)SLR camera? Although it might be obvious many people don’t realize that it’s not the camera, which makes the photos but the photographer (well, ads tell you contrary, but that are just ads to sell more cameras). There are many photographers who have really old equipment or cameras, which are considered to be “not good”, but make just the perfect picture. (Read http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/notcamera.htm for more on that topic.)

So a better camera does not necessarily make better pictures. Also the quality of the pictures is not necessarily better. For example I have a Panasonic Lumix DX-7 as point and shoot and a Nikon D100 as DSLR. The quality of the pictures of the Lumix is pretty much equal to the Nikon - in some aspects they are even better (because the Nikon requires more post processing, see below for more). So one alternative in buying a DSLR would be investing in a really good point and shoot.

Next thing you should keep in mind is, that you make different photos with the DSLR. Obviuosly the size of the camera is different so you’ll take the cameras for different events. You probably never will take your DSLR to a party, just because of the size. Usually you take more time to make pictures with the DSLR, so the pics you make are differently (hopefully: better) composed. But don’t think you’ll take less pictures. Instead you’ll take more, because you will play arround with different settings. For example on my last holiday trip to China I took over 5000 photos in 4 weeks!

Also keep in mind that a DSLR is designed for amateurs (or pros). So you have much more control over you photo before, during and after you shoot it. This can be required or exactly what you want, but it also adds more time you spend on the photos. A point and shoot camera is exactly what it says: You make the photo and that’s it. With the (D)SLR you first decide on lights (flash?), camera settings, quality (RAW or JPG), white balance, etc. then shoot the pic (better several times, just to be sure…), and then post process it (better on the computer, because there you have better tools) by sharpening, resizing, etc. That all takes time which you must be willing to spend.

Also keep in mind that buying a (D)SLR is a very expensive hobby. After buying the camera body, you buy a lens. Then another one. Probably a third one. Then a flash. Then another flash card and a storage device for that (to make backups of your pictures while you’re on the read, just to be on the safe side). In between you need a tripod. Then you find out you need a really good (and expensive) tripod. You start building up your home studio… And on and on. You easily spend $5000 on that hobby (lenses are damn expensive).

If you have considered all that, you’ll just love having a DSLR. As said, I have a Nikon D100, but just because I got it cheap and I had a lense from a previuos Nikon camera. Canon is equally good. 6 Megapixel are fine to make prints up to 50 x 70 cm. So my advice would be: Get a camera model, which other people you know have (co-workers, friends, etc.) so you can share experiences, lenses, equipment, etc. You anyway won’t get the “best” camera, since it’s too expensive or they will come out with a better model in half a year. Get the camera, which is best for you, which suits you most and which feels comfortable for you.

And you’ll love the pictures you make with that camera. As said, they are totally different from what you make with the point and shoot and 1 in every 1000 will be just perfect (but you easily make 1000 photos).

Hope I could be some kind of help.

And please post some of your photos here!

-t

Frank says:
August 20, 02h

I highly reccomend the Nikon D70s.

It is the only DSLR that I have used, but I am happy with it considering what I paid for it.
I actually have taken more pictures with it than a point-and-shoot (and can take more thanks to its 1 FPS minimum rate).
I have two 2GB CF cards that hold 358 RAW (or 2,200 low quality JPG) pictures each, which is generally sufficient for my needs.
I would highly reccomend RAW. Digital CANNOT BE OVER-EXPOSED, so I very often shoot with a -1.0 stop exposure compensation. RAW lets me later recover the shadows or, if I do blow out the highlights, fix that problem a bit, something that you could never do with JPG.


Some complaints (more about DSLRs in general than the D70):

Viewfinder
The viewfinder is quite small compared to a 35mm film SLR. The shock is big if you switch between the two, but it is ignorable if you only use digital.

Dust
Dust can be quite a problem. I do not switch lenses (I only have the 18-70mm included in the kit), but I have quite a few dust problems. I slightly messed up the fresnel focusing screen trying to clean it. My sensor needs to be cleaned, but I do not have the proper tools to do so (although I plan to purchase a cleaning brush http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/visible-dust.shtml soon to solve that problem)

Go for it!

Matthew says:
August 20, 06h

Re: Shaun (68)

Yes, I’ve since discovered this and came back here to correct myself. It seems one of the reviews I’ve read was inaccurate in this respect. I’ve also discovered that I got the ISO values the two cameras can do the wrong way round - the Nikon is 200-1600, whereas the Canon is 100-1600.

72
banyan says:
August 20, 07h

Last year I went from 25 year old totally manual Nikon FM to Canon Digi Rebel 300. Went for the lower price plastic so I could test whether I really want one of these beasts. I love it. Just completed a 15,000 trip through the western states over a 5 month period and I just simply love it. Plastic? sure. Bulky? Yup. Noisy? Yup. Canon L series lenses? Fantastic (get the 70-200mm zoom - wonderful).

I’d probably buy the more expensive, metal body model next time. But remember, these are computers you’re bouncing around and stressing, so (1) it may break internally at any moment so the cheaper models are good, and (2) they will be superceeded by the latest whizbanger model every year and a half or so.

Since I use a PC I strongly would recommend Pixmantec’s RawShooter to begin the workflow. Much faster than any other raw format software and free. Then into something like Photoshop. I don’t know when Pixmantec will release a Mac version. People keep asking. I do know the company works with big software houses to provide “raw” processing software. I think they do it for whichever mega corp owns Wordperfect and related stuff these days.

MickyK says:
August 20, 09h

I’ve recently upgraded from a canon d30 to a canon 20d and the difference is huge. The 20d is really a great camera and I can’t really fault it at all. People have mentioned the loud shutter (which rules it out for espionage) and I had problems with the autofocus until I read this article. http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/241524

Which basically explains how the autofocus works and I’ve had no problems since.

