New camera shopping the more I look the more I'm confused!


No longer a newbie, moving up!
Sep 18, 2015
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Sunny SW Minnesota
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I've been lurking and reading every post in this thread for a while now and am really confused on what direction to go.

Last spring I picked up a used Panasonic FZ150 bridge camera to take family shots for our church directory. We ended up having a company do the directory but I started taking the camera with me to the track and discovered I quite enjoy shooting there.


The only real complaint with my FZ150 is no focus ring and it's difficult to get good depth of field shots with the way the controls are. This shot could have been so much better...

So I'm thinking I need to upgrade to a DSLR and actually learn what I am doing. But every time I read a review or suggestion thread for newbees I come away with a different idea of the perfect camera. I started with a budget of 500ish and a D3200 and bounced all over the place even considering a budget doubling 70D.

What I know for sure is I need at least 5fps with auto focus to get shots like this

I also need the capability of a shooting a wide range of distance. This shot was from 300+ feet out

and this Porsche was from about 30 feet away.

I'm also thinking some measure of weather proof would be a good idea as I am out in all sorts of conditions with it.

I think I could be comfortable up to around $800 or so but have considered I might be better off using the FZ150 for another year to get better at shooting before I move on. So what do you guys think?
Have you considered the Nikon D7100? It is a very capable camera as well.
Personally, I would learn your camera in manual mode for a little while, then jump to a Nikon DSLR since you will be somewhat familiar with the menu and settings. I am new from film and if I had to do over again, I would come in here first, by a body, then good glass as opposed to the kit lens. I have had a D3300 since June and already have replaced the 18-55 kit lens for a faster, sharper f2.8 (Sigma 17-50) and traded for a 35mm prime lens. A fast zoom would probably suit you well for the above shots. I would get a D3300 or D5200 body. Then start with a good all around zoom like the 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VRII. It's small, sharp, and fast. I have the 55-200mm f/4-5.6 and it does the trick but I'm talking do over's. My experience, wait for other responses as I am not an expert. By the way, your pics look pretty good to me so maybe get to know your camera a little while longer.

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Fast-firing is not the only need for action. You can shoot good action photos with a slow camera, if you have pre-focused on a spot on the track, and shoot when the cars come to that spot. The one area where the bridge cameras often have an advantages is in long-distance shots; many bridge cameras have VERY long focal length settings at maximum zoom, often these days the equivalent of a 400mm to 600mm lens on a 35mm camera. Anyway...I'd submit that you need a camera, but also need to work on camera-handling skills as much as anything. The camera itself will not MAKE the pictures...just as a new car will not drive itself well without a good human driver behind the wheel. You will most likely want two lenses, one for the close-range stuff like the Porsche at 30 feet, another for long-range shots. The cheap 55-200 type zooms are slow focusers. I would look at a base-model SLR camera and Tamron 70-300 VC lens for the majority of the shots done from 50 to 300 feet. The kit 18-55mm lens for all the other shots. I suggest the Tamron 70-300 just for the focusing speed it has, and the fair price.
Thanks this is really helpful especially about the lenses.

I should have mentioned I rarely shoot on track at less than 4x zoom and the camera will go to 24x but really falls apart past about 20x zoom. To help with that I picked up a 1.7 add on lens that sort of works OK.

I got this shot from the other side of the world with it.

The problem with it is it mounts to the camera on the body with a hunk of pipe so I have to zoom to about 10x just to use it. The size of the beast didn't bother me at all and I lugged it around for 4 days at the Nationals but it's not very useful really.

BTW yes I refined that ^ strap mount before I took it out in the world...
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To be fair I think you do very well considering your gear.Those shots are difficult with a bridge. What will 800 get you?

I agree with the above suggestion for the tamron 70-300, I have had a canon and nikon version, both good.

Here is a pentax k5 in 8+ condition, this is a well specced camera
Used Pentax K-5 Digital SLR Camera (Body Only) (Black) 14748 B&H

With the right lens, maybe even this
Used Pentax SMCP-DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED Autofocus Lens 21720 B&H

you'd have a good kit
It's weatherproof as well.

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Wow Pentex really? Didn't know there was any other camera company than Nikon and Cannon!

That set up does look like a heck of a bang for the buck for sure. The specs are not quite as good as the D5500 which is the the latest top of my list but for the price it is really hard to beat.

