check out prices at B&H Photo's online shop for
I am not a professional photographer and have not used all cameras
available, nor am I given cameras or incentives by the photographic
industry, nor do I sell cameras or lenses (apart from the odd one on Ebay).
I have a bias towards cameras with live preview and sensor dust
protection because I have been frustrated in the past by inability to
accurately focus manually and assess depth of field, and live preview is the
most accurate manual focus system currently available - even if you modify
the camera and remove the IR blocking filter to turn it into a infra-red
Furthermore, I prefer cameras with sensor-based IS because it makes
great sense - if you don't want to use it, turn it off and it won't
adversely affect your images as does an optical IS lens, and you can still
use optical IS lenses with it if you really need to (with the sensor IS
turned off of course) and its cheap, so why not have it?
here is what benefit you get for zero downside on the E510 which you
can't get on a Canon, Nikon or Fuji:
for this reason I believe there will be a decline in the sales of
Nikon & Canon APS-C dSLRs as consumers quite rightly will prefer to
buy dSLRs with sensor-based IS and it is hard to see Canon or Nikon
implementing this any time soon.
I also prefer cameras AND lenses to be weathersealed as you never
know when accidents happen or you are in inclement conditions which are
great for photography images but not so great for the camera.
Olympus E3 with their pro lenses offer the best degree of
weathersealing and are not too expensive (except for their super pro
unfortunately neither Canon's non 1Dx bodies or their APS-C digital
lenses are weathersealed - you have to buy their much more expensive pro
cameras with L series lenses for that.
Lastly, image quality is NOT relevant if the camera is so big & heavy
you will not have it with you when you need it
even though my Canon 1D Mark III gives me more confidence of better
image quality at high ISO or in dynamic range terms so I can better
correct exposure or WB errors in RAW processing, I only take it out on
my Olympus E510 and its lenses are MUCH lighter, more compact and less
expensive if I drop it or someone steals it, and this is the camera I
take to work with me everyday, and on bushwalks, and the camera I took
to Italy on holidays.
furthermore, despite the compromises on the 2x crop Olympus sensors,
one should not discount the value of super-telephoto reach at wide
apertures this sensor provides, giving you more opportunities at more
compact kit sizes.
there is no one camera that is perfect for every job - each has its
strengths and weaknesses, and at the end of the day they are just tools
to enable you to be creative, they won't necessarily turn you into a
photographer just as buying a piano won't make you a pianist.
ADDENDUM - MARCH 2009:
since writing this in 2007, the camera scene has changed and had I not
already embarked on a Canon system, I would be closely considering the
Nikon system with their new lenses and full frame dSLRs although their
D3X is still too expensive for what you get.
in addition, the compact dSLR scene now has a new contender - the Four Thirds Micro
system which allows continuous AF silent video as well as still shots
which may not be possible on the full frame dSLRs.
the best budget level dSLRs are now the Olympus E620 and Nikon
If you are looking to buy a digital SLR for the 1st time, instead of
looking at the cameras, look at what lenses you really would make the most
use of and can afford. No point buying into a system if you never will be
able to afford the camera or the highly desirable but super expensive
The lenses are what allow you the greatest creativity and contribute
significantly to maximum possible image quality.
If your "portrait" lens is
not wide aperture (f/2.0-f/2.8) with circular diaphragms then your portraits
won't be as good as they could be.
It is nice to be able to cover the focal length range of 24-400mm with two
high quality, ultrasonic focus, weatherproof image stabilised lenses at wide
enough aperture and with circular iris blades that these can double as a
portrait lens and with close enough focus that reasonable macro at a
distance is possible.
THIS is the MAIN reason why I like the Olympus
system, and although the lenses are not cheap they are not super
Olympus ZD 12-60mm f/2.8-4 SWD gives high quality 24-120mm
Olympus ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD gives high quality telephoto
reach of 100-400mm at f/3.5 with close focus of 1.2m providing 0.42x
macro and beautiful portraiture with its lovely bokeh.
if you need closer working distance macro then there is the very
sharp Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro which also makes a nice portrait
if you want to be super creative, then the Olympus ZD 7-14mm
offers the widest high quality zoom available and you get IS for
free with the Olympus bodies.
and if you can't afford these lenses, you can be happy playing
with the best quality kit lenses by any manufacturer.
This combination is the ONLY way to get 2 pro camera bodies
with lens mounted providing 24-400mm coverage with IS at less than
f/4 in an easily accessible shoulder bag (eg. Lowepro Nova 200 AW),
the Canon/Nikon options require MUCH deeper bags and force you into
the less desirable front access style backpacks which are NOT as
suited to urban street walking - see backpacks, bags.
