DSLR Buying Guide

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While I’m at it, the new Fuji F10 and the Canon SD550 have been great recommendations for snapshot cameras. The F10 in particular because it is so fast and doesn’t need a flash in most situations. Even though these are just 6Mp or so, the lense begins to make a real difference with these small cameras. So onto a final replacement for my Nikon N80 35mm camera. The resolutions are such that it is time to get one. Here are the sources:

* “DPReview”:http://dpreview.com. They have really detailed reviews and very indepth technically.
* “DigitalCameraInfo”:http://digitalcamerainfo.com. This is the sister site to camcorderinfo
* “DCResource”:http://dcresource.com. Another less popular site.
* “Popular Photography”:http://popphoto.com. This is the big print publication

As usual, I’ll divide the things to get into three categories. Sub $1000 for the serious amateur, $1-2K for the major gadget geek or budding professional and then of course the $3K monster for the true professional or wannabe. In this category, although others play, the leaders seem to be Canon (#1 IMHO right now) and then Nikon. The net recommendation, is that from a pure resolution point of view, getting the Canon 350D Digital Rebel XT at $800 list is the price/performance leader, you really don’t get significantly better quaity until you buy the $3,300 list Canon 5D because it is full frame.

If you are a Nikon lover, best I can say is it is either the 200D, or wait for the full frame Nikon coming up to be competitive with the 5D. It’s pretty clear why Canon has 50% of the market and Nikon only 35% right now. Canon is doing a great job with its cameras. It makes its own imagers and it shows.

h2. Sub $1000

In this category, the Canon Rebel XT rules. Its won ever major award because it has terrific picture quality, 8Mpixel sensor and is incredibly light at 1.3 pounds. It streets for $800 and for $400 more you get a lenses that is all most folks will ever need. From wide angle to telephoto.

Catching up however are the EVF (electronic view finder) cameras. These don’t have interchangeable lenses, but at this level most folks won’t need it, what with the super lenses that go from wide to telephoto. The main issue is that there are lots of compromises. Probably the closest is the Sony RSC-1 with a 10 mpixel sensor and a incredible lense, but it has numerous ergonomic and picture quality issues. Stay tuned, its a good bet that a good EVF will beat a DSLR at the low end.

h2. Prosumer $1-2,000

This is my category. I can’t really justify at $3-5K camera, but would like more quality. The winner here seems to be either the Nikon D200 or the Canon EOS-30D which was just announced. The picture quality for both is amazing, so it probably comes down more to if you have Nikon lenses already or Canon lenses. Right now on pure price/performance, the Canon probably wins since it is $400 cheaper than the Nikon with roughly the same performance, although the true nerd would probalby get the D200 because it is a notch up in terms of features and usability.

* Nikon D200 Review. Its a 2 lb camera (the Canon 5D is actually 100grame lighter) and you have to remember to set the white balance manually (automatic doesn’t work well. Also, you should set the in camera sharpenting to +2 as the default is too mild for good results. In A/B comparison, it isn’t much sharper than the much cheaper EOS-20D (and presumably the EOS 30D will be similar). The EOS 5D is of course slightly sharper, but it isn’t extreme. Going from 8 to 10 isn’t a big deal and going from 10 to 12 isn’t a big deal either in the real world. There are also reports of banding problems with some 200Ds in the real world. Not sure the cause, but something that is reported on the forums.
* “DCResource”:http://www.digitalcamerainfo.com/content/Nikon-D200-Digital-Camera-Review/Testing–Performance.htm did the numbers and found that it resolves 1918 lines per inch and had a bit of color error (4% oversaturate).
* “Ken Rockwell”:http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d200.htm has a personal view of the D200 and loves it as well.

For the Canon EOS 30D, check out:

* “DPReview”:http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canoneos30d/. This update to the 20D adds a bigger LCD screen. It is cheaper than the D200 listing at $1,300 Euros. The net is that 8Mp vs. 10Mp in D200 really don’t make much imaging difference, but that the D200 interface, etc. are better, so on balance, the nod goes by a hair to the slightly $1700 list D200.

h2. Professional $3-5K

Here the value leader seems to be the new Canon 5D. This is a 12 megapixel (gasp) sensor that is full frame. That means, you get real wide angle. The thing is huge though at just under two pounds, so its not for the casual shootist. Image quality is amazing.

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