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Author Topic: DSLR Camera's
Kwea
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I am seriously considering buying a DSLR camera the next time I buy a camera, and I was wondering is anyone here had any experiences with the different type of DSLR camera's. There are a lot of different brands and models, and to be honest I am getting mixed results looking up reviews.

I want to take really decent wildlife shots, including pics of hawks on the wing.

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Shigosei
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Do you have a price range in mind? Any features that you really want?
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DSH
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You can take fantastic wildlife pictures with non-SLR digital cameras. You'll want something other than the point-and-shoot models you find at Walmart and the like, but high-end digital cameras offer all the features of their [significantly more expensive] DSLR cousins at a fraction of the price.

For example: Nikon P100, Canon SX20 and Kodak Z981

Unless you need interchangeable lenses (or plan to earn a living with your camera) a DSLR is most likely more camera than you need.

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Tstorm
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I have a Canon 40D, which is a mid-range DSLR. I bought it with the kit lens (17-85mm f4-5.6), almost two years ago. Since then, I've also acquired a 70-200 2.8 non-IS lens and a 50mm 1.8 (the 'nifty fifty').

My original desire for the camera was motivated by interest in weather. Photography and weather interest go hand-in-hand. I wanted to do lightning photos, and you can't easily do those with a compact camera. At least, it's easier with a DSLR and I have more control over the exposure, as opposed to an automatic.

Ultimately, the camera has been most useful at work. I no longer have to check out student equipment, or worry about equipment availability. I've started shooting a lot of photos for various events at work, and it's made my job a bit easier.

Based on my experience, if you want to take photos of flying birds, you're going to need to go the DSLR route, and you should plan on spending a significant amount of money on glass (lenses). Just to give you an idea, that nice zoom lens I bought for my camera cost almost as much as the body did. And I bought used.

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Shigosei
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It's my understanding that the lens often makes more of a difference than the camera, though, in terms of image quality. I suspect that at the focal lengths needed to shoot birds flying, the difference between even a low-end DSLR with a really good lens and even the best integrated-lens camera will be significant.

On the other hand, so will the cost -- you can get a low-end DSLR for around $500, but the lens you'd probably want to use is likely to be more than double that. On the third hand, apparently you can rent lenses, so that may be a way to keep the cost down.

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Philosofickle
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I just got a Canon Rebel Xti and couldn't be happier.

You can buy the body fairly cheaply but my big investment was an 18-200 zoom lens. It's the most versatile lens I've ever used and makes everything so much easier. However, like shigosei said, what's your price range?

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theamazeeaz
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I have a Nikon D40. I don't think you can get them any more. I have the 18-55 mm kit lens that came with and the 55-200 VR lens. I also bought a f/1.8 35mm lens.

I found kenrockwell.com to be a good starting point. Apparently he's infamous among photography-nuts as being the loud, annoying site with soso advice, but I was able to learn what I need to learn. Basically, he suggests getting the lowest end Nikon because it's a still a good camera and the lenses are most important It's also, the smallest, which means you are more likely to take it places. He takes lots of pains to point out that crappy old cameras take great pictures when you understand what a good picture looks like.

That being said, I was jealous of a friend's d90 because I know what the buttons mean, and was delighted to see more of them on the back. I also have access to older lenses, and wasn't aware that the cheaper cameras do not autofocus with all lenses, which influences lens purchasing more than anything.

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Kwea
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I currently own a prosumer Kodak Z710 , and I like it a lot. However, while it has a good lens and a very good zoom for the type of camera it is, I find it difficult to zoom in enough on wildlife to make it worth taking a picture of it.

Also, I am not happy with the quality of low light pictures. Moving pics it does a decent job with, but the ISO isn't really high speed capable. It also can't shoot in RAW format, which I hear is far more customizable than other formats, and has a lower "noise" ration.

I may take a photography course with it to try and learn more about this camera, and about photography in general. This camera is customizable to a point, and I haven't played around with the settings much.


My price range is non-existent today. [Big Grin] But when I play on buying, right around Christmas, I would say that it's under $1000, the lower the better more than likely. I'd say I am probably looking for an entry level DSLR if I end up getting one at all.