If you were to buy into the Nikon DX system,
your choices are not so desirable:
D300 or D90 - great cameras, but what lenses??
whilst the Nikkor DX 18-200mm VR lens is a very versatile lens
it is still only giving 27-300mm at f/3.5-5.6 and its relatively
poor bokeh means its not the best portrait lens (see http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/1224.htm).
thus you may want to add a lens or two:
the DX 12-24mm to give 18-36mm (but not as wide as the ZD
7-14mm and no IS).
many would use a Nikkor full frame 50mm or 55mm standard
lens as a portrait lens for the DX, or perhaps the Nikkor
60mm f/2.8 ED micro lens which would also double for macro
unfortunately, the Nikkor lenses cannot be optimised for BOTH
DX and for full frame, it's one or the other, but at least you
can use a DX lens on the Nikon full frame (albeit in cropped
image mode) unlike the Canon scenario.
EVEN worse, the guy in the camera
shop might sell you a Nikon D40/D40X/D60 because its a Nikon and
you are gullible and it appears cheap, although it may suit you
if you never want to do nice portraits with blurry backgrounds.
OK, these are easy to use for novices, can produce great
quality images and appear to be cheap, but they have a few
MAJOR deficiencies which may stop you achieving what you
want as you grow with your photography including:
no AF motor, so cannot autofocus lenses that are not
AF-S or AF-I.
so what you say, I got a nice kit lens, that will
BUT sooner or later someone is going to want you
to take some nice outdoor portraits of them that
don't look like it was done with a $200 point and
shoot which everyone has.
to do this you need a portrait lens
with aperture wider than f/2.8, your kit lens will
the BAD news is, Nikon only make 2 lenses that
would be good portrait lenses for the D40 and both
of these are over $A1000 (the 17-55mm f/2.8 DX and
the 105mm VR f/2.8 micro lens).
if you bought a Nikon D80 or better (eg. D300),
you have a lot more options at cheaper prices such
as a $A150 50mm f/1.8, a $A450 85mm f/1.8, a $A500
60mm f/2.8 micro, so you get more functionality with
not much more added expense.
no dedicated ISO/WB button; no ISO 100 (except D60);
no exposure bracketing; poor jpegs in RAW mode; no
sensor dust removal system (except D60);
If you were to buy into the Canon APS-C system,
your choices are also not so desirable:
40D, reasonable camera but again, what lenses?
not sure I would waste too much money on the EF-S
lenses personally, you may be wanting to upgrade to full
frame sooner than you think - its likely Canon will now
be forced to market a 5D Mark II full frame at a very
competitive price point.
if you think you might be upgrading to a full frame then consider
buying the best full frame lenses now:
Canon EF 16-35mm L II will give 26-56mm coverage.
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS will give 38-168mm coverage.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS will give 112-320mm coverage and
work well as a portrait lens although a bit long.
many would use a canon EF 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 standard lens as
a portrait lens for the APS-C cameras.
if anyone can give me a compelling lens combination for Canon
cropped sensors let me know!
Nikon D700, now I wouldn't mind this one if I
couldn't get the D3, pity I have all these Canon lenses:
now this is looking like it will be a great camera for those who
can't afford a D3, or don't want the its size and weight, and don't
want DX lenses and bodies, although it can still use DX lenses in
cropped mode as with the D3.
1st Nikon pro dSLR with built-in flash and sensor dust removal (at
5fps burst with 8fps with optional battery pack; moisture-sealed
magnesium body; viewfinder only 95%; 995g;
the downside is that although Nikon are now producing some class
leading lenses such as their new super wide angle zoom and the PC
tilt shift lenses, these are MUCH more expensive than other options,
and to me, it is largely these lenses combined with its excellent
flash system that make Nikon worth buying into - but no point if you
can't afford those lenses.
unfortunately, certain Nikon lenses (the VR 70-200mm f/2.8) have
been optimised for DX format and have soft edges on a full frame.
or, if you are a Canon fan, consider waiting for
the replacement for the full frame Canon 5D, at least the tilt shift
lenses are more affordable than Nikon, and hopefully it will have the
features of the D700 and more for much the same price point.
Summary of my current thinking (April 2008):
remember, when you buy a dSLR, you are not just buying a camera but buying
into a system of lenses, and it is the lenses that are crucial - see what is
available in your budget and aim for the best quality you can afford and
what you can carry with you.
almost any of the newer cameras will give good results, but below are my preferences.
general purpose dSLR for travel, bushwalking, street photography,
such a high quality, image stabilised lens covering 24-120mm
range at such wide apertures as the 12-60mm ZD lens.
you so much telephoto
reach (600mm) image stabilised in such a compact, light package as the
70-300mm ZD lens, or for better portrait performance, the ZD
50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD which has very nice bokeh and a telephoto
reach of 400mm f/3.5 to close focus of 1.2m (compare the table
you as wide a view as the 7-14mm ZD lens, and then have
it image stabilised to boot.
allows as wide a compatibility with legacy 35mm lenses and makes
them all image stabilised.
