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I'm a bit of a newbie when it comes to photography but am keen on expanding my knowledge and would like it to develop into a bit of a hobby. Up to now I've just had point-and-shoot experience and I'm a bit overawed at the sheer range of cameras out there and am at a bit of a loss as to what to choose. I've tried to narrow my options down but at the moment am torn between a bridge camera (e.g. Panasonic FZ200), an entry level DSLR (e.g. Canon 1100D) or a CSC (e.g. Samsung NX1000).
My budget is around £350 and my quandry lies with picking a camera that will give me greater control over the settings and give some versatility in the types of picture I can shoot, as I'd like to try my hand at a few different things (macro shooting, Bokeh, landscapes and nature photography) but with maintaining the scope for improving my skills and advancing. I'd really like to branch out into DSLR/bridge territory but am a bit put off by the prospect of large bulky cameras that are not easy to lug about (I'd like to be able to take this camera away with me and out and about when I go walking etc). Is this really a problem or would I be better off with a CSC (but will this limit me in what I can learn)? Can anyone offer any advice? It would be greatly appreciated!
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You ask the most common question that gets posted here.
....and the most difficult to answer.
A few years ago I would have suggested opting for an entry-level Nikon dSLR.
Today I would seriously suggest looking at a "previous generation" CSC (to get the most for your money). Something like a second-hand Olympus E-PL3, for example. You won't learn any less with a CSC compared to a dSLR. The main difference is that they are smaller as a result of using (mostly) a 4/3 sensor, micro 4/3 lenses and having no mirror. But, in general terms, they are capable of giving the same amount of manual control.
i use a panasonic g5 and i think tat it is superb i have also had a g1 and find that theuy are more conveniant than the full size dslr as i am totally wheelchair bound and cannot lug lots of heavy ger aroud
Hi, The trouble is James that photography is like cigarettes, once you start you find it hard to stop. You go out and buy what you think you need but after a few months maybe even a year you want to go on to the next step. My advice is to go down the SLR road, todays SLR's are not that heavy as most are made from plastic. For your money IMO you would be better buying used from here on the sales part of the forum or other photographic sites or even better join the local photography club and you may hit a bargain with someone who wants to sell a used equipment and if you buy a lens as well you may get a better bargain.
Remember also that it is you that takes the photograph not the camera!!!
Quote: Today I would seriously suggest looking at a "previous generation" CSC (to get the most for your money). Something like a second-hand Olympus E-PL3, for example. You won't learn any less with a CSC compared to a dSLR. The main difference is that they are smaller as a result of using (mostly) a 4/3 sensor, micro 4/3 lenses and having no mirror. But, in general terms, they are capable of giving the same amount of manual control
Also second hand, a budget of £350 could be enough for a body + 2 lenses.
These two work out at great value, ideal for a beginner
Hi i agree with Russ if you buy a bridge type camera or non DSLR within a few months you will be wanting one. That was the path i took Look at a second hand body and get a nice lens.
I went down the path of digital compact, bridge and then Slr
The slr is the way to go Imho
Theres a Mint Canon 550d with a 16gb and spare battery going in the classifieds at the moment, and you can get a kit lens (18-55mm) from MPB Photographic for peanuts.
Quote: But, in general terms, they are capable of giving the same amount of manual control
I might be on my own here but I find CSC`s give me more control than dslr`s
Also what ever you decide, get into a shop and have a play with the camera's.
What feels right for you weight/size wise. Check out the menu's, what feels intuitive and good for you.
Start with a camera and standard lens, then decide with experience what else you may need.
I made the mistake of getting too many cheap lenses when I started out which ended up a false economy.
If you are looking at macro, landscapes, & nature then I guess it's a CSC or DSLR.
Thanks so much for all your input, it's been really useful! I'm certainly leaning towards a CSC or a DSLR rather than a bridge, as like so many of you have said, I'm likely to grow out of it in time. I hadn't considered second-hand kit before now but will certainly have a look - is there anywhere that you can recommend?
Ok so I'd like a couple more opinions if possible please?
