Camera buying guide

duncanp

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After countless threads on what to choose, film or digital, and then what kind of film or digital camera I have decided to hopefully sum it all up into one thread that will be updated regularly.


Film or Digital?

Quality:

Digital cameras, especially Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras (DSLRs) are starting to match the quality of 35mm film. If you printed a 7x5in print from a 6 mega pixel (mp) or higher resolution camera, the difference between that and the quality of a 35mm film print at the same size would be indistinguishable. However with cameras 6mp-8mp the difference would start to become visible at A4 size prints at 300 dots per inch (dpi). Higher resolution cameras 9-16mp have no problem producing A3 size prints at 300dpi some models even being able to produce good quality a2 prints e.g. the Canon EOS 1DS MK II which is the best DLSR that canon provide. Fujifilm Velvia 35mm slide film scanned at a very good quality the equivalent to 16mp, the same as the Canon EOS 1DS MK II.
If you were to scan a medium format 6x4.5cm slide you get the equivalent of around 48mp, large format 4x5 around 240mp…! And large format 8x10 960mp!!
The resolution of the image is not the only thing that affects quality, the lens you use can have a great influence on this as well, the Canon L lenses are probably the best lenses around. Also the ISO rating of the film or the ISO you set your digital camera to affects the quality.

Costs:

With DSLRs dominating the camera market many people are ditching film and going digital, Film camera bodies are very cheap now and there is a reasonable amount in good condition second hand and cheaper, a top of the range 35mm SLR the Canon EOS 1V only costs £1259 whereas its digital equivalent the EOS 1DS MK II costs £4589. Medium format photography is also becoming very cheap and more available to a wider range of photographers, especially the Bronica ERTS / Si. With a lot of competition in the DSLR market DSLR prices fell by 23% and a budget DSLR can be bought for £325 (Nikon D50 body only).
Extra costs can be lenses, which normally work for both film and digital. Lenses design for 35mm cameras or full frame DSLRs will always work on a DSLR with a APS-C size sensor or any other size. A lens designed for a DSLR with a APS-c size sensor or anything smaller than full frame, will work on a 35mm SLR or a full frame digital camera but it will cause a lot of vignetting around the edge of your pictures. The main cost in film photography is sometimes the cost of film and getting it developed. Whereas in digital photography all you need to do is buy a memory card and keep reusing it, giving you the opportunity to shoot as much as you want at a minimal cost.


Although film cameras are getting less expensive and have better quality, especially if you move into medium format or higher, the costs of film and film developing really add up if you want to take a lot of pictures. The costs of digital cameras are coming down and are much more affordable. The fact that you only need to buy one memory card and reuse it means that you can shoot practically all the time and digital means you also get instant results on site, so that you can reshoot if you need to.


Digital SLR / SLR style or super zoom / Digital Compact

If you are thinking of buying a digital camera there are three main types ^.
The costs of each vary and each have the advantaged and disadvantages.

Digital Compact:

Most people nowadays have one of these and the price of them can vary from £30 to £300+, ranging from around 10mp to 1. Due to their size and ease of use many people have them on them the whole time and do not need much knowledge to use them. If you just want something for everyday snapshots, a digital compact is good, they normally have around a 3x optical zoom, set scene modes such as portrait, and auto mode and program mode.

A small amount of suggested models for a range of prices:
  • Nikon Coolpix L4 - £95 – 4mp, 3x: 38-114mm
  • Nikon Coolpix L3 - £109 – 5mp, 3x: 38-116mm
  • Canon PowerShot A540 – £165 – 6mp 4x: 35-140mm
  • Fujifilm F30 - £259 – 6mp, 3x: 36-108mm, Huge ISO range: 100-3200
  • Sony DSCT30 - £299 – 7mp, 3x: 38-114mm
  • Canon IXUS 800 IS - £299 – 6mp, 4x: 35-140mm, Image Stabiliser
SLR Style or Super zoom:

These are ideal for someone who wants to take photography a little more seriously and not take snapshots the whole time. These look like a DSLR and normally have manual exposure and more options to give you better control over your pictures. On average they have a 12x zoom about 36-432mm. although they have big zooms the majority are not well suited for fast actions sports and nature photography as they have shutter lag, where you press the shutter button and the shutter opens around 1/125 sec later. I use one of these as they are not as expensive as DSLRs and there aren’t many extra costs like lenses as you have on fixed lens. If you want there are accessories such as wide angle converters that give you a better wide angle lens and there are also telephoto converters. For mine, a Panasonic lumix fz-20, I have a filter adapter and filter set that allows me to use UV, FD and polariser filters.