live Boost which allows improved ability to compose IR images
when using a R72 filter for digital
the option of the smallest, thinnest dSLR - the E420 with 25mm
the option of an almost waterproof dSLR with movable LCD
screen for use in difficult environments and 6fps for action
photography - the
the option of a high quality, weatherproof, compact, light,
image stabilised super telephoto of 600mm reach at f/4 (ZD 150mm
f/2.0 +2xTC) which can be potentially hand held at only 1.8kg (a
Canon 300mm f/2.8 + 1.4xTC weighs 3kg or the 500mm f/4 weighs
3.9kg although you could get the very expensive Canon 400mm f/4
DO lens at 1.94kg but many do not like the DO optical
the option of a high quality, weatherproof, compact,
relatively light, image stabilised super telephoto of 600mm
reach at f/2.8 (the ZD 300mm f/2.8 which weighs 3.3kg and
requires a monopod, the Canon 400mm f/2.8 is a massive 5.4kg and
requires a heavy duty gimbal tripod setup).
BUT in case you don't read further down the page, if you
really need the highest image quality & dynamic range,
especially at high ISO or wide angle tilt shift lenses, then you
should be looking at the big, expensive, heavy pro systems such
as the Nikon D3 or a Canon 1D/1Ds.
if you can afford it, add:
the super sharp ZD 50mm f/2 macro for image stabilised
portraits & macro work.
if you want a cheap, light, compact, take anywhere, super
telephoto zoom with 600mm reach, then the ZD 70-300mm zoom is a
the new ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens if you need wider
aperture telephoto coverage at higher quality than the kit lens
or the 70-300mm, or even the new Sigma
APO Macro 70-200mm f/2.8 II.
the superb but very expensive Olympus ZD 7-14mm lens for
unique image stabilised super wide possibilities
if you can't afford the above telephoto lenses, and you don't mind
the hassles of manual focus, consider getting an OM adapter and a
2nd hand Olympus OM 200mm f/4 lens to give you a very compact image
stabilised 400mm f/4, see my photos of this combo here.
if you can't afford the superb 12-60mm ZD lens, then the dual kit
lenses are excellent value for money when purchased with the camera.
if compact size or budget is more important than IS then try the nice little
Olympus E420 or if you really must have Nikon, then the Nikon D60,
but this does not have live preview and you miss out on the nice
range of Olympus digital lenses.
at last Canon have an entry-level dSLR that practically matches if
not betters the Olympus E510 in its feature set, but unfortunately
the EF-S lens range lets it down compared to the Olympus range and
of critical importance now, it does not have sensor based IS which
would otherwise improve the sharpness of many amateur photos
at last Canon seem to be offering a reasonable kit lens which although much improved, the new IS kit lens still has a rotating
front filter thread making use of polarising filters difficult
unlike the case of Olympus kit lenses and it has a 6 blade aperture
not the 7 blade circular one in the Olympus, and it has a lousy lens
hood. Disappointingly, in the Canon
tradition, seems another cheaply made kit lens destined for the
still it will make a very good, light travel or entry level dSLR
just check out what IS lenses you intend to buy for it, and whether
you would miss the versatility of "image stabilised" high
quality Olympus lens as mentioned above
why would I buy the 450D over an E510?
use for astrophotography or IR photography with its IR filter
already have a lot of EF or EF-S lenses
other than these reasons, there is no significant 450D + lens
combination that would, in itself, make a compelling choice over
a E510/520 whereas the converse is true, there are lots of nicely
matched Olympus ZD lenses plus you gain IS with ALL legacy
Nikon, OM, Pentax, Carl Zeiss, Leica, Hexanon and even mirror
and fisheye lenses when using the E510. Maybe if you had a EF
TS-E 45mm lens this would be useful on the 450D, but you could
get a Nikon tilt shift and put it on the E510 and get an IS tilt
much heavier cameras (800-1000g instead of <500g) but generally with
weatherproofing, more features and more expensive:
Nikon D700 (late 2008):
"compact" full frame 12mp dSLR with 5fps burst (8fps
with optional battery pack)
built-in flash; sensor dust removal; live preview; still
no body-based IS and only moisture-proof;
should be a great camera to compete with the ageing Canon 5D.
Olympus E3 (Nov 2007):
see Olympus E3 - almost
waterproof, fast AF, in-built IS, articulating LCD, great lenses
- highly recommended if you don't need to use ISO 800 and higher
much (banding is an issue).
I have been tempted to trade in my E510 for the E3, but I
really like a nice light weight E510 with great lenses and IS,
and if I really need high ISO, fast burst rate, etc then I will
take my Canon 1DMIII.
very nice camera indeed BUT still no built-in image stabiliser in the
body and a few quirks
medium size, weight, price ($US1799 body) but lots of nice
features and more versatile with its better IQ at high ISO than the
E3 for the pro.
lens choice is really problematic, you just can't get the same
level of image quality, IS, great bokeh and focal length range
in a relatively inexpensive package compared to Olympus ZD
12-60mm + 50-200mm package which gives 24-400mm at f/2.8-3.5 IS
with circular apertures for nice bokeh.