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Kwea
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I was looking at lenses for the camera I already have, and now I am even more confused. I had been told that the lenses you can buy after market for these types of camera's aren't any good, and are bad for the camera. However, it now seems that there are a large number of them for many different purposes.

I have no idea if they are good for my camera, if they work well, of if I should even bother. [Frown]

They DO seem fairly inexpensive though......
Here is a set that includes filters, a wide angle len and a x2 telephoto lens. All for about $60. I'd hate to spend the cash and have them suck, but more than that I'd hate to ruin my camera finding out how MUCH they suck. [Smile]

[ July 06, 2010, 06:07 PM: Message edited by: Kwea ]

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Pegasus
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My wife and I developed an avid interest in photography and over the last year acquired:
Canon T1i (500D), with the kit 18-55, the 50mm 1.8, a Tamron 28-75, and a 70-200 f4 IS.

It really helps to get familiar with the equipment in order to know why some features would be desirable. For birding, you'll need a long lens, possibly a prime, such as 300mm, 400mm, 500mm or 600mm. A high burst rate is also helpful, because of this you might choose to shy away from the more expensive full frames, and instead look at crop bodies, perhaps something with a 1.3 or 1.6 crop factor.

There are some consumer lenses that have a fairly long reach but give very poor image quality, such as the Canon 75-300. (sells for less than $200 and is always in stock in Walmart and other box stores)

If I could afford another camera body I would seriously consider the Canon 7D. It has lots of features of the more expensive models, including HD video, and is very reasonable around $1600 (no lens).
In the sub $1000 range, the T2i is a contender, though like with any DSLR you won't get the needed range for wildlife photos without also purchasing a longer lens.

Sorry I'm mostly just familiar with the Canon system and not much else. One thing for sure though, do your research (like you are obviously) and don't just buy the shiny thing in the store)

Also, you won't ruin your camera by attaching crummy parts, you'll just get crummy pictures.


Philosofickle: Did you get that new 18-200 put out by Tamron? What sort of photos has it been good with so far?

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Kwea
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From what I understand, the problem with the attachments for the Kodak Z710 is that when the camera was designed it was not meant to have any attachable lenses. They are all add ons after market, and the extra weight of the attachment is too much for the frame to bear over time.

Then again, the guy who told me this worked in a camera shop, and was probably on commission. [Big Grin]

Pegasus, I had heard good things about the Cannon Rebels, but I appreciate your feedback on the models you have used. I am doing research on it now so that when the time comes to actually BUY one I won't be ignorant about what type of features and functions I should be looking for, and so that I will have a realistic view of costs.

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Shigosei
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Kwea, I have a Canon Rebel XT. I'm quite happy with it, although it lacks certain features such as video. As it turns out, the least expensive DSLR from Canon is currently the Rebel XS (the XT is no longer being made), and it looks to have either equivalent or better specs than the XT. The XS uses secure digital memory instead of the XT's compact flash, but I'm not sure if one is definitely better than the other. One downside is that the XS does not shoot video.

Given your price range, you might consider buying an entry-level Canon XS or Nikon D3000 and spending the rest of your camera budget on lenses.

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The White Whale
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While we're on the topic, I'm looking for a decent $200 - $300 point and shoot camera. I'm doing some traveling and am being much more social in general, and I'd like to capture some of these things with a camera.

I want one that'll fit in a pocket, or a backpack, so that I can carry it wherever I go. But I know that a lot of these point and shoots are fuzzy at full resolution, or crappy under low light. Does anyone have any recommendations?

I don't have huge standards, I just want a decent, easy to use but still somewhat flexible camera.

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Kwea
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Actually, almost all of the new point and shoots are great, and will work for what you want. I really like the Canon line, they have great resolution and are dependable, plus they fit in your pocket.

As much as I like my camera, the biggest downside is that it is too big to fit in a pocket. I am buying my wife a point and shoot for trips and family visits too.

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fugu13
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What you're really buying into, long term, is a lens collection. The camera bodies are cheap in comparison. I'd go with the cheapest Canon rebel to start with, for that reason.
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Pegasus
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My wife, who is the more knowledgeable one of us, recommends that you get:

Rebel T1i body ($600)
55-250 IS lens, also called the Nifty Two-Fifty ($255)
and the book "Understanding Exposure" by Brian Peterson (about $20)

The 50mm F1.8 is also a great lens that can be had for less than $100

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jebus202
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::flinch::

Cameras.

