Time to be with your loved ones

Time to be with loved ones

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I'm planning on starting photography as a hobby and I will be purchasing a DSLR very soon. Many of my friends have upgraded to DSLRs from P&Ss nowadays, but they all use different brands. Most have the Canon DSLRs, but two have the Sony Alpha, and another serious photographer friend uses a Nikon D5000.

If I'm starting from scratch with no lenses in possession, which brand should I pick and why?

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Take a look at this question: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2876/… –  chills42 Jan 1 '11 at 16:01
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Do you any particular interests within the broader hobby of photography? All the big and medium brands are good and can work for anything, so on one level the answer is "pick one and don't stress about it". But if you have ideas about something you'd like to work on photographing, or interest in a particular approach, there may be a more-specific best fit for you. –  mattdm Jan 1 '11 at 16:30
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You're lucky you have friends that use different brands... ask to try them out! –  Tom Jan 1 '11 at 22:29
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As long as you stick with a 'major' brand, every camera brand/model is going to get the basic job done... This is way too general a question in order to supply a useful and comprehensive answer. What do you plan on doing with the camera? What's your price range? Do you anticipate being a 'casual' photographer, or are you someone who is going to eventually 'go pro' (or even semi-pro)? Etc., etc., etc. –  Jay Lance Photography Jan 1 '11 at 22:38
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possible duplicate of What are considerations when choosing a DSLR brand? –  ahockley Jan 2 '11 at 16:12
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12 Answers

Given your situation, I would lean towards Canon, simply because that's what most of your friends have. There are a few benefits in having similar equipment:

  • You could share lenses (try before you buy)
  • More specific advice, because different brands have different names for the same things (IS vs VR), so you'll be able to pick up the names quicker.
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Sharing lenses is a good reason - but different terminology is not. I don't think they will be unable to communicate because one says IS and the other says VR. In fact, it might be nice to educate each other about the different brands. –  Tom Jan 1 '11 at 22:30
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That's just one example... There are lots of other small details, including menu names, buttons, etc. –  chills42 Jan 2 '11 at 0:06
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I agree with the "go with what your friends have", but if your more serious photog friend has better lens to borrow than just the kit lens of your upgraded friends (me not knowing who has what lenses), you might consider Nikon. –  rfusca Jan 2 '11 at 4:14
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bear in mind not everyone is happy to share lenses, especially expensive ones — so if borrowing potential is a factor in your decision, make sure you speak to people about it before you buy, and get an idea of what you might be able to borrow and on what terms (e.g. for an hour to test before you buy one, or for a holiday/trip if they're not using it for a few weeks)... and don't even think of borrowing anything you couldn't afford to fix/replace if you break it! –  drfrogsplat Jun 3 '11 at 2:16
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Canon and Nikon are both so similar these days, it really doesn't matter much which brand you chose. Each has slight advantages over the other, but it really doesn't matter much. In general, take a look at what your friends have, and get the same kind. Canon therefor would be your pick.

As to what equipment to buy, make sure you get a 50mm/1.8 lens, aside from that, just buy the best camera that you can. If you have enough cash (Ie, more that, say, $1000), then you might save some of that for a lens/flash, but other than that, this advice should hold.

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You are right that thinking about the brand is important among DSLRs.

The reason is all about the lenses, each brand gives you access to a different lineup so what you must absolutely do is check what current lenses exist in each brand. To see all the current lenses in one place go to Neocamera's Lens List and click on each brand that interests you one at a time.

A lot of systems accept lenses which are not in production anymore but I personally would not depend on them as availability will vary greatly. As someone pointed out, you can borrow friends' lenses if you use the same brands. You can also rent lenses, if you are lucky then you'll have a lot of options available to your but in some countries, only Canon or Nikon lenses can be rented.

