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  1. #1

    mathogre's Avatar
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    Point-n-Shoot vs DSLR: Decisions, Decisions
    Decisions, decisions.

    'Tis a dilemma. I'm now thinking about a DSLR. I know what I want - a Sony A200 - but my dilemma is more about going to a DSLR from my Sony Cybershot DSC-T5 digital point-n-shoot.

    I have an old SLR, a Pentax K1000, fully manual film camera. I learned how to use it and took some fine shots with it over the years. It fell into disuse for many reasons, not the least of which was a person who bugged me one too many times to take photos for him. I've since learned how to say "No" unambigously.

    Over the years I've also used a Nikon point-n-shoot film camera, a Polaroid Spectra, and the latest is the little Sony Cybershot. The Sony has brought me back to having fun with photography. (My old Sanyo cell phone had a low quality camera, but I used it nonetheless. My iPhone also has a servicable camera that I use.)

    The Sony Cybershot is a neat little camera. It's allowed me to take some very good photos. I've made two Apple books from photos taken with it (and with the iPhone too, for that matter). While I wouldn't call any of the photos great, I think some of them have been very good.

    Going to a DSLR adds complications to my life. There's suddenly this scramble to get additional equipment - lenses, flash, filters, memory cards. Using it means lugging a bag of possessions with me, versus this little thing (the Cybershot) I can hang about my neck. On the other hand, I miss the control of an SLR - shutter speed, depth of field - as well as the generally higher quality photos one can take.

    I can afford the cost of the DSLR and accoutrements, but I could also use the money elsewhere. While I'm willing to spend the money, I have no desire to waste it.

    If I go to a DSLR, that will be my primary camera. I'm not interested in having two main cameras. The Cybershot, which my wife purchased, will be used rarely by me, if ever.

    I'm concerned that adding this level of complication to photography will again draw me away from the activity. It's really easy to just grab the Cybershot and take a bunch of pictures any time I want. While an A200 DSLR should be easier to manage than the old Pentax K1000 fully manual SLR, it's still not something I'd expect to just grab on a whim.

    Thoughts? Ideas? Thanks in advance!
    Evil Math Ogre Kgh-Ra
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  2. #2
    MacHeadCase
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    If you do go for a dSLR, look at what companies like Lowepro and other decent camera bag and equipment makers offer nowadays in terms of carrying bags : they are very versatile and cater to plenty of activities, be they hiking, walking in a downtown area, etc.

    I think you need to determine which type of photos you mostly take.

    If it's portraits and landscapes, a sophisticated point and shoot could very well suit your needs.

    If you want to experiment with macro shots, take lots of wildlife photos, for example, a dSLR would be better for your needs because of the endless possibilities they offer in terms of lenses.

  3. #3

    dalison's Avatar
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    Well, a lot of issues there you need to think through. I moved to DSLR about 4 years ago primarily because the point and shoot camera I was using at the time had two major shortcomings for me: when I tried to take a picture in a large room (when my kids were at a school play, etc) the flash couldn't throw far enough and I didn't have enough control over shutter speed to take a decent shot. The second was that my kids were heavy into sports and I just couldn't get the speed I needed with a point and shoot; I missed many great photos because of the delay between pressing the shutter and the actual photo.

    Personally we have two cameras we use regularly: a small Kodak point and shoot for quick, casual stuff and my Canon kit. I carry a Canon 30D in a Slighshot bag from Lowepro. It's got my telephoto lens, my wide angle and a general purpose mid-range telephoto as well as an external flash and chargers, etc. It's a lot to carry but I get some truly stunning photos from it. When we traveled to Europe last year I carried it with me everywhere - the Slingshot makes it easy to grab the camera fast for shots.

    That said, it's a load to carry around and for quick spontaneous shots I've found our little Kodak is fine.

    Since I got into my DSLR I've thrown a lot at my kit. I recently picked up a fantastic piece of glass, a 10-22 wide angle lens that I'm having a blast with.

    If you're going to use it for more than just casual pictures and you want creative control, get a DSLR. It's a lot to carry around but the pics that you can take are really stunning.

    I hope this helps man...
    --David
    My blog about my move from Windows to Mac: www.davidalison.com

  4. #4

    mac57's Avatar
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    Hey MO, you can perhaps straddle the line and go with a high end Point n Shoot (PnS). I purchased a Canon G9 right before Christmas. This somewhat expensive PnS features a lot of SLR features: you can manually control shutter speed, aperture and ISO. You can focus manually. At the same time, when you want, it is an excellent simple PnS. I have been very happy with it.

