D-SLR Photography In Focus Day 6

Welcome to our final Day in the week long series on D-SLR photography. I can tell that interest has been perking as the week has progressed and I am happy to hear that a few readers have been inspired to make some decisions for themselves. I think there may be a few more decisions after todays post. Today’s blogger is Margie from Xnomads' Blog.  

Lorraine has been kind enough to invite all of these guest bloggers to help her select a DSLR. In her first post she told us why she was frustrated with her current camera and why she would like to move on to a DSLR. After reading about her frustrations, I am not sure a DSLR is the right answer for Lorraine. Of course she will have to make that final decision, but with all of the amazing high end P&S out on the market now, you can find a lot of camera for a much lower price point than a DSLR kit and don’t forget the cost of those additional lenses!

 IMG_0486

Powershot SX10IS 

I have had an SLR camera since 1998 or 1999. My first one was a second hand Pentax my husband bought me so I could take a photography class at my local photography lab/camera store. It was fully manual. There was nothing fancy about it but it was cheap and therefore, affordable. Shortly thereafter, we traded that one in and upgraded to a fully automatic Canon SLR (film) in 1999 or 2000. It was a birthday present from my husband and a group of our friends. In 2000 I took a photography class at my local community college. In this class we shot all black and white film and developed our own film and prints. I got my first point & shoot (P&S) digital camera (small Pentax) for Christmas in 2002 and finally in April 2008 (I think?), I upgraded to a Canon XSi (450) DSLR. I’ve also upgraded my P&S to a Canon Powershot SX3IS and now a SX10IS. There will be a test afterwards to please pay attention! Ha!

Margiekit

I have a TamracI backpack that I love. It holds my camera, lenses and my point and shoot all at once! It is very comfortable, carries many things and helps keep things organized. The other bag is a more decorative camera bag I received for Xmas. It is lightweight and comfortable. Honestly, though, I usually throw my camera into my purse or my backpack. I hate lugging around a lot of bags and things and I take photos of my family (and other things) all the time. 

I also have a tripod that I just bought a couple of months ago. I don't take a lot of still life or super low light photographs, so I don't find I use it very often. I've done some experimenting lately so I finally broke down and purchased one. It is one of those things, until you know your habits, you won't know if you really need one. It's the one thing I could certainly live without.

Edit Color-2426

DSLR XSi

The two lenses I use with my DSLR XSi (450) are a Canon Mark II 16-35mm f/2.8 (found online for: $1700USD to $2300USD) and a Canon 50mm f/1.4 ($399USD on Amazon.com), therefore the quality of the images will be much higher than the P&S images.

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DSLR XSi

There are plenty of high quality P&S on the market that are perfect training cameras. They allow you to learn about shutter speed, f stop (aperture), ISO, flash, metering, depth of field, etc, etc and still produce fantastic high quality photos. Many now allow you to have full manual control over the camera. They include manual mode, aperture priority (where you control the aperture, the camera chooses the shutter speed), shutter priority (you choose shutter speed, camera chooses aperture), flash control including choosing 1st or 2nd shutter. Of course, there is significantly more potential with a DSLR but the learning curve is higher, the weight is heavier and the cost is significantly more.

IMG_5839

Powershot SX10IS 

If you do not know how to use shutter speed and aperture priority, if you don’t know how to adjust your current camera so it performs better in low light, and if you don’t know how to override it’s automatic settings, I would suggest upgrading to a higher end P&S. It will allow you the maximum amount of control so that you can learn all about those things and when you outgrow that camera and you’re ready to upgrade to a DSLR you will really understand what you need and what you are looking for in a camera.

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DSLR XSi

One common word of advice I hear that I whole-heartedly agree with, is do not upgrade your equipment until you outgrow your old piece of equipment and you know why and what you need next. Exhaust all the features (within reason) on your current camera before you move on to your next.

