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Chip281

Some Questions for the Photographers

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I have been thinking about upgrading my camera. Right now I am using my phone as my camera and have had a few different point and shoots. I have been looking a DSLR's and think that's the way I want to go, but I don't need the latest and greatest. I have been watching the auction site and have seen many cameras that are only a few years old going for less than a 1/4 of some of the new ones.

 

So my question is what should I look for and stay away from. I am looking to spend between 300 and 700, preferably on the lower end so I can gauge my interest in using a more advanced camera or if I should just stick to point and shoots.

 

Thanks

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Instinctively speaking, I would not buy a used camera…if the cameras you are looking at are not used but just discontinued, then maybe its a consideration.

 

If your budget is up to $700, there are new DSLR cameras available from all the major players…Nikon, SONY, Canon, Pentax, etc…

 

I upgarded to a DSLR...it is an advaved camera and I have a handful of lenses for it... The camera was more than I needed and its operation can be involved. The many options on the camera are nice and welcomed because it gives me more flexibilty and the ability to adapt to more conditions. But thruth is I liked the simplicity of my other P & S cameras.

 

 

Poppy

 

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Take a look at Adorama's used section. On the recommendation of a couple of pros who deal with them I picked up a real nice Nikon D200 for less than half what a new one went for. I've had it for about two years and it's been flawless. Adorama has a good reputation in the used market.

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Whew Chip, one could near write a book on this one and still neither be 100% right or wrong for your needs and wants. Those boil down to what YOU need or want and what direction you plan to go with this. I will take a very wide stroke at this in this post but it can only be decided by you in the end.

 

The "BEST" camera is the one that is and will be with you. Pretty basic statement and totally true. That is why with the advent of cellphones and the improvements they have made to their cameras I like them so much. They are always with you and the IQ if one takes their time and picks their shots can stand toe to toe with nearly any image device who's pictures appear on the net. 8x10" prints made from say a iphone 4 will compare favorably with other cameras as well. I know as I have some printed cellphone pics in front of me now. I believe cellphone will take the consumer point and shoot cameras and make them go the way of the 8 track. So with the above comments one might see me saying that cellphones are the end all in camera selections. No, what I am saying is they meet many of the needs one may have for their photographic tool. But. you are stuck with their limitations as well ( no to little selectable exposures, no lens selections to change perspectives, little expandability, built in obsolescence, etc... )

 

 

Then there is the class of cameras one consciously carries with them, P&S, mirrorless, SLT's, dSLR's, medium format, and large format. Lets throw two of these out right away due to cost: medium format and large format. These start around $10k and go way up in digital formats plus their systems are huge, expensive, and basically for a working pro. P&S cameras offer a wide array of choices and sizes but there are and stay what they are and the user has no way to grow or change its configuration, Don't read this wrong many of them are excellent picture taking machines with great IQ. I use a Canon G10 myself for my underwater and even some vacation stuff. There is nothing wrong with a P&S today IF it meets all the needs you ever want or need in a camera. They are what they are and will always stay that way you bought it.

 

So that gets us to mirrorless and SLT/dSLR's which are owner expandable systems. Systems that offer great IQ and the ability to change lenses, make an infinite amount of changes and adjustment in exposure settings, a choice is lighting, etc..... Their are many differences between the two systems but the biggest difference is size. IQ is a dead heat run between the two (fact is one of the highest rated camera sensors in the world sits inside a mirrorless camera right now per DXO. Mirrorless cameras and their accessories are smaller, lighter, and easier to carry. SLT/DSLR's generally have far more choices for the user to select from in expanding their systems. DSLR users have a near infinite array of lenses, flashes, mounts, housings, you name it. But, they and their accessories are generally twice as large as mirrorless and maybe a third larger than the SLT. (SLT cameras use a translucient mirror to shoot/and focus through thus eliminating the need for a moveable mirror and decreasing its size accordingly. I won't go deeper into their other differences because essentually in my eyes are the same as dSLRs except for being slightly smaller)

 