August 21, 06h

I have a Canon Rebel XT (called the 350D over here in aus.)

It’s a nice peice of machinery, but i’ve got this issue with it that for just under $1500AU it feels a little bit like a toy.

I attribute this to its hard plastic shell.

Dont get me wrong the camera is indeed quite solid, and is by far the best value of the prosumer dslr’s.

Its light, too. A little too light for my liking especially in high wind conditions.

But i guess i should allow the pictures to speak for themselves:
http://f3n.org/static/3/gallery

Andrew says:
August 21, 11h

Thinking about getting a D-SLR. Run now while your savings are still intact :)

Seriously, a D-SLR kit always ends up costing more than you’d think. Only you can decide if the expense is worth it. Likewise, only you can determine if the added size and bulk of SLR makes the improved image quality and creative control worth it.

I’d recommend that you go to a big camera store and try out a few SLRs and compact cameras and see for yourself. from reading your posts it sounds like a SLR might not be the best fit for you, since it doesn’t sound like you want to invest a great deal in a large selection of lenses. You might find yourself being impressed with cameras like the Canon PowerShot S2, Canon Pro1, Nikon Coolpix 8800, Panasonic FZ30, and Sony 828.

Stefan says:
August 21, 11h

My recommendation for the Canon EOS 350D (Rebel).

But the body is secondary. Watch out for an overall high quality lense of your needs. Worthless to say that the Kit lenses aren’t.

Anyone has mentioned it?

Ken says:
August 22, 02h

Holy-moly, looks like everyone’s pretty much covered all the points.

The one thing I don’t think I saw was the suggestion to actually go out to a store and hold the different cameras in your hand. Kerrisdale cameras is a great place and have all the cameras in store to check out. Broadway Camera is not bad either (I don’t particularly like the Richmond one tho, not very helpful…)

A large complaint about the 350D is that it’s a little small for some… I can’t remember ow big your hands are, but for me I find the 350D fits nicely whereas some totally hate it.

While holding the camera, try changing some of the settings like ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Stuff that you will most likely adjust while shooting.

Things like this can either make or break a deal depending on whether or not you can live with how it works.

Let us know what you eventually decide on! Good luck! :D

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Tom Passin says:
August 22, 08h

When I moved from film to digital, I got a Canon Digital Rebel. partly because I had Canon lenses and partly because I liked the way the controls worked. I was very happy with it.

Then I got a Konica-Minolta A2 (now replaced by the A200), which is a smaller, not-quite-slr 8 MP camera with an electronic viewfinder and a built-in zoom/macro lens,and can shoot in RAW mode. It also has built-in anti-shake, and how valuable that has turned out to be! It is much smaller and lighter than a dslr, so I take it along on a lot of days when the main point is not taking photographs.

I have taken many wonderful photos with the A2, although the noise level is quite a bit higher than for a dslr, especially at higher ISO number (higher sensitivity). It’s an excellent camera, but it was not much cheaper than a dslr. Of course, you don’t have to get lenses.

Now I have a Konica-Minolta 7D - even though I had to buy new lenses, partly because it too has built-in anti-shake, partly because it has a bigger and brighter viewfinder than most other dslr cameras, and partly because the controls are even better than on my Digital Rebel. I am very, very happy with this new camera.

I always shoot in RAW mode. I process the raw pictures using Capture1 (the light edition,which is affordable), and I print using QImage.

Whether to get one of these dslr cameras depends on what you want to accomplish with them. They are just what I want, but not necesssarily what everyone should get. If you do get one, I see little reason to use anything else besides RAW made (unless you just have to process out a huge number of pictures in a short time). Raw mode is just too flexible. For example, you can often correct the exposure 1 and even 2 stops if necessary.

Remember, your expensive camera will produce 12-bit color data, while jpeg will save only 8-bit data. Using RAW, you can make the most out of those 12 bits, and you are not stuck with the camera’s guesses about what you wanted to do with a scene.

If you want to shoot raw, but don’t want the size and weight of a dslr, get an A2 or A200, although the electronic viewfinder is definitely annoying compared with a good optical viewfinder. If you are sure you don’t want to shoot RAW, you could try one of the 5 or 7 MP ultrazoom cameras with built-in antishake, like the Panasonic FZ-20 or FZ-5.

One other consideration is whether you want to shoot with a small depth of field (I often do). To get a small depth of field, you need a long focal length lens. Small cameras have small sensors, and use short focal length lenses to fill the inage sensor. So you can have trouble getting a small enough depth of field.

As I said, it all depends on what you want from the camera. If you want the highest quality, low noise, or small depth of field, above everything else, go with the dslr and you will be very happy. Otherwise, consider another type of camera, which will be smaller, lighter, and less expensive.

August 22, 09h

I suppose almost everything has been said, but I’ll add my experience on a point which hasn’t been stressed enough . I have a Panasonic Lumix FZ20 that I purchased after much researching. I am extremely pleased with it (good lens (Leica) with 12x zoom, and indispensable stabilizing technology). I can take pictures at 1/20 without a tripod. If it had an optical viewfinder and high ISO/low noise capabilities it would be perfect. So I know that when I get a SLR (when the sensors are a bit bigger) I’ll be looking for a camera with some image stabilization system. This has made the difference for me.

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Tom Passin says:
August 22, 10h

Just to underline what Ellen wrote, anti-shake is wonderful. It’s one of the reasons I got my new Konica-Minolta 7D. With both my anti-shake cameras, I have taken good, sharp pictures at 1/6, 1/8, 1/10 seconds handheld. Of course, it helps to brace yourself, and you do have to be very careful as you take such slow pictures. But it does work, and it works well - I’m speaking specifically of the Minolta 7D and A2, which I know well.