IMG_0761

powershot SX10IS 

If your camera is not performing correctly, perhaps you are not using it correctly. Open your users manual and make sure there isn’t something you can do to improve the situation. For example, on many P&S you can increase the shutter speed by switching to sports mode. This increases the ISO, turns off the automatic photo review (when you look at the photo on the screen right after you take it) and allows the camera to take continuous photos faster. Of course, many cameras also have a continuous shutter mode (usually indicated by a stack of rectangles), this mode will give you a similar effect to the sports mode.

In the first post of this series, Lorraine told us:

1) She wants less lag-time between photos.

She would need to find a camera with higher frames per second (fps) than her current camera.

2) She wants sharper photos.

There are a list of reason why images are not sharp enough. Some are related to the camera, some to the situation and some to the photographer. From the camera end, she would want to look for faster focus technology as well as better lens quality. She does not need manual focus to get sharper images. Higher ISO (more light sensitivity) and a larger maximum aperture (will let in more light faster) also is a big factor in getting sharper images. The aperture is the number with the f/ in front of it. The lower the number the larger the maximum aperture (lens opening size) – the number is actually a fraction. Think of it like f1/2.8 or f1/15.

Since I think Lorraine should at least consider one of the higher-end P&S before she makes her decision, I will do a quick analysis of the 2 Canon cameras I might consider for myself. And compare them to the entry level Canon DSLR. (I am choosing Canon because I am the most familiar with their DSLR and P&S line.)

Before I begin, I wanted to mention that all of the higher-end Canon P&S’s can be operated in full manual mode. You have complete control of the shutter speed & aperture and can also opt for aperture priority or shutter priority (that’s where you choose one and the camera chooses the other to give you correct exposure). Many professional photojournalists that I have talked to shoot in aperture priority mode most of the time. They are just skilled enough to know when to switch to manual. I should also mention that without the purchase of any additional lenses these P&S also allow you to shoot in macro and can be mounted on a tripod.

The Canon G12 is arguably Canon’s best P&S camera. The MSRP is $499 USD. The zoom lens on this model has a film equivalent of 28mm to 140mm range – this gives you a wide angle all the way to a very decent zoom. The wide angle is wonderful for shots in tight locations and the zoom is great to get the bokeh everyone loves as well as portraits. The lens is quite fast with the maximum aperture at the 24mm end at f/2.8. That is incredibly large for a P&S! My $1500USD pro level 16 -24mm lens has the same maximum aperture! The 140mm end has a f/4.5 maximum aperture which is very good for a mid-range zoom. It’s not ideal for indoor photos without flash, but better than any kit lens I’ve seen or any non-pro zoom lenses I’ve seen.

Its maximum shutter speed is 1/4000 of a second. That is faster than any SLR or DSLR I have ever owned.

In the most optimum of situations it can take up to 4.2 frames per second. That is faster than any DSLR I have seen. Usually this is the big weakness of the P&S as it does not compare with most DSLRs in this area. But you have to be realistic about how fast is fast enough for what you are taking photos for. There are very rare occasions where you will need a faster rate of frames per second than this camera can give you. This camera weighs more than 12 oz due to the large zoom range.

Another P&S of note is the SX130 also part of the Canon Powershot range. This camera is only $229USD The zoom range on this camera is 28mm – 336mm which is phenomenal, however this makes me very nervous. That camera will need one powerful motor making it heavy and also making it a much higher risk for breakage and motor burnout. I have also used a Canon Powershot with a strong zoom like this before and I’ve had an extremely hard time getting it to focus in low light situations much worse than my Powershot SX10IS which is a much older model (but with a less powerful zoom). So, I am skeptical of these cameras with such huge range of zooms. I would read all the reviews on this one and make sure you read reviews from people who have had the camera for at least a year to see if it lasts and to see if they have improved the focusing issues. They have an extensive series of P&S with even larger zoom ranges that look like they are worth considering. I would encourage Lorraine to pour over their comparison page at Canon.com and then read lots and lots of reviews to see how they perform.

http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/digital_cameras?pageKeyCode=65&category=0901e0248006113a&compare=0901e024801f482b&compare=0901e024801cff65&compare=0901e024801f482c

The other thing you can do to see how a camera performs is to go to Flickr.com and search for the camera model you are interested in. You will be presented with pages and pages of sample images. This is a fantastic way to see the potential of your camera of interest.