Canon 5D (full frame) with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 IS lens (although
my version of this lens is disappointing)
if you really must have Canon and can't afford the 5D then
consider a cropped sensor but dedicated lens range does not have
the range or quality of Olympus:
Canon 40D with live preview, 14bit A/D, 6.5fps, improved
dust/weather resistance, 9pt AF.
adopts Olympus' one button AF in Live Preview mode
which the Canon 1D III misses.
BUT still no built-in image stabiliser in the body and
I prefer the Olympus E3 , Pentax K20D
or Nikon D300 to
this for most purposes.
the E3 has far better features than the 40D apart from
marginally less dynamic range and burst rate, and more
noise at high ISO. With its far better digital lens
range, the E3 is well ahead in my book.
for telephoto reach in a compact, light (<3kg), hand holdable,
weatherproof and relatively cheap outfit that you will be more likely to
take with you for your sports, action, bushwalking, wildlife and even
birding photography, its hard to beat the Olympus E3
ZD 150mm f/2.0 with EC-20 and EC14 giving telephoto reach options
300mm f/2.0 IS
420mm f/2.8 IS (with EC14)
600mm f/4 IS (with EC20)
all in a light (~2.8kg), and relatively inexpensive kit
(30-50% the cost of a similar reach Nikon D3 or Canon 1DMIII
will give similar image quality to the 1DMIII at ISO 400 or less, and more reach with
less back ache or hand strain from the weight but you have to be
happy with only 5fps burst rate and banding issues if you are forced
to crank ISO to 800 and higher.
alternatively, if you must stay in the Canon/Nikon camps but can't
afford the big guns, then:
Nikon D300 (1.5x crop)
a great camera but dedicated high quality IS lenses are a bit limited and not
as weatherproof as the E3
you might want to buy the battery holder to get 8fps burst rate
instead of 6fps.
but it has a range of features that surpass both the D300
and 40D such as articulating live preview LCD screen, 5EV
image stabiliser that works on all digital lenses, fastest
AF system, great AWB system, most effective sensor cleaning
system, not to mention its excellent dedicated digital lens
live boost LCD preview and its range of wider aperture
lenses together with its IS make it the best camera for IR
use unmodified and hand held.
no other dSLR camera offers the telephoto
reach in such a compact, light, robust system with IS
alternatively, the lighter, cheaper, non-weather-proof
new 14bit cropped dSLRs (no CCD-shift IS
12.3mp, DX, 6fps x 100jpgs (8fps with opt. multipower pack),
sensor dust cleaning at last, 51pt AF,
3" hires LCD & live preview with AF as with
D3. 825g excl. battery;
more features than the Canon 40D and marginally
better image quality than the Olympus E3 but what lenses
are you going to buy?
10mp, 6.5fps, APS-C with live preview and one touch AF, 9 AF pts,
3" low res LCD
substantial upgrade to the 30D with features derived from the 1D
a pity the EF-S lenses tend not to be ideal and it's
not well suited to the EF or TSE lenses.
740g excl. battery;
unlikely that its AF system can compete against the
Olympus E3 or the Nikon D300.
limited exposure bracketing compared with Olympus
E3/Nikon D300 makes HDR work less easy.
larger, heavier 10-25mp near full frame 35mm sensors for
professionals, weddings, sports, wildlife, etc
these come in at about 1.3kg for the camera body, and are big
- not the ideal tool for travel or bushwalking.
new 10-12mp full frame cameras for Nov 2007 - early 2008:
9fps 12.1mp, live preview on high res LCD with AF but no
CCD-based IS and no sensor-cleaning?
nice compromise suitable for either weddings, sports
or wildlife photography
personally I prefer Nikon's range of full frame lenses to Canon
now that they have added tilt-shift and the fantastic 14-24mm Nikkor
while their telephotos for sports should do the job for you.
remember its the lenses that count!
and if auto TTL flash is important, Nikon's system is considered
more reliable than Canon's.
Nikon D700 (late 2008):
5fps (opt. 8fps), 12mp cut-down version of D3 but with
built-in flash and sensor cleaning added.
high end model but not for sports and requires only
the best lenses to use this resolution.
Why Olympus has a big chance of dominating the small,
compact dSLR category:
see also: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/olympuse410/page19.asp
for comparison between E410, Nikon D40X & Canon 400D, the E510 has similar image quality to E410 but also
has sensor-based IS making it
an even more attractive camera for those who don't mind a little bit more
what has always worried me with the Olympus smaller sensors is their 1-1.5
stop worse performance with noise at high ISO which has implications
particularly for action photography BUT I am now coming to the conclusion that this is largely a
minor issue for the following reasons:
the CCD-based IS is 3-5 stops, comparable to the latest optical IS
nullifying any advantage of the optical IS systems.
the CCD-based IS is available on ALL lenses even wide angle, macro,
mirror, tilt-shift lenses whereas optical IS is generally not available.
the availability of wider aperture of ~1stop (eg. the 300mm equivalent
f2.0) makes up for some of the high ISO issue
the wider aperture does not necessarily have a trade off in narrower
DOF in action photography as the smaller sensor means DOF for a f/2.0 on
the Olympus may be similar to similar effective focal length at f/2.8 on
a Canon or Nikon.
generally smaller lenses makes it easier to carry and hand hold with
I still have some concerns for astrophotography, but if the Olympus ZD
150mm f/2.0 lens has minimal aberrations wide open then this should be
the sensor noise should get less with each new generation of
professionals needing extreme performance for action photography will
choose the Canon 1D Mark III or Nikon D3 anyway which is not a direct competitor of
the Olympus as it is a totally different beast.