I'm now fairly settled on either a Panasonic G3 or a Canon 1100D with 18-55mm lens. I like the idea of the CSC for its portability and think that this will encourage me to use it more. However I'm wondering if the difference in image quality will bother me - I'm unlikely to be printing photos any bigger than A4 size (maybe only on rare occasions) and I'd like to know if there will be a noticable difference in quality at sizes smaller than this? Reviews suggest that there is more noise at ISO6400 plus on the G3 than on a DSLR but I'm not 100% sure what this means in real terms (sorry like I said I'm a novice!).
Also are there any other notable differences between these two cameras that I should be aware of?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
The G3 is a good choice. That's what I would have suggested.
The main differences between the Canon DSLR and the G3 CSC are:
1. DSLR has a larger sensor (APS-C size as against 4/3 size - about 60% larger area)
2. DSLR has an optical viewfinder rather than EVF
3. DSLR has phase detect focus rather than contrast detect
These design differences lead to the following advantages/disadvantages:
1. The larger sensor gives better high ISO capability (because there's a larger area to capture light). So the DSLr might produce the same noise at ISO1600 as the CSC does at ISO1200. However, sensors are improving with each generation so this isn't necessarily the case - it may depend on the generation cycle of the cameras. Most CSC cameras nowadays will shoot good pictures at ISO1600 which is good enough for most people.
The larger sensor makes the camera larger and also, more importantly, makes the lenses larger and heavier (and more expensive). For example a 300mm (35mm equivalent focal length) lens is actually 150mm on a 4/3 CSC, but about 200mm on the APS-C DSLR, so it's larger.
THe larger sensor gives a shallower depth of field (at same focal length and aperture), which can be an advantage (if you want to blur the background) or not.
2. The optical viewfinder is a carry over from pre-digital times. SOme people love it but it does have disadvantages - you need to try them out. I personally prefer the EVF because it allows me to see the actual picture I'm going to get (i.e. I can see if it's over or under exposed). It also allows a vast mount of information to be overlaid on the screen. Also, if you're interested in taking video, the EVF is a game changer because you can use the viewfinder - in the DSLR, the mirror has to be flipped up so your only viewfinder is the LCD on the back.
3. DSLRs use phase detection focus which is faster and better for tracking objects (such as a bird in flight). Phase detection allows the camera to take one look at the blurred picture and calculate exactly how far to move the focus in one go. Contrast detection is basically trial and error so it can be less good at certain types of focusing. However, again, the modern CSCs that use contrast detection are usually very fast and give little if anything away to the DSLR - except for tracking maybe. Also contrast detection is more accurate - DLSRs have a nasty habit of missing focus (because the focus is measured at a remote location and not at the sensor). SOme of the latest CSC now have phase detection embedded in the sensor (e.g. Sony NEX-6, Nikon Series 1). This is the best of both worlds.
I personally, if I were buying a system now, wouldn't buy a DSLR - too many compromises. I'd go Micro 4/3. But the Nikon Series 1 is an interesting system. I recently bought a Nikon V1 as a carry around camera and it's very impressive indeed - but there isn't much of a system around it yet.
James, the ISO settings effectively double the sensitivity of the sensor with each step, represented by a doubled number. For example ISO1600 is twice the sensitivity of ISO800, ISO3200 is double again, and so on. In the days of film the 'fastest' film you could commonly buy was ISO1600, which would give very grainy results.
Fast films and fast ISOs are used where the light is low or you need a very high shutter speed to catch action that you wouldn't be able to get under normal circumstances.
Effectively because you can now change it in camera, exposure is governed by three variables - aperture [f stop], shutter speed and ISO setting.
So if you were shooting on aperture priority in dim light at an aperture of f4 and that was giving you a shutter speed of 1/15th of a second at ISO 200, you might prefer to set ISO to 800 [two stops up] which would then allow you a shutter speed of 1/60th [the same two stops].
Most cameras will allow you to set an auto ISO which will set itself so you always have usable shutter speeds. As you've realised there's a trade off in doing that [as there was with film] in that it will increase image noise.
