"UltraZoom" vs Digital SLR (canon s3 vs rebel xt)

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by jeffdrafttech, Jan 3, 2007.

  1. jeffdrafttech

    jeffdrafttech TPF Noob!

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    I bought a Canon SD800is subcompact a couple months ago and am falling in love with taking photos.

    I bought a couple photography books and would like to buy another more complex camera to learn more.

    I have looked at Digital SLRs, and have read a lot of good things about the Canon Rebel XT. the kit is within my budget but some of the additional glass prices are scary, if I ever decided to upgrade.

    I am very interested in the "ultra zoom" category. These cameras seem to have many manual/creative features and an extraordinary lens for a very affordable price. I like the Canon S2, S3, and Sony H5 from what I have read. The IS feature is is a big plus for me because I know Ill be taking a lot of handleld shots. I like the idea of a powerful zoom for getting in close on wildlife.

    I have several questions.

    1. Is there a real difference between Canon S2 and S3? Resolution is similar (5mp / 6mp) and screen is slightly larger on one (0.2in), but is there any reason to pay $100 more for the S3?

    2. The Sony H5 is comparable in price and features to the S3. I also checked them out in a store and the big screen is nice. Subjectively, what do you recommend between these two?

    3. At $600 the Rebel XT is very nice. From what I have read, the digital SLRs take better pictures once someone learns the ins and outs. I saw a comparison of High iso shots between the S3 and the RebelXT and was blown away by the Rebel XT side by side in low light (high iso). I like the idea of being able to take sharp pictures in lowish light without flash. But... the powerful zoom lens with image stabilization makes me drool. I don't see myself lugging a tripod around on a hike or a trip to a museum or zoo, so I will be taking most shots handheld. Is it possible to take good shots sans tripod sans flash in lowish light without IS with the rebel XT?

    4. Is there a quality yet affordable image stabilized lens for the Rebel XT? I am trying to keep all of this under $1000 if I go SLR, and the camera body + memory will set me back about $600. Any IS lenses under $350 that have decent zoom?

    Subjectively, please advise me. I'm going nuts.

    Cheers,
    Jeff
     
  2. jeffdrafttech

    jeffdrafttech TPF Noob!

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    Adding to my own thread.

    My choices from what I have gathered:

    Rebel XT kit plus card is around $675
    Worries: poor photos when shooting hand-held. No zoom for wildlife photos

    Rebel XT body plus IS zoomish lens plus mem card is around $1100
    Worries: Price. I'm a noob and thats a big chunk of change.

    S2IS plus mem card is around $290, S3IS + card is around $370
    H5 plus card is around $450
    H2 plus card is around $370
    Worries: Poor high iso shooting so I get bad photos without flash indoors. Worried about spending $300-$400 now and ending up buying a SLR in 6 months anyhow.

    Last question.
    Which is better, buying the Rebel kit then upgrading the lens later, or buying the body adn the lens you really want. I can see shelving the lens included in the kit and never using it again, seems like a waste of $130. On the other hand, $1100 is a LOT of money for my budget.

    Also, please recommend different IS lenses for the Rebel XT.

    OK, I'm going to bed now. Thanks for any help you can provide.
     
  3. darich

    darich TPF Noob!

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    Advice i've seen here regularly and would completely agree with is buy high quality lenses. They depreciate VERY slowly in comparison to DSLR bodies. And if you stay with whatever brand you choose, the lenses fit the new updated body.

    Lenses are also one ofd the biggest factors in image quality. poor glass means poor image.

    IS built into camera bodies isn't nearly as effective as IS in lenses. The end of the lens is what moves so you want your IS to work where movement is greatest. If it's built into the body, and the body is held still, the lens can still move and it makes the IS less effective. It's all to do with lever arms and stuff :)

    DSLR is MUCH more flexible and adaptable to your needs. Yes you'll need to carry more gear and yes it's more expensive but if you go down that road you'll be so glad you did. You mentioned that images improve dramatically once you've learned the ins and outs. I'd say that a DSLR HELPS you learn those ins and outs much quicker than a compact. The are more settings and a larger range with more increments giving you tons more control over a shot and it'll help you discover what settings make what changes to any given image. I learned much faster when i got my Digital Rebel a few years ago.

    DSLR can be upgraded by buying battery pack, flashgun, dozens of lenses but none of those things can be bought for a compact. A DSLR kit can grow to match your needs but you'd outgrow a compact at somepoint. Having said that, i'd not have no compact. In other words i've got one and wouldn't do without - they're perfect for parties, stag nights etc when you don't want to lug a whole bag of kit around.

    Rebel XT seems like a good camera. the kit lens, memory card and IS lens if you get one can all be kept when you upgrade the rebel unless you switch to Nikon or some other brand.
    But buy the compact with IS and it won't be as effective and when the camera is out of date or you've out grown it, you'll lose the IS feature.

    If you're serious enough to be considering a DSLR then i'd say that's what you should get. If you were only looking for a compact for snapshots (as many people are) then a DSLR is more than you'd need.
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the forum.

    That's good advice from 'darich'.

    A few quick points; The most important difference (IMO) between a DSLR and 99% or other digital cameras is the size of the sensor. This is a main reason why DSLR cameras are so much better at high ISO settings. As mentioned, a DSLR is a much, much better investment. The cameras depreciate rather slowly (for consumer electronics) and the lenses depreciate even less. Top end lenses are very expensive, but hardly depreciate at all. Plus, with interchangeable lenses, you are in a system...you can upgrade the body or get a different lens or several. With the cheaper digi-cams...you are stuck with the lens you have...and those lenses usually aren't all that great when compared to an SLR lens. The large zoom ranges (10X & 12X) are just not capable of being really good lenses. The designers have to make compromises in quality, to accommodate such a large range. Sure it's convenient...but what is more important to you...image quality or convenience? As this is a photography forum...most people here would probably choose quality...and that's why a lot of us have gone with a DSLR over cameras like the S3.