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Kwea
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I like the Rebel T1i, I was looking at one at Best Buy a few days ago, which is what made me start this thread. [Big Grin]
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Jake
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quote:
Originally posted by jebus202:
::flinch::

Cameras.

Yeah, it's been bugging me too.
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Lyrhawn
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If I can resurrect this thread for a moment, I'd like to borrow some of the local experts on cameras.

I want to get a new camera, but I'm skeptical of point and shoot cameras. Most of the pictures I take are nature shots. Skylines, trees, mountains, animals, that sort of thing. I would say that's 60-70% of my pictures. The rest is action shots of people, and low-light pictures. Point and shoot cameras that I've owned in the past have never really made me happy. Low-lights always come out wrong, and action shots almost always tend to come out fairly blurry unless it's the middle of the day on a bright sunny day.

I was thinking it'd just be easiest to buy a low end DSLR and I'd be good, but I'm questioning whether or not I really know how to use it well enough to justify buying it. I'd like to take a class to learn all the basics, but I don't know where I'd go to take one.

For the moment, the answer I seem to be landing on is just not buying a new camera. I have an almost decade old Sony Cybershot that I liked, but it's basically dead now. One of my favorite features on it was that it took a sort of rapid fire three or four shots with one press of the button. But the pictures, especially nature shots with things like running water, never came out as crisp as I would have liked, and I could never get the settings to a place that really made me happy.

Is there a camera for me out there? Or do I simply need to know more first?

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fugu13
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I don't think you'd need a low end DSLR at all. There are lots of "point and shoot" cameras nowadays that can do everything you need. To get the most of them, just like a DSLR, you'll need to learn how to adjust settings, of course.

I suggest checking out http://www.dpreview.com sometime, though it seems to be down at the moment.

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fugu13
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Ah, dpreview is back. In their camera feature search, if you reveal the advanced search filters, you can filter cameras by how many continuous drive fps the camera can take, for instance, as that seems to be one of your important criteria.

Picking one that I have no special knowledge of, but that seems to handily meet all your criteria (by a large amount, it's probably more camera than you need, though it isn't that much more expensive than what you'll likely spend to get a camera both meeting your requirements and having good quality), this recent camera would be great for you, for instance: http://www.dpreview.com/products/canon/compacts/canon_sx40hs

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Hobbes
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If you're going to spend a lot of time taking pictures then I think you should spring for the DSLR. It's more fun, more versatile and allows much greater potential for what you can do and the quality of what you get. That said, unless you know you'll spending enough time to justify the expense you probably can satisfy your basic needs with a point and shoot and save hundreds of dollars. I have the Cannon Rebel t2i which I think is great, and it allows me a lot of flexibility (including a super wide, 10mm lens I picked up recently [Cool] ). However, I go out at least three times a week to shoot not to mention trying to spend vacations hiking and taking photos. For me it's certainly worth it to pay money for the camera and lenses. Of course you don't know how much you'll use it until you get it, and buying low-end stuff will make you want to use it less.

How often do you think you'd go out shooting? How important is that extra cash to you?

A lot of what you're talking about can be dealt with or enhanced by changing the settings on your camera. These days just about every point and shoot will let you play with all the basic settings a DSLR would. It's just more of a pain to do it (they're hidden under menus and such). If you're just looking to get a better DoF, or play around with the color balance then stick with the p-and-s. If you're thinking it's time to make a real quality jump and start some experimenting then take the leap.

If you do go for a DSLR I'd recommend a low-end Cannon or Nikon. I'm sure other brands are good too, but if you get into it you'll want to start buying lenses, and those two have good lenses made for them for just about every situation you could want. That's simply not the case for other brands which aren't popular enough to be able to support such a wide assortment of glass. Both will normally come bundled with a 18-55mm zoom lens, and though some people like to talk smack about them, I think those kit lenses are pretty good. You can upgrade camera bodies if you need to and still keep the lenses (until you buy those professional 35mm sensor cameras, but now you're talking about several thousand dollars for the camera alone).