A few of the best SLR styles:
  • Fuji FinePix S6500 - £195 – 5mp, 10x: 38-380mm
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H2 - £299 – 6mp, 12x: 36-432mm
  • PowerShot S3 IS - £299 – 6mp, 12x: 36-432mm
  • Fuji FinePix S9500 - £329 – 9mp, 10.7x: 28-300mm
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 - £559 – 10mp, 5x: 24-120mm
Digital Single Lens Reflex:

These are the top of the range digital camera you can get. Loaded with feature they give you almost unlimited creativity. Suitable for all kinds of photography, the only downside is the cost of extra lenses can top that of the price of the camera body.

Beginner DSLRs (Body only):
  • Nikon D50 - £325 – 6mp.
  • Pentax *ist DL - £329 – 6mp
  • Canon EOS 350D (Digital Rebel XT) - £429 – 8mp
Amateur / Enthusiast (Body only)
  • Canon EOS 400D - £650 – 10mp NEW!!
  • Nikon D80 - £699 – 10mp NEW!!
  • Canon EOS 30D – £749 – 8mp
  • Nikon D200 - £1069 – 10mp
  • Canon EOS 5D - £1599 – 12mp, Full frame
Will add lens guide later,

Feel free to ask any Qus


Here's a database with all currently sold cameras, i made it mainly for my IT GCSE but it will help here as it has a list of current cameras.

http://www.duncanphilpott.com/cameradatabase.mdb


 

EBphotography

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Thanks Duncanp. Great guide. I use an SLR style camera, Kodak Z740, and I am happy with it. I do a lot of nature photography too!
 

Don Simon

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Good idea! I'm surprised there isn't already such a thread, given how many times people ask the questions you've addressed here. The only thing I'd really question is the bit about resolution. There are so many factors involved that the whole issue of resolution in film and digital is a pretty grey area. One thing to remember is that you can have the best glass available, on the most expensive camera there is, and it won't do you much good if you're printing from your DSLR with cheap ink and the wrong kind of paper in the wrong printer, or handing your films over to a lab whose staff don't know or care what they're doing. The one other thing I'd add is that compact or zoom digitals do have one specific advantage over DSLRs - you can compose the shot using the LCD screen. Anyway those are just some minor issues, I agree this post should be stickied and with updates and input from some of the various experts here we could have a pretty comprehensive guide. Great job!
 

Unimaxium

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ZaphodB said:
Good idea! I'm surprised there isn't already such a thread, given how many times people ask the questions you've addressed here. The only thing I'd really question is the bit about resolution. There are so many factors involved that the whole issue of resolution in film and digital is a pretty grey area. One thing to remember is that you can have the best glass available, on the most expensive camera there is, and it won't do you much good if you're printing from your DSLR with cheap ink and the wrong kind of paper in the wrong printer, or handing your films over to a lab whose staff don't know or care what they're doing.
I think there used to be a thread like this one, but it went poof and disappeared last time the forums were reorganized. I let a mod know about it, but I don't think anyone was able to find it again. But hey, we can make this thread even better than the last one (and I think duncan's done a good job of achieving that already)! ;-)

The one other thing I'd add is that compact or zoom digitals do have one specific advantage over DSLRs - you can compose the shot using the LCD screen. Anyway those are just some minor issues, I agree this post should be stickied and with updates and input from some of the various experts here we could have a pretty comprehensive guide. Great job!
Good piece of info. I think I'd add to this that there is one brand of DSLRs (Olympus, I believe) that actually has a feature to preview the image live on the LCD by using a smaller, secondary CCD sensor, which is pretty cool. Also, the nice thing about DSLRs is that they have muuuuch nicer viewfinders than point-and-shoots, which makes them especially nice to use in bright environments where an LCD would be hard to see.