In turn, the anti-shake capability lets you take pictures in light levels so low they would be almost impossible otherwise.

As examples, here are some of my pictures taken with the A2, mostly after the sun went below the tree line, at ISO 800. The built-in antishake was on, and they were all hand-held -

http://imageevent.com/artofthephoto/eveningonthebiketrail

Sian says:
August 22, 11h

I love my Canon D-Rebel, it’s lovely and light and I was already a Canon fan. Other popular dSLR’s are the Canon 20d and Nikon D70/D70s.

If you go down the dSLR route it’s all about lenses. I generally carry around 3 different types of lenses with me in my camera bag, and they do offer more flexibility. The reason that I went for the D-Reb rather than a Canon Pro1.

As for software I tend to use a combination of Canon’s transfer software and Photoshop, and I’ve just started to dabble with Picasa.

My photographs can be seen here:
http://www.pbase.com/webdivauk/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/diaphanus/

I highly recommend dpreview.com and fredmiranda.com as starting points in your quest for a dSLR.

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Lari says:
August 22, 12h

Remember that there’s no point in buying a SLR if you only have money for the camera and a lens. The biggest advantage of SLRs is the ability to change lenses. Don’t waste your money on a SLR, there are good prosumer cameras with 8x – 12x zoom, image stabilizers and so on.

Even if you think you’ll have money in the future, it might not be worth it. Think about how much this technology advances in a year.

83
Frank says:
August 23, 01h

http://www.imaging-resource.com/ has some good camera reviews.

And DVD+/-R(W) are not suitable for archiving. Better use DVD-RAM. It has a minimum durability of 30 years compared to 3-5 years of DVD+/- (depending on burn quality and disc usage you can get read errors even earlier). It also provides automatic hardware verification of written data and the discs have built-in error control.

August 23, 03h

http://photographyhack.com/blog/2005/08/23/canon-20d-rebel-xt-or-nikon-d50-or-d70-dave-shea-should-get-one-of-these
call me 604 729 7924 if you want to come by Bryght and test drive the camera for a day!

85
Edward Minnett says:
August 23, 05h

I recently bought a Nikon D70 from www.Adorama.com. A great resource is www.kenrockwell.com. I spent 3 months researching before buying a dSLR and that site was probably the most helpful and influential. Another helpful url might be www.nikonians.org if you decide to lean toward the Nikons.

As far as software, I recently bought Adobe Creative Suite 2. The price is high for the entire package but Adobe Bridge is very useful for organizing a large photo collection. Bridge is available with Photoshop CS2 which is another invaluable tool if you want to get into photo manipulation. I took roughly 3,000 photos while on vacation in Europe this summer and Bridge’s ability to batch edit MetaData was crucial.

I intnd to store my photos both on DVD and on a hardrive. I like the idea of having a redundant storage system because the DVD is a safe form of storing originals but a hard drive, though more likely to fail, is readily accessible for editing without having to riffle through a large stack of DVDs (if you do use DVDs make sure to print contact sheets so you only need to look at a piece of paper instead of a file browser).

I hope that you find at least some of this information helpful. Cheers for the great site.

Ed

August 23, 09h

Hi Dave
I’ve been using a Nikon D100 since they came out about 4 or 5 years ago. Nikon was the obvious (only?) choice for me because I’d been using an F4 SLR and had the F-mount lenses.

Much has already been said on this, so I’ll just add this one point which you may find useful….

In comparing my D100 with a friend’s EOS (can’t remember the model but it was an early digital SLR), the Canon was a fair bit faster at writing the files into memory. This isn’t so much of an issue these days, as CF cards have got faster, but depending on what your requirements are (sports / action photography, for example?), it might be something to think about.

Great site by the way.

Matt

87
Adam says:
August 23, 12h

Dave,

Don’t buy into a camera, buy into a lens system. Changing your mindset to fit is the single nicest thing you will do for your future self, and for your photography. Canon bodies are on an 18-month renewal cycle, and between all of the different ranges they have, that translates into a new dSLR every 6 months. Nikon is not far behind. In 3 or 4 years, if you are really into photography either personally or professionally, the chances are that you will not be using the same body. Meanwhile, I’m mounting lenses on my Canon 20D that my father bought 15 years ago, and autofocusing too! Nikon users can brag on an almost 50 year back catalog of glass they can put on their D70s and D50s! If your photography really becomes important to you, the body won’t even be the most *expensive* thing in your bag.

With that in mind, it’s really just down to Nikon and Canon. I think the Maxxum bodies with their anti-shake are fantastic idea and can’t wait for Canon to steal it. I can also say from experience Sigma’s Foveon sensor is a breath of fresh air into the world of Bayer interpolation. I wouldn’t buy either one of them though, because the camera body will eventually become your weakest link as you progress further, and neither Sigma nor Konica/Minolta’s glass collections can stand up to the big two.

With *that* being said, Nikon and Canon’s lens lines are more alike than they are different. Nikon has a bigger back catalog, but a giant chunk of it is manual focus only (not a bad thing). If autofocus isn’t important to you, you can get a 150 dollar Novoflex adapter and mount those old Nikon heirlooms on your Canon Rebel XT or 20D just the same. So it’s down to their current autofocus lines. Canon has the edge in telephoto and speed for sports and such. Nikon, I hazard to say, has the edge in wides both historically and currently. This is hotly debated, but I thnk Canon’s current 50mm prime is superior to Nikon’s 50mm prime. But like I said, unless you’re covering the Olympics (over 3/4 sports shooters shoot Canon), it’s more of a personal preference than anything else. Get on their websites, compare lens offerings, then price out some of your favorites on bhphotovideo.com to ascertain feasability. Of course, if you, your spouse, one of your friends, or one of your co-workers has a pre-built (and obtainable) arsenal in either line, the choice is a no-brainer.

