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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/15/2015 at 16:17
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I've been following this sub-forum with a lot of interest.  Most makes absolute no sense to me since my experience has been with point and shoot cameras and now my iPhone.  I've toyed with some underwater photography while scuba diving but found it is easier to spear fish and eat them instead of trying to take the picture.

Folks on this forum have steered me right on optics and expect the same to be true with cameras.

Looking for a mid-range general purpose DSLR camera.  Family shots, landscapes, wildlife, nature, action photos...etc.  Plan to shoot in both jpeg and RAW format.  The latter is when I pick up one of the photo editing/processing SW packages.

Entry level might be more appropriate for my skill level, but looking for something I can grow in to in the event I get the bug.

Budget for the body and lens is around the $650 mark +/-.

I'm interested in the Nikon D5300 or 5500 with the 18-55mm lens and add additional lens as I learn what I'm doing.  Based on reviews I've been reading, both seem to consistently bubble to the top and have features that may be useful as I get more experienced.

Good place to start?  Others you would recommend?
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/15/2015 at 16:28
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Were I just starting out, I would look at Sony alpha series.  They are not dSLR, but have the complete feature set, take amazing images, and do so with MUCH less weight and bulk.  Additionally, you can mount different lenses and can add a digital viewfinder (some models include this.)

For flexibility, quality, and ease of use, they are very hard to beat.

I have a Canon 5D and almost never take it on trips any more. I grab an Alpha NEX5 and 2 lenses and about 5 memory cards, it all fits into a case about the size of the 5D body.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/15/2015 at 16:32
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/15/2015 at 16:47
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Wow.  That last photo is enough to convince me to check it out.  Wife loves hummingbirds.  The leopard almost made me jump.

I'll have to bone up on the distinctions between a DSLR and mirrorless camera, but do like the size of the latter.

Alpha 6000 looks interesting with a price point around what I was seeing for the Nikon 5500.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/15/2015 at 18:49
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RC's recommendation is an excellent one. The Sony Alpha series cameras are outstanding.

One point of correction, though. All of Sony's interchangeable lens cameras are "Alpha series" cameras, which includes BOTH DSLRs and mirrorless or "compact system cameras" ("CSCs").

Both DSLRs and CSCs have interchangeable lens capability, which is the main thing that distinguishes the latter from the upper end "point and shoot" cameras. Unlike most point and shoot cameras, CSCs generally offer all the manual functions and features of a DSLR.

The differences between DSLRs and CSCs:
1. DSLR has a mirror in front of the image sensor that directs the light through a viewfinder prism, providing an optical image of the frame you're about to take a photo of. As a result, the mirror must be rotated out of the way of the sensor before the shutter curtain opens to expose the photo. As a result, they are more mechanically complicated than CSC cameras. The CSC or mirrorless cameras, as its name suggest, doesn't have the mirror or the viewfinder prism. This enables the CSC body to be much more compact and lighter. Minus the need for pivoting a mirror out of the light path to the sensor, it's mechanically simpler and has the potential for faster burst speeds. The fastest CSC burst rates are much faster than the fastest DSLR burst rates. On the negative side, it doesn't divert light through a viewfinder prism, so it must compensate with either an electronic viewfinder or an electronic display, which doesn't provide quite as accurate a representation of the scene you're shooting and isn't quite as useful for framing and focusing the shot in low light...at present.
2. Many CSC sensors are smaller than DSLR sensors (whether APS-C or full frame sizes), which means they don't quite match either the dynamic range or the high ISO noise suppression of DSLR camera sensors. This is especially critical when shooting in low light when you must bump ISO sensitivity up for proper exposure. The DSLRs will provide cleaner, more noise-free images at higher ISO than most CSC sensors are capable of. However, many of Sony's Alpha series CSCs use the exact same APS-C and full frame sensors as the DSLRs, so this distinction doesn't apply to them.
3. At present, DSLRs still have the edge in available lens selection. There's a much wider range of lenses to choose from for DSLR bodies, especially with Nikon and Canon DSLRs.
4. At present, the very best DSLR lenses are slightly superior optically than the best CSC lenses, though some may disagree with that statement. All the lab tests I've seen pretty much confirm this on MTR data. In reality, this seldom ever comes into play in the potential quality of photos each can take, as it's the Indian, not the bow that makes a great photo. A good photographer can take excellent photos with almost any camera/lens.
5. The extreme high end pro DSLR bodies will still likely handle hard use/ are more durable than the high end CSC bodies. That is just my opinion from looking at the current build quality, construction, and materials used in both. The upper level DSLRs are currently rated to a higher number of shutter cycles than the best CSCs.
6. Since you're buying into a system with interchangeable lens cameras, whether DSLR or CSC, and since technologies are almost guaranteed to change more in CSC systems than DSLRs, there is no guarantee that lenses you buy today for a given CSC body will still work with tomorrow's CSC bodies. As long as Nikon and Canon are still making DSLRs, all lenses you currently use for those cameras will still work for future bodies.