Secondary there are key features you may want to look for but those depend on specific requirements which depend on your situation. Examples:

  • Full-frame upgrade path, in case you're planning to get more much more serious or deal with extremely low-light photography.
  • Weather-sealing, in case you plan shooting in the rain, snow (freezing temperatures), jungle (high-humidity) or sandstorms.
  • Built-in stabilization, for a potential cost-saving on the price of lenses.
  • Mirrorless downgrade path, in case you want to move to a lighter system and keep your lenses fully functional.
  • More... I'm sure someone can thing of more specific issues which will favor one brand over another.
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For lens-lineup comparison, see photo.stackexchange.com/questions/9355/… –  mattdm Mar 28 '11 at 15:56
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built in stabilization is kind of nice, but i've found it's far inferior to the lens stabilization solutions. I shoot Nikon, have been for 5 years, so I'm a bit partial to them. They're reliable cameras (my d40 bounced off concrete from a 6' tripod at a wedding more than once without breaking), and fairly versatile. My wife just bought me a d3000 body (refurbished, $300 on amazon for body only, $100 for an 18-55mm lens, putting a full package at $400), and I LOVE it. It's got a nice sensor in it, ISO drops down to 100 and goes up to 3200 (but turn noise reduction on, or it looks bad above 800 ISO).

It all boils down to how serious you think you're going to get. Currently, Nikon makes the best high end cameras (d3, d3s), but with technology, that can change at the drop of a hat.

I'd seriously look at the different lenses; Nikon lenses are usually really nice, the high end ones have incredibly clear glass. I've shot with a 300mm f/2.8 Nikkor lens, and have to say it produced some of the clearest shots I've ever seen.

I do second the 50mm f1/8 lens, but, if you buy a cheaper Nikon, the 50 won't auto focus. Nikon leaves the autofocus motor out of the cheaper cameras, making you purchase the more expensive AF-S lenses. There is a 35, and I believe an 85mm AF-S f/1.8 lens, but no 50 (I bought the 50, been using it for over a year, and love it.) If you go with the d3000, it does have a digital range finder on all modes except manual, so it can help you dial in the focus a little easier, but manual only lenses are something I'd wait on until you have a year or two of shooting under your belt.

If you have the money for the body, the d90 is AMAZING. It has the autofocus motor built in, and has quite a few features that you won't use for months (if not years) because of how deep they are.

I wound up picking Nikon over Canon because when I was looking at entry level dSLRs, the d40 blew the rebel out of the water in both focal length and clarity. Go to a local camera shop (or somewhere like a Cord Camera) and ask to shoot with some of the cameras in the store. Stay away from box stores like best buy and walmart, their cameras are usually broken and don't have extra lenses. Tell them you're really interested and want to see how they feel and the quality. Make your own decision, based on what you like. Remember, your opinion matters most.

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In addition to all the other suggestions, the user interface and the general "feel" of the brands are very different. Since your friends have several brands, try them all out. One brand will usually just feel better to you than the others. It's very subjective. Maybe the grip on one is more comfortable, or maybe the button layout fits your hand better.

I have Canon bodies, and when my Nikon friends use them they are constantly muttering. It just doesn't feel right to them.

So take some time and get what suits YOU. You'll be happier in the end.

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While there are a lot of ways to approach this question, the two things that stand out to me, in this modern and competitive market (where many of the brands are very similar in many ways, especially "quality", however one chooses to define that), are these:

  1. Ergonomics.

    Different brands have different controls -- from the positioning and type of buttons and dials, to the "UI" (user interface) for the on-screen menu systems, to the shape, weight, and general ergonomic considerations of their products.

    Camera models within brands will differ in these features, as well, though there tend to be some characteristics that tend to be more-or-less consistent within a given brand (e.g. the positioning of dials -- Canon and Nikon (and presumably the other brands, too, though I have less experience with them) place dials in different positions, which means finger positions are different for operating them.

    Things such as this are very much a matter of personal preference -- depending on obvious things such as the size of your hands (more likely to influence camera models within a brand) to subtle differences in how your hand operates that are hard to characterize (more likely to influence brand choice).