The good news is, in most circumstances in daylight you won't need the higher ISOs. I know the G3 [I have one] will give you very reasonable results at ISO 1600 especially if you're only printing at a maximum of A4 [because you're then effectively downsampling the image size which will reduce the appearance of any noise]. I don't know what the 1100D is like for noise [I have a Canon 550D (APSc) and a Canon 5DII 935mm format]. The 550D is not massively better than the G3 and if I were given a choice of a basic APSc DSLR and the G3, I might well go for the G3 for the convenience factor, even with slightly less control over DoF (which will give you less of that bokeh blur at similar apertures - by about a stop).
In decent light the G3's focus system is pretty damn fast - I doubt you'd see much if any difference between it and the Canon. As for the EVF, that's not bad either and as Steppenwolf above says, it does offer you the advantage of seeing the exposure including an idea of what white balance is like. However, it isn't as clear as an OVF can be and it might be a good idea to try them both out for yourself and see what you feel comfortable using.
Quote: I'd really like to branch out into DSLR/bridge territory but am a bit put off by the prospect of large bulky cameras that are not easy to lug about (I'd like to be able to take this camera away with me and out and about when I go walking etc). Is this really a problem or would I be better off with a CSC (but will this limit me in what I can learn)?
There aren't much of (d)SLR lenses with which you could put camera for example into some jacket pocket. Besides increasing camera body size that century old flapping mirror makes distance from lens to sensor long setting major limits to design freedom of lenses shorter than ~45mm focal length... including that standard wide zoom.
Mirrorless is lot more flexible for lens design choises, though trying to make that mount distance too small for sensor size causes its own problems. (m4/3 probably best balanced in that)
Also in longer term there's that system part of equation when you want to expand photography to different areas/targets.
At that point choise of format/system is going to start having notable effect on total bulk and weight.
No single lens will ever do lots of different jobs well (or at all) and you'll eventually want to have some different lenses and maybe even have one additional lens with one if the camera. And especially when you're going around with more lenses for that dedicated photography weight difference grows very easily to notable amounts... especially with film legacy free 4/3 sensor.
Also flexibility of mirrorless system allows different bodies from small pocket compact to higher end one inside same system, unlike DSLRs. Just like with lenses no single camera does different jobs well, like offering both good pocketability and good ergonomics in which case system capable to offering both options becomes usefull.
Area were DSLRs are strong is continuous focusing and fast moving targets because of phase detection AF.
But unless you know faster moving targets and especially birds are going to be big part of photography I don't see much reasons to go for DSLRs.
Anyway in year or two all major mirrorless systems are probably going to have working hybrid AF with phase detection integrated onto sensor improving their moving target focusing. There simply aren't any physical obstacles for that.
Out of mirrorless systems m4/3 has lot more diverse system than others in both bodies and especially lenses with also small third party companies making some fast aperture special lenses with native mount. (SLR Magic Noktor 12mm t/1.6 CINE coming hopefully tomorrow)
Unlike APS-C 4/3 sensor size was chosen without film era contstraints to allows good scaling of lenses (up to very high quality ones) and with modern sensor tech it's well good enough for most uses... Or I'm expecting all CaNikon APS-C camera pictures older than couple years to be destroyed.
Ephotozines G3 review gives it good image quality and Imaging Resource, which tests actual printed image quality puts it competitive to APS-C Canons, whose sensors haven't really advanced anymore in last few years.
And in many uses when you don't want anorexic depth of field, like architecture, landscapes, macros/close-ups, people group photos etc ability to use faster aperture compensates difference in sensor size for total light gathering ability. With system still offering lenses giving plenty of DOF control for portraits etc.
Often it feels that reason for people recommending avoiding m4/3 is that it isn't Canon/Nikon and has all the potential needed to becoming digital age best compromise format like 35mm was during film age.
(35mm didn't stay because of being best but by being the smallest analog tech format with good enough resolution/quality for most uses)
Quote: Also are there any other notable differences between these two cameras that I should be aware of?
I`m finding that the high grade M4/3 lenses often workout costing a lot less than the high grade lenses from larger systems.
Ephotozine had a list of the top ten CSC`s, I cant find it now
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