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Nikon D3100 or Sony A37

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dnk_ephoto
9 Aug 2012 - 9:30 PM

Hi,

I've previously had a Sony A200 and was quite pleased with it (probably would give it 7.5 out of 10) but dropped it so it no longer works.

After being DSLR-less for a short time, I've decided I need to move back beyond PnS to DSLR land.

I want a decent entry level DSLR for general photography. I'll probably not be spending a lot on extra lenses, if indeed I ever move beyond a kit lens and I want to spend no more than about 350.

I had decided upon a Nikon D3100 as I've not seen a bad review of it but I went into my local camera shop and they suggested that a Sony A37 would be a better option (at 399). I think this might be a good idea because I still have my 70mm kit lens from the A200, too.

I've read some glowing reviews of the A37 and also some not so good ones...and I'm a bit skeptical about the EVF on the A37.

What would be the opinion here?

Cheers,
DNK

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9 Aug 2012 - 9:30 PM

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Steppenwolf
10 Aug 2012 - 8:49 AM

The problem with entry-level Nikons is that they have a limited number of features. Have a look through the dpreview specifications and see if what they've left out is a problem for you - it's got no in-body focus motors and probably doesn't do exposure bracketing. The A37 is a better camera in that it has more features (they haven't left anything important out as far as I can see), has a better sensor (same as in the Nikon D7000, which is one of the best on the market) and does usable movies - DSLRs that offer movie capability provide no AF and no view finder so it's not a lot of use unless you like trying to take movies holding the camera at arm's length using the LCD and doing manual focus.

You need to go and try out the EVF - it's 1.4Mp so it should be fine. The EVF on my A77 is brilliant and is IMO much better than an OVF -especially the type of OVF you get on cheap DSLRs. There are a lot of advantages to the EVF - e.g. you can see what the picture is going to look like, so you can adjust the exposure if necessary, you get more information, it's larger, you can use it to look at the picture you've taken instead of the LCD, you can magnify it to check focus, you can set it up to indicate which bit of the picture is in focus, it doesn't involve a moving mirror which shakes the camera, ir allows a faster frame rate, etc etc. Don't believe the traditionalists who rubbish them.

Last Modified By Steppenwolf at 10 Aug 2012 - 8:51 AM
dnk_ephoto
10 Aug 2012 - 10:37 AM

Thanks for the reply.

The Nikon doesn't have bracket shooting which I found a little disappointing since my old A200 did.

I have tried the EVF and found it to be a useful idea - you get a lot more info in the viewfinder and, as you say, you get to see what you're going to shoot. I've obviously not tried it long enough to find out some of the drawbacks, however. Some of the negative comments I've seen about the A37 involve the EVF not being bright enough when in sunlight and that the camera doesn't work as well in low light conditions because of the translucent mirror. I'm not sure how the EVF brightness is a problem since your eye is blocking out the background light....

Also, I've seen some comments about Sony not staying in the DSLR sector which isn't really a problem as it's not like your camera suddenly stops working but it would be nice to think they will be supporting their product lines in the future.

Like you, I wasn't sure whether some of the above negativeness was "snobbery", though.

So,

Do you have problems with the EVF brightness?
How does your camera perform in low light conditions?
Is there any reason why the A200 70mm kit lens won't work on a A37?
Are there any other things you'd "change" about your A77 or wish were more like a traditional DSLR?

I'm still in two minds, however; there are very, very many positive reviews for the D3100 and more of a mixed response to the A37.

uzi9mm
uzi9mm  378 forum posts United Kingdom
10 Aug 2012 - 10:41 AM

every camera has its pros and cons and theirs no problem with nikons entry- level cameras as for the a37 it looks a good camera ive played with it but ill keep my nikon d3100 because it feels better built and focuses faster. plus battery life is great because less electronics to power or break down.plus slt cameras are dust magnets the slt mirror is very fragile and exspensive to get replaced and i know all this because my mate got a sony a77.

kodachrome
10 Aug 2012 - 11:33 AM

I think most people have covered the good and bad on these cameras, the Nikon 3100 does have fewer direct action buttons and the FN button is in my opinion in a crazy position. The Sony scores over the Nikon for user control and button positions and seems to be aimed more at the enthuseast rather than entry level user.
As for the A37, [read What SLR magazine review] I would prefer the A35, it has a bigger LCD but is not articulated like the A37, which is smaller. Battery life has been improved on the A37/57 over previous models.
If you are not 'brand' orientated, look at the Pentax K30 and the Pentax lenses. Same Sony 16mp Sensor as the Nikon D5100/7000/Sony/A35/37/57. It is probably the best of the bunch for user control and the enthuseasts. Super build quality and weather proofing, 100% optical view finder and colour reproduction right at the top.