So would this be the sister lens for normal shooting? Used Pentax DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR Zoom Lens 21880 B&H Photo

$650 for both lenses and the body to my door.
Not a DSLR, but the Panasonic FZ1000 is a camera with a very fast AF, with a good IQ.
Good Leica zoomlens (25-400mm eq. F2.8-F4).
It has 4K photo mode, where each frame can be extracted as an 8MP picture. You can use
all the settings as for a photo. It's like having a 24 fps burst, without having to worry about a full buffer.
Here you find a car race 4K movie with the FZ1000.

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Wow Pentex really? Didn't know there was any other camera company than Nikon and Cannon!

That set up does look like a heck of a bang for the buck for sure. The specs are not quite as good as the D5500 which is the the latest top of my list but for the price it is really hard to beat.

So would this be the sister lens for normal shooting? Used Pentax DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR Zoom Lens 21880 B&H Photo

$650 for both lenses and the body to my door.

That be a great set up, 18-55 is perfect for general shots
Just be careful on the weather sealed part. The 18-55 is, I'm not sure about the 55-300. I believe there us a weather sealed version, not sure if this is the one.

For you camera and lens to be weather resistant BOTH lens and camera need to be resistant.

Fwiw the k5 is probably a tier up the ladder from the d5500, it's better built and has few tricks that the Nikon does not.

Pentax do have a big back selection of lenses that will work on this camera
No offense intended but, I don't feel you have established your priorities to the extent you are ready to make a purchase.

One of the most commonly advertised advantages to a DSLR is the versatility of the system. Not really deniable but maybe debatable IMO.

A DSLR is versatile when you have accumulated a good number of lenses and filters and flashes and other accessories. The disadvantage to all of this is you are constantly lugging around bags and bags of gear and always making decisions regarding which lens, which filter, which this or that will best suit a shot. And, in the end, quite often, you're still in a make do situation with your DSLR and the gear you don't yet own. Or can't get to in time to take the shot.

A superzoom bridge camera has the advantage of being designed by one designer or one team. All that's needed to be known about the lens was available to the camera designer and vice versa. Since a good deal of the quality of a modern lens on a modern camera is made possible by digital correction networks in the camera, this is really an almost ideal situation for a fixed lens system. Given the basic limitations of aperture which will be your most significant limitation with lower cost lenses, there really aren't that may times when a good bridge camera is out of place IMO. But, here I would say, look at the aperture limitations of most of the lenses you could afford to own for a DSLR. They aren't that different when cost is considered.

A bridge camera can be smaller and lighter and far easier to handhold at far greater magnification levels than can a DSLR with an equivalent zoom lens. Add to that the fact you will pay more for the single zoom lens (and probably still not have the reach of the superzoom) than you have for your bridge camera and the advantage to the bridge seems to me to be creeping up on the DSLR's back side.

Take for example your shot of the two individuals which you feel could have been "better". First, I would say, you have to determine what "better" means to you. In other words, what is the purpose of photography? If you feel it is all about the technical merits of a shot, then, IMO, you're missing a large chunk of what good photography is all about. It is the photographer who is important and how they envision a photo. While that get's said and poo-poo'd quite a bit, it's largely in how you have set up a scene that provides the results we want to see when it comes to technical merits.

I'm going to take a wild guess at what you probably feel could have improved that shot and say you feel some background blur would have made the subject's "pop". Well, while most superzooms do not have the fastest lens with the lowest f-stop value, you can achieve very acceptable results with your superzoom when you understand how your camera operates. For example, here are a few shots taken with a well known superzoom which demonstrate how to make subjects pop when you have the limitation of higher f-stop values; tonybritton

If I'm guessing wrong about your opinion of the shot, then next I'd go to lighting. And, to that I'd say, most good bridge cameras have the same opportunities for lighting as will any decent DSLR in your price range.

To be clear, I'm not saying you shouldn't buy a new camera. What I'm partially saying is you have yet to fully exploit the potential of your existing camera. The time for any photographer to upgrade their equipment is when it is only the equipment which is holding back their growth as a photographer.

Otherwise, IMO, you get caught up the constant upgrade-itis of consumer grade photographic gear. "If only I had this, that shot would have been so much better." Yet, if only you had taken the time to consider a shot, probably what you already own would have managed to get the better shot.

The "coulda been a contender" shot would have likely been hampered by your lens selection in the first place if you were working with a DSLR. If you aren't using a lens set for that type of shot, you'll miss the moment while you hunt through a bag of gear to find and afix the lens you need. Disadvantage DSLR.