When you buy a body, get the body-only kit. Do not get a “kit lens” from either Nikon or Canon. Take the money you save (D50 body kit is only 700USD!) and buy the 50mm f1.4 from your lens line. For 300USD you will get (a version of) the most popular lens of all time, and for good reason.

When you start expanding your collection, try not to get lenses that are “built for digital”. Canon calls this “EF-S” and Nikon calls it “DX”. Google the term “FOV crop” as it relates to the D70, 20D, etc. Long story short, these digital-specific lenses project a smaller image than regular 35mm lenses, and can never be mounted on film bodies or digital “full frame” bodies. This is much less of a problem on Nikon, because they have all but written in stone that they will never make a full-frame digital body. Canon, meanwhile, now has two full-frame bodies, and three 1.3x crop bodies (The 20D/RebelXT are 1.6x crop, all of Nikon’s dSLRs are 1.5x crop).

The only real reason to break this rule is to go wide. It’s hard to go wide on a dSLR. If wide is an important part of your style, it will be expensive to get high quality glass to suit you. Both Nikon and Canon have kit lenses (EF-S and DX) that go down to 18 or 17 mm, but the lens quality just isn’t there. You went dSLR to get smooth depth of field and shocking sharpness, and you’re running uphill trying to extract that from the kit lenses. Nikon has an outstanding 12-24 f4 DX for about 900USD, and Canon has a great 10-22 f4 EF-S for about 750USD. Going wide on a dSLR is not cheap. In fact, many people (especially Nikon users) go with much much older manual focus lenses for high-quality wides until they can afford one of the newer ones. Canon has the edge in high quality and reasonable wides because of the 17-40 f4 for under 700USD. 17mm isn’t knock-you-on-your-ass wide on a dSLR, but it’s pretty wide, and this lens is regularly used by professional landscape, architecture, and environmental portrait photographers. The 17-40 f4 also is not EF-S, so you will be mounting it on Canon film and digital bodies for years to come, regardless of whether or not you (or Canon for that matter) stay with the 1.6x sensor.

I hope I convinced you to buy into a lens system instead of “just” buying a body. All of the current generation bodies are so fantastic that picking one is just a matter of personal preference and shooting style. What’s going to really separate your images from the pack though is the lens mounted on it. Get the body-only kit, and get your 50mm f1.4. Not only are primes cheaper, faster, and lighter than zooms, but not having that zoom to rely on will strengthen your “eye”, your sense of placement when approaching a scene, and your composition. All of the things will produce *better pictures* than the latest and greatest sensor in the long run, and isn’t that what it’s all about?

-Adam

P.S. Note on weatherproofing, since I saw it as a point of concern earlier: All of the black dSLR bodies are reasonably sprinkleproof. The old Canon 300D (the first digital Rebel), not so much. The D50/70/70s and the RebelXT/20D though are pretty tight packages. When Canon and Nikon say “weatherproofed” they mean the 4000USD and up bodies like the Nikon D2X or the Canon 1D mark II. These machines are fully gasket sealed, and with a weathersealed lens (Most of Canon’s L series pro lenses, most of Nikon’s telephotos), they can sit on a tripod in an inch of rain per hour and not notice. So unless tropical jungles or wind-whipped deserts are in your forecast, don’t worry about it.

Great resources:

www.dpreview.com - More detailed info on bodies than you can take.

www.fredmiranda.com/reviews - More detailed lens reviews than you can take.

Psycho says:
August 24, 04h

digital SLRs offer more options if you know how to use it… just like you have more options when you hand-code instead of using a wysiwyg editor.

me, ive got a nikon d70. wide, normal, and telephoto lens. a few primes and zooms. if i were to start out from scratch, i’d get a canon for their silky smooth ISO100.

www.pbase.com <– you can check out photos taken with specific lenses or cameras. great resource… horrible UI. ;0) hope this helps.

Harry says:
August 24, 09h

Hi,

I didn’t read through ALL of the comments so someone may have already mentioned this. BUT near the top, someone (and yourself) mentioned their nitpick about Canon DSLR’s and their lack of dials.

This lack of dial(s) is ONLY apparent on the 300D/350D models whereas the other models (10D/20D/1D/1DS/etc) all have 2 dials (one located by your thumb and another at your index finger). So don’t let that misconception discourage you from choosing Canon, unless of course you only had your eyes set on the digital rebels.

I just wanted to make that clear. :)

Of course, the best way to choose IS to actually go to a local camera store and test a few out. I would also recommend Leo’s Camera on Granville, very knowledgable staff there and they carry it all!

Good luck.

August 24, 10h

Just a heads up even though you are probably already aware: the 5D was officially announced the other day. It will be available in October for like $3300 or so.

Caleb says:
August 24, 12h

Wow, I can’t believe PhotoMechinc only got one mention. DEFINITELY go with that. iPhoto is way to slow, especially for the large 6mpx+ files. PhotoMechanic is what most professional photojournalists use. You can batch edit files like a mad man. AceeDcee (spelling?) is another good one from what I hear but I have not used it.

I highly recomend the Canon 20D. The 8mpx sensor is amazing and the color is out of this world.

My second recomendation would be the Fuji S2 or S3. AMAZING color on this bad boy. It’s like Provia SLide film before any editing is done.

The price of the 20D should drop now. canon just came out with a 5D, go figure, the go 30D, 60D, 20D, 5D, somebody needs to teach them to count.

PhotoMechanic - http://camerabits.com/

Peace
Caleb

92
Jason says:
August 25, 05h

I bought the Olympus C-8080-WZ, and am very happy with it. It has a great set of features and is relatively light and compact for what it does. It’s been best described as an SLR without interchangeble lenses, as it has full control over shooting parameters. I got mine for $670 CDN to my door from an auction by Henry’s eBay store.

