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Beginner's Guide to Digital Photography

So you're thinking about getting into digital photography?

The benefits of going digital are widely publicized, but they don't tell the whole picture. Not only are there significant benefits, there are also a number of difficulties that may not be immediately obvious.

Note: The following article is under development, so changes will be made soon.

Is Digital Right for You?

Let's start by looking at the difficulties & frustrations associated with adopting a digital workflow. The following assumes a comparison between a film workflow and a digital workflow, with comparable final print quality. Sorted in order from most difficult to least difficult.

  1. Usually end up with no physical photo album
  2. Nearly always involves time on the computer (archiving, sorting, etc.) unless "PictBridge only"
  3. Potential for instantaneous destruction of your "digital album" if not careful
  4. Cost/hassle of printing (not as cheap as film)
  5. Adequate computer system requirement (potentially requiring a new one / upgrade)
  6. Reliance on battery life of camera and potentially traveling laptop / storage
  7. Cost of camera

By far the most difficult of these issues is the amount of involvement on the computer end (the archiving, sorting) and often the lack of a physical album. The most common justification used by those who are going to make the transition to digital photography is: "I will save so much money by only printing what turned out". Although this sounds reasonable, it is often not the case! In fact, most people who start in digital photography don't even print any photos at all!

Digital SLR vs Point and Shoot

One of the most important decisions you will have to make is one the style of camera. The most important differentiator between cameras is whether or not it has a detachable lens (also known as a SLR or Single Lens Reflex). The cameras fall into either the SLR category or are labeled a "Point and Shoot" (now on referred to as "P&S"). SLRs will always be more expensive than a comparably-featured P&S. These categorization applies to both film and digital.

The easiest way to identify a SLR versus a P&S is generally the size and the appearance of the lens. An SLR will have a focus ring that allows the photographer to adjust the focus on the barrel of the lens. A P&S lens will generally be much smaller and will not have such a ring. SLRs are also usually much bulkier than the P&S, as the P&S style aims for a form factor designed with your pocket in mind.

A couple of years ago, digital SLRs were priced out of reach for all but the most affluent photographers. Even the Canon D30, which only boasted 3 megapixels, had an initial suggested retail price of US$3500. It was hard to accept that even after investing so much money into a camera, one wasn't even approaching the ability to reproduce the same level of detail or quality as could be achieved with a $100 film-based SLR. So why would people buy it? Obviously the merits of "digital" are significant.

Deciding between digital SLR vs Point and Shoot types comes down to your expected uses and how far you want to pursue photography.

With the proliferation of digital cameras over the last couple years, the range of point and shoot models has broadened considerably. While the early digital point and shoot cameras were fairly simple and of relatively poor quality (versus their film-based equivalents), a new breed of point and shoot digital cameras has surfaced: the prosumer point and shoot. The term prosumer is a blend of consumer and professional, indicating that it is designed with the advanced amateur in mind.

It is becoming more difficult to categorize digital cameras these days, but for the purposes of this article, here are the rough distinguishing characteristics:

  • Digital Consumer Point and Shoot
    Entry-level digital camera. Can be ultra-compact form factor. Lacks manual exposure, manual focus, optical zoom less than 4x. Very slow autofocus and significant shutter-lag. ISO sensitivity up to ~ 400.
  • Digital Prosumer Point and Shoot
    Mid to high-end for a point and shoot. Might offer manual metering modes, electronic manual focus. Some offer super-zooms up to 10x optical with surprisingly good optical characteristics. Some models have extremely little shutter lag, approaching those of SLRs. ISO sensitivity up to 800 - 1600, although noise from the small sensor elements causes higher ISOs to be less useful.
  • Digital SLR
    Prosumer to professional with interchangeable lenses. Always offers manual exposure, real manual focus. Lenses must be purchased seperately, but have the ability to cover a much wider visual range and quality than the "super-zooms" built-in to the prosumer point and shoot cameras. Useable ISO sensitivity up to 800 - 3200.

A brief summary of the differences between a consumer digital point & shoot and a digital SLR camera is shown in the table below. Note that these points are generalizations, and that entries marked with a star () indicate that cameras exist that have notable exceptions to what is stated here.

NOTE: The Digital Prosumer Point and Shoot cameras will exhibit characteristics that fall between the two ends of the spectrum.

