Can Has DSLR?
Posted by meronpan on June 9, 2009
Got some gift certificates ready to use, been doing research on and off for many months… the time to make a purchase is nigh!
Wanted to share my research and thoughts… perhaps you’ll have some suggestions to fine tune my purchase… or maybe you’ll vehemently disagree and can provide a completely different plan. Whatever it is, I am, as always, happy to hear your thoughts. Remember this is all just my current state of research – I haven’t bought anything yet ^^;
First off… Nikon or Canon. As far as I could tell, the difference between the two isn’t significant enough to truly declare either one superior. Based on that, I let some superficial reasons sway me towards the Canon camp:
- Currently using a Canon
- I understand the Canon lens vocabulary already
- The Nikon 105mm macro lens is pretty pricey compared to the Canon 100mm macro
So again, I’m definitely not saying that those three reasons totally make Canon the superior camera… rather, for lack of any other meaningful criteria, those were as good a reason as any to go Canon.
Next up, body. For the longest time I thought I was going to end up with the 450D. Yes the 500D is out, but I couldn’t find any features that could persuade me to spend the extra money.
- Movies? Not really interested.
- Increased screen resolution? Nice but didn’t seem necessary.
- More megapixels? Already have quite enough to fill my monitor and don’t plan on printing anything…
- Larger sensor? .1mm in either direction didn’t seem like that big a deal.
- DIGIC IV Processor? Perhaps this is big, but I haven’t figured it out yet…
…you can see my lukewarm attitude towards shelling out $130 for these features. On the other hand, at around $700 for the body + kit lens, the 450D seemed to be a decent compromise between the current technology and bang for the buck. I briefly considered the 40D but it seemed like a lot more money to dish out for a similar set of minor upgrades. Then, thanks to adorama camera, I started reconsidering the cost of upgrading to a better walk around zoom. They’ve got the 40D + 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS at $1,100 USD.
The 450D kit lens is generally the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, which I’ve read is a definite improvement over the non-IS lens that preceded it. However, people often cited how you get what you pay for, so though a great deal, it isn’t spectacular glass. A decent upgrade seemed to be the 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS, which supposedly offers improved image quality, along with more range. The price is approximately $465.
With that upgrade in mind, it would make sense to skip the kit lens all together and go straight for the 17-85mm lens (or better). Given the prices I’ve been finding for the 450D body only, that would come out to ~$1050. And now you see why the 40D + 17-85mm at $1100 is now starting to look very attractive. I got to play with my uncle’s 40D the other weekend and liked the sturdiness of the body. The 450D is light weight, which is great for traveling I suppose, but also makes it feel a bit less rugged or sturdy or something. I think I’d feel more comfortable putting expensive glass on a 40D rather than a 450D. My general sense from forums and reviews also seemed to be that the 40D was a slightly better camera, but unless the features appealed to you, not worth the extra money over a 450D. Yet now, looking at only a $50 premium, I think I may have found exactly what I want.
With the 40D I’ll get goodies like 1/8000 shutter speed, higher ISO, pentaprism (as opposed to mirror) viewfinder, and 9 cross type AF points (instead of the center point being the only cross type) – things that I wouldn’t pay the usual premium for but $50? Sure! So that’s where I am. Barring an end to this awesome kit, 40D + 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS sounds good to me.
Finally lenses. As discussed above I had read good things about the improvements of the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens over the non-IS version. Read some more reviews and ended up with a sort of hierarchy:
18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 < 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS < 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS < 17-55mm f/2.8 IS
The 17-55mm was definitely tantalizing with the constant f/2.8 aperture, but the $1,000 price tag was pretty intimidating. Plus these lenses are all EF-S, so they won’t work on a full frame body. Not that I plan on changing to a full frame body any time soon, but I kinda had hoped that any lens I paid over $1,000 for would last even in the loooong long run.
Another consideration was the 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, which I believe is often included in 40D kits. I couldn’t find anything that said it was much better or worse than the 17-85mm so in the end I figured having the wider lens would be the best for my shooting style.
At one point I was considering just starting out with some primes but the more I read and talked to people, the less wise that sounded. Sure, for figure photography it might work ok since I’m sticking to a fairly standard work space… but overall it just meant taking away flexibility in the name of image quality. Seemed like I would get much more out of the zoom in the long run.
That said, I do want to add some sort of prime to my kit. I’m really looking forward to an increase in image quality, so why not go all the way with a prime? For that I’m having a hard time deciding between the Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro, 60mm f/2.8 macro, and the 50mm f/2.5 macro lenses. On the one hand the 50mm macro only goes up to 1:2 magnification but is the cheapest and can double as a regular 50mm. The 60mm goes up to 1:1 but is EF-S and costs a little more. The 100mm offers the most working distance (though will this potentially hinder me in figure reviews?) and 1:1 magnification and costs the most. I guess since I’ll be mostly shooting figures for now, the 50/60mm probably make the most sense… the only risk would be once I start venturing outdoors, the lack of working distance may come back to haunt me. Either way I’d like to add a macro lens to my kit since I love macro shots and would love to be able to start taking my own.
The last thing I’m considering is a 50mm prime. There are just tons of reviews pointing to the image quality to be had from these lenses… the 50mm lenses have been refined so much over the years you should get a huge increase in image quality for a relatively low price. The cheapest of these lenses is the f/1.8 which clocks in at about $100. Sounded awesome except for the fact that people say you’ll definitely need to replace it in the long run. As in, built like a toy and it *will* break. Once more the middle of the line product stood out – the f/1.4 – one more stop for those low light conditions and $300 or so more in price… seemed worth it to buy 1 better lens than multiple cheap lenses. There’s the f/1.2… but that takes the price into the $1,000 range, and out of my budget for the time being. (though the sexiness of being an L lens and having yet another stop to deal with low light would be incredible :P)
I’ll be holding off on the 50mm prime for now since I think it’ll get the least use out of the three, but in the meantime, I’m hoping to start off with a zoom and macro. Probably not a very conventional start, but I’m not your conventional photographer :P The lack of a longer range telephoto lens doesn’t really bother me since I tend to avoid those shots anyway. I like snapping what’s in front of me and reducing the influence of camera shake as much as possible. Is it one of those cases where I won’t know what I’m missing out on until I try? Perhaps. But at least in the short term, there’s definitely not going to be as much opportunity for me to use a telephoto which is yet another reason I’m holding off for now.
So there you have my planned dslr acquisition. Going to go over things for a little while longer, but hopefully in the next couple weeks push ahead with a purchase! Would love to hear thoughts, suggestions, comments, questions, how you went about your own purchase, plans to go about your own purchase, regrets, successes, or whatever else you’ve got for me ^^
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