    A KEY feature of this camera is that like so many PnS models, image quality is a nearly directly proportional function of the ISO. Many PnS make it difficult to control the ISO simply. The G9 neatly resolves this by having an external ISO dial on the body of the camera. Set and forget. None of the automatic functions override the ISO that you manually set. If you keep it in the 80, 100, 200 range, you get very good image quality. As you go above that, you start to see an increasing amount of digital noise, although it is on average better in this regard than any other PnS I have used.

    So, the G9 might meet your needs nicely. It gives you the creative control you are looking for but without the large financial outlay and without having to lug around a huge bag of parts.
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  5. #5


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    I picked up a Canon Rebel XT DSLR a few years back and it was a huge improvement over the point and shoot cameras I've had before it. I guess it depends on what you plan on using the camera for. I bought mine for professional use as I do a lot of photography at drag and road racing events, so a point and shoot just simply won't cut it. I'm not a professional photographer, I do graphic design and web development, but most of what I do starts with a great photo.

    I was little intimidated with it at first, but it didn't take long to figure it out. A lot of it is just finding the right ISO setting. I probably use only 30% of the cameras capability, but the pictures come out great.

    The shutters only last for roughly 45k pictures, so after 2.5 years, mine died. The price to repair the shutter was only a couple hundred dollars less than buying a new Rebel XTi, so I went for the newer model.

    Like dalison said, after you put together a nice size kit, it becomes a little much to carry around. Also in low light situations, with the ISO cranked up you'll get grainy blacks and dark grays. Those have been the only two drawbacks I've had in the past 4 years.

    Oh and if you buy one. Get the kit lens. It's a really good lens for basic photography. I still use mine a ton.

  6. #6

    EORI's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike S View Post
    The shutters only last for roughly 45k pictures, so after 2.5 years, mine died.
    Let's see, that works out to... 50 shots a day, every day, for 2.5 years!

    I'd say you'd gotten very good use out of your camera.
    Happy to be back to a Mac

  7. #7

    EORI's Avatar
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    I would agree with mac. It doesn't sound like you would be happy with a DSLR, and would second getting the G9. I've gone on trips where I just didn't want to be burdened with the bulk and weight of my DSLR kit, and just grabbed the G7. The entire "kit" was attached to my belt.

    Keep in mind, however, that if you ever wanted to do available light, action, sports or kids/animals photography, you are going to be very limited by the camera's capabilities. Shutter lag and noise at higher ISO can frustrate one to no end.

    If, however, you are interested in still life, portraits, landscape, nature, and even macro, the G9 will serve you well, especially with the availability of RAW (something that I miss with my G7).
    Happy to be back to a Mac

  8. #8

    Village Idiot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike S View Post
    I picked up a Canon Rebel XT DSLR a few years back and it was a huge improvement over the point and shoot cameras I've had before it. I guess it depends on what you plan on using the camera for. I bought mine for professional use as I do a lot of photography at drag and road racing events, so a point and shoot just simply won't cut it. I'm not a professional photographer, I do graphic design and web development, but most of what I do starts with a great photo.

    I was little intimidated with it at first, but it didn't take long to figure it out. A lot of it is just finding the right ISO setting. I probably use only 30% of the cameras capability, but the pictures come out great.

    The shutters only last for roughly 45k pictures, so after 2.5 years, mine died. The price to repair the shutter was only a couple hundred dollars less than buying a new Rebel XTi, so I went for the newer model.

    Like dalison said, after you put together a nice size kit, it becomes a little much to carry around. Also in low light situations, with the ISO cranked up you'll get grainy blacks and dark grays. Those have been the only two drawbacks I've had in the past 4 years.

    Oh and if you buy one. Get the kit lens. It's a really good lens for basic photography. I still use mine a ton.
    When I'm shooting and need all my stuff I have two camera bags, two lightstands, and a tripod.

    The 45k is an estimate. It could last 100k.

    And the grain from high iso is usually only a large problem if your photo is under exposed.
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  9. #9

    mraya's Avatar
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    IMHO the first thing to consider is where/when do you take pictures. If you are already carrying a bag, then the problems with portability is no longer a problem, you just need a better bag.
    In the case of the new equipment, although you already know you want a Sony, have you considered the Pentax K10d? it seems like you already have a few lens, you can use those with no problem and then move to new lenses slowly. The K10d has several advantages compared to other dSLRs and the price is very reasonable.
    [is pointless to click here]

  10. #10


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    Quote Originally Posted by EORI View Post
    Let's see, that works out to... 50 shots a day, every day, for 2.5 years!