Digital Consumer
Point & Shoot
Cheap Expensive
Compact, light Bulky, heavy, multiple lenses take up space
Expansion poor

Expansion virtually unlimited (including 3rd party manufacturers)

Lens quality poor Lens quality unlimited
Manual focus difficult/slow Manual focus easy/fast
Realtime electronic viewfinder Optical viewfinder (No realtime exposure preview)
Total Shutter lag poor Total Shutter lag minimal
Compatibility of lens/accessories poor Compatibility of lens/accessories great
Small sensor (More noise) Larger sensor (Less noise)


Reader's Comments:

Please leave your comments or suggestions below!
 son going to college to play basketball and want every moment. budget $1000 need a camera and lens for indoor college basketball pictures taken from stands. unforunately a beginner and need more help than most.
 Hi, this site is very informative.

I have had several p&s digital cameras the last being a Canon g7 which I like very much. I am debating upgrading to a dslr but am concerned about getting something too complicated for me. I use my camera ALL the time, mostly pictures of my children which I edit with Adobe photoshop elements and I frame them as art. I have a friend who has the Canon EOS 30D and she loves it. I am not sure about spending that much but have looked at the Canon Rebel XTI. What accessories are absolutely neccessary with this particular model? Thanks in advance!!!
 The nice thing about almost all digital SLRs is that they have an EASY mode which makes the camera act somewhat like a point & shoot. Usually this mode is indicated by a green rectangle on the control dial. As you get familiar with the camera, you will start to use your own focus points, manual focus, and then some of the manual modes.

I doubt that you will find any real limitations with the XTI -- it's a fantastic camera. I think the biggest issue many find with going to a dSLR from a point & shoot is that they give up the ability to put the camera away in a pocket, or keep it with them at all times. So, I tend to suggest having one of each: a point and shoot for everyday outings / social activities, and then a digital SLR for opportunities when you have more time to take photos seriously.

If you are already framing pictures, then I'd strongly suggest you get out and buy that XTI already! The creative potential you'll get with an SLR is so much greater than you can get with a P&S.

As for accessories: the lens is going to be one of the more important choices, but stick with the "kit" lens (18-55) for a while first, to see what you might want to get next. It's a great wide-angle lens for the money. You will definitely want to get an extra battery (you could even get cheap knock-offs on EBay, but not everybody is keen to do this), and a suitably-fast 2GB memory card. Get a name-brand card (Lexar, Sandisk, etc.) at the upper-end of the price-range as this is likely to give you a card that is very fast, which reduces the time spent waiting for photos to import to the computer at the end of the day, as well as maximizing the rate at which you can take photos.

Have fun!
 I recently purchased a Canon XTI and invested in several lenses. My daughter plays a lot of basketball and I would like to know what is the best lens and settings for taking indoor basketball photographs. I have a tripod and have used it, but the pictures are all still very blurry.
 Doing indoor sports shots from a distance is probably one of the more demanding situations to photograph. Indoor sports venues are often quite dark, and this causes your camera to select a slower shutter speed to still get a decent exposure. Of course if the shutter speed is too slow, player movement will cause blurring.

To avoid blurry shots, you may need to use a combination of high ISO (perhaps ISO 800 or greater) and a "faster" lens shot wide open. A faster lens will have a larger maximum aperture, allowing the most light into the camera (e.g. f2.8 is great, f4.0 is good, f5.6+ may not be suitable). Depending on how far away you are, you might find that a 85/1.8, 100/2.8 or even a 50/1.8 could be adequate. I'm suggesting prime lenses as these will be cheaper than trying to find a fast zoom (e.g. 70-200/2.8).
 I have owned a Kodak Easyshare for a couple of years. It has been great for those outdoor, in the front yard shots, but now we are needing to take indoor shots of the kids inside a basketball gym. My Easyshare just doesn't do the job and I need to upgrade. I guess the reason I have enjoyed my Easyshare is because is because I just point and shoot. I don't understand much about shutter speed, apertures, lens speed, etc...

I have been researching, but it is all so confusing!! I would like to know what kind of SLR camera would do the trick for taking those action shots inside the gym then be able to move outside to take the normal family outing pics.
 If you are trying to take indoor shots within the gym, then you will need a better lens / camera combination than you're getting with your point and shoot. Overly simplified, the small lens of the point and shoot doesn't let enough light get to the small sensor so you end up with poor image quality.