    To evaluate the ergonomics of the cameras, my recommendation is very strongly to try out the different brands you're considering -- hold them in your hands, shoot some photos with them, try changing various settings, etc. Only through this sort of hands-on experience can you truly know if the ergonomics will "work" for you.

    Anecdote: a couple decades or so ago (well before the age of digital), I did some research when I was gearing up to buy my first SLR. I'd liked my mom's Nikon FM (an old all-mechanical classic), and figured I'd buy a Nikon as well -- Nikon seemed to be the leading brand at the time, it was what my mom had, and various things pointed me in that direction. So, I bought one (perhaps an N6006? I no longer recall), and was of course ecstatic to have my own SLR... But I found that the feel of it somehow just "wasn't right" -- I didn't find the positioning of dials, settings, etc., to be intuitive to me, and I therefore ended up regularly fumbling with the controls. One of my peers at the time had a Canon EOS-line camera, and I tried his out, and I found that it just seemed to "fit" me better. The controls made sense to me, etc. So, I returned the Nikon, and got a Canon instead. I've primarily been a Canon shooter ever since, having re-evaluated my decision when I was first entering the world of digital, by trying out both brands.

    Now, lest you think this means my answer is "go with Canon", let me just say: I've known others who have had the exact opposite experience -- They've gone with Nikon specifically because the ergonomics "made sense" to them, and/or "fit" them better. So really, it's an individual choice thing, and you need to try the cameras out to figure out which one you're likely to prefer.

  2. As has been mentioned in other answers, the ability to borrow equipment.

    I consider this to be by far a secondary factor to point 1, especially if you have a wide circle of photo-enthusiast friends (since in such circles, there are bound to be folks with various gear from any given make), but it is quite handy to be able to borrow a lens here and there, or a dedicated flash, or even a battery if yours runs dead while you're out with friends.

    So, this might lean you towards Canon, since you say more of your friends have them. Still, I'd say ergonomics is a much bigger factor.

There used to be a 3rd point, too -- full frame sensors. For a while, Canon was the only one doing them or planning to. When I switched to digital, this was actually part of what kept me with Canon. I wanted to be able to use the same lenses on my Canon film body and digital body, and wanted them to behave similarly. I still have yet to actually purchase a full-frame body (though I expect my next digital will be one), but I knew I would want to one day (and I do, and I will do so, I'm sure). At the time I was considering the switch, though, Nikon didn't have a full-frame offering, and as far as anyone could predict at the time, they never intended to. Many of their lenses were different between film and digital, and this just seemed limiting to me.

Of course, times have changed. Nikon is now very much into the full-frame market, and Canon sells a number of lenses that are digital-only. Still, something to maybe be aware of... I haven't looked at Nikon's lens line-up closely enough lately to know if this would be something that would matter to me today if I were making the choice again (as for Canon, I generally don't buy EF-S (digital-only) lenses, because I want my lenses to work on full-frame and/or film bodies.

I hope this helps! (And ooh, look, as I was writing this, another vote (answer) for ergonomics came in. Ah well, still figured this was worth finishing.)

And good luck on your entry into the world of DSLRs!! May you get many years of enjoyment from it. :)

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This is how I chose my first DSLR (ie the ergonomics point)... I went into a shop and tried out a roughly equivalent Canon and Nikon and found that, for me, the Canon was much more comfortable to hold. And with any luck you'll be holding the camera a lot, so its worth having the more comfortable one (: –  drfrogsplat Jun 3 '11 at 2:20
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There are a lot of good common sense replies to your query already, however I haven't seen (maybe I missed it) probably one of the most important reasons to pick any brand - the lenses and your use for them.

You need to consider what you are going to be shooting & what your budget is and maybe let us know.

If you are a sports shooter then you need fast AF and there Canon / Nikon rule the roost (not that other brands can't shoot sports and do it superbly too) and low light is becoming less of an issue nowadays as cameras can handle higher and higher ISO's which means less expensive lenses can also handle low light (e.g. at least an F2.8 300 was de riguor but now with high ISO capability an F4 300 - which is much less expensive - can easily handle the same shot).