If price wasn’t an issue, I think I would have gone with a good DSLR, two lenses (the 8080 has a 27-140mm which is good, but I wouldn’t mind a wider lens) and a nice, super compact point and shoot.

August 25, 07h

Canon Digital Rebel XT wins hands-down in my book (I have both a 350D and a regular 300D). Save a little over the 20D and spend the extra $$$ on some decent glass. The 50mm f/1.8 is a must-have for Canon SLRs, and it’s only about $70.

August 25, 10h

Some coupon sites (I will avoid linking them here, as I consider it bad form) carry Dell coupon codes.

I would have recommended you get the EOS 300D by Canon until I saw that, with coupons, you can get the EOS 350D from Dell for $739 delivered (a utterly fantastic bang for the buck).

Only caveat in my use: bulk. I didn’t think about it at all when I bought the 300D, but a nice backup point and shoot would be nice for events where having a couple pounds around your neck is not an option.

ScW says:
August 28, 06h

I have been a Rebel 300D owner now for 2 years. Before that, I shot slides and negatives with Canon equipment (so choosing the Canon digital made sense). I’d give it a thumbs up.

2 things to add here… glass – I would carefully choose your lenses. I have bought and sold bunches of times – each time I end up buying something a little better and moving away from cheaper stuff. As Richard Tallent mentions, the Canon 50/1.8 is a non-brainer. I spent the big $ on the 50/1.4 and I like it… but for the money, you can’t go wrong with the 50/1.8. I now have a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 constant and that’s pretty nice. You get the wide open 2.8 and it’s pretty darn sharp all the way through. I can go places with just that lens and I am fairly happy. For telephoto stuff I have Canon 70-200/4 L lens with the optional tripod collar. I like the lens… it’s sharp at f/4 but I think if I had it to do over, I’d probably get the Sigma 70-200/2.8 EX lens instead (for the extra stop).

Then I have a collection of primes that I use every once in awhile. I have the Tokina 17mm prime for wide angle work as well as the Canon 24/2.8 and the Canon 35/2. the 35mm prime works pretty well as a normal (50-55mm) equivalent on a digital. So sometimes I just shoot with that.

For storage, I don’t like micro drives because of the moving parts. I like the Kingston Elite Pro Compact Flash Cards. They seem fast and they are pretty affordable…

I also recommend getting the vertical grip for the camera if you have larger hands or like to shoot portraits much at all.

Don’t cheap on a tripod… go with a Manfrotto or something like that.

96
Jason Berry says:
August 29, 05h

Canon Digital Rebel XT.

I have the earlier 300D, and the only thing I wish it had was USB 2.0 for faster file transfer. (Well that and native Flash Exposure Compensation without the need of the russian hack to enable it…)

John says:
August 30, 03h

I’ve had a Nikon D70 for a month now and it is fabulous - I feel like I’ve just discovered photography again. One of the best things about an SLR is being able to change the lense - I can use most of my Nikon lenses on the new camera.

matt says:
August 30, 08h

dave,

like many, i’m partial to the Nikon D70. It’s a great camera, and gives you lots of options. what’s rarely mentioned, is it has an amazing amount of wireless flash options. might not be useful to you, but it’s nice to have. a SB-600 flash is about $200 brand new and is totally amazing.

one thing. ALWAYS shoot in RAW format. if you don’t, you’re just carrying a heavy P&S camera.

there’s a huge learning curve with getting the images to “look” they way you’d like them too, but it’s fun to learn.

wish you the best,

matt

John says:
August 30, 09h

Someone previously said they can get a the Rebel from Dell for great price. Just a warning, buy from an authorized dealer. I didn’t take the time to find out, but a friend just mentioned that Dell is NOT an authorized dealer.

100
Daniel Mendez says:
August 30, 12h

I think comment 86 is right on (I did not take the time to read all the other comments).
I was going to mention the same thing about getting a system rather than looking at a camera only.
My recomendation to you would be Canon.
Nikon lenses are more expensive and I would not consider any other brand because of the reasons Adam mentioned…
but if you buy another brand is also good because more competition drives prices lower :-)

good luck!

101
Mark Evans says:
September 01, 08h

I have been very happy with my Nikon D70 but yes, there is times when it is too large to about so I also keep a Nikon Coolpix S1 in my pocket at all times for casual shooting. As for the RAW file format.. Excellent! and iPhoto handles my 5,000 + files (About 2k of those in RAW) just fine and dandy on my Powerbook G4.

102
Mark Beattie says:
September 01, 10h

The Panasonic DMC-FZ30 gives most of the features of an SLR, but from a fixed Leica lens which provides a 35mm equivalent zoom of 430mm!

I have a FZ20 which is great, but am dying to upgrade to a FZ30 for it’s manual zoom and focus rings on the lens and dual control dials for full manual control of aperature and shutter speed.