A digital SLR (such as the entry-level Canon and Nikon models -- just about any recent model within the last 2 years will do you very well) will be a huge improvement in this respect. You can set the ISO (a measure of how sensitive the camera will be) higher and still get reasonable photos.

You will need to purchase a zoom lens, and this is one area where you may later want to upgrade to a better lens if your budget allows for it. 70-200 is a pretty typical range for such a zoom. For around $200, you'll have a lens that will let you capture many of these shots in the gym. Later on, the limitations of the lens may become more apparent and you might want to upgrade to a faster version (which will let you take non-blurry shots in darker environments).
2007-04-08Ross Hawkins
 Hi - I own a Nikon D50, which is fantastic, I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in photography (it has taken some of the best 'amature' photos I have seen). However, I want to expand my lens collection and was wondering what to do next and whether you have any advice to the type of lenses I should be looking at, having one which could handle Macro would be good, but I would really welcome your thoughts.
2007-03-14Aaron B.C.
  Hello, I'm a complete 'newbie' to photography in general and was looking for some advice. I’m in high-school and was going to take a photography class but my schedule got messed up and I didn't get into it, at least not yet. The problem is I own a Digital Rebel XT now and really don’t know how to use it. I’ve been learning just by trial-and-error, and have found it pretty tough, not being able to take advantage of or even knowing ¼ of all my cameras abilities. I have searched the net for some guides, which is how I found this, but am having increasing trouble understanding some of the lingo they use. I was wondering if there are any very good guides for beginners that could be suggested.

Also, I normally use my camera during hikes, nature photos and such, and was wondering if there were any items I should get with a now limited budget. I have the Rebel XT with the 18-55 lens that came with it and a 2GB memory card, one battery for the camera, a charger, and a cheap tri-pod. I am also having increasing difficulty with dirt on the lens, and can’t seem to be able to get rid of it, I think it may be on one of the mirrors in the body or something, so was wondering how I could fix that, if there were cleaning kits or something. Thanks for your time, hopefully I don’t sound like too much of an idiot, was really hoping that I would be halfway through the class by now.
 After weeks of having a friend show me how dSLRs work and explaining the fine points of photography, i decided to purchase a canon rebel XT (Eos 350d) with the kit lens. I am not quite sure what kind of compact flash (CF) card i need. I have read all about getting high speed ones, but how can you tell if it is high speed or not? I am also taking a trip to colorado this February and was wondering what sort of lens i will need to take pictures of all of the scenery. Mostly the mountains, but also any plants or wildlife i come upon. Will the kit lens make due for this or should i look into purchasing another?

This question/response on this page has helped quite a bit!

 Hi! I'm looking for a new digital camera. I've had a few in the past and really love the digital format which allows me to edit out small mistakes and crop photos before printing. However, my neices and nephew have recently gotten into sports and my current digital camera is FAILING miserably. It has no optical zoom and the lag is HORRID add that to the fact that is only support up to ISO 400 and indoor photos without flash take FOREVER to take and always come out too dark. The most difficult shots are my neices gymnastics compeitions. Several of the places she's competed do not let you use flash photography and we frequently find ourselves sitting at a distance from the action. While not a LONG distance, it's still to far for my non-zooming digicam. I got desperate and broke out my old film camera the last time because it had a zoom, but using 800 film, full zoom and flash the photos still looked horrid... although I caught the shots I wanted, you couldn't see them well at all.

I've got a feeling I'm pretty much going to have to go DSLR do accomplish what I want. Or possibly a GOOD higher end P&S. The two cameras I have been looking at mostly are the Canon Digital Rebel XT (available out of the box with a 18-55mm lens) and the Canon Powershot A710 IS. I haven't had an opportunity to "Play" with the Rebel since they have all had dead batteries and retailers around here are horrible at setting displays. The main reason the Powershot is even there is that I'm still trying to decide whethe ror not I NEED an SLR (I want one, but that's different) for this or if I can go with a P&S with a good zoom and be able to get good shots. However, looking at the lag figures, it's not looking promising that I won't just spend money on it and be ticked off when I'm still having to anticipate the good shots to get what I want. Should I bite the bullet and get the Rebel? And if I do, will it be able to do what I'm wanting? Worse case scenerio I'm taking pictures of a moving gymnast about 50 yards away with no flash. Will the out of box setup (18-55mm) allow at least a decent shot in this case? Or will I immediately have to buy a second lens?
 Your dilemna is a common one, but to be honest, I think the best solution for you is definitely to go for the dSLR. Your interest in shooting the indoor gymnastics competitions is extremely demanding on the photographer. Not only do you need a relatively fast shutter speed, minimal lag and distance but all without the use of a flash. Even with a dSLR, this is not the easiest environment to shoot in, but you will be far better off than with a digicam / point & shoot.