Now to the point of this thread "what to look for and what to avoid?" I cannot answer that for you but I can tell you what I look for when I consider purchase. IQ to me is paramount. Does the camera have a history of good IQ when married to a good piece of glass. (All makers of cameras today will make great images. Fact is their product excel in this category far more than its users). Is it expandable? Is their good glass available for it? (this is the kicker on some systems.... you always want to put your money in the glass as the bodies will come and go but the glass will be used for life unless you change systems from say Canon to Nikon or what ever). Is it made by a company that has a history of longevity? (we cannot predict what a company will do or even if it will last in today's economy so we have to take our chances on this. you want to get into a system that will be there tomorrow. the big ones will stand the best chance of surviving and those are Nikon, Canon, Sony (new to still photography when they bought Minolta but lead the industry in video cameras by a large margin), Olympus, Pentax. The order I listed these is pretty much the order I have confidence in their longevity as well as camera manufacturers, but that is my opinion only). These are the initial determinations I make at the counter before ever handling it.

 

Now the important stuff.... Does it feel good in your hand? This is extremely important to good photography! Does it feel balanced? Does it have a acceptable weight? Does it come to your eye naturally? Are the controls well placed and comfortable to get to? Basically does the ergonomics of the camera suit you? All the above make a big difference in your pictures and the overall experience you have with your photography. Is it something you can see yourself carrying with you? Big distinction there to make huh? Does the camera have sufficient adjustability and expandability for today and the future?

 

I will stick myself out on the limb here .... if you want to do this as a profession Nikon is the tool. Huge following of working pros and a accessory list that will suit anyones needs, wants, and future wishes. Their list of stuff is huge then the third party stuff is twice that. That said I have owned Nikons in the past but do not use them now but I have no intention of going pro and no need for an endless list of accessories to blow my retirement checks on either. The next major player in the pro market is Canon. Then follow the rest basically due to the lack of accessories for the pro to choose from but pros are using a wide array of manufacturers stuff today if it suits their needs. Here's the neck stretcher :) I get asked many times when out what camera I would recommend for people to buy to get into lens interchangeability and more serious photography. I see the future of photography going into more modular applications like medium format offers. The customer can pick their digital back, viewfinder, body, lenses and mix and match these options to suit their need. I also see photographies future going mirrorless. Small light weight systems producing exception results. That said I have been recommending the Sony NEX-5n system to those asking my advice and pinning me down to just one camera. It has the highest rated sensor on the market today, IQ is beyond exceptional, with adapters it will fit nearly any manufactures lenses on the market today, optional electronic viewfinders are available, relatively inexpensive, it is a very small light weight system. Easy to carry and easy to use. TO ME it's advantages and the direction you can go with it is exceptional. I use a older NEX 5 with Contax G lenses for most all the pictures of land and seascapes I post. To me the NEX is a digital back I can use on all the lenses I own in either aperture preferred or full manual. The only draw back in using Canon, Nikon, Contax. Leica. etc glass is it is manual focus only. All Sony/Minolta A mount and G mount glass has autofocus ability. I know quite a few Pro's who use very high dollar medium format digital cameras who are purchasing NEX 5N's as their carry camera and raving about this little camera that is not much bigger than a cigarette pack.... that alone says bunches about this cameras IQ. This camera and the 18-55 lense is just slightly above your $700 max cost but it will be a new camera with a warranty and exceptional IQ that you will be willing to carry with you and expand upon. Remember this is just my opinion on this and what I am recommending to others who have been asking me. I see the NEX system going totally modular in the not too distant future and the NEX uses the new Sony video camera lens mount as its mount.

 

Whew I could of gone much further with this discussion but this may of skimmed the top enough that it may of helped.... sorry I accidently posted this message at 11:45 before I had completed it.