I don't see too many people getting excited with the Canon EF-S lenses
but their are some unique lenses in the Olympus range, in particular,
the 7-14mm ZD which gives pro quality 14-28mm ultra-wide zoom - you just
can't get as good as this on Canon 1D let alone have it image stabilised
with the E510 body - that's why I am buying this lens.
the Nikon D3 can use the great new Nikkor 14-24mm lens which is
currently THE BEST ultra-wide angle lens but this package is
the Olympus E620 is currently THE BEST camera body under $A1500 for:
travel, bushwalking and general photography when you need a light
camera with IS (match it up with the new 12-60mm f/2.8-3.5 ZD lens to
give my perfect range of 24-120mm)
other reasonable contenders just for this genre and more details
are found at travel photography.
macrophotographywhen you need accurate manual focusing and DOF preview via its Live
street photography with its Live Preview, small size and IS (would
have been better with flip out LCD like the E330)
infrared photography even if its IR filter
is NOT replaced as it has Live Preview BOOST to focus & compose and IS helps
camera shake (it would be even better if the IR blocking filter was
in the mid range market of $A2000-3000:
I didn't really think Olympus would have much of a chance pitted
against the Canon 40D and Nikon D300, but I am really impressed with the
new Olympus E3 which has the following
advantages over the other two:
faster AF, especially in low light - this is one of the biggest
issues with most users and Olympus now has the fastest AF
5 stop image stabiliser built in to the body so that it works on
all lenses to save you money
a great range of high quality matched lenses designed for digital
which will save weight, cost and provide fast AF and a wider
aperture, see my comparison on lenses
and lenses II.
articulating live preview LCD screen adds versatility in certain
strong, moderately light body with excellent weather sealing - you
can poor a bottle of water on it!
the most effective sensor dust removal system available
100% view in the new bright, larger viewfinder (40D has 95%, D300
probably the best AWB system
live boost in Live Preview makes IR photography with R72 filter on
wider aperture lenses makes IR photography with R72 easier to
compose in viewfinder or on live preview.
image stabiliser makes hand held IR photography more feasible as
lower shutter speeds possible
60 sec timed exposures instead of only 30sec makes night time
photography easier while the articulating LCD makes awkward viewing
positions on a telescope much easier.
mirror lock up with ability to set shutter delay time (no mirror
lockup on D300)
E510 makes a great second body with its built-in IS and live
the E3's size is not a bad compromise and given its advantages over
the E510, makes it an even better travel, bushwalking, macro, IR
& general photography camera if you can afford it.
so what do you miss out on with the E3 compared to the Canon 40D or
perhaps a half a stop of dynamic range at all ISO's (12bit instead
of 14bit but most will not see the difference)
perhaps a half a stop to one stop more digital noise at high ISO's
less pixels on the LCD screen compared with the D300
5fps instead of 6 or 6.5fps
D300 has a few more features such as intervalometer, built-in AF
illuminator, GPS option, WiFi option, 8fps with optional battery
handle, contrast detect AF in LIve Preview mode, AF
micro-adjustment, but most people will not use these features
although the ability to select max. ISO AND minimum shutter speed
would be useful as is the more customisable controls but this could
make it more confusing if you don't use it every day.
hmmm... not a bad compromise after all
for comparison, the Canon 1D Mark III and now the Nikon D700, Canon
5DMII & Sony A900 are the BEST camera
action / sports / wildlife photography but telephoto reach can be a
problem compared to the E3 (and the Canon 5DMII is not optimised for
action nor weatherproof)
high dynamic range photography
astrophotography (but it would ideally need the IR filter removed and
both are too expensive for this and too heavy)
infrared photography if its IR filter
is replaced as it has Live Preview to focus & compose - but its Live
Preview is no match for the Olympus E510 or E3 for IR work if using
most professional work
remotely controlled photography
now if only Olympus can:
drop the prices of their lenses as Canon have done and add a few more
lenses such as:
a high quality, fast aperture (f/1.2-1.4)
prime lens in 35-40mm and 85-100mm focal length (in 35mm terms),
although you can get the following for Four Thirds cameras:
Sigma do make a 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM (equiv. to 60mm f/1.4)
Leica do make a 25mm f/1.4 (ie. 50mm f/1.4)
existing manual focus lenses can be used but they have
significant purple fringing in high contrast regions wide open.