This is the type of event that photographers often buy a fast prime lens for, requiring a significant investment. A digicam's built-in lens will generally never suit this sort of application. In your case, if you are able to get close enough that 50mm is sufficient, then I would strongly recommend that you buy a Canon EF 50 f1.8. It is extremely cheap (~ $100), and it will give you excellent low light performance with very respectable sharpness.

The high-ISO modes of these newer dSLRs are actually quite useable, although you may still want to run them through some noise-reduction software afterwards.

Given your needs, I am sure that you will be much happier with the dSLR than the P&S. The kit lens 18-55 is almost always worth purchasing (or having bundled) if you don't plan on investing in many lenses, as it is a great value. But definitely buy/try the 50/1.8 as well. The only concern is whether 50mm will be long enough for where you'll sit in the audience. Over time you may decide to upgrade to a better lens, but it should be a decent start. Have fun!
2006-10-23thinking about this career
 im still in highschool, but i am intersted in this field of photography. so, if anyone has helpful ideas or suggestions, they will appreciated thanks a bunch!!
 First of all thanks for writing this web-page. It's so informative!

I'd like to get into Photography seriously and have no problems with learning / practising to eventually be able to take great photographs. At the moment I'm on a budget and I was wondering if you could reccommend a quality SLR for someone like me. I'm fairly familiar with both non-digital and digital P&S cameras already, and while I'd love a camera with minimum shutter lag and great optical zoom etc. on a budget I'm well aware of the concept of compromise.

Thanks in advance!

 Thanks! In all honesty, you will not go wrong with either Nikon or Canon's entry-level digital SLR. Canon's latest entry-level model, the Digital Rebel XTi is very impressive, albeit more expensive. You would be best served by getting a used 6-megapixel dSLR from either company ($300-400 is quite possible), and then put the money into your lens(es) instead.

If you are just venturing into the SLR world for the first time, then I'd suggest that you either buy a single super-zoom (with the intention that you are going to upgrade it later) or purchase a better quality wide angle zoom and later someday add a telephoto lens.

Some photographers who are new to SLR take a while to get used to changing lenses, and may be put off with the hassle. For these people, a super-zoom (e.g. 28-200 / 28-300) might be a better starting point, but the optical characteristics will become more apparent as you get more familiar with the equipment. At that time, you will want to sell the super-zoom (or keep it for a portable travel lens) and break up the wide focal length range across two or more lenses. Going this route, I would have to recommend you consider the well-rated wide-angle zoom lens from Canon: the Canon EF 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS. Of course, if you become more serious about it, you may eventually be looking into the 28-70 / 70-200 / 17-85 offerings.

As for shutter lag, all of these digital SLR cameras are going to have virtually no shutter lag when compared to the Point & Shoot digicams, and the differences will be fairly imperceptable unless you become serious about sports photography, etc.
 i started photography around a yr ago first with a very simple point and shoot film camera then i bought a nikon l4 with which i was able to capture some fairly good photographs. i didnt like some features specially the flash, colours captured in the shot were harsh no manual controls, focus, shots under low light were awful. It fell out of my hand on the beach and was destroyed by the sand and water. i borowed a sony cybershot F 707 from my uncle and started practicing manual controls. meanwhile i started studying articles on the internet and encarta about better photography.understood exposure focus iso shutter speeds etc. now i was looking a camera for my self i am not ready for an slr i feel.i felt that i could buy a sony dsc h5.But there i a problem, a photographer took pictures of my sisters engagement with canon eos 350d. the pictures were amazing, comparing the pics i took with my l4 with those which were taken by the canon slr.. i found one basic difference
lighting in some of the portraits there was no or very less flash on the background. the flash seems to illuminate the the person in the portrait and not the people/things behind. also that in some of his pictures the background were well illuminated. contary to these i felt that my camera seemed to illuminate every single inch in the hall.
secondly there was difference between the picture quality thats beacuse of the cameras obviously.
i wanted too understand the difference between lighting conditions i am sure that he didnt tilt the flash for the head bounce effect. i u dont mind i can send pictures taken by both cameras.
secondly would u recomend h5 or not. i dont like its competitors canonon powershot or the fz30/50. the basic concern was lighting and picture quality.pleas give me one simple yes or no that will my problem be solved with h5 or not.

