Needin’ a Little Camera Advice

My little Kodak 4 megapixel point and shoot is showing its age. It’s never been particularly good at using the right flash mode indoors, and it’s getting worse. The more I look at photos from Cindy, Jason, Elsa and Rannie, the more I want a DSLR. Cindy and Jason go on and on (without stopping, honest) about their rebels. Elsa loooooves her Nikon. With all this love going around – what do I choose? Do I go all out with a digital SLR, or do I go with something easier, but not as full-featured like a Fujifilm Finepix S9000 or 9100? Digital SLRs are expensive, and you then get sucked into buying all the extras like flashes, new lenses, extra special battery packs, etc. Is it worth it?
The Fuji looks good on paper, and the reviews are solid as well, but the reviews don’t match the love spewed forth about the Rebel XTi. How much should I expect to spend to get the XTi or comparable digital SLR set up? Is it really worth it? Should I start with one step beneath an SLR? Come on, all my photographically inclined friends, help me out here!
Update: Here’s what I want out of a camera: good in normal indoor situations, preferably without needing the flash. My Kodak is crap in normal indoor light, and the flash turns my pale little boys into ghosts, and I haven’t found a way to “rescue” those pictures in iPhoto. I like taking pictures, but I don’t go out of my way to set up picture-taking outings. I’m usually going somewhere, and happen to document it. So, lugging around an SLR is probably not wise (although little tiny Cindy does it). The G7 looks good, and I’m finding the Flickr camera finder really useful. I’m uploading photos now, and will point out some of the problem shots I want “help” with (thanks, Jeff!).

12 thoughts on “Needin’ a Little Camera Advice”

  1. I guess the most important question is how portable you need the camera to be. DSLRs rock, but they’re not exactly pocket material.
    For my “carry around” camera I use a Canon SD700 and it’s great. Small, light, and very capable.
    For my DSLR I use a Nikon D50. The Canon / Nikon debate can reach Mac / PC levels of religiousness, so I won’t comment too much on specifics, but I personally find the Nikon’s much, much nicer to hold and use. You really can’t go wrong either way, though, as far as photo quality goes.
    If you have no lenses yet then I would recommend going with whatever DSLR feels the best.

  2. When I purchased a new camera earlier this year, I wanted to split the difference – I liked the size of my old Canon Powershot S330, but I wanted more manual control, as well as some more advanced functions, like image stabilization. I went for the Canon A710IS, and I’ve been quite happy with it. (Extra bonus – powered by plain ol’ AA batteries.) But mkg’s right – if you really want to split the difference, the G7 is the way to go – it’s got most of the high-end features of a DSLR in a compact body.

  3. Just as a followup to my last message, if you’re looking for buying advice and reviews, I highly recommend the Digital Camera Resource Page – http://www.dcresource.com/
    Good luck – and enjoy “The Runaway Bride”! (The Doctor Who episode, not the horrid film by the same name.)

  4. Before dropping any bucks, you might want to show some of the pictures you don’t like to an experienced/pro photographer. They can tell you whether it is equipment, technique, or subject matter :-) so you can know which problem to solve.

  5. I went through this decision process about two months ago. I decided to buy a DSLR because of mediocre pictures coming out of my point-n-shoot.
    My first piece of advice is this: get a DSLR only if you are ready to make a commitment to learn how to use it. They are better in auto mode than a point and shoot but not enough to justify $700. But when you learn how to make some simple adjustments to a DSLR, you will get better pictures more often.
    If you decide to make that commitment, check out Ken Rockwell’s site at
    http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech.htm
    It is loaded with great advice. Be aware that he is a Nikon guy and will convince you that Nikon is the way to go. The advice I got from photographers at work is to look at Canon and Nikon and skip the rest. Try this:
    http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/nikon-vs-canon.htm
    I think the cameras to consider are the Nikon D40 and the Canon Digital Rebel XT. The XTi is essentially the same camera as the XT but with more megapixels and costs a few hundred dollars more. I would go with the Nikon but both are good. Here is Ken’s writeup on the Nikon D40:
    http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/d40/d40-recommendations.htm
    You can get the older D50 at a discount if you want to save some $$$ but it is older technology. I bought a Nikon D50 over the Canon Digital Rebel XT because it felt a lot better in my hands. I might sell it to you so I can get the D40 if you are interested.