People are paying relatively high prices for these lenses such
as Carl Zeiss and I suspect it has more to do with their
emotional attachment developed from yearnings in their film
years. Their digital performance wide open is generally ordinary
and you can use almost any lens stopped down to f/8 for good
results, so I am not sure of their wisdom of paying so much when
for just a little bit more you can buy a better performing,
dedicated AF lens or for a lot less a similar lens with smaller
aperture which will perform as well at f/8.
a high quality, 18-21mm (in 35mm terms) f/2-2.8 prime wide angle
which takes filters to compliment the 12-60mm ZD lens (the ZD 7-14mm
cannot take filters).
add IS to the even smaller E410 - DONE - see the E620
add IS to the E330 so we can have an IS-enabled camera with live mode
A for full time AF live preview and a waist-level flip out LCD -
this is highly likely as it would be a unique camera in the marketplace
and become my preferred dSLR.
add a silent live preview shooting mode in the firmware (ie. no mirror
drop down if manual exposure and manual WB).
Canon users have revelled in the idea that if they buy a APS-C 1.6x
cropped dSLR now, they can just migrate to full frame when the prices come
down but there are major problems with this approach:
the full frame lenses are not a good match for the APS-C cameras as
focal ranges are poorly matched and purple fringing is a major problem
at wide apertures which forces users into buying better matched EF-S
lenses but these will not be compatible with full frame anyway.
a benefit maybe in sharing accessories such as electronic flash, but
this can be partly mitigated by choosing 3rd party flashes such as Metz flash
which can be used on any camera.
Canon seem unlikely to commit to a CCD-based IS camera in the near
future which is a pity as it has zero downsides apart from marginal
increased cost and lots of benefits when using non-IS lenses.
Nikon users have revelled in the quality of their existing wide
range of Nikkor lenses, but:
comments as above for Canon apply to Nikon
having said that, their new D300 and full frame D3 and D700 seem to be perhaps
three of the best high
I believe users will need 3 relatively independent sets of tools for
an indestructible take anywhere compact point and shoot like the
a compact dSLR (or for the pro, a medium sized pro dSLR) with its own set of dedicated lenses
a full frame or at least APS-H 1.3x crop dSLR with its own set of
NB. Canon are even realising that their current top range L series
lenses are not good enough for a 22mp full frame 1Ds, so the L
series zoom lenses may eventually be left out in the cold not suited to
the cropped cameras or the high end ones. Nikon have already
embarked on designing new (very expensive) improved lenses.
Buying your 1st digital SLR:
finally good digital SLRs are becoming affordable and should take over the
prosumer camera market
there is not an awful lot between the latest entry level models, so how do
remember, buying an expensive camera does not make you a good photographer
any more than buying a piano will make you a good pianist, but you need to
buy the features that give you a reasonable tool set for your type of
if you follow my medium term goals for
the best of all worlds then your 1st camera should be the Olympus E510/E520 or
Olympus E3 with
perhaps an aim to ADD either the Canon 1D Mark III or Nikon D3 or D700 when you can
afford the extra $A10,000 including lenses.
my rule #1:
unless you are a professional or embarking on a once in a lifetime
trip and want the best, or you have lots of money, AVOID spending too
much money on the camera body as it will depreciate rapidly and be worth
almost nothing in 4-5 years.
my rule #2:
make sure the camera body has good sensor dust protection as otherwise you
will be plagued by the nuisance of worrying about dust degrading every
image you take.
Olympus E-series, newer Canon, Sony and Pentax cameras have inbuilt
ultrasonic dirt removal but seems only the Olympus is effective:
Canon 1D Mark III, Canon 40D & Nikon D300 have newer sensor
dust removal systems so these hopefully will work.
my rule #3:
don't get to caught up with number of pixels, you won't see much
difference between 8 megapixels and 10 megapixels, or between 10 and 12
megapixels and 10mp will be able
to produce very good enlargements at least to 20"x30".
the exception here are the pros who need to publish their work and may
need 16-39 megapixels
thankfully, for the foreseeable future the megapixel race is over:
8-10 mpixels for most and 12-25mpixels for full frame and 22-39 mpixels
for medium format.
my rule #4:
two of the critical determinants that will limit your image quality is
camera shake and the quality of the lens, so spend a bit of time thinking of what lens to
buy and strongly consider getting image stabiliser capability.
kit lenses are not great quality, although the Olympus
ones are surprisingly good in comparison to the Canon lenses.
in general if you are going for one good quality AF lens, consider a
usable focal length range such as 24-120mm in 35mm terms.
consider a portrait lens to give reasonably shallow depth of field
(ie. f/2.0-2.8) and 35mm equiv. focal length of about 100mm
I use the ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro or the ZD 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5SWD on my Olympus,
both are great portrait lenses.