Review:
http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/panasonic/dmc_fz30-review/index.shtml

September 02, 08h

Oh I really wonder if I can say much to top the professional comments above, but I think I can say a few things. I don’t own an SLR since I am too poor for that but I have a Fuji S5100, which is considered a prosumer camera. Not as versatile and dazzling as an SLR camera but it beats most consumer ones if not by mega pixel count then by features.
Surprisingly it has RAW, and from experience I can say that once you start using RAW, you begin to feel that JPEG is a bit inferior. Biggest advantage is that you just need to set the exposure and composition with RAW and you can change everything else (color temp, change exposure, brightness, etc) later on the PC. With Adobe Photoshop’s RAW editor, you can do all the regular tuning and more (like sharpening, vignetting, color noise, chromatic abbreviation, etc) before you even touch the usual photoshop tools, which in my opinion gives you greater editing power. On the downside, RAW files are kind of big compared to JPEG, so a big HD and/or a DVD burner could come in handy.
I cannot really recommend a camera, but I have seen what the top-of-the-line Cannon and Nikon cameras can do, and can safely say that those are probably really good brands to choose from. I usually think of core and secondary features I want in a camera and head over to http://www.dpreview.com/ and http://www.steves-digicams.com/ to check some models out. Those websites, along with http://www.cnet.com/ give great reviews and owner reviews. Obviously, it is smarter to buy online, and with some luck www.newegg.com might have some good prices on a camera you want.
Recently I became aware of this new sensor chip technology called Foveon X3, which seems like a great idea for image quality on digital cameras. You can read on about it @ http://www.foveon.com/. Might be something to consider getting in a camera in the near future.

Random Tip: If you use a camera with RAW enabled, shoot the images just a bit underexposed so you get more detail in. You can always fix exposure later when editing.

Zach says:
September 02, 10h

Sorry guys, but the Nikon D50 is a bust. They still rely on the sub par Sony sensor which can’t even do IS100 (low noise) and there isn’t even a backlit LCD. Throw in the fact that it is only 6 megapixels and you got yourself last years camera (maybe 2 years ago’s camera for that matter).

A 20D is a great camera but it is pricey. The Rebel XT is darn near the same in the way of features plus the image quality is dead on competitive with its bigger brother. I use it for personal walkabouts while backpacking and rock climbing. It is the size of a regular film 35mm, so don’t listen to people who say it is too small. They obviously haven’t been shooting for very long or are just too used to their clunky 10D or D70.

If you want to spend the extra loot, the Canon 5D makes the 20D actually look like a toy, but it costs!

September 03, 05h

I´m an outsider here: Using a Canon Powershot G5 with wide and tele converter and Canon Speedlite 550 flash with full TTL. The G5 (now G6) has the same controls and features as an SLR, RAW-format, too. It has a very good and speedy lens - f2.

In a year I´ve shot 20.000 pictures. I appreciate the small bulk - fits in a pocket. The tilting screen make composing easy - near the ground, over your head, in strange angles. Street photo is easier, too.

My workflow is:
- Apple Image Capture (just connect the USB, it will automatically launch, transfer and delete the pictures from the card)
- Bibble Pro for adjusting and processing to JPG
- Graphic Converter for browsing and selecting
- iPhoto for cataloging.
- Cataloging in Finder of the selected RAWs, which are burnt to CD, as well as stored on external Firewire disk.

My computer is an old PowerBook G4 667Mhz (upgraded with 100G disk and 1G memory) and my iPhoto archive has over 9000 pictures.
The party killer on my G5 is speed. The G6 is better. But wait for G7 with the Digic II processor.

The website with best advices in my opinion is www.kenrockwell.com

My homepage with links to my pictures:
http://arekarlsen.blogspot.com/

106
Calrion says:
September 04, 07h

If you’re going for quality, I have one word: Canon. Their lenses are excellent and their CMOS image sensors are far superior to any competing CCD (imho). Additionally, you get the huge range of EOS lenses to choose from.

Canon have also released a new model: the EOS 5D. Full-size image sensor. I’ll say that again: full-size image sensor. Between that and the 12.8 megapixel resolution, I reckon you’ll be just about set as far as quality goes.

http://www.canon.ca/digitalphotography/english/product_article.asp?id=843&cid=7

Oh, and someone above mentioned always shooting in RAW mode; I absolutely agree. RAW mode stores the raw output from the image sensor (hence the name) alongside the camera settings in the file. When you open the file the settings are applied to the image data and the output displayed. Canon provide software that lets you CHANGE THE SETTINGS when you open a RAW file. So, want a different colour profile, change to black-and-white mode? No problem, as long as you shot it in RAW mode. Also, by shooting in JPEG, you’ll ALWAYS have artifacts, which is hardly quality.

Just my 2c. And yes, the EOS 5D is NOT CHEAP; RRP is AUD$5,500 - body only (not sure what the Canadian price is).

September 04, 09h

Here’s my advice….. You are investing in a platform if you are going dslr with interchangable lenses, so:

1) Decide which platform you want to go with, Nikon or Canon. Once you start working with DSLRs you will be adding lenses, etc and it would be half a pain in the ass to switch.

2) Definetely do not get a DSLR if you want something comfortable to carry around and you are used to a small compact point and shoot.

3) Look at the range of focal lengths you will primarily be using. One platform might be better suited.

4) Use dpReview forums as a source for lots of good information and community input… especially once you have a platform and want to learn what everyone else is doing with your camera.

Those are a few ideas. I have a Fuji S2 pro [which is a nikon mount] that works great, I do a lots of client photography [but mainly I am a web designer] and so far I haven’t needed more resolution. Shoots well at very high ISOs, prints great to 12x18. If you are ambivalent about DSLR get a 6megapixel [fuji, nikon, or canon] 2 year old on ebay to try out, then in a year or two if you want to upgrade you will have full frame options out there and cheaper prices of course for the top dollar cameras of today. Only pro photographers and the wealthy can truly afford or make financial sense out of purchasing a Pro camera at these prices. Here’s some shots I recently took for a client, a vineyard /winery in Napa.

http://www.redwooddesign.com/TLA/Peay/Favorites/index.html

Best of luck
Jason

September 07, 11h

I recently bought a Nikon D70 and absolutely love it. Solid SLR that just works the way you expect it to. I was contemplating getting the Canon Digital Rebel XT, but after picking up both cameras, I felt there was no competition between the two. The Nikon just feels great. The kit lens that comes with it is wonderful. It’s hard to find any real complaints.