also that i d like to understand whats slow sync(flash)

 I currently own an Olympus C-770 P&S:
4.2 MP, 10x zoom (38380mm equivalent)

I've noticed horrible lag when attempting to take pictures of surfers on the waves. Most likely a combination of the zoom, autofocus, shutter lag and the lack of contrast of the ocean. Not sure if there are settings I can mess with to improve this (tried sports mode, didnt help much) or if I have to go SLR at this point. I am looking for something with a similar zoom and feature set, but just faster. It appears to get the equivalent in SLR would be the 350D (about $600) and possibly the EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM (around $600). Any other options out there? S3 IS?
 I have upgraded from the Sony DSC-S85 P&S, I was very happy with this camera and plan to continue to use it. I was given a Canon 350D as a present by my wife and am so far happy with it. The kit lens is a bit limiting and would like to purchase a couple more lenses. I have been doing some research and all this has done is confuse me a bit. I am aware that my Canon will accept EF and EF-S lenses from Canon but what other companies make lenses for it. I have seen Sigma, Tamron and Quantaray make lenses that they claim fit my camera but am a bit apprehensive about compatability and quality. I have been leaning towards the Sigma due to price as well as reviews I have read. The Tamron appears next and the Quantaray the cheapest. I know you get what you pay for but I am on a tight budget and would like some advice on some good lenses to buy.

The Sony camera I have is a good camera and very rugged, it was dipped in the ocean two years ago for a couple of seconds without any damage and it still is working fine. Just lucky I guess
 i am a beginner in digital photography i just now got a kodak easyshare c530 i am really having alot of fun with i have a nephew that is 16 months i wouild like to get into the pictures with him using the self timer how high does the camera have to be to get a good shot or do i need a tripod also there is a button in back of my camera that says share what wouild that mean
 Congratulations Edie! You are going to love your new digital camera. When trying to take pictures with the self-timer, you are going to have to experiment a lot to determine where to place and aim the camera. If you have a tripod (and you can get micro-sized ones cheap) or have placed the camera on something stable, make sure that your nephew is sitting or standing still. You should be able to judge (with a the camera on the widest-angle zoom setting) where you will fit in the photo when you join the scene. This way you can make sure that you will both be in the shot. The most important thing, of course, is to make sure that your camera is on a stable place (or tripod) as I'm sure many people have accidentally taken action shots as the camera fell during the shot!

As for the Share button, it becomes active when you have a memory card with photos on it. It will give you the option of either printing or emailing a photo. This mode allows you to select photos to be later printed or emailed. The camera can also be plugged directly into a PictBridge compatible printer for instant photo printing. While I don't tend to use these sort of functions (as they are somewhat limited in options and flexibility), they may make things a lot easier for you.
 Just a note to photo buffs out is my passion. I tend to do more portraiture and such than anything and I sell photography for stock to several sites as well as work with models for shoots, weddings and other events. I can honestly say that there is nothing like shooting with a good old fashioned SLR (film) and a great lens or lenses. I am familiar with the digital set as well but find that I am still partial to film.

In my opinon, a good camera (be it an SLR or DSLR) is worth every penny just as a good lens with a low f-stop range is the same...worth every penny (if you are going to use it.) I do agree with your findings here and find your site to be quite helpful to photographers of all levels. You have to start somewhere and I was here years ago! Best of luck to all of you and thank you for the wonderful site. It always helps to go back to basics on occassion!
 Thanks and good point! Digital has not [yet] supplanted film (especially in larger format / advertising work), but for the general consumer the barrier to entry into creative photography has been reduced tremendously. People's photography (composition) skills have probably accelerated much faster, thanks to the instant feedback of the display. But at the same time, it has spawned a huge number of users who never took the time to learn the theory behind the numbers, and hence an over-reliance on the display for confirmation. So, I really do see value in starting with either a film SLR or a dSLR without the display enabled, so that one gets into a habit of learning to anticipate exposure, depth of field, etc. Plus, shooting with film is much more likely to give you a real photo-album at the end of the day! :)
 Hello... I am new to the world of digital photography. Due to financial restrictions I broke in using a point and shoot camera. It seems like a great way to start, but I am already hoping I can upgrade to an SLR soon. However, I decided to write this comment because I am experiencing amazing photo quality. With my Canon Power Shot A620 I am taking better pictures than I thought was in my capacity! The only reason I would try out the SLR is for more creative control. This is not a big deal for the majority of casual photographers, but I am already seeing the limitations in my p&s.

