What's the best SLR digital camera?

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ColdSilverMoon

Puritan Board Senior
For all you photography gurus out there - my wife and I are considering purchasing a nice new digital camera instead of exchanging Christmas gifts this season. Not being expert photographers by any means, I'm wondering what you would recommend for a good digital SLR camera in the $500-$700 price range. Right now I'm leaning toward a Canon EOS Rebel Xti, and using the lens that comes packaged with the camera for now (upgrading later on). Is this a smart buy, or would you recommend the Nikon, or some other brand? We travel some and really value good quality pictures with friends and family. Also, we really like taking pictures of the city lights here in New York - any recommendations for low-light quality photos?

Thanks for any advice...
 

caoclan

Puritan Board Freshman
I just bought the Nikon D40 from Costco. It was around $500 with an extra lens. It is a great camera at a very good price. Shoots up to 2.5 frames per second. I am very happy with it.
 

tgoerz

Puritan Board Freshman
I have had both the Nikon and Canon SLR's, the non-digital version.

I had multiple lenses for both cameras and felt there was no qualitative difference. Hence, the 15-20% difference in price from the Nikon to the Canon was not warranted.

My point.....go with the Canon. The EOS preferably.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
You can't go wrong with either. Nikon or Canon is a religious preference issue where, in this case, the religions don't really matter but some of the adherents will tell you it does.

I have been happy with my Canon SLR's since I jumped to them about 5 years ago. There was a time when I was interested in a Nikon but, once you start collecting lenses and flash units, you really end up having to stick with a camera body. I currently use a Canon EOS-30D and am very happy with it but I'm sure I'd be happy to be a Nikon user too.

Just remember that, if you're going to go into DSLR, then you ought to seriously consider getting an external flash. There's really no point in dropping dollars for great optics, CMOS, and processing only to have the "snapshot" look for indoor photographs. Bounce flash makes all the difference in the world.

The biggest issue for great photos is optics, lighting, lighting, and lighting. Don't let anybody fool you into thinking megapixels is all important. If you can save $ from one choice to the other than use the money saved to buy an external flash.

Here's an example of the results with bounce flash:



and without:

 

asc

Puritan Board Sophomore
i have a Canon XTi. i've been using the Digital Rebels since they first came out and they're very good. i don't have any personal experience with Nikon, but i've heard many good things. i'd recommend whichever one has a cheaper entry level camera.

as an early upgrade, i'd recommend getting a 50mm/1.8f lens. they're relatively cheap (less than $100) and you'll find it shoots very sharp compared to the kit lens and is also very useful in low light situations. but it's not a zoom, so you'll have to move your feet!
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
You might want to expand a little on what you want to be able to do with a camera. In my case, I'd pursue the digital SLR primarily for photographic controls (primarily for depth of field) that aren't buried in menus. Being able to use a more professional flash (the bounce flash example above is a good one) would also be a major plus. Interchangeable lenses is not as big a factor as I once would have thought.

Otherwise, you can buy an awful lot of camera for less money in the point-and-shoot group. I've been very pleased with both an Olympus and a Sony (which kind of acts like an SLR). Having the wide-angle out to 10x zoom has proven addictive.

For SLRs, I'm in the Nikon camp because that is what I shot (semi-professionally) in film cameras. Nikon has really stood by its customers over the years, never, for example, changing its lens mount. Nikon optics are considered tops in several fields in addition to cameras. Seems like I read a review recently that one of the Nikon SLRs had excellent low-light shooting capability although that will be affected by what lens is on the camera body. The more you pay for a lens, the more light you'll get through it, generally.

(That said, I'm not that impressed with Nikon consumer-grade point and shoots.)

Seems like someone, Consumer Reports?, recently did some reviews and said you couldn't rely on resolution alone to get clear photos. I.e. a camera that claims to give you a zillion mega pixels may not give as good a photograph as a lower pixel camera that is of better quality. Nor can you depend on the information from people who work in camera stores who perpetuate myths such as optical and digital zoom being equivalent. (Might have been Wall Street Journal or Popular Science. Sorry, I graze a lot in my reading.)
 

LawrenceU

Puritan Board Doctor
I use a Nikon because of all the Nikkor lenses I have left over from years of Nikon F3 use. I have a D40 and love it. I've used the Cannon and it is a good camera too. I will say I prefer the Nikon interface, but that is probably because I'm used to it. If you are a Cannon user you might want to get in writing that they will not change their mounts again. :)
 

LawrenceU

Puritan Board Doctor
Didn't they also make a change from EF to EFS in 2003?

Me and my Nikon/Nikkor, we just all get along great. :)
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Here's a great kit:
Costco - $849.99 after $150 OFF Canon Rebel XSi 12.2MP 3.0" Live View 18-55 IS & 55-250 IS Lens

You'd be set for indoor photography with the wide zoom lens (18-55mm is) and then have another lens for outdoors.