Let's keep this thread going... ;-)
 

Weaving Wax

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Thank you. That helped me a lot. I was looking into getting an SLR, but wasn't sure if I should go film or digital...well, I still don't know for sure, but your guide helped!
 
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duncanp

duncanp

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Weaving Wax said:
Thank you. That helped me a lot. I was looking into getting an SLR, but wasn't sure if I should go film or digital...well, I still don't know for sure, but your guide helped!


Thanks,



ive pmed corry about stickying it
 

Rv5

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i would really like to see what you have for that lens guide. that would be very helpful!
 

Alex_B

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Great review!
Have to comment on some details though:
duncanp said:
Digital cameras, especially Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras (DSLRs) are starting to match the quality of 35mm film.
Totally agreed!

duncanp said:
Fujifilm Velvia 35mm slide film scanned at a very good quality the equivalent to 16mp, the same as the Canon EOS 1DS MK II.
Here I do not agree. I use both 35mm film and digital. In terms of actual resolution a High-Res Scan does not reach the quality of full frame digital. To give some details:

35mm: EOS 100, Fuji Velvia 100F (fine grain film, actually the grain of the new "F" Velvia is comparable to the good old Velvia 50).

Scanner: Nikon 5000 ED, my film is usually scanned with no sharpening and no GEM grain reduction, as I do all this in a later step using Photoshop for sharpening and NeatImage for grain reduction.

digital: EOS 5D, RAW converted with Bibble

Same lenses on both cameras.

It is true that nominally (as in pixel counting) I get a higher resolution with my scanner and therefore larger files, however, that scanner resolution is well resolving the film-grain even on fine grain films, and you lose a lot of sharpness in the scanning process. Hence the effective resolution (as in resolving details in an image) is much lower. Subsequent electronic grain reduction and sharpening gives a much cleaner image of course, however that helps resolution only little.

To summarise, at least in my case, the 13 MP digital images appear of higher effective resolution. Also not to forget that the effort to get a comparably sharp and clean image is much larger when scanning.

Anyway, I also tried a drum scanner, then results are improved on the 35mm side, but still far from perfect and far from the projected slide.

Just as advice for all those out there who are scanning slide or negative film, switch off grain reduction on your scanner and spend a bit of money on third party grain reduction software. When I started doing this I started loving my slides again ;)
 
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duncanp

duncanp

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Alex_B said:
Great review!
Have to comment on some details though:


Totally agreed!



Here I do not agree. I use both 35mm film and digital. In terms of actual resolution a High-Res Scan does not reach the quality of full frame digital. To give some details:

35mm: EOS 100, Fuji Velvia 100F (fine grain film, actually the grain of the new "F" Velvia is comparable to the good old Velvia 50).

Scanner: Nikon 5000 ED, my film is usually scanned with no sharpening and no GEM grain reduction, as I do all this in a later step using Photoshop for sharpening and NeatImage for grain reduction.

digital: EOS 5D, RAW converted with Bibble

Same lenses on both cameras.

It is true that nominally (as in pixel counting) I get a higher resolution with my scanner and therefore larger files, however, that scanner resolution is well resolving the film-grain even on fine grain films, and you lose a lot of sharpness in the scanning process. Hence the effective resolution (as in resolving details in an image) is much lower. Subsequent electronic grain reduction and sharpening gives a much cleaner image of course, however that helps resolution only little.

To summarise, at least in my case, the 13 MP digital images appear of higher effective resolution. Also not to forget that the effort to get a comparably sharp and clean image is much larger when scanning.

Anyway, I also tried a drum scanner, then results are improved on the 35mm side, but still far from perfect and far from the projected slide.

Just as advice for all those out there who are scanning slide or negative film, switch of grain reduction on your scanner and spend a bit of money on third party grain reduction software. When I started doing this I started loving my slides again ;)

ok , thanks for that
 

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