In the debate of SLR versus point and shoot, I will recommend my friends start with a P & S until they feel comfortable, since my photos are exceeding my expectations. Of course that means I will have to set my standards higher and start filling that piggy bank with SLR money ;)
 Mel -- excellent point! I would strongly recommend that most people start with a Point & Shoot camera, unless they are coming directly from a film SLR background. The versatility and capability of these new digicams is easy to underestimate, and image quality is improving as each new generation is released.
2006-06-01Dallas Totra
 I currently have the Canon Powershot Pro 1. I enjoy all the features it has, but i am thinking of upgrading to an SLR, probably the CANON 350D.
As a beginner what lenses would you recommend? Maybe 2 to cover a good focal range?

Dallas Totra
 I would have to recommend that you definitely start with the kit lens, the EF-S 18-55 f3.5-5.6, as it is actually quite a respectable lens for the price, and you'll need the wide end. If you had more money to spend, then the EF-S 17-85 f4-5.6 IS USM gives you image stabilization and a little more reach.

If you haven't really made your mind up as to your favorite focal lengths, then I think you should consider the EF 75-300 f/4-5.6 III USM. It gives you a huge range, allowing for some wildlife photography at the long end and portraits at the short end. You sacrifice some quality in a lens like this, but it's better to start with the range and then determine later what focal lengths you really need, and get a higher-quality lens with less reach, based around the length you want.

Don't be too worried about small missing ranges in your lineup (eg. 55-75), as you can usually use for feet to make up for it! Enjoy!
 I'm thinking of buying panasonic lumix dmc-fz7 after reading the camera reviews and as it is within my budget too. However, being a Canon user, I hardly find panasonic as a popular choice of digital camera users. Do you think I'm making a wise decision to get a panasonic camera?
 While you might already have Canon gear, it is not nearly as important as if you were talking about a digital SLR camera. With Point & Shoot cameras, there are fewer accessories that you can transfer between models (even in the same brand), so it is less of a reason to remain loyal.

That being said, the Panasonic looks like a reasonable option, however, I would strongly suggest that you consider its relatively high levels of noise, which could be a problem for many people. While it may not show up as much in prints, you could find it to be distracting on-screen with ISOs over 100.
2006-04-24Mark Thomas
 Fantastic page. It's really useful to have this kind of information available. Thank you. I've just upgraded from a digital P&S to a Canon EOS 350 myself and I love it. The only problem I'm encountering is that I'm used to figuring zoom in terms of 5X or 3X which means I'm completely lost when people start talking about 100mm lenses. I'd love to see a table, somewhere, that can translate a - for example - Canon EF 90-300mm lens into its zoom equivalent. Is it a 5X? A 10X?

These complexities are, I think, one of the things that stops people getting more involved with photography.

Anyway, thank you again for all the information.
 Thankfully, it is easy to determine your zoom range. It is just the long focal length divided by the short focal length (ie. 300/90 = 3.3x). There are very few 10x lenses out there, but the Canon EF 28-300 L would be one of them.
 For the past few years I've been using a Canon S40 and was fine with the pics, but at times frustrated with the zoom, speed and low lighting limits. I was thinking of getting a digital slr and looking into either the Canon Rebel XT or 20D. However dslr are pretty pricey just to get started. While shopping, I've also noticed the Canon S2 IS, which is much cheaper. I'm looking to take quality pictures of my kids growing up (indoors, sports, recitals). Any comments would be appreciated.


 I am considering the purchase of a new digital camera. Looking at the ndw Panasonic DMC FZ7 or the Konica-Minolta 5D. One is prosumer and the other SLR. I have several Minolta lenses from old 35's. Which would be the best way to go? Any problems buying a camera from a company no longer making cameras (KM) or getting a brand new model?

