Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I have a very limited budget. I have $350 [USD]. If I buy a used DSLR Camera and it doesn't work, it would be a huge loss. If I buy a compact digital camera, would I be able to do DSLR things like blur the background and focus on the subject. Which cameras do you suggest?

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I just realized what the original title was... haha –  dpollitt Oct 17 '11 at 13:55
    
Yea, one of the mod mates have changed that. –  Kimzi Oct 17 '11 at 14:55
    
@Kimzi: you don't have to be a mod to edit posts here. Anyone can do it (with approval from another member if your reputation isn't high enough). If you feel the edit doesn't reflect your intentions clearly, feel free to comment and/or edit further yourself. –  mattdm Oct 17 '11 at 17:17
    
@Kimzi, if you could clarify what photography you're interested in that might be enabled only by having a DSLR (the "DSLR things"), and conversely what you're worried about not working, I think we can be of more help to you. –  mattdm Oct 17 '11 at 23:57

3 Answers 3

For around $340 you could pick up a Canon S95 that is a very capable camera, but still fits in your pocket and can do things similar to a DSLR(debatable).

This is a very opinionated answer, but I believe this camera is a great way to start with photography, and learn what areas limit your artistic vision - then allow you to make a better choice when purchasing a DSLR. This could be said with nearly every camera. You just need to pick it up, and use it enough to find the limits.

This camera in particular is very full featured, and will give you excellent shots in most conditions while still giving you full manual control of things like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

If you really are serious about learning photography, just pick up any used DSLR, a used Canon 20D comes to mind, it would fit your budget, and probably allow you to pick up a 50mm f/1.8 and still stay within budget. For a beginner you don't want to worry about the equipment so much as just putting in the time and learning.

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Seems like I have the same opinionated view ;) The S95 and S90 which precedes (may still be available and nearly identical) have the best interface for manual control I've soon so far. Thanks to the F/2 lens, you can really get creative. –  Itai Oct 17 '11 at 2:47
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+1: I got my S95 a week ago and I like it very much. I have almost the same control over the camera as with my DSLR (Nikon D70). Downsides verus a DSLR: not as responsive (DSLR fires in virtually the same moment you press the shutter the s95 takes a little moment), and with a DSLR you have better access to all the parameters. The DSLR doesn't fit into my pocket, though. –  sarnu Oct 17 '11 at 13:06

The effect you're asking about is "depth of field." You should read more about it as there are far more detailed answers around here, but briefly: depth of field is effectively controlled by the focal length and aperture of your lens, and the distance to the subject and the distance of the subject from the background. Since P&S cameras typically have much wider (smaller number) focal lengths and much smaller (larger number) apertures than DSLR lenses, it can be difficult to get the effect you're looking for with a P&S. However, if you can get very close to your subject (and zoom in as much as possible) and keep the subject far away from the background, you can still isolate the subject with a P&S.

Here's an example taken with my SX10, of a small (let's say four inches high) object, taken at max zoom (100mm focal length; 560mm 35mm-equivalent), with the background trees maybe 40 feet away: pretty good bokeh, if I do say so myself.

enter image description here So it is possible to get the effect you want with a P&S, it's just tougher: and that's what you'll find by stepping up to bigger cameras with bigger sensors: each step up will typically make your end goals easier to achieve.

Picking the right camera with the right features at the right price point... I'm not sure I can help you there. You'll have to research the alternatives and make your own decisions.

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This is all true, but not really an answer. (Which is reasonable enough given that I agree with your last paragraph.) Although actually it's unclear (particularly from the original, unedited question) if depth of field control is a primary concern or just an example of a benefit a DSLR might give. –  mattdm Oct 17 '11 at 12:47
    
@mattdm thanks for the feedback. You're right, it wasn't an attempt to be a real answer; and I couldn't tell, either, if DoF was a real question or just an example, but I thought I'd write something up about it since no one had addressed it yet. Do we have any site guidance on when to provide a personalized answer vs. a list of links? –  drewbenn Oct 19 '11 at 7:16
    
we can discuss it on meta. But I think in general, answers which address the personal and also cover the general are the ideal. That way, they answer the questioner's immediate needs and are also likely to be useful to someone else later. –  mattdm Oct 19 '11 at 13:15

I've got everything here, thanks to all of the mates who answered. Making this discussion not longer, I'll have 2 things remaining to ask all of you.

  1. How can a simple camera act like dslr? Like how would we manual focus? You got any video on that? How to know which camera will do that? (Sorry, if it's nonsense)

  2. From my selection I select these cameras.

    1. Canon SX230 HS
    2. Nikon S8100
    3. Nikon S9100

Above seems to be fit in my budget, if there are any better than your suggested let me know.

Thanks once again.

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You would want to look for a camera with manual focus as an option. If you are interested in a video on how to do this, I would just search Youtube "manual focus camera XYZ" and see if you return any results for that camera or a similar one. –  dpollitt Oct 17 '11 at 15:56
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@Kimzi: for the first part of the question in your answer/comment here, I suggest breaking it into individual questions about specific features or abilities, and asking each of those as a separate new question. (Multiple straightforward questions are much better for the site than one big multipart one.) –  mattdm Oct 17 '11 at 17:20

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