For portraiture, street, landscape etc. then many other systems can offer you just as many options so don't rule out Sony, Pentax, Olympus etc.

For macro it's the lenses more than the camera that are important.

Maybe you need a light kit, something to take with you everywhere - in which case the micro 4/3 Olympus or Sony Nex are near perfect. Or a Canon G10 if you don't need inter-changeable lenses.

If you need full weather resistance (for shooting in inclement weather, in outdoor sports or on trips to challenging locations - arctic, jungle, windy and dusty / sandy environments) then take a very close look at Pentax for their superbly weather-proofed, but not expensive, bullet-proofed DSLRs. The Canon 7D would be another option, but full WR lenses are Pentaxes speciality.

If you are on a budget but still want great glass then Pentax make wonderful lenses and virtually any lense they have ever made over the last fifty years will sit happily on their very latest cameras (although their fantastic primes cost a lot - though not compared to Canon L glass which are far more expensive for similar quality) and gain instant IS/VR/SR since Pentax (and Olympus) have the shake reduction built into their bodies - it may be better in-lense but those lenses are very expensive to gain only maybe 1 stop over on in-body option.

Choose your camera by selecting your lenses first - by focal length, to suit your budget, type (zooms or primes) and by quality - and you won't go far wrong, cameras come and go but the lenses keep on going (and don't lose their value unlike cameras) ! Note that all of the good manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony & Olympus) have some wonderful lenses and probably more than enough in each range to suit your requirements now and in the future (unless you require long long reach then Canon / Nikon do that best - but in exceptionally expensive lenses costing in the thousands of dollars). There are also some fantastic lenses to suit all mounts from Tamron / Sigma & Tokina to name just three. Lenses that will in many cases out-perform even the camera brand's own more expensive lenses - but at a lower price point.

Also consider the crop factor (if wanting to shoot wide or have long reach is a major consideration) : Canon x1.6, Nikon, Sony & Pentax x1.5 and Olympus x2 (great for reach not so good for wide).

Some high quality & top quality (all APS-C not FF) cameras to consider : Canon 7D & 60D, Nikon D7000 or 300s, Sony A55, Pentax K5 or Kr (both of these have the superb new Sony sensor - as does the Kx but without the latest tweaking - I believe the Nikon D7000 also uses the same sensor as the K5 too). All of these cameras have fantastic sensors capable of making high ISOs very usable (some even from 100 - 12,800) though the top end of 25,600 & 51,200 are not usable for most people.

Probably the best value cheaper DSLR and kit lense set on the market is the Pentax Kx with 18-50 & 55-300. Roughly US$500- 600 if you want to save money and still get a great performing, low light, camera.

Finally I would not choose your DSLR just because your friends have the same brand. There is more than enough information on the web to tell you all you need to know, and answer all your questions, on the brand you choose. Every brand has excellent forum(s) where you can learn from experts and have your queries answered. Do your research, find out the strengths & weaknesses of each brand, and get your hands on the cameras first before making a decision !

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I was in the same position as you few months earlier while buying my first DSLR. I read a lot of reviews/discussions/comparisons, also asked a lot of friends but got no significant answer with valid reasoning. Canon users vouched for canon, Nikon users did the same. A friend even told me to get Nikon because it feels good! So I decided to buy the camera that offered me the most for my budget. I didn't care if its a Canon or Nikon.

You can do the same. Take a look at all available models within our budget and check if you get any good deal/sale etc. That way you can decide yourself and thus be comfortable enough with your decision.

If you take suggestion from your friends, its a good thing but later you might start feeling "I should've bought that one" or "I shouldn't have bought this one". Check what are the current DSLR models thats hot and will give you the most for your money.