I would add this to your kit: Costco - $249.99 after $30 OFF Canon Speedlite 430EX II

This is another great kit:
Costco - $649.99 after $200 Savings Nikon D60 10.2MP 2.5" 18-55 VR & 55-200 3 Frames Per Second

You'll have to get the external flash elsewhere.

Something I failed to mention earlier: don't even bother to pay for something other than a Digital SLR these days. They're so cheap on the entry price and you can always use the lenses when you upgrade. The "prosumer" cameras, with built in lenses, are slow and if you scratch a lens then you've practically ruined the camera.

Also, to protect your lenses, make sure you buy UV filters and just leave them on the lenses. You can "afford" to scratch the filters much more than scratching the lens itself.

-----Added 12/16/2008 at 03:58:56 EST-----

Didn't they also make a change from EF to EFS in 2003?

Me and my Nikon/Nikkor, we just all get along great. :)
The EF-S lens is a subset of the EF system that only works for digital cameras. Digital sensors on the "consumer level" SLR cameras only cover about 5/8 of the area that is actually focused by the EF lens. They sometimes convert the effective zoom for an EF lens on these digital cameras by multiplying the mm by 1.6. In other words, if I have an EF lens that has a 10mm field of view, only a portion of the field of view is captured by the digital sensor so, effectively, the picture looks like a 16mm field of view.

EF-S lenses are designed to only focus on the size of the sensor. The drawback is that, if you ever upgrade to a full frame digital camera, then you would not be able to use the EF-S lenses. That's fine for me because the entry price for the full frame digicams is about $3K and that's more than I'm willing to pay.
 

ColdSilverMoon

Puritan Board Senior
Thanks for the input, everyone. Rich, do you or anyone else have recommendations for night shooting outdoors, specifically city lights? I like the Costco packages you linked, but am curious whether the 18-55 mm lens is good for low-light outdoor photography as well. Thanks again for all the advice...very helpful.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Thanks for the input, everyone. Rich, do you or anyone else have recommendations for night shooting outdoors, specifically city lights? I like the Costco packages you linked, but am curious whether the 18-55 mm lens is good for low-light outdoor photography as well. Thanks again for all the advice...very helpful.
Any of the cameras are fine for that. You need a tripod and set the exposure length to a pretty lengthy time. You can use a remote trigger so the camera won't be shaking at all from touching it (even on a tripod).

I recently bought a remote trigger on EBay that works for both corded and cordless shooting. Here's the version for the Xsi:

Phottix Cleon Wireless Remote C6 for Canon XT/XTi/XSi - eBay (item 120348788943 end time Dec-18-08 18:12:25 PST)
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
If you are shooting a static scene, you can also use the timer feature to eliminate any vibrations from touching the camera in low light situation. This also works well in macro situations where you might need to use a longer exposure.
 

Pilgrim

Puritan Board Doctor
As Rich noted, Canon and Nikon adherents sometimes resemble rival religions.

But in my opinion at the price point you're looking at, the Canon is the better choice vs. Nikon D 40 (which is only 6mp--it's not all important but 6mp vs 10 or 12 is a big difference) or D-60 although the Canon is a little more expensive. Also note that the Rebel XTI is an older model that has been replaced by the Rebel XSI. (There is a Rebel XS that is probably about $150 cheaper, although I think it is still a little higher than the Nikon D-60.) Either way, this is a good time of the year to buy with the rebates, etc.
 

Zeno333

Puritan Board Freshman
I would say either the Canon Rebel XSi..(make sure it is the XSi and not the XS since the XS does not have the spot meter)....Or the Nikon D60. The Nikon D60 has better "multi-pattern" metering than the Canon does by the way. (Canon calls their multi-pattern metering "Evaluative", Nikon calls it "Matrix".) The Nikon D60 has a variant of the Color 3D Matrix meter than is in the best Nikon Professional DSLRs. (the Nikon D3, D700, D300).
 
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ColdSilverMoon

Puritan Board Senior
We ended up purchasing a Canon Rebel XSi with the 18-55 mm EF lens, and are VERY happy with it so far. Thanks to everyone for your advice and recommendations!

Here are a couple of examples - we are far from expert photographers, so any problems with the pictures are more due to our lack of experience than the camera.



 

R. Scott Clark

Puritan Board Senior
picked up the Nikon D60 at Costco. Wow. It's amazing what these new fangled cameras can do. I guess I won't have to load my OM1 with film any more.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
That picture of the NY City skyline is amazing. You should experiment with some HDR photography. If you have Photoshop CS2 or later then it's built in. Essentially what you do is use a digital negative and develop it under and over exposed and just right and the combination of the three is amazing.

Here's a workflow example: JHG Photography - Photographe en Suisse, un autre regard sur la photo - Photo Blog - Another look in Switzerland - HDR Tutorial on a landscape in Lavaux, Vaud, Switzerland
 
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