If you're more specific maybe I could give some more advice... In the mean time here's the photos I've gotten with my DSLR (because why not? [Big Grin] ).

Hobbes [Smile]

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Lyrhawn
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Fugu -
Thanks. I didn't realize there was that much of a high end point and shoot market, but yeah, looking at reviews and specs for this, it looks like it does do everything I need, and it would be much better to learn how to use the settings for this before I even think about investing serious money in a more expensive camera.

It looks like it's closer to the price range I was aiming for as well. I know DSLRs are expensive, but I was still sort of hoping and praying I'd be able to get something in the $350-$400 range, and it looks like that Canon, at the very least, might be able to be had for the high end of that range if I can spot a good deal. But there appear to be similar slightly less good cameras that fall right in my range now that I'm out of the more expensive DSLR territory.

From a little bit of reading, this looks like it solves one of the other problems I was always having with my old Sony Cybershot. I could never figure out why some images always appeared so far away in some of my pictures. I mean if I'm trying to take a picture of the moon and it's big and bright to the naked eye, taking a picture with my old camera always made it seem like it was even further away. I never figured it was just the crappy zoom, because the subject was already so clear to the naked eye.

I clearly need to do some more reading, but I think you're right that I don't need a DSLR. I need to explore better point and shoots.

Thanks. Any further advice anyone wants to throw out I'll gladly take, but this points me in the right direction I think.

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Lyrhawn
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Hobbes -

Budget is a major concern for me. I'll probably be using most of my tax return in a couple months to finance this purchase, and there are a lot of things I probably SHOULD be spending it on instead, so the less I spend the more I can justify it to myself. Plus, every extra dollar I spend on the camera is fewer dollars I have to actually go anywhere to see the things I want to shoot.

At the moment I don't spend much time at all because my old camera is dead. When it actually worked, I used it maybe one a week on average, and it never left my side on vacations or simple walks around town. I expect that to change once I buy this new camera. I can't tell you how many times I'm out walking around, especially this past fall, where I wished I had any camera at all with me, let alone a really good one. Especially now, being in a new area, I'd like to get out and photoexplore.

I simply don't and won't have the money for lenses, not after taking even a quick look at how much they cost. I realize that's a major draw to DSLRs, but there's no way I could afford several hundred dollars for newer and better lenses, not for a few years until I actually have the money to devote to this as a more serious hobby. I want something that takes better pictures with more options than those little pocket cameras, but won't break the bank while I learn the ins and outs of the adjustable settings.

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fugu13
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The Ricoh CX6 that was also just announced (and should be out in a couple of months) looks about perfect at your price point (a bit cheaper than the one above, though the actual price is not announced yet, that's just based on previous models in the line). It's got a good optical zoom, very fast autofocus, 5 fps continuous drive, and so forth. It also has a nifty feature fairly unique to Ricoh's among point and shoot cameras: timelapse recording.
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Lyrhawn
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I like the look of the Canon you linked me to, and the Panasonic FZ-150. I have to say, I wanted something with an impressive zoom, but the Canon, and even the Panasonic, are really impressive. Watching some of the video of it zooming in makes me feel like I'm buying a telescope with a camera attached to it. Opens up a lot of options for picture taking, though I imagine the quality suffers a bit at the higher end. Most of the reviews I've been reading takes it down to these two cameras, and it seems the Canon only really "wins" in the zoom department, though a 24x optical zoom on the Panasonic is still pretty impressive.

I have to wait a few months still, since I'm planning to use tax return money to pay for it, but I think I'm going to be more than able to hit my price point and have more than enough camera to keep me busy for a few years.

The next step is to hit a Best Buy or something and actually play with the cameras, since it's not all about the specs.

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Pegasus
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Couple of things to bear in mind...

The zoom capability is generaly at the opposite end of the spectrum from low-light capability, as the more zoomed in you are, the more light is required for the shot.

Most landscapes are shot with a wide angle (like 8-13mm or so) opposite of what you would consider "zoomed in".

If you get a dslr, pick up a 50mm f1.8 lens for about $100. It will work way better for low light photos than any kit lens will. The lower the f-stop ability, the more light it will let in.