Hard choice
Koda.

Steppenwolf
10 Aug 2012 - 12:58 PM


Quote: Do you have problems with the EVF brightness?
How does your camera perform in low light conditions?
Is there any reason why the A200 70mm kit lens won't work on a A37?
Are there any other things you'd "change" about your A77 or wish were more like a traditional DSLR?

I'm still in two minds, however; there are very, very many positive reviews for the D3100 and more of a mixed response to the A37.

You need to bear in mind that most of the reviewers are Canon/Nikon users so they know how to use these cameras. Sonys, particularly the SLTs, are a step into the unknown, and it does take quite a long time to learn how to use a camera properly - it took me about 2 months with the A77 because it's seriously complex.

So, your questions:

1. EVF Brightness

The EVF can be set up in one of two modes. You can set it up with "effects on", in which case the EVF will show you the image as it will be captured. So if you've underexposed it you'll see that in the EVF - the advantage of this is that you can adjust the exposure compensation (or just use manual mode) until it looks right. This is the default mode. Since most people never read the manual this is how most people use it. The drawback of this mode is that, in bright light, the EVF appears dark - for the simple reason that your eye is probably adjusted to the bright light but the EVF shows the correctly exposed image which will be darker. If this is a problem you can set the EVF to "effects off" in which case it'll show you the image just like an OVF - if it's dark the image will look dark and if it's bright the image will look bright. It's your choice.

2. Low light

The SLT loses 30% of the light because it diverts it to the AF sensor, so you're about 1/2 a stop down on light. It's a pity, of course, but when you look at all the advantages you get for this it's a small price to pay. I've got an A700 and an A77. The A700 is fine up to ISO800 but above that it can get noisy. The A77 is fine up to ISO1600 all the time and ISO3200 most of the time. The thing is that the sensor technology evolution is gradually solving the noise problem. An A37 should manage ISO3200 without problems. It's probably better than the D3100 from this aspect because it has a significantly better sensor.

3. Lens compatibility

All Sony lenses are compatible with the SLTs. Also all Minolta and Konica Minolta lenses - although there's a slight exposure problem with some Konica lenses because of stuff to do with the electronic shutter which would take too long to explain.

4. Problems

I can't see any downside to the SLT. I don't use my A700 any more which says it all. People who don't like EVFs complain about "tearing" in the EVF when you pan it - I haven't noticed this. Someone on this thread complains about the mirror being a "dust magnet" and being "fragile" etc. I recall from an earlier post that his friend tried to clean the translucent mirror and bust it and it cost a few hundred quid to replace "and it was made of plastic - cheap rubbish". The fact is that the translucent mirror isn't a dust magnet - less so than the sensor anyway, and in any case any dust on the SLT mirror sin't focused onto the final image so it's like dust in the lens and is best ignored.

One big upside to the SLT which you will rarely read about (except on photoclubalpha) is that the SLTs seem to focus more accurately than DSLRs (which are notorious for back focus/front focus). David Kilpatrick wrote an article about it. My main gripe with the A700 has always been that its focus is erratic. I use very long lenses and wide apertures quite a lot so accurate focus is critical and the A700 doesn't deliver. I bought the A77 (rather than the A65) because it has AF micro-tuning. The irony is I haven't used it because the focus is spot on.

Whether Sony will give up on the Alpha range I don't know. They've spent a massive amount on building up their range of lenses and they're shortly bringing out a new FF SLT so it doesn't look like it to me - but who knows. If I were betting, though, I'd bet that Pentax is the next to go under.