The other part of what I'm saying is there is not a perfect camera and lens system. You must first realize there will always be objective and subjective trade offs with any product you purchase. You then sit down and make out a list of priorities; what you you feel you absolutely need, what would you like to have and what can you do without. Then you begin to cull through the potential purchases to eliminate what doesn't fit those priorities.

If, for example, you see the benefit of the zoom power on the bridge camera, then you determine whether spending for a DSLR with an equivalent zoom lens will be of value. Why duplicate what you already own? Just as one lens cannot do everything, neither can one camera - unless you are carrying multiple bags of gear and have purchased half of any decently stocked camera shop.

Therefore, yes, buy a DSLR. But keep your bridge camera for those times when it is best suited to your needs. Don't bother duplicating gear when what you own can achieve the results you desire with a bit more knowledge and effort on your part.

If you feel you want a faster lens for those portraits type moments, buy a baseline Nikon or Canon and a 50mm f 1.8 lens. Both companies make such a set up and it's not very expensive. Realize that buying the 50mm f 1.4 lens will cost you three to four times as much and not really make for a more versatile lens in most situations. Apply the rules of diminishing returns unless you have sufficient resources to not be concerned about what you get for what you spend.

If you really need a weatherproof/waterproof camera, place that in a search engine to locate available models. Don't discount looking at last year's cameras, which can save you a fair mount of money. And don't forget to look at refurbished cameras. Most major manufacturers have them available from their own on line stores; Canon Refurbished EOS Digital SLR Cameras | Canon Online Store

Build your kit as your actual needs develop, not just to have something. Right now, you have a fairly long way to go with your present equipment IMO. The number of occasions where a DSLR would have taken a subjectively better photo is minimal IMO when I look at your provided examples. It really is the photographer and not the photographic gear which makes the shot.
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Thank YOU soufiej! You are spot on with the photo of the people up there. I had it on aperture priority with the lowest setting it would allow but that is as much depth of field as it would do. When I first saw the shot I thought it focused on the tree behind and to their left but I had it center weighted so it shouldn't have.

I do like the long zoom but at either extreme it is no good. Zoomed all the way in gives about a 120 degree fish eye effect and zoomed all the way out the image quality is pretty much unusable. This shot is all the way in.

This is the same shot 10 paces back at 2x zoom and the fish is gone.

It's usable if you know that and work with it but I would much rather have an honest image than the fish eye bit.

I hear you loud and clear and have been around long enough to know no matter how good the gear is it's still all about the user. A good driver in a lousy car will beat a lousy drive in a good car every time. At this point I've got a good eye for framing a shot that tells a story and a lot of luck and that's about it. I have a loooong way to go!

It is a bit concerning that my shots would be no better with an SLR. I was thinking there would be more resolution and saturation and just over all better image quality with an SLR. It's interesting Snap shot rates the FZ150 higher over all than the K5 but for image quality the K-5 completely blows it way at 82 to 40. I love the zoom but would give up reach for quality any day...

Now let me ask you this. I don't even know enough to be dangerous with cameras but it looks to me like the bridge and slr are completely different animals and perhaps akin to an electronic drum set and a real drum set. Sure the electronic set will make drum sounds but for nearly every situation a real set is better suited and the electronic is pretty good at covering up newbee mistakes and making them sound better than they really are. I would never want a student to start on or even own an electric set. So am I off in my thinking that I would want to start where I know I will eventually end up anyway and learn this craft with an SLR? If for no other reason to have a focus ring?

I hear you on gear size and after 40 years of schlepping drums from gig to gig I can say with great confidence I couldn't care less how big a camera is! I've got a back pack full of junk I haul around at the track and it doesn't bother me a bit. But there is no question I'm only playing with 49 cards of the deck...

I respect your opinion and thank you for the really thought provoking post.
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Just be careful on the weather sealed part. The 18-55 is, I'm not sure about the 55-300. I believe there us a weather sealed version, not sure if this is the one.

jamoul I stayed up waaaay too late last night reading up on the K5 and I can't thank you enough for pointing it out to me! It ranks up with the Canon D70 and Nikon D7100 at a fraction of the cost. Yeah it doesn't have the bells and whistles but it has the image quality that's what matters to me. With everyone moving to the K-3 they are a bargain and I never considered I could have afforded a camera at this level. Thank you!

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