    That being said, if you want something smaller and convenient...then maybe an S3 (or whatever) is the right choice for you. It certainly is possible to get great shots...when the conditions are favorable.
     
  5. Jeremy Z

    Jeremy Z No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Well, for my first post, I'll give you my thoughts on this.

    For a proper DSLR starter outfit, plan on about $1000. As you know, you need a body and a memory card. The Rebel XT can be had new with a USA warranty for $540 on ebay. If you want to pay $600 + tax to support your local shop, that's respectable, but will cost more. By most accounts, the kit lens on the XT is garbage. (source: www.dpreview.com, miscellaneous customer comments) I'm looking at getting a Rebel XT as well, but the price of admission is quite a bit; I'll have to save for a while. So the body at $540 + $50 for memory (minimum) + $120 for a proper flash (this can wait if you can make do with a 12' flash range indoors) + $400 for a proper wide angle to short telephoto all around zoom = $1110. The lens I'm thinking about is either the Sigma or Tamron 18-55 with a fixed f/2.8 maximum aperture. Since this will be my main lens, it's worth spending some money on. Also, since I'll be going with a cheapish camera body, there is money left for a good lens.

    Personally, I'd skip the expensive IS lens and bring a top-quality pocket tripod, such as the one made by Bogen for about $40. With a 300 mm equiv. lens and your camera's ISO set to 400 you won't need a tripod much of the time, at least for outdoor work. That little tripod is plenty sturdy and it has been a real life-saver for me, especially for night shots.

    Now something else you might consider are the "prosumer" digital cameras with the long optical zooms built in. I've got an Olympus C-750 Ultra Zoom that I just love. The optical quality is right on par with the SLR lenses. The lens speed is there too; it's an f/2.8 to 3.9 or something, and it has a 10X optical zoom, to about a 300 mm equiv. focal length.

    Looking back, here are the features that I miss on this camera:

    1) A true wide angle. 38mm just doesn't cut it sometimes. I can buy an adapter for this, but it won't be quite as good as a proper 28mm wide angle on a DSLR.

    2) A low-light focus assist. The camera body doesn't have this built in, so focusing indoors, especially when zoomed-in, can be quite challenging. I can get this too, but it means having to buy a $180 Olympus flash that has an IR focus assist.

    3) Image Stabilizer. I find that I hardly ever need this outdoors, but it would come in handy indoors from time to time.

    Since you haven't purchased yet, you might consider one of the nicer Panasonic Lumix cameras. They have unrivaled optical quality. (Leica optics) They have built-in optical image stabilization. You'll still be missing a proper wide angle, and I don't know if they have a focus-assist feature for low light or not. But that would cost half as much as a DSLR with a single good lens.

    If you can afford it, definitely go with a DSLR. But all is not lost if you have to "settle" for a high-end point & shoot like the Olympus C series or Panasonic Lumix FZ series.
     
  6. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    I didn't read the previous replies, but I will just say this. One great advantage to an SLR over a compact camera is that you don't have to have one lens that covers a huge range of focal lengths. You can have several lenses to cover the range, and buy much higher quality lenses. You don't have to buy them all at once however. What types of things do you really like to shoot? You've mentioned hiking, museums, and the zoo. It might be really great for your photography to get a good SLR or dSLR and one lens, say a 50mm lens, and really concentrate on your photography, finding out what you like to photograph most. Then you can always add on more lenses as your budget allows. If you are really becoming addicted to photography, this will happen eventually anyway. Speaking of low light photography, there is no better lens for the money than the Canon 50 f/1.8, which only costs around $75.
     
  7. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    That lens gets a lot of bad press...mostly (I think) because it feels like a toy. It's very light and most mostly of plastic. For people who know how to use it...and what it's limitations are...it's a great little lens. Especially for the $100 or less that it costs when purchased with the camera.
     
  8. Digital Matt

    Digital Matt alter ego: Analog Matt

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    I agree. I used it for about a year with my first dSLR and have taken many of my favorite photographs with it. Stopped down to f/8 or f/11, it is pretty sharp, as are most lenses. For $100, you can't beat it.
     
  9. Jeremy Z

    Jeremy Z No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I used to think the same way, and on SLRs I think this is probably the case more often than not. However, on the higher quality "prosumer" cameras such as the Olympus C series Ultra Zooms, the lens is really top-notch. It is matched perfectly to the sensor and never really seems out of its element. (except when I need a real wide angle and don't have it)

    I'm not saying that these prosumer cameras are as good as DSLRs, only that some of them have a REALLY good lens. Oh, and they're half the cost of an equivalent DSLR. As a side note, they also shoot video, which a "proper" SLR doesn't.
     
  10. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Those lenses may be top notch, compared to typical P&S digital cameras...but I'd wager that even the 'crappy kit lens' is probably better than any of those ultra zoom lenses.

    Good point about video, DSLR camera's don't record video...nor can you compose your shot by looking at the LCD screen on the back. And thank goodness for that :D
     
  11. darich

    darich TPF Noob!

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    I'd agree with Mike. I had the kit lens and took some great shots with it. This one among them.

    If used properly it can achieve great results. It is light and not the best quality but saying it's garbage is a bit extreme.
     
  12. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I've seen on other forums where they have long threads of people posting their best kit lens shots...many of which are very good. Maybe we should start a similar thread here.
     

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