    I'd say you'd gotten very good use out of your camera.
    I'd say so, too. I was a little disappointed when it failed, but the body isn't really that expensive compared to the money I invested in lenses and other equipment.

    45k is what I've been told is the average life of the shutter. Some people on other forums have claimed well over 100k. I'll usually take 300-500 pictures per event and sometimes as many as 1k.

  11. #11

    mathogre's Avatar
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    Thank you everyone! I will attempt to respond presently.
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  12. #12

    Village Idiot's Avatar
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    by the way, why Sony?
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  13. #13

    mathogre's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Village Idiot View Post
    by the way, why Sony?
    I want one with a CCD (versus CMOS) for astrophotography. I know some people in the local astronomy club - NOVAC - have Canons, but the Sony seemed to have a better starting price. The new A200 has a CCD.
    Evil Math Ogre Kgh-Ra
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  14. #14

    mathogre's Avatar
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    Okay, here's the BIG response. Thank you so much everyone!

    MHC: Thank you!

    I don't mind necessarily carrying a bag. It's just that the Cybershot could actually just fit in my pocket if I wanted, and I'd have everything I need. Sort of.

    You make an excellent point about determining what types of photos I mostly take. Mostly I'll take photos of anything that is interesting. I will push the equipment to its limits. I push *everything* to its limits. Computers, cars, cameras. Hmmm... all begin with "c". Maybe there's something there. -_^ Not really of course, but I do push things.

    dalison: Thank you!

    Yeah, the control is a bit frustrating, but the delay between shutter push and the bloody thing going off is annoying.

    I know I *can* go the dual camera route, but I know I won't except under unusual circumstances.

    mac57: Thank you!

    I thought about one of those, but it's a weird trade-off for me right now. The Cybershot works. It does a good job, and I can do some neat things with it. I'm actually taking pictures again, and that's a good thing.

    Going to a new camera I'd go the whole way to a DSLR. For that money I'd want all the power and control of an SLR.

    Mike S: Thank you!

    I'm sure I wouldn't use all of the capabilities of a DSLR, but I'd use enough to justify its purchase.

    This is an exercise in thinking aloud, and everyone's insight and thoughts are helpful. My main concern remains whether I'd actually grab the DSLR for virtually all of those times I'd normally grab the Cybershot.

    EORI: Thank you!

    I'll have to rethink the high end PnS group, but in the end it will probably come down to a binary Yes or No on the DSLR.

    VI: Thank you!

    I'll accept some graininess under low light conditions.

    In the Apple book I recently made, I had some shots of the blacksmith shop in Williamsburg, VA. While the Cybershot didn't take photos worthy of publication in National Geographc (right!), a little digital enhancement made them acceptable as a record. They would have been unviewable from a film camera, unless I was doing my own film processing. The little Cybershot did a great job. I can only imagine what is possible with a DSLR.

    45K shots? 100K shots? If I wear out the camera from overuse, I'll consider my money well spent. ^_^

    mraya: Thank you!

    I looked at the K10d, and saw I could use the couple of lenses I have. I'll revisit it. As I recall, my concern was that I couldn't find consistent information about the Pentax line of cameras online, even from Pentax.
    Evil Math Ogre Kgh-Ra
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  15. #15

    Village Idiot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mathogre View Post
    I want one with a CCD (versus CMOS) for astrophotography. I know some people in the local astronomy club - NOVAC - have Canons, but the Sony seemed to have a better starting price. The new A200 has a CCD.
    Why did they say the CCD was better than CMOS?

    The CMOS sensors handle noise better and that's what gave Canon it's edge for the longest time over Nikon but Nikon is using CMOS sensors in their higher end cameras and now there's not a big difference in high ISO performance in those cameras.

    The CCD's generally use an electronic shutter though and can take photos with flashes at up to 1/8000 and still get a good picture and not one that's cut off by the shutter. I'm a Canon user, but Canon did use a CCD sensor in their first 1D camera.

    I just figure something like pentax would give you a larger choice of lenses and gear. In fact, that's some of the reason that people tend to stick with the big two; they have huge lines of accessories and 3rd party gear that makes the competition pale in comparison. Pentax has been around for a while though with their 35mm slrs and have that advantage. Though Sony is basically Minolta.
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