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Lyrhawn
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I'll keep that in mind, but I don't think it'll be a problem. Most of my nature shots are during the day. Most of my low-light shooting is indoors or around campfires of people, that sort of thing.

I am curious though, what sort of settings or camera would be best to capture star fields at night? Now that I live nearer to the boonies, there are a lot of great star watching places around here, and I thought it might be neat to get a picture on a particularly clear night, but I don't know how special a camera I'd need actually get a detailed star-filled sky.

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fugu13
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It definitely isn't all about specs. Luckily, dpreview is a great community, with many thoughtful and informed users who are good at explaining why they think what they do about a camera. Check out the user and site reviews; they'll let you assess whether a camera is right for you. For the most recent cameras, either rely on the announced specs combined with the most recent model in the same line's reviews, or wait for reviews to appear.
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Pegasus
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I haven't done much night sky shooting but I can say that the camera has to stay absolutely still. A good tripod at the least, and a remote shutter release is helpful since even pressing the button causes shake.

Some cameras have a "bulb" setting for the shutter speed that lets you keep it open as long as you need. I use it for fireworks photos which usually need anywhere from 3 to 6 second exposures. A night sky may need 30 seconds or even several minutes.

The book I mentioned previously is invaluable for learning how the manual settings affect the photo.

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Lyrhawn
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So I'm between the two cameras identified earlier, the Canon Powershot SX40HS and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150.

I thought about going with a somewhat simpler, cheaper mid-range point and shoot but I'd really like to learn how to get the most out of these high end cameras without going all the way into a DSLR. So I'm set on one of the two.

Concerns:

It seems like reviews universally think the Panasonic is the better camera, and the only real advantage the Canon has is its better zoom. While I like the bigger zoom on the Canon, the Panasonic is still impressive.

One of the big advantages on the Panasonic is that it shoots RAW/JPEG simultaneously, but I wonder how useful this really is to me. I've been looking at photo editing software like Lightroom and it looks pretty neat, but is it really worth it to get a camera that shoots RAW files, and is post production satisfying enough and easy enough to figure out? And for that matter, can that type of program be used on JPEGs that have already been processed? To what degree do you guys use photo software and how satisfied would you be without it?

I've never used it before, but from what looking I've done in the past couple weeks, I have to say it looks pretty damned cool.

The Canon is also $100 cheaper than the Panasonic. I think a low-end Rebel, on sale, is actually about as expensive as the Panasonic. So I'd like to adhere more closely to my original $400 price limit. But if I'm spending this much, on a camera I expect to last me for several years, I'd like to get it right the first time and not wish I'd spent a little more to be really satisfied.

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TomDavidson
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If you're looking to spend $400, get an early micro-4/3 camera, like the Panasonic GF1 or Olympus PL1. If you're seriously interested in night sky shooting, look at the Sony NEX5.
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Hobbes
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A lot of this depends entirely on your planned use. Some photographers just shoot photos so they'll have something to edit later. Some (me) can't stand messing with anything after they close the shutter. You wont really know which one you are until you get into it, so it's nice to have options. If you are going to do much post-processing RAW is a big step up over JPEG. I can't speak to any program specifically but almost all programs I've seen that can handle RAW can handle JPEGs, there's just less there to manipulate so what you do causes a bigger degradation in quality and tends to look more obvious. Sometimes the difference is negligible but if you're going to do it for every photo RAW is a good option.

I wouldn't worry about zoom. It's something easy to compare between cameras a lot of people can get distracted by it, but high zooms really don't come into play that much. If you plan on shooting a lot of wildlife you'll need it, if it's portrait or landscapes telephoto wont be applicable. Of course if you'd like a sizable range it's time to start talking DSLR again. Another thing to remember: the larger the zoom range (not the telephoto value, the range from widest to tightest zoom) the lower the quality the lens can produce. That's why the absolute best glass tends to be prime (non-zoom).

I'm actually thinking about buying some software, despite my aversion to post-processing. I know all DSLRS, and I'd guess bridge cameras like these, come with their own manufacture's software and that's what I've been using up to this point. It lets you mess around with various settings (brightness, contrast, white balance, etc...) but fine-point stuff isn't there and all changes impact the whole image (no selecting parts of it to change). That may be enough at first, and in fact I'd recommend it. There's a glut of photographers on the web right now that never learned how to take decent shots in camera since they figure they can just fix them on the computer. It's a good idea to learn the first before relying on the second.