I use the EF 85mm f/1.8 and EF 135mm f/2.0L on my Canon
a 10 or 15x zoom lens sounds great but it comes at a big compromise -
image quality and aperture, and this usually means slower AF. I prefer
to stick with 2-4x zooms although the new Olympus ZD 12-60mm zoom gives
comparable image quality to their shorter high quality zooms.
my rule #5:
unless you are buying a full frame (eg. Canon 5D, Nikon D3, Nikon
1DsMIII) or a live preview
dSLR (eg. Olympus E330/E410/E510/E520/E3, Canon 40D/450D, Canon 1DMIII, Nikon D300) AND you have the patience to accurately manual
focus, don't bother too much with manual focus lenses as they will be
frustratingly hard to focus accurately and are cumbersome to use as most
dSLR's are not optimised for their use.
my rule #6:
buy a camera with in-built image stabiliser which will work on
all your lenses or go for an high end camera such as the Canon 1D Mark
III, Nikon D700 or Nikon D3.
let's face it, we don't always carry a tripod and when we do its not
always useful to use as it gets in the way of composition and timing.
onboard electronic flash is usually a poor compromise and may often
not be possible (eg. landscapes, wildlife at a distance or art
many great photo opportunities are missed because light levels have
fallen eg. after sunset or indoor
the number of times you need to take hand-held images at slow shutter
speeds is quite high and an IS will help improve all these photos BUT it
won't alter a moving subject - for this, a camera with low noise at high
ISO may be the better option.
my rule #7:
decide on what you are going to use it for and look into the future,
my gut feeling is:
the dSLR market will be dominated by Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony with
Pentax the also ran.
professionals will want at least 16mpixels in a full frame sensor
and don't mind having a big camera and lenses:
as the price of sensors comes down, Canon and perhaps Nikon will
stick mainly with full frame sensors which will mean any investment
on those expensive cropped sensor only lenses may become worthless.
pro sports photographers will tend to stick with high-end
models that have the best AF and fast sequence shots, and
the best telephoto lenses - so mainly Canon 1D Mark III and
fashion and editorial photographers will probably look at the medium
format digitals such as Hasselblad, although some will find
the full frame digitals adequate (eg. the Canon 5D/1Ds and the
25mp Nikon due late 2008).
most amateurs and travellers will want the smallest and lightest
dSLR with built-in image stabiliser & dust protection at a
reasonable price with a great range of high quality, well designed
this SHOULD BE THE domain of the Four Thirds System.
Olympus will try to dominant the small, compact dSLR and Live
Preview with CCD-shift IS niche market with their smaller sensors and lenses, and thus
will be best suited to those with smaller hands or those travelling
and having to limit cabin baggage.
if you want a great SLR now for a good price then take a look at
the Olympus E510/E520 although if you must have Canon, then the Canon
450D almost matches it but still has a dodgy kit lens and no
built-in IS and poorly optimised lens selection.
if you can afford a bit more but not a full frame dSLR then go
next you need to consider AF lenses which will break your bank:
those wanting the best image quality should consider prime lenses
rather than zoom lenses, but the trade off is loss of versatility
and the need to change lenses more often risking dust on the sensor
and the need to carry around more lenses.
for most people, focal lengths in the range of 24-140mm will be
used the most and thus a good quality lens that covers much of this
range is almost mandatory, preferably one that the front element
does not rotate so you can use a polariser filter.
+/- Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro $A850 for macro, portraits
+/- Olympus ZD 7-14mm f/4 ED $A2700 for creative ultra wide
+/- Olympus ZD 8mm f/3.5 fisheye $A1400 for creative work
+/- a 2nd modified Olympus E510 body for IR work as it has the
live preview and IS.
what I would love (please Mr Olympus!):
a 21mm equiv. prime lens ie. a ZD 10mm
rectilinear wide angle
the Olympus E3 is even better and
may be adequate to even take the place of the Canon 1D Mark III
for many people and is a lot lighter, more compact and the
50-200mm SWD lens makes a very good sports lens giving 100-400mm
range with fast AF and wider aperture than available on the Canon
1D for same range.
+/- Olympus ZD 150mm f/2.0 $4300 for astrophotography, wildlife,
sports for when you can't carry the Canon 300mm or you can't
afford it. It matches nicely with a 1.4x teleconverter to give a
compact, light, 420mm f/2.8 lens in 35mm terms, or now the new 2x
TC to give a compact, light 600mm f/4 in 35mm terms - now
combine that with the E3 and you have a great African safari
kit and you can even wash the dust off with a bottle of water.
PLUS Canon 1D Mark III $A6400 (pity its 1.3x crop
and not full frame and big & heavy)
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS ($A1489 new on Ebay) general
purpose but I am not impressed with mine.
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM for
portraits and indoor work (faster AF and much cheaper than the
Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM ($A1299 new on Ebay) for indoor
sports or portraits
Canon TS 90mm f/2.8 tilt-shift lens - I love this lens but you
need the live preview to focus it well.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS at 0.76kg for bushwalking, general
use when the f/2.8 is too heavy
introduced 2007, this
is perhaps THE BEST AF wide angle lens under 21mm
plus the new Nikkor tilt shift lenses
how can one build this kit up?