  6. Two things to keep in mind, both alluded to here but bear repeating:
    # Your camera is useless if left at home. If you’re not willing to carry around a bulkier, heavier camera, go with a point-and-shoot.
    # Photos taken with a DSLR will look better, unquestionably. Even if you just use the PHD (Push Here, Dummy) mode, your shots will look great, and they’ll look even better if you read through the manual enough to understand aperture/shutter priority mode, etc. But expensive equipment can only take your photos so far. For the rest, you have to shoot, and shoot, and shoot some more. Just having the gear will not result in photos like Rannie’s.
    #To get the same zoom range as a point-and-shoot, you’ll have to buy (and carry) several lenses for your DSLR.
    That said, if you can make your peace with this, if you can swing the cash, and if you can commit a bit of time, absolutely go with a DSLR. They’re a whole lot of fun. Phil Greenspun just posted a comprehensive review of the Canon Rebel XTi that includes lens recommendations. If you decide to go with Canon, this is your camera.

  7. Alan says:
    bq. “My first piece of advice is this: get a DSLR only if you are ready to make a commitment to learn how to use it. They are better in auto mode than a point and shoot but not enough to justify $700. But when you learn how to make some simple adjustments to a DSLR, you will get better pictures more often.”
    which I totally agree with!
    Another one who loves her Rebel (XT) :-D But I’m still figuring out what all it can do (my pictures suck compared to Cindy and Jason). In addition to the XT I have a Sony CyberShot DSC-T30 that fits in my pocket and I can take anywhere.
    It really depends on what you want in a camera. Like my Cybershot lacks features if it was the only camera I had and I’m not one who always wants the bulk of the DSLR. The two replaced a larger point and shoot, that had more features and a better zoom than my CyberShot, but obviously less than my XT.

  8. we were at your crossroads several months ago. I broke down and bought a Canon EOS 30D. my wife is a stickler for quality shots, and when I sat her down w/ the first set I’d shot, she said “we should have done this 4 years ago” (referencing the birth of our first child). she’s continuously blown away (as am I) at the quality and capability of the DSLR. we still have our Canon PowerShot SD630 so we can capture movies (and for when we don’t want to lug the DSLR around), but it’s taken a seat way at the back of the drawer.
    SLRs are a major pain to be sure. you have to lug them around and they take up a bunch of space. I do flashless photography (loads of its own challenges), so I don’t have to cope w/ the flash problem.
    with all that said, I gladly strap the 30D to my back whenever we head out. the ratio of killer shots I capture now, versus pre DSLR is uncomparable. life is too short!

  9. As everyone else has pretty much already laid out, the first thing you’d have to decide is whether this is the time for you to make the jump to DSLR or not. I’m eventually going to cave myself and get one, but I’m holding out to see what Canon will announce in February (assuming they follow their typical schedule).
    If you don’t go with a DSLR I would be looking at Canon’s G7, as you’ve already found, or the A640. Personally, I would probably lean more towards the A640 in that match-up, actually. It’s a good $100-$150 cheaper and really doesn’t give up many features that you probably couldn’t live without. The one huge thing, though, is that Canon dropped the swivel screen from the G7, and I’m surprised how often it comes in handy using my A620 – shooting over your head, shooting candids surreptitiously, etc.
    I was in essentially the same position before last Christmas, then going between the G6 and the A620. For me it came down to wanting a camera that was good enough to make me happy and take good shots but not so much that it would be a waste once I got a DSLR.
    Another good resource for detailed reviews and sample images:
    http://www.dpreview.com/

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