 

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Chip sorry for the long winded post but there is a lot to consider when starting out that many don't consider and it cost them money in the end correcting these errors. Choose your system carefully .... once in a system your pretty well stuck in it unless you want to lose some cash switching later on. Good lenses and accessories cost plenty and generally won't work on most other systems so it can hurt swapping systems. I know I have done it 4 times since the early 60's. ;(

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Jim the long winded post was helpful, gave me allot of things to think about and look into. I looked up that Sony you were talking about and that is a neat looking camera. And it also shows like Poppy said there is some good offering in my price range new instead of possibly inheriting someone else's problem. I have no expectations of ever being a "PRO" or even good, I just like taking pictures and would like to take it to the next level of camera to help get some images I think I can get but just wont come out on a phone. I will say that Sony looks appealing because it looks small enough to store in a bag on a bike ride if I wanted.

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Take a look at Adorama's used section. On the recommendation of a couple of pros who deal with them I picked up a real nice Nikon D200 for less than half what a new one went for. I've had it for about two years and it's been flawless. Adorama has a good reputation in the used market.

 

Thanks for the hint on the site, I will be digging around there for sure.

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So I have been reading up on the Sony NEX-5N and it seems like a great deal. Like you said there are many reviews of it and the only negative I have found is when in video mode the microphone picks up allot of crackling noise. That's not a problem for me because I don't plan on using it as a video camera, but they sell an external mic for it if that's what I decided to do later.

 

The only thing I have been wondering about is it only has a lcd viewing screen. I would think that having the view finder up to your eye would help with stabilizing the camera much like using a sling on a rifle to pull the butt of the gun into your shoulder. I saw there is an attachable view finder you can buy for it but you wouldn't be able to use the flash with it installed. Just wondering if this is a valid concern or if the image stabilization mode in the camera takes care of the problem. And if I wanted to do clearer shots I could always pick up a tripod down the road.

 

Thanks for all the help so far.

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Chip, I think Jim DE wrote one of the best descriptions of the choice's available that I have ever read. I also googled the NEX-5N and was blown away by what that camera can do! If you have that much cash to spend I don't think you could possibly go wrong with that camera. Still, if you get the electronic viewfinder, you will have a grand in the system and only the one lens that came with the camera. I have to wonder if, in your situation, you could spend a lot less money and still get great image quality that will meet all your needs for the next few years. After that you could make the decision to go forward into a different format if your interests dictate. So think long and hard about what you really want your camera to do and then base your decision on spending the least amount of money to accomplish this goal. Only my personal thoughts on this, don't think there is any wrong choice unless you really can't afford what you have chosen. Good luck and good shooting!


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Allen, his rite up was great, it gave me some direction to go search on my own. I agree that I need to think hard about what I am going to do but the Sony looks like the best of both worlds. The reason I was looking to go with a used DSLR was I didn't know how much I would use it because of the size. If I only had the lower end of my budget in a ok setup and didn't use it much I could sell it for minimal loss or just keep it without having too much tied up in it. Looking at the Sony I get a great camera in a smaller package that I will be more likely/able to take more places. I think it will be the way I go and add the view finder later if I think I need it. Also the camera has two available lenses and depending on where you buy it from you can get it with both for a little more than with just one lens. Ether way I have time to think about what to do, I don't have to buy it tomorrow or anything.

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Chip, The dedicated kit lens 18-55 has stabilization in it and the cameras low light high ISO performance is such I don't think you'll use a flash much if at all (I only used my flash once to see if it worked on my NEX). But those are legitimate concerns if those are some of your priortities you demand from your camera

 

As I said I personally use the older NEX 5 version and may before next year get the 5N myself. My NEX is LCD only and with live view I am spoiled and have never wanted for a EVF/OVF for it. Now, I do not shoot sports with it either so it depends on how you plan on using the camera as to how much you would need certain options. I luv my NEX and use it 90% of the time with legacy rangefinder glass using aperture preferred and manual focus with peeking. I will be the first to admit this method is not for everyone but for my style it fits perfect. I rarely use their own dedicated lenses(not that they are bad because they are not I just like the look of Zeiss primes better).

 

As Allen said you really need to know how you plan to use your camera and determine your needs and wants from that criteria. We all have made mistakes in selecting camera systems in the past and our advice is basically so you can avoid the same costly errors. Any questions you may have I am sure there are those here who can help shed some light on most if not all of the issues you may stumble across. I am willing to assist you anyway I can Chip.

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