Need help choosing a dslr camera.


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Oct 18, 2015
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I have been shopping around to get my first dslr camera, but now the time has come when I have to make a decision and I don't know what to do. So here is a list of my needs, wants, and questions.

I am going to be using the camera to document a trip around the globe. I'm going to need the ability to take photos of people, building, scenery, wildlife, ect.

ruggedness is a plus, but I get that a camera is a sensitive piece of equitment.

I want to use prime lenses, I am thinking 2-3 of them should work?

The less weight the better. I'm going to be doing a ton of backpacking.

I would like to keep the entire package (camera, lenses, bag, ect) $1500 or less. Could stretch to $2500 though (cuts into other stuff I need[want] for trip).

I don't need all the bells and whistles, and I will have plenty of time to (try to) master the camera, so I would prefer a camera setup that is hard to use but has greater capabilities, rather than a camera that is easy to use but lacks capabilities. (I'll take both if possible)

I want a camera where if I was good enough that Natl. Geo. would be able to use them.

So I see cameras like these,
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR Camera Body Kit with EF 40mm f/2.8 STM
Pentax K-3 DSLR Camera with 50mm Lens Kit B&H Photo Video
and I wonder, what is difference between them, and this
Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR Camera (Body Only) 5260B002 B&H Photo
yeah, I assume that the more expensive one is better, but if I get really good can I almost match photo quality with the cheaper ones?

Assuming I'm the most amazing photographer in the world, could a cheaper camera with a high quality prime lens match a more expensive camera with all the doodads?

I know there are probably a ton of posts that cover similar things to my questions, but I'm leaving on my trip in less than 72 hours, so I don't really have time to figure everything out. I was planning on throwing all these questions on a friend last minute, but they won't have time till it's too late.
1500$ ?

Nikon D5300 body only 700$
Nikon 35mm 1.8G 240$
Nikon 85mm 1.8G 560$

The Nikon D5300 is an excellent camera has a very good sensor much better then the one in Canon SL1. T5, T3i and T5i
Camera is small and light
The 35mm is an excellent general use prime lens
The 85mm is an amazing portrait lens and good also as a moderate zoom/general use lens.

Prices is in Canadian dollars so in the USA you are going to have 20% left in the pocket which you can add the excellent Nikon 50mm 1.8G
Yeah, know. It just seems like for my price range a few primes would be cheaper and lighter, with the ability for higher quality photos, even if it would be much harder then using a zoom lens. And there is no way I can carry many more primes. I'm open to new ideas though.

I'm looking into them.
What do you want to concentrate on ... ultra-wide, wide, mid, tele, or really long ... all I am saying is that you really cannot get all of them (unless you go with zoom) ... sounds like you would be in the UW to mid (20mm - 85mm)
Personally, if I was backpacking around the world I would carry a mirrorless camera with (two good zoom lenses) since it is important that I can fit everything.
Leaning towards the mid range lenses.

I looked into the mirror-less but I found some issues that make them unsuitable for my needs.
I see you are repeatedly showing the Canon 5D III
Good camera but expensive, big and heavy
If you want full frame get the Nikon D750 which I own, its newer and has better dynamic range and better low light performance then the Canon 5D III and is 1000$ cheaper.
The D750 isnt tiny though after all it is full frame.
For travel and light weight I would still direct you toward Nikon D5300 or even the newer Nikon D5500 which is slightly smaller and lighter then the D5300
Hmm, have you looked at the Sony A7 line ?
Lew, The_Traveler, might have some feedback for you on this one.
Personally from what you say I'd go for the Pentax K3, very rugged, high spec, many pentax lenses avalable for not crazy money. You could even buy the k3 with an 18-55 weather resistant zoom (I know you say you dont want zooms but this does not add much to the price so is worth having). The pentax is a high spec but not large camera. The 5d3 is of course nice, but it is bulkier and the lenses you'd require for same field of view that uou'd get on a crop camera will also need to be bigger.

Before you dismiss mirrorless altogether have a look at the fugi xt1 and the Olympus em1, rugged tidy systems with very nice prime lenses
.. could a cheaper camera with a high quality prime lens match a more expensive camera with all the doodads?
A high-quality camera can certainly help make good photographs, but so much more depends on the skill of the photographer.

There is almost no difference at all between a prime and a high-quality zoom lens, and any minor differences might depend more on how good the prime lens is.

By "all the doodads" I guess you mean "automatic mode", in which the camera can come up with an acceptable exposure with little or no input from the photographer. It still will not select the composition for you.
take this camera
Canon EOS 5D Mark III DSLR Camera (Body Only) 5260B002 B&H Photo
slap on this lens
Zeiss Normal 50mm f/1.4 ZE Planar T* Manual Focus Lens 1677-817

My focus is people. not portraits, but people living life.

Zeiss makes great lenses, no doubt, but for backpacking every ounce is a HUGE deal... those f/1.4's are HEAVY. Compare that to the Canon Nifty 50 (Canon f/1.8 50mm) which is HALF A POUND lighter, and 500 dollars cheaper.

Is the Zeiss a better lens? Without any question of doubt, in every way possible. Vastly superior image quality, immensly stronger and WAY better built... but... it weighs HALF A POUND more.

HALF A POUND is an staggering amount of weight to a backpacker going long distances for something not critical-to-survival.

Honestly, in today's camera market, the differences between camera bodies are insignificant when it comes to image quality, it's all about features. You could take staggeringly amazing pictures with the lightest, cheapest DSLR kit you can find...

My combo of a Rebel SL1 plus a Canon 50mm 1.8 weighs 1.1 pounds, and costs about $600 bucks more or less (including a kit lens)

Your combo of a 5Dmk3 plus a Zeiss 50 weighs in a staggering (for hiking) 1210 grams or 2.6 pounds, nearly a pound and a half more. In hiking terms, that's 2 days worth of dehydrated food difference.

Me? I'd rather take the lighter camera and the extra two days worth of food for the same weight.
What kind of wildlife? If you really want a versatile, well rounded set of prime lenses, you won’t have one for great wildlife photographs—especially in your budget. (The long telephoto prime lenses are higher-grade lenses than most such zooms, so even though they don’t have a zoom capability, they’re actually more expensive—a few are even around the $10,000 mark!)

For a backpacking trip, don’t take “too much camera.” That means, don’t take too much equipment—weight is very important—and do pay attention to the ease of use of the camera, because you don’t have a lot of time to learn it before your trip.

My immediate suggestion is the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II. I see you’ve looked into some mirrorless cameras and “found some issues that make them unsuitable” for your needs, so I wonder, what are those issues? The first question I asked, what kind of wildlife you’ll shoot, is a part of that.

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