My problems with the Rebel XT are that it feels cheaply constructed and the manual controls are not as easily accesible as the D70’s and the menu system isn’t as speedily navigable. The Nikon feels as if it was built for photographers while the Canon feels like it was built for consumers looking for gimicks.

As for image management software, I use Picasa and am completely unaware of what’s available for Mac.

Vico says:
September 08, 01h

Dear Dave,

This issue is too much open for ideas, that’s why you’ve got so many post. Inclusive mine. For what I’ve read, much of the persons you wrote you, aren’t really photographers, they use photos as a tool for design or to illustrate one point. I’m more a videographer photographer, so I know about cameras specially DSLR.
I own a nikon D100, not available anymore. If you want top quality you need a full frame camera, only the top models have it (EOS 5D the cheapest), meaning that the lens angle is respected and not smaller than a 35mm camera (normally is 1.5 or 1.6 and not 1.0 - full frame).
If you want a DSLR and good price quality - Nikon D50 or Canon 350D
the difference between are not in quality but in style Nikon vs Canon, normally Canon being ligher, cheaper, fast in autofocus, more electronic and Nikon with more acessories more sturdy and realible. Nikon D70 is more expensive and not really justifies the money difference.
If you want a good compact camera - DSRL style my option is for the new SP series from Olympus.
Very important issue: 3 things that make a lot of difference on the final results:
1. Good lenses (best is fixed aperture for all zoom extension)
2. Good Flash (swivel head and DTTL)
3. Good light and subject

Bad ideas always get bad results
Don’t say it, “I’ll correct this later in the PC” try your best in the field (or studio).

Good option. And I hope that you start using photos in the site.

Joe says:
September 08, 05h

Hi

I’d recommend something entirely different:

One of the older Kodak DSC models - for the same price as a D70 kit (circa £6-700) you could pick up a used DSC 620/660/720/660. They are basically top-end Canon or Nikon 35mm SLRs with a kodak digital back bolted on, cost £10K plus when new and were/are very popular with News agencys / studios / wedding photographers (incidentally NASA use modified Kodak DCS760’s on the challenger missions)

I’ve got a DSC 620 - a Nikon F5 with a 2MP sensor and it’ll create images to rival any sub £1000 DSLR (up to A3 prints, no problem). It has ISO range of 200-1600, instant startup, no shutter lag, amazingly fast autofocus etc etc. It was built for professional use rather than prosumer use so works accordingly. Its very well engineered - been bomb-proof so far - and they are supposed to be good for 100,000+ actuations.

Other advantages - the great Kodak software and the Kodak TIF files are recorded at 1.8MB in size and then Photoshop unpacks them into 36MB files so great for taking hundreds of photos on . You can use pretty much ALL nikon/canon lenses.

Disadvantages: it’s pretty hefty and not exactly subtle. You also have to be happy buying used equipment. You’re not at the bleeding edge of technology.

They were VERY well received when they came out - check out the reviews on www.dpreview.com

Photomanagement software - iviewmedia pro, no question.

Hope this is helpful.

Joe

September 08, 11h

I’m using a Canon EOS 300D and is very happy about it. However, there’s a new model called Canon EOS 350D which is smaller and faster and offers a lot of functionality for a decent price.

Photo editing software: GIMP. Free and works great.

September 10, 10h

As much as I have wanted to, I still have yet to break down and get a point and shoot. Just can’t do it for some reason.

I just switched from the Digital Rebel to the new Digital Rebel XT. Wow! What a difference. FPS is fast, booting up is instantaneous, and image quality is superb… everything is just so much better.

I was heading towards the Nikon D70 for my upgrade but decided to give Canon another chance. If they keep making DSLR’s like this I’ll stay a loyal customer for life.

Nick says:
September 14, 10h

I have to disagree with Adam’s pointer to not go with the kit lens. This may be true with Pentax or Canon or Nikon D50 (cheap kit lenses) but NOT with the Nikon D70. It also may be true if you are a serious photographer that has $thousands to play around with for lenses.

I was an SLR user before I bought the D70 (my first digital camera - I held out to get DLSR) and researched the Pentax *ist DS, Canon 350D (Rebel XT) and Nikon D70 for months before deciding. And I am very happy with my decision - especially the kit lens. I recently added a 50mm 1.8 lens to my collection, and it is a very good lens. However, you will not be happy with just a fixed focal length lens, especially 50mm. On the D70, Pentax DSLRs, or 300D/350D this is like having a fixed 2X zoom! The focal length on the D70 kit lens is 18-70 - I find it to be a GREAT range, and I use 18mm all the time.

Another issue for using multiple lenses on a DSLR (i.e. a 12-24 AND a 50mm) is that the more you switch, the more likely you will have dust appear on your sensor. I have had this happen a couple times, and have always been easily able to blow it off with a Rocket Blower, but sometimes you’ve taken the photos by the time you notice and its too late. For casual, frequent shooting, it’s best to have a zoom lens with a nice range that won’t leave you wanting to change often. I usually leave my 18-70 on, and occasionally switch to the 50mm for entire shoots.

The bottom line is that you will want the zoom range, and with the D70, Nikon has not gone cheap on their kit lens. It is fast, takes great quality images, has a very flexible range, and has had high praises from virtually every owner.

Dale says:
September 17, 03h

image quality is as much, or more, about the lens as the number of pixels. canon and nikon have been making lenses for a very long time, so you won’t go wrong with choosing either of them. and, all other things being equal, a prime lens (fixed focal length) will be sharper and have higher contrast than a zoom. whether or not this is more important to you than the convenience of a zoom is up to you.

steve says:
September 19, 04h

I recently bought a Panasonic ‘Lumix’ digital camera and, while it looks and feels like an SLR, you don’t actually look through the lens like a true SLR. The one advantage is that I can enjoy ythe benefits of a great zoom lens without having to carry round a long zoom lens separately.