Paul Morgan
Paul Morgan e2 Member 1315366 forum postsPaul Morgan vcard England6 Constructive Critique Points
10 Aug 2012 - 1:49 PM


Quote: I want a decent entry level DSLR for general photography. I'll probably not be spending a lot on extra lenses, if indeed I ever move beyond a kit lens and I want to spend no more than about 350

350 is not a lot for a dslr and lens.

How about a Pany G3.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Panasonic-DMC-G3-16-1MP-Compact-System/dp/B004ZKHAWM/ref...

dnk_ephoto
10 Aug 2012 - 6:10 PM

Thanks again for all the considered replies.

After breaking the A200, I opted for a Fuji F500EXR which cost a couple of hundred quid and takes some nice pictures when it feels like it but I always feel like I need more control. I had the idea that something like a G3 would be similar but I've just read some reviews that may have changed my perception of it. I think the only downsides of it that I can see are battery life, the sensor size and I have a concern about the touchscreen control - I imagine it will get covered with finger grease and I will spend my entire time cleaning it.

The Pentax K30 I can find for over 500 quid which is over my budget, really.

So far, from what has been said, the A37 seems attractive since I can use my existing lens with it and steppenwolf has pretty much reaffirmed what I was told in the camera shop about the A37.

Hmmm. Food for thought!

uzi9mm
uzi9mm  378 forum posts United Kingdom
10 Aug 2012 - 7:23 PM

good luck with what ever you choose like you i chose what i could afford and my camera + lens is secondhand the dream and realty are two different things plus it was in mint condtion and not to be sniffed at beggers cant be choosers and my pictures have made it to the local papers.

dnk_ephoto
10 Aug 2012 - 7:30 PM

The problem I see with the Nikon, uzi, is the stabilisation method. I will get a kit lens with VR but if I want a longer zoom with VR, the lenses are not cheap.

I'm not averse to buying 2nd hand but I'm not so knowledgable about what to look for when it comes to 2nd hand lenses so I'd be wary of going down that route. My Sony A200, for example, has been dropped and takes good pics but, under some conditions, it doesn't....if I was less scrupulous, I could sell it and how would someone know if there was anything wrong?

I think the Sony is attractive for the reason of the lens choice - I can put a relatively inexpensive lens on it and get decent results.

I suppose one question is...is stabilisation essential on the longer zoom lenses?

Paul Morgan
Paul Morgan e2 Member 1315366 forum postsPaul Morgan vcard England6 Constructive Critique Points
10 Aug 2012 - 8:47 PM


Quote: I think the only downsides of it that I can see are battery life, the sensor size and I have a concern about the touchscreen control - I imagine it will get covered with finger grease and I will spend my entire time cleaning it

Battery life for all CSC`s is about half that of a dslr, easily sorted by carrying a spare battery, and there cheap enough.

Sensor size is a bit smaller than APS-C but its not massive.

Worried about leaving greasy marks on touch screen, fit a cheap screen protector.

Worried about using the touch screen, switch it off.

Simple really.


Quote: I think the Sony is attractive for the reason of the lens choice - I can put a relatively inexpensive lens on it and get decent results

That`s if you can find the lenses, and there in stock.

dnk_ephoto
10 Aug 2012 - 9:25 PM

The reviews i've seen say the Pany touchscreen is inherent to the operation of the camera and so is hard to avoid. I've not got one so I don't know how true it is. Also, I'm not sure how a screen protector stops the touchscreen getting greasy...especially on holiday with sweaty fingers and whatnot.

I take your points, though.

Paul Morgan
Paul Morgan e2 Member 1315366 forum postsPaul Morgan vcard England6 Constructive Critique Points
10 Aug 2012 - 9:52 PM

Its pretty much identical to the G2 in respect to the touch screen, I have no problems using mine with it switched of.


Quote: I'm not sure how a screen protector stops the touchscreen getting greasy...especially on holiday with sweaty fingers and whatnot

The screen can not get greasy with a screen protector fitted.

Steppenwolf
11 Aug 2012 - 8:17 AM


Quote:
I suppose one question is...is stabilisation essential on the longer zoom lenses?