Hobbes [Smile]

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Hobbes
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quote:
I am curious though, what sort of settings or camera would be best to capture star fields at night? Now that I live nearer to the boonies, there are a lot of great star watching places around here, and I thought it might be neat to get a picture on a particularly clear night, but I don't know how special a camera I'd need actually get a detailed star-filled sky.
I don't know how I missed this. This is basically all I do now. (Mostly since the days are short enough I'm at work during all daylight hours). If you just want the stars that's one thing, but I'll warn you: that gets boring fast. The best night shots aren't true astronomy shots, they include foreground.

If you do just want the stars, then the number one thing to look for is the "speed" of the lens. Look for "fast" lenses. That refers to how wide an aperture they have. My fastest is a f/1.8 (the smaller the number the faster the lens), I'd recommend no slower than a 3.5, and ideally something below 3 would be good. Point and shoot cameras actually tend to be pretty fast since they shot on such a small sensor it's easier to have a comparatively wide open aperture. The quality suffers of course, but the speed is good.

You do need a tripod (and a way to connect the camera, but I can't imagine a bridge camera wouldn't come with a mounting insert), there's no way you'll be able to shoot fastest enough to hand hold it (and pro-tip: when the camera is on the tripod don't use image stabilization). Whatever night shots you get you'll want to check out the camera's ratings for higher ISO settings (ISO refers, in general, to the gain on your camera's sensor). Some get really grainy or distorted, some do quite well.

I actually have a post here on Hatrack on night photography: here.

Hobbes [Smile]

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xtownaga
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You can use Lightroom with jpg files. It's reasonably easy to pick up, and can be veyr useful (Lightroom also acts as a photo library management tool. If you're going to get into photography you should definitely get something and not just manage it yourself in the operating system, but there are free options available). A real dedicated photo editing program like Photoshop or the (free, open source, and nearly as powerful) GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) will have a steeper learning curve, but there are tons of resources to teach you how to use the programs if you want to spend the time to do it.

Postprocessing is something you should learn how to do eventually if you get into photography fairly seriously, but it shouldn't be the first thing. I'd generally suggest you focus on learning how to take pictures well first, then learn how to fix your mistakes in post after you stop making many.

On the subject of raw files, the big difference is that they store a ton more brightness/light data, which gives you a lot of control in post processing in regard to changing white balance, and correcting underexposed images. I shoot in RAW, and it certainly has some real advantages, but not having it available won't stop you from taking great pictures or anything.

Also, regarding postprocessing software, if you're a student (or know someone who is), Adobe has amazing student discounts on most of their software (to the tune of 80% off). Their verification system is a bit of a pain to use, but it's very worth it if money is remotely an issue (and you qualify).

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Lyrhawn
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After months of hemming and hawing, I decided on the Canon SX40HS. And I think I'm going to take a stab at Lightroom 3 at some point in the coming months. I won't have RAW files to edit, but I can get a hang of the controls with Canon's JPEGs and learn how to use it all, and then at some point down the road, maybe when I upgrade to an SLR, I can make that jump.

Hopefully after months of indecision, I will be happy with the result.

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xtownaga
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It's worth noting that Lightroom 4 is currently in beta (you can get more info here http://blogs.adobe.com/lightroomjournal/2012/01/lr4betanowavailable.html ). The beta seems very functional to me, but I haven't used it extensively. It is free, and it should work until Lightroom 4 actually comes out, so you may want to use it instead of buying 3. On the other hand, you may be able to get 3 at a discount at the moment since 4 is coming soon. Lightroom 4 has some new features that are nice, but nothing earth shatteringly significant.
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Lyrhawn
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I was going to buy the student version, which is significantly cheaper, but I'm also not in a rush, so I have no real problem waiting.
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Lyrhawn
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And on the bright side, Amazon just lowered the price on my camera by $130. [Smile] Pretty crazy to get a five month old bridge superzoom for the same price as a middle of the road compact point and shoot, but it's fine with me. I'm quite pleased.

Now I just need to get the actual camera in my hands!

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