Other than that, I wish I’d bought a true SLR as I miss the feeling you get when looking through the lens as opposed the the LCD screen and the eyepiece is just not the same - it’s like looking at a TV screen from 2 cm away!

116
tsang says:
September 23, 02h

I’ve been agonizing between the Nikon d70s and the Canon 20D. Before I say anything technical, here’s a few things I’ve thought about.

Do I really need a digital slr at this time? I’m a pro shooter but it’s not my job. I shoot for my own pleasure now and spending hours image editing at the computer is not my idea of fun. I’ve been using my film cameras and getting a high quality cd ($10) whenever I drop off film. I rarely print large and when I do, I can.

What’s my intention? If it’s just going to be a glorified p&s, why bother? Are you getting the results you need with film? If you are, you might want to wait a while.

I do have a digital p&s - the Powershot SD500. I love it and highly recommend it. It’s tiny and goes everywhere with me. It’s great for snapshots and has loads of sophisticated features too if I want to bother. I use it everyday and print my own 4x6 snaps at home.

Okay tech stuff. I’m leaning towards the Canon because it’s got more pixels which equals more room for manipulation and larger prints. Also it comes with the software for unloading your memory cards, not like Nikon, who want us to buy their software. Come on, I’m spending how much and you can’t give me the freaking software?? Canon’s customer service is brilliant too.

Another tech detail which could be a factor for some people who don’t know if they should switch to digital. You don’t need to have full blown Photoshop to handle RAW. Canon’s software provides a plug in for PSE3 and other easier imaging packages so you can access the raw files. I love PSE3 and one day maybe I will get full PS CS but right now, I’m not interested. You can shoot RAW and jpeg simultaneously so you have instant gratification and a digital negative. I realize the CS is fabulous but right now, it’s not for me.

So what will I do? I think I’ll get a Canon 20D just to go digital and see how I like it.

Mike Lane says:
October 07, 08h

I would never, never, never go back to the point and shoot world. The quality of the shots is noticeably different. The reason is that even the smaller-than-35mm APS-C sensors in the 20D and others, are much larger than any point and shoot’s sensors. Larger pixels translates to much lower noise, and much higher quality pictures in general. More importantly is that with a larger sensor it is much, much easier to get shallow depth of field in a shot. You can get a nice bokeh on images shot at apertures like f/5.6 or f/6.3 and even f/8 instead of being forced to use f/2.8 to get a decent bokeh. The higher your aperture, the sharper your in-focus parts of your image are (and sharpness is very important).

Once you shoot with a D-SLR you get an idea what shooting with a camera is supposed to be like speed-wise too. With my Canon 20D I literally can’t move my hand fast enough from the power on switch to the shutter release to experience any lag in the startup time. When I press the shutter release to take a picture, it takes it immediately, no waiting for .5 seconds (or longer) for the camera to finally take the freaking shot.

The apertures on point and shoot cameras generally go from f/2.8 to f/8 (and sometimes f/11). The apertures on SLR Lenses can go from f/1 to f/22 (some go up to f/90!!). You can create a sense of motion while there is still plenty of light and have a shot that isn’t overexposed.

D-SLRs have all the buttons and switches you need to acces the camera settings (aperture, exposure, etc) right on the camera and a display in the viewfinder that tells you what is set so you don’t have to look at the camera or dive deep into menus to change the aperture or shutter speed.

Gah! I can’t imagine being saddled by the limitations of point and shoot cameras again.

118
Erik says:
November 12, 13h

Well, not much to add really. I was one of the first to receive my D70 when it was introduced. I loved it, but was bitten by the pixel peeping bug. The lure of Canon had me. When the 20D was announced I sold the D70 and purchased the 20D. I thought that joining the Canon club would ensure that I would be riding the crest of the wave from here on out. Plus their amazing arsenal of lenses. Wrong. Canon’s interface had me frustrated from the beginning. Main points: Focus point selection. Much better on the D70. After selection the d70 keeps that point selector blacked out. On the 20D after the selector indicator light goes out(red) you don’t know which point was selected. On the D70 I could change almost every setting without taking my eye from the viewfinder. Not on the 20D. The 20D has mirror lockup. D70 does not. Bummer. Basically, in my view, the D70 is easier to use and that means that I can take better pics. Period. So, what am I going to do? Sell my 20D and buy a D50 with some good glass until I get the D200. BTW, I use very good glass on the 20D. Still not satisfied with the system. 20D has been in for repair 4x’s and I baby my equipment. Never a problem with the D70 I had.

Rick says:
November 12, 13h

If you haven’t bought yet wait for the Nikon D200 this December. Trust me on this one! Do a quick google for the specs and you will be pleased.

120
Nick Carter says:
December 07, 05h

I was wondering if anyone could give me a hand in helping me feed images directly to my G4 Powerbook from my Nikon DSLR Camera.

We’re taking photos at an event, and would like to get them onto the computer’s screen for instant viewing.


I’m currently not at home so will most probably lose track of this topic so if anyone thinks they could help, an email would be very much appreciated!

Nick Carter
mod661@gmail.com

Marry says:
January 02, 01h

The apertures on point and shoot cameras generally go from f/2.8 to f/8 (and sometimes f/11). The apertures on SLR Lenses can go from f/1 to f/22 (some go up to f/90!!). You can create a sense of motion while there is still plenty of light and have a shot that isn’t overexposed.

Kate says:
January 19, 23h

recently bought a Panasonic ‘Lumix’ digital camera and, while it looks and feels like an SLR, you don’t actually look through the lens like a true SLR. The one advantage is that I can enjoy ythe benefits of a great zoom lens without having to carry round a long zoom lens separately.