It's essential if you want to hand hold long lenses and it's essential for hand-held movies. The nice thing about in-camera IS is that whenever you buy a new camera body you get updated IS. I've noticed that the A77 IS works better than the A700's.

strawman
strawman  1022006 forum posts United Kingdom16 Constructive Critique Points
11 Aug 2012 - 11:57 PM


Quote: I suppose one question is...is stabilisation essential on the longer zoom lenses?

Not essential but handy.

To qualify, IS always introduces a small amount of image blur into a shot, it depends whether it is significant or not. So if you are in a shooting condition where the camera can be tripod mounted (or even monopod mounted) to get the shot then that will be the best. Also if the subject is moving and requires a high shutter speed to capture it you may be above the speed where IS is bringing a large benefit.

An area where IS can get in the way is where you are tracking your subject or deliberately panning. In that case you may well want to see if the IS has multiple modes, for example many IS systems have a panning mode. If not then as you are swinging the camera around the camera is frantically trying to compensate for the movement you have deliberately injected.

Another potential problem is some IS systems have a spin up time, so for in-lens systems this can be a problem but you can overcome it by using a half press of the shutter to wake up the system. There are debates of strengths and weaknesses of the in-lens and in-camera systems. As ever depending on what you want to do each has plus and minus points. For example in-lens systems often have wake up times, you can work around it, but it is there. A strength is has is that you can see the stabilised image yourself, and equally important for long lenses, the image presented to the AF points are also stabilised. This is key where you are using lenses with low depth of field and the control of focus is vital. Nikon and Canon have gone this way and to be honest they have the biggest lens ranges at longer focal lengths so if that is your desire then your camera choice is obvious.

In-camera has the great advantage of working on all your lenses and at the wider angle end may well be the best. Olympus have the best in-camera IS system I have seen as it stabilises the image for the image capture, autofocus task and viewfinder. Sadly Sony did not do this so for longer lenses it is not as good a solution. EVF, well a lot is written. It has plus and minus points and your usage and personal eyesight will set out if its a problem. For sports and action use I find it inferior for static shots you can get away with it. The delay and video tearing are a problem and so my advice is to go try it tracking some action and decide if you can live with it. also try shooting outdoors on a variable light day and see if you can live with it, then try it in a dark situation. Its a personal choice. For a compact easy to carry system I would live with it, for a sports system I think it lacks. On the other hand it can produce a bigger image and you can overlay a lot of information that may help. But make your own choice. EVFs will get there, but there is still some way to go to replace a good optical viewfinder IMHO. Each generation gets better, but you are right to have reservations. In my eyes its a more significant difference than the sensor between competing cameras at that price point.

Is the A range future proof, to be honest if you are buying a camera and kit lens only, does it matter? Buy the one that works best for you. Sony have got to make some serious choices, the total business has been failing (Sony's losses are getting very worrying, but it is a big player and so could afford some losses.)On one hand the A mount cameras have fallen a long way short of Sony objectives, but on the other hand the NEX series have sold well. So I would expect at the entry level the NEX series to be the future Sony models and the A mount to either go more up market or face an end. They are under new management and they have to change. But for what you are doing does it matter?

So on your choice I would say the cameras to look at are

Sony A37
Sony A580 (if you can find one) No EVF but A mount camera.
Nikon D3100
Canon 1100D (IS lens bracketing feature, Depth of Field preview button also)
Panasonic G3 (IS lens, Bracketing...)
And possibly a Pen device?

If you want a longer lens with Is there are the 50-250 type lenses (170) or even some from Sigma and Tamron to think about.

Oh and RE the AF issues mentioned on SLRS, SLTs need to be calibrated too which is why you still see focusing problems with them, and you need to keep the subject over the AF point and if the IS does not stabilise the image to the AF sensor you still get problems. The Olympus and Panasonic cameras get away from the spot focusing problems because they have the focusing performed from the sensor, while the SLT still has separate AF module that has to be aligned (though the Olympus and Panasonic system trades dynamic performance for this, but each generation they get better)

The good news, there are no oh my god its a disaster cameras out there to my knowledge. So have a play, think what compromises suit you and pick one. All the ones I put on the list are capable of great images, and its more than likely possible that you could take over 90% of your images with any of them and struggle to tell them apart at A3 print level.

Last Modified By strawman at 12 Aug 2012 - 12:03 AM

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