No doubt the CSC/mirrorless technology is the future of photography, and all the advantages DSLRs currently have over CSCs will eventually be eliminated with time and changes in technology. CSCs offer a significant advantage in size, weight, and in many cases, burst speed. The best CSCs produce image quality equal to DSLRs. Eventually lens selection, electronic viewfinders, and sensors will catch up and maybe surpass the DSLR world and totally obsolete DSLRs.

If you're just starting out in photography, I agree with RC and also think I would lean toward a good CSC, and of those available, I'd recommend either going with Sony or Olympus and their Micro Four Thirds system. Both combine good sensors and decent lens selection with nice feature sets on the bodies. 


Edited by RifleDude - July/15/2015 at 18:54
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/15/2015 at 20:16
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I agree. For a full frame dSLR, maybe, but it is an expensive upgrade.

My Sony has served me well.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/16/2015 at 06:57
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Ted/RC: Appreciate you all taking the time to chime in and provide the information.  I'm following most of it, but need to dig a little more on some of the points.

How big of a deal is the phase vs contrast auto-focus?  One comment I read on CSC cameras is that they aren't as good at taking action shots in AF mode than the DSLR but do see some like the Olympus that have a hybrid phase/contrast setup.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/16/2015 at 09:08
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I have been using Olympus Micro 4/3 cameras for 4 years.  My first was an E-PL1, and now I am using an E-M5.  I like the M 4/3 platform.  I take most of my pictures while scuba diving.  The M 4/3 camera and waterproof housing is much more compact than a DSLR, and also more affordable.

There are generally not as many choices for M 4/3 lenses, and they are not cheap.  If you consider buying used lenses there are many for DSLR on E-Bay and other websites, but not many used lenses for M 4/3 cameras.

I do think that a DSLR will focus faster, and especially faster, in low light than a M 4/3 camera.  The DSLR lenses are larger allowing more light into the camera which improves focus speed and focus ability in low light. The view finder on the DSLR works better than the electronic view finder on the M 4/3 too.

As for image quality I don't think I am giving up anything with my E-M5.  It produces very good quality pictures.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/16/2015 at 09:35
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Originally posted by Marine24<br>How big of a deal is the phase vs contrast auto-focus?  One comment I read on CSC cameras is that they aren't as good at taking action shots in AF mode than the DSLR but do see some like the Olympus that have a hybrid phase/contrast setup. <br>[/QUOTE Marine24
How big of a deal is the phase vs contrast auto-focus?  One comment I read on CSC cameras is that they aren't as good at taking action shots in AF mode than the DSLR but do see some like the Olympus that have a hybrid phase/contrast setup.
[/QUOTE wrote:






Contrast detection AF is commonly used on point and shoot and CSC cameras because it's a less expensive system to use and is easier to use in a compact camera body. It uses the sensor itself for lens focusing by comparing adjacent pixels and continuing to a




Contrast detection AF is commonly used on point and shoot and CSC cameras because it's a less expensive system to use and is easier to use in a compact camera body. It uses the sensor itself for lens focusing by comparing adjacent pixels and continuing to adjust focus until those adjacent pixels are at max contrast. The disadvantage: contrast detect cannot tell which direction the focus correction needs to go (front or back focusing), only that the image is either in or out of focus. So, it continues to adjust in both directions until it achieves focus confirmation. Although it can be a more accurate focus method, it's slower because it can tend to "hunt" and is therefore less well suited to action photography. But focus speed with this system is dependent on firmware, so it may not necessarily be slow, only "slower" than phase detection.

Phase detection AF is used in DSLRs. It is a more complex and more expensive system that splits the light onto 2 different AF sensors, compares the two images and adjusts accordingly. It still uses pixel contrast comparisons to determine focus, but phase detection also detects whether the lens is front or back focused, so it "knows" which direction to focus the lens. As a result, it's faster and is better suited to burst shooting. Its disadvantage is that it needs to be calibrated for optimal focus performance, and unless properly calibrated for each lens, it's less accurate. However, once properly calibrated, it's just as accurate as contrast detection.

As you mentioned, some high end point and shoot and CSCs now use a hybrid of both systems. I don't know if it works as well as the phase detection used on a high end DSLR or not or how they determine which method takes priority in which conditions. I don't own a CSC and therefore can't speak to whether they have comparable focus performance as a good DSLR in all situations or not. I believe these hybrid systems have to switch exclusively to contrast detection in low light, but I'm not 100% certain of that.

I'm sure that CSC focus technology will continue to improve over time just like everything else.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/16/2015 at 09:43
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All good points (and thanks, Rifledude, for the corrections, you are exactly right.)