Canon G12 - http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=Canon%20G12

Canon SX130 - http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=Canon%20G12

When searching to see photos taken by a DSLR be sure to search by lens including maximum aperture of the lens.

 

 

Rebel EOS XSi DSLR

Powershot G12

Powershot SX30 IS

Cost

$649 USD with kit

$499 USD

$229USD

Max Shutter Spd

1/4000 second

1/4000 second

1/3200 second

Max shots/second

3.5 shots/sec

4.2 shots/sec

3.6 shots/sec

RAW option?

Yes

Yes

No

Max ISO

1600

3200

1600

Self-timer

10 & 2 sec delay + continuous

Up to 10 shots in a row

Up to 10 shots in a row

There are several more P&S in the Powershot line that I would recommend adding to the comparison. I was quite amazed at how these cameras have improved even in the past few years since I last purchased a camera in Spring 2009! I can’t believe how incredible these cameras are!

I have no specific recommendation for Lorraine except to encourage her to keep her options open and seriously consider a high-end P&S before she spends her money.

If you’d like to see some of my photographs, you can see my Flickr photostream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/74155750@N00/

****NOTE: I would recommend buying a camera that is either a Nikon or a Canon. They are the top companies in the industry and spend the most money on research and development. Cameras by other manufacturers will not have the technology available.

This post has been a real eye opener for me.  I had no idea that a high end P&S was capable of so much.  When window shopping for a DSLR lately my husband made the suggestion that I consider a high end P&S. I didn’t want to listen to him (after all what does he know, right) Wrong! As Margie has proved it actually was a very good suggestion.   Thank you Margie. So as not to crowd out your post, I will leave my comments for tomorrow when I wrap up.

For our readers out there, please leave your comments and questions for Margie or any of the guest bloggers from this week as they are all reading along.  Thanks once again for stopping by.

Comments

Margie S said…
I should mention that the photo of the soldiers was taken by my ten year old son!
Rachel B said…
This has been so helpful, thanks Margi and Lorraine :)
scrappysue said…
Fabulous article Margie! I decided yesterday that I was not happy with my point and shoot at all (I really can't be fussed carrying a D-SLR around all the time). I am amazed that the high end ones can do so much, and shoot in RAW too, wow that is amazing! Personal recommendation is so helpful, thank you! Its been a great week, thank you Lorraine too!
Cheri said…
I have both. I mostly use the P&S since it is easier to carry around and quicker to set up. I'm still learning the capabilities of that camera. And I have a looooong way to go to truly understand my DSLR.
Lynn said…
Margie, Thanks for the heads-up on this over at the OLW MB! I'm sticking with P & S!
Very informative. I have a Canon PowerShot SX10 and I really really like it...I just wish I could buy lenses for it!
mariegoodwyn said…
Wow, some great photos Margie - I particularly loved the first one and the one of your boy in the air. Really useful advice too.

One thing that this series has reminded me of is that the best camera is - the one that you have with you!

If you have an eye for a photo, like Margie, and the other posters have the type of camera can often be irrelevant. And capturing a memory even if it's slightly fuzzy is better than one lost altogether.
Lorraine said…
Margie I think your ten year old is a chip off the old block. My 12 year old loves taking photos.
Linda said…
Great article Margie! My DH would absolutely agree with you! When I told him about this discussion, he said why not consider a high end P&S.

Thanks for organising this Lorriane, it has been fascinating!
One of my photography teachers was just posting about how in today's world with digital, there is an overemphasis on technical perfection and less on emotion and art. The balance between technology & art - the age old dilemma. I think that might be what appeals to me about photography - it is a very nice balance between the two. This has been such a fun week and I enjoy all this camera-talk. I could do this all day. : ) Thanks, Lorraine!
Sara G. said…
This post was so helpful! Thank you :)

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