1st buy the Olympus E620 or E30 or E3 and see if you can get the ZD 12-60mm
add other Olympus ZD lenses when budget allows (the ZD
50-200mm SWD would be high on my list!)
consider 2nd hand MF lenses for the E620 or E3 if budget is too
Zuiko OM 50mm f/1.4 to give a 100mm lens which works pretty well
at apertures f/2 and smaller ~$A50
Zuiko OM 50mm f/3.5 macro to give excellent macro results as well
as useful as a 100mm lens. ~$A150
135mm prime for 270mm at apertures f/5.6 or less ~$A50
200mm prime for 400mm wildlife photos at apertures f/5.6 or less
high dynamic range work:
although the new high end cameras (Canon 1DMIII/40D, Nikon D3/D300,
etc) have 14bit RAW, the increase in dynamic range is still not
sufficient to negate the need for bracketed exposures and HDR processing
in high contrast scenes (or use of gradient filters), and thus cameras
with automatic exposure bracketing of at least +/- 2 EV make this
Nikon D3 / D700/ D300 have +/- 5EV by 2 to 9 exposures
Olympus E3 has +/- 5EV by 3 or 5 exposures
Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 40D +/- 2EV
infrared / UV / forensic photography:
dSLR with no IR blocking filter:
Fuji S3 Pro UVIR if you can find one - don't seem to be available in
Australia but $US1800 at B&H
Photo but requires Nikon mount lenses and thus does not fit in the
Fuji IS-1 IR-sensitive
modified Canon 40D/400D or Olympus E410
dSLR with IR blocking filter - requires large aperture lenses with IS
and Live Preview Boost for ease of use:
RRS plate for lens (and another for the camera when
not using this lens)
RRS camera bar can be used for macro focusing rail
Nikon D3 / D700:
has the highest ISO with reasonable noise
cannot go as high in ISO as the Canon 1DMIII or Nikon D3 but it is
much cheaper and has better low light AF which combined with its 5EV
image stabiliser and range of wide aperture high quality lenses
would do the job well.
when photographing medical procedures, electronic flash may not be an
option, and a noisy camera may be distracting, while getting the best
shots require a fast burst mode thus with its low image
noise at high ISO, a good argument could be made here for:
Olympus E3 (or E620) with:
ZD 50mm f/2.0 macro
optional Olympus Ring Flash
optionally, 12-60mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD for general shots
professional glamour / studio / editorial / marketing:
but slow aperture,
average optics (soft in corners and excessive vignetting at extreme
focal range or wide open, and more than average barrel/pincushion
distortion) which limits print size to 12"x18" and build quality
alternatively could choose:
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 L $A1439 - 27-64mm - better optics, build
quality but no IS, no telephoto - you would need
another lens to fill the short telephoto gap
Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS $A1999 - 28-88mm - faster optics
with 3 stop IS but again,
no telephoto and not 24mm
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L - 26-56mm - as above
the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 has better image quality than the
Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS but obviously has no IS and no USM
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS $A3395 but now the range of this lens is
+/- Canon EF-S 10-22mm $A1400 to cover 16-35mm, 385g
or the older full frame Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 (see http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/80200.htm)
as a portrait lens - but then why have the 18-200mm VR lens? Perhaps
get a 50mm micro lens instead of the 18-200mm VR.
Nikon AF-S DX 12-24mm f/4 (18-36mm) 77mm filter; 99-61deg; 485g; for
creative, urban, landscape work
+/- Nikon 50mm or 85mm f/1.4 lens for portraiture but no VR, and not
optimised for digital?
pros of Fuji S5 Pro:
unique high dynamic range sensor should be better for landscapes
and perhaps skin tones
can use Nikon mount lenses
much better camera than the Canon 400D or 30D
good compromise on weight versus quality
the best UV IR solution currently available
dedicated quartz UV lenses available
the AF-S DX 12-24mm lens gives a good 18-36mm range and can still
use a filter.
unlike Canon, a VR macro lens is available although at 158mm eq.
focal length, while great for nature work, is a bit long for
great flash system
no built-in IS, need VR lenses
no sensor dust protection
image quality on 18-200mm lens not as good or wide as Olympus
12-60mm and much slower but more tele.
no VR lens to give 24-120mm f2.8-4 range
no VR lens in the non-zoom range less than 200mm
Pentax K20D (2008):
live preview with CCD based IS
IS works with legacy MF lenses by entering focal length into
brighter bigger viewfinder than E510 but not as good as E3.
presumably will fit a budget between the E510 and E3.
ISO priority AE mode
Pentax have increased mp to 14.6mp which to me seems too much for
a cropped sensor as it is likely to sacrifice image quality, dynamic
range and high ISO noise unnecessarily for marginal benefit other
than advertising hype.
you will be locked into the Pentax system of lenses which although
are good and have some unique digital lenses, is not in the top 3.
IS only 2-4 stops (as with Olympus E510 but not as good as E3)