 Hi. We just purchased a Nikon D50 body, and are now deciding on lenses. We are debating between the 18-200 Tamron or the 28-300 Quantaray. We have small children and will use the camera for every day shots, family events, sports and travel. We would prefer one primary lense to remain on the camera the majority of the time (and will purchase additional lenses for lesser use as needed). Based on quality and functionality, do you have a recommendation for which of these these 2 lenses should be our primary lense? Also, do you have any suggestions regarding additional lenses?

As a novice to DSLR, this web site has been great to read. Thanks for your help!
 Congrats on the new dSLR purchase -- you're going to love it! If you had to take your pick between the two lenses you selected, I would certainly go for the Tamron 18-200.

Your D50 has a 1.5x focal length multiplier, meaning that your 18-200 is really equivalent to a 27-300mm. The Quantaray is equivalent to a 42-450mm. If you plan to get a general-purpose lens that you can use for most occasions, I would opt for the Tamron -- it has a much more useful focal length than the Quantaray. For most dSLRs, you lose out on the wide-angle range, and hence the minimum focal length is a very important consideration.

The short end of the Tamron (27mm equivalent) is adequate for wide-angle / indoor / group shots, while the Quantaray's wide-end is not very suitable. At the telephoto end, the Tamron's 300mm equivalent is sufficient for most needs, unless wildlife photos made up a significant portion of what you shoot. This comparison was based primarily on the focal length issue -- but you will also find that the Tamron choice is more likely to offer a better overall quality and compatibility with your dSLR.

Starting with a super-zoom like the 18-200 will be a great way to get going with your new dSLR. The huge range of the 18-200 comes at a cost in both quality and speed. Over time you will begin to recognize these limitations, and then you'll be in a better position to justify getting additional lenses. After you've spent considerable time with that lens, you will probably have a better idea of what focal length and shooting environments (ie. indoor, low light, macro, portrait, sports, etc.) you prefer. Those preferences will help dictate the next lens upgrade. Enjoy!!
2006-01-22Daniel Spielman

Can you recommend a basic Digital SLR camera for someone on a small budget?

 For the best budget digital SLR out there, I would have to recommend a used Canon Digital Rebel (300D). They are very cheap (now that the upgraded model, the Digital Rebel XT (350D) is out). There are very few things that the average person will find limiting about this particular model. (Note that a used Nikon D50 will probably be a similarly good deal). Get one of these, experiment and over time you'll be in a better position to identify what additional features you really need in your dSLR, if any. Enjoy!
 If you want to stay with Canon, then I would have to recommend you consider the Canon SD400 (or SD450). It will be under your budget, provide 3x optical zoom, a number of modes that will allow you to be more creative in the future and an overall size that will make it easier to have with you on-hand more often.

The Canon Powershot Pro 1 sounds great in every way except I think I would prefer an optical viewfinder. Can you think of a camera similiar to the Pro 1, but with an optical viewfinder ?


Originally, I had thought that the Pro 1 might have had both an optical viewfinder as well as a swivel-out electronic viewfinder / LCD! But upon closer inspection I see that it doesn't have an optical viewfinder. There are very few Point & Shoot cameras that offer both options -- most of them have an optical viewfinder that is not through the lens and therefore you end up with some parallax problems (what you see through the viewfinder isn't quite what you'll get in the resulting image).


I want to purchase a reasonably good digital camera. By that, I mean, pay from $200-500. My main consideration is VERY little shutter lag. I'd also like one that has a good, optical zoom. I'm new to digital, so easy of use would be nice. I want nice pictures, not headaches.

Any suggestions?

Thanks, George


UPDATEI have now created a page that shows shutter lag of various cameras!

George -- There are many cameras with 3-4x optical zoom in that price range, but very few of them will have little shutter lag. The shutter lag amounts are rarely every advertised for Point & Shoot cameras. Thus, it's hard to make recommendations without having tested out numerous models. Make sure that you consider the Total Lag (which includes the autofocus delay), and not just Shutter Lag, in your comparisons. At the top end of your price range, there are a few models which show decent total lag characteristics (eg. Minolta DiMAGE Z3 and Fuji FinePix E550), and there are probably many others with similar performance. I would probably search for your ideal camera ignoring shutter lag for now, and instead base it on the rest of the feature set you need (eg. ISO / noise quality, frame rate, battery life, etc.) and ease of use. Then, out of that set, you will probably have to try your final picks hands-on (in a store) to evaluate their lag characteristics.

That being said, I plan on creating a shutter lag performance page here, which might help collect together the various experiments people have done to measure different models.


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