Monday, 29 September 2008

Entry Level DSLRs

I was recently asked for my opinion regarding a good beginners/introductory digital SLR camera. Their preference is for a Canon so the main lean is for them.

I would look at the Canon 450D with 18-55mm IS (image stabilization) lens. From what I understand this is a great camera with few flaws. It has a great balance between ease of use as a point and shoot beginner camera and the fully manual capability of someone wanting to further their photography. The cheapest price I've found is £446.04 incl from Dixons

Canon 450D Review

Alternatively there would be the Canon 400D (the predecessor to the 450D) but it is much less of a camera. The 450D also has the advantage of having 'Live View' which is a pretty new thing in the digital SLR world. It means that you don't need to look through the viewfinder to see what you are going to shoot, similar to a standard point and shoot camera - a very nice feature when you are trying to shoot over a crowd or from an awkward angle - it's an aspect that I miss greatly when shooting with my DSLR. The best price I have found for the 400D is £354.92 incl from PC World.

Canon 400D Review


Now to throw some confusion into the subject I would not discount the possibility of a Nikon. It pushes the boat out a bit further if you are buying it new and you would be looking at around £584.99 for the D80 with the 18-70mm lens which from personal experience is a brilliant walk around piece of kit. This is the camera that I can personally vouch for. My initial decision was between the Nikon D70s, the D80 and the Canon 400D. I went into a camera shop and held the cameras, took a couple of shots with each and generally just played a bit. My personal feeling was that the D80 is much more solid and well built camera however in the world of DSLRs it's now older technology (August 2006). It doesn't have things like Live View, has 2MP less resolution (than the 450D) and doesn't have the anti-dust systems that the 400D and 450D have. What it does have is a much nicer overall experience with holding and shooting. Size wise it feels more solid and a little more mature as a camera. The Canons have something of a plasticy toyish feel to them despite being very capable cameras. The best price I have found new is £582.99 from Mifsuds

Nikon D80 Review

There has just been the release of the replacement to the D80, imaginatively called the D90, which has all the up to date features including the ability to take high definition video recording and the afore mentioned live view. The D90 body only will take you for a cool £649.oo incl (From T4 Cameras with an extra £150 added to get the kit lens (18-105mm VR Lens). Probably pushing the boat out a little far with that but the upside is that there are a whole raft of second hand D80s out there now which you could get well within budget and also pick up the Nikkor 18-70mm Kit lens which is also a great starting point.

Nikon D90 Preview

I would not look at the lower end Nikon's' (the D40, D40x or the D60) as for the same price you can get the 450D which in my personal opinion is a far superior camera.

Were it my choice I would go with the Canon 450D as it's a more capable camera than the 400D - I think a good part of my preference for the D80 is 'large hands - large camera' however it may well be worth going into a camera shop and actually try the cameras out - see how you feels about them. The thing to remember is that when you're shooting you will want the camera to feel 'right'. The image quality of the Nikons and the Canons are pretty much on par and the nature of SLR photography is that much of the end result is gained through post processing on the computer so the eventual choice comes down to what features do you think that you will use (Does the Live View matter? Does the control and screen layouts make that much difference) and your personal preference for the feel of the camera.

As far as buying lenses goes, keep in mind that the older Canon and Nikon lenses may not be compatible with the newer bodies or functionality and things like the metering and auto focus may suffer as a result. If you friends also have DSLRs then it shouldn't be a problem.

I hope this helps a bit and I hope I've been reasonably clear in my suggestions. There are other options out there - Sony, Pentax, Fuji, Panasonic/Lumix - but I would steer clear of them and stick with either of the two main brands as they have the lens range and the past history for optics.

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