Cameras are kinda like rifles/scopes: if you are a professional, you really, really need that extra 2-3% performance increase that the best stuff gives you - your life may literally depend on it.  But, if you are a range shooter or a hunter or a casual user, you don't "need" that 2-3% performance gain that the $2-3X gets you.

Need vs want: it is a tough choice sometimes.  In the end, get the one you want, else you will be buying again.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/16/2015 at 09:46
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At this point, I'll stop; you guys know much more about this stuff than do I.

I just point the glass part at the thing and push the shiny button.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/16/2015 at 10:30
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Originally posted by Rancid Coolaid Rancid Coolaid wrote:

I just point the glass part at the thing and push the shiny button.


Haha! You're well on your way to mastering the art, brother!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/16/2015 at 10:31
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Originally posted by Rancid Coolaid Rancid Coolaid wrote:

At this point, I'll stop; you guys know much more about this stuff than do I.

I just point the glass part at the thing and push the shiny button.


RC I wouldn't say that. You had a notable suggestion and it carried some weight. Great job. I was going to post, but after Rifledude's elaborate explanation...I don't have anything of value to add to this thread. Only my opinion to the first post.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/16/2015 at 11:02
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Appreciate everyone's comments here.  I feel like I'm swimming through mud on this, so your insights are valuable.

RC's analogy with riflescopes is spot on.  While I appreciate the advantages that scopes from the likes of USO, PH and the other alpha glass manufacturers provide, my needs are adequately met by SWFA SS and Swarovski's Z5 line.

The recommendation to look at the CSC cameras is well received.  Size of the camera is an important factor for me.

Any recommendations on lenses to start with?  Not sure if a fixed focal general purpose lens is a good place to start or go with a medium telephoto.  Expect most of my photos will run the gamut from walkaround, landscapes, people...etc.  

Sounds like a medium telephoto may be the right answer, but I'll need to accept that it may not do as good of a job as a fixed focal lens and not be as trim either.

Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/16/2015 at 11:53
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As for "all purpose" lenses to start with, that all depends on your budget (and you're very constrained at your $650 stated budget for body and lens) and which system you choose. Decent lenses alone will totally consume or exceed your budget. You're going to have to make a lot of compromises at $650, and you won't be able to get a "fast" lens for that. If you are only able to budget $650 max, I would probably just get a high end point and shoot. The system you choose, and specifically the sensor size will determine which lens offers the best zoom range for your stated purpose due to crop factor. Study up on sensor "crop factor" and you will see what I mean.

If you want a lens well suited to both landscape AND portrait, unless you choose a 50mm fixed (or, depending on your sensor crop factor, maybe even 25mm or 35mm) and accept you'll never be able to take wide angle landscape shots, you can't do both with a fixed focal length lens. At the same quality level, a fixed focal length lens has the potential for better image quality than a zoom lens set at the same focal length, but that depends on many factors. In that respect, it's similar to rifle scopes.

Because of the wide ranging focal length requirements for the situations you describe, for a single "do it all" lens, you will be best served with a zoom in the range of 18-24ish on the low end and 70-120ish on the high of the zoom range. If you go longer FL on the long end, you either sacrifice your ability to take wide shots on the low end, you have a slow lens, you sacrifice a lot of optical quality, and you usually get a lot of distortion and vignetting along with the compromise. If you go shorter on the low end, you sacrifice your reach, perspective compression, subject isolation, and working distance on the high end. You can always zoom with your feet, however you can't duplicate the shallow depth of field capability of a longer focal length. Keep in mind, I'm talking about "effective focal length" here. Depending on your chosen sensor's crop factor, you can go shorter. For example, Micro Four Thirds has a 2X crop factor, so if you choose an Olympus CSC and want 24-100mm equivalent zoom range, a 12-50 (assuming that focal length range is offered) would provide that equivalent FOV or cropped equivalent with the MFT sensor...but it still doesn't duplicate the DOF of the longer lens.

If you can narrow your choice down to a specific camera body or system and provide a realistic budget (sorry, but $650 won't get you what you want), we can recommend a lens for all-around use.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/16/2015 at 12:19
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From the posts yesterday, I quickly realized I was falling victim to buying a Jarrett beanfield rifle and thinking a $150 scope would be fine.  I was initially looking at package pricing when I put together my initial budget but expect many of the items bundled either aren't necessary or leave something to be desired.

The short list includes the Sony A6000 and Olympus OM-D E M1 or M5.  Reviews and recommendations I've read at other sites seems to put these up towards the top consistently.

I like the simplicity of the touch screen on the Olympus and the ergonomics/learning curve seems better with the Olympus as well, but larger sensor on the A6000 has me bouncing between the two.