I was stuck deciding between Nikon D3100 and Canon 500D for quite a long time, but in the end decided to go for Canon 550D/T2i and I must say, I'm very satisfied with the purchase. As it was my own decision, I got nothing to regret :D

Educate yourself enough first, so that you can understand the features/specs of different models. A few things to compare would be:

  1. Sensor Type
  2. Sensor Size
  3. Megapixels (image size)
  4. ISO
  5. Live view
  6. Retractable LCD
  7. Build quality, Weight
  8. Lens and other accessories availability.
  9. Stabilization mechanism, in body or in lens
  10. Video shooting and quality
  11. Exposure modes and compensation/bracketing
  12. White balance

The list can continue. Once you start to educate yourself you'll be able to notice minor changes that makes the difference between models and can help you decide your one. Just remember, in the end, you get what you pay for.

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I don't know if this has been suggested yet but we just bought a Sony A55 and I love it. I'm am absolute newbie to photography but it was pretty quick to learn. Even before I opened the manual.

The GPS was a big deal to me and it has it. I took a picture of our cat from across the room (well, 4-5') and was amazed at the clarity the "stock" lens had. In fact, the details on the cat's eye was so good that it kinda grossed me out. LOL

The weather is pretty bad this week but I hope to really start testing this thing out this month when the weather gets better. But so far, it seems like a great camera for the features/price.

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try different brands and models and decide for yourself. They're (at least the majors) are so similar in quality and features (despite the morass of different names and acronyms for things, in the end they all do the same, they just use a different name for is) that it hardly matters whether you use Canon or Nikon (and to a lesser extend Sony, Pentax, Olympus) except for the ergonomics of the individual body. With quality 3rd party lenses from Sigma and Tokina you can even get what's essentially a very similar lineup of optics for each brand (though each has some specialties, those aren't really an issue for most amateurs, if you have very special requirements that might be different).

Ergonomics are vital of course. If the camera is not intuitive for you to use, if you can't hold it and can't properly access the most used controls easily and quickly while doing so, you won't like using the camera and it'll end up gathering dust. If you have friends who can let you borrow cameras of different brands and models for a few days or weeks each so you can try them for yourself before deciding on what to buy, that's great. Most of us had to decide from pictures in catalogues and fumbling a few bodies in camera shops with eager salespeople looking on, trying to push their current favourite (meaning the one they make the most profit on) on us.

Personally, I prefer the Nikon design philosophy over that of Canon, in no small part because it's similar to the old designs Minolta produced in the 1980s and '90s which I grew up using (so the switch, when I decided to get all new equipment after most of my old Minolta gear was stolen, was an easy one). But many others are very happy with their Canons, so there must be something good about them .

Just be prepared for a lot of evangelism from fans of all brands. Some people get very emotional talking brand.

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All modern DSLRs from the major manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and probably a few more I forgot) are amazing - even if you pick one at random you'll be fine.

You want to spend your time taking pictures not researching cameras.

Here is my fast-decision method:

  1. Make a list of your must have features (example: if you plan doing bird photography you want a camera with a super-tele lens available, if you plan doing any video you need a camera that can shoot video, if you want really wide availability of lenses and accessories you might want to stick to only Canon and Nikon, etc.).

  2. Take the cheapest camera that meets your criteria, go to a camera store or borrow it from one of your friends, hold it in your hand just to make sure it's comfortable and you can reach all the buttons and dials.

  3. Buy it.

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A few years ago, when I faced the same question, I took more of a "use case" approach. I specifically wanted to use a DSLR for landscape photography, so I looked around and found that it seemed that Nikon was preferred for landscapes and Cannon preferred for portraits and events. (From the sample of professional photographers whose blogs I was following.)

Both brands are great, both have lots of enthusiastic supporters and I don't think that either would have been wrong. That said, I purchased a Nikon and have been very happy with my landscape shots. On one occasion I did borrow a Canon for some indoor event photography and it was awesome ... much brighter and clearer pictures than I had ever got with my Nikon.

That's how I made my selection.

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