Budget is now $1200 for the body and general purpose lens.
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Now you're cooking with grease!

First, keep in mind that the glass is more important than the body. Lenses will last a lot longer than the bodies, and as long as you stick with a given system, you can upgrade your body later should you desire and still keep the same lenses as you progress in the hobby. As long as you have the basic functions and convenient features you want/need on the body, you have the sensor size and resolution you want, and the body has decent build quality, the lens will have more impact on your images than the body does.

So, with that said, given your $1200 budget:

If you choose the Sony system, I'd get the A6000 body (around $550.00) and the Sony E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G lens (around $600.00). The body has an excellent 24 MP APS-C size sensor and some nice features. The lens has a very useful range, reportedly has good image quality, and has a reasonably fast, fixed f/4 max aperture, so you can get some shallow DOF / subject isolation / nice bokeh shots desirable for portraits. You have 105mm (157mm equivalent with 1.5X crop factor) at max zoom for decent telephoto reach. At the same time you have 18mm (27mm equivalent) on the wide end for reasonably wide landscape shots.

If you choose the Oly system, I'd get the OMD E-M5 body (around $500) and the Olympus/Zuiko ED 12-40 f/2.8 ($750 - $800) as my first choice and the Olympus/Zuiko ED 14-150 f/4-5.6 (around $400) as my second choice. The second lens gives you more reach, but it has variable max aperture, so it isn't nearly as fast and as good in low light as the first lens. The 12-40 f/2.8 will give you 24-80 equivalent with the 2x crop factor, which is perfect for landscape, portraits, action, and general use. It has a super fast fixed f/2.8 max aperture, so you can get some really nice subject isolation wide open, allow you to use faster shutter speeds at lower ISO, and provides better light transmission. It will likely also have better optics overall than the 2nd lens. The second lens will obviously give you more reach if you want to also take photos of wildlife, but you will be somewhat hampered by its variable max aperture that gives you 2 stops less light at full zoom. This is why it's less expensive despite its greater zoom range, as its smaller max aperture means a less complicated optical system and doesn't require lenses as large.

Hope this helps. Keep us posted on what you choose and how you like it when you get your new toys in hand.
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everyone needs a 50mm 1.8, its a relativiley cheap($100-200 usually) but very useful lense

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Thanks Ted.  Appreciate you help turning this mountain back in to mole hill.

More to follow as I decide on what to actually purchase, but sounds like win win either way.  We'll see what kind of prices there are out there.  Noticed refurbs are also available, which may be worth a shot.
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Originally posted by stork23raz stork23raz wrote:

everyone needs a 50mm 1.8, its a relativiley cheap($100-200 usually) but very useful lense


How so?  My understanding that a 50mm lens is a good choice as a portrait lens.  Actually was thinking about adding a fast fixed focal length lens such as a 12mm/f2 or 17mm/f1.8 for a walkabout.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/16/2015 at 16:51
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Originally posted by stork23raz stork23raz wrote:

everyone needs a 50mm 1.8, its a relativiley cheap($100-200 usually) but very useful lense



I agree. Or a 50 f/1.4. They generally offer the best image quality for the least money. You can cover a lot of ground with a 50, but they aren't "do it all" lenses. The fact they are generally so inexpensive is reason enough to have one.

That would be a good second lens.
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Originally posted by Marine24 Marine24 wrote:


How so?  My understanding that a 50mm lens is a good choice as a portrait lens.  Actually was thinking about adding a fast fixed focal length lens such as a 12mm/f2 or 17mm/f1.8 for a walkabout.


50mm will work o.k. for portraits, especially group portraits, but it is a bit on the short side for portrait photography. 85mm is considered the optimal "classic" portrait focal length, because it has just the right amount of depth of field compression and working distance from your subject when you fill the frame.

12mm & 17mm are way too wide as general purpose "walkabout" lenses, unless you're walking about in the Grand Canyon or you're using a small sensor with a heavy crop factor.
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Okay, I'm learning.
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50mm is roughly equivalent to the FOV and perspective of normal human vision within the size of the image frame.

So, as a general rule of thumb, every 50mm (equivalent) of focal length = 1X magnification. It doesn't exactly work out that way, because sensors smaller than "full frame" or 35mm equivalent have the visual appearance of increasing the magnification due to the FOV being cropped, but cropping the FOV doesn't increase the depth of field compression you normally expect from greater magnification/focal length.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: July/17/2015 at 09:05
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So how concerned should I be on the megapixel difference between the Sony (24P) and the Olympus M5 (16P)?

I understand that resolution will be better with the higher number, but how does that really translate in to the actual picture?

Is it noticeable when looking at the photo on a computer screen or when you are printing pictures or does it fall in to the subtle differences of alpha glass that only a select few notice, appreciate or need?
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