Best Buys: Budget DSLR Cameras
Group Test If you shop around you won’t have to try too hard to find deals around £100 cheaper than the manufacturer prices quoted here. Moreover, even at the budget end of the market, there really does appear to be something for everyone.
The Olympus E-450 is a fast shooter and very pocketable too. However, the storage card options and smaller sensor with its so-so performance do impact on its attractiveness. That said, it does have a great price and you have to look no further than the company’s own web site to find it.
The Sony Alpha A290 also has storage options, but with one being the ubiquitous SD card, it has the edge on the Olympus. The images are certainly respectable and if the megapixel count is important to you, at 14.1Mp this is a high scorer of the bunch, but also the slowest shooter in continuous mode.
With a veritable arsenal of lenses and accessories, choosing a Canon to kick off your DSLR odyssey is an appealing proposition. The EOS 1000D has much to commend it too, such as its useful array of dedicated buttons for common features and good noise performance. Yet the asking price seems high when compared to the HD video-shooting Pentax K-x . The feel of the plastic body of the EOS 1000D doesn’t do it many favours either.
Relying on AA batteries is a mixed blessing with the Pentax K-x, as you'll want some rechargeables, but you’ll soon get over this niggle, as the K-x is a great performer in terms of noise and optically too. Being able to capture 720p video is a real bonus too. If you’re after a system you can experiment with, then the Pentax K-x has a lot going for it. If you plan on using ancient lenses with adaptors, then this camera’s in-body image stabilisation will take care of the shakes, no matter what you put on it. Given its versatility, but bearing in mind its price, the Pentax K-x is our Reg Hardware Recommended model.
This summer Nikon announced the D3100, which at £580 is a good deal more expensive than the D3000, which is still holding its own on the shop floor. Indeed, it holds it own against the competition here too, as its combination of image quality and ease of use make it an ideal camera for beginners and enthusiasts alike. Lest we forget Nikon’s superlative range of lenses and accessories that, while not necessarily the cheapest, are quality offerings all the same. Indeed it is the issue of image quality that has been a priority in this group test and the Nikon D3000 scores highly in this respect and is the Reg Hardware Editor’s Choice. ®
Next page: ISO Tests
Yes (and no)
While some of the things you say are true, and this was almost completely true with film, but the back is now more important that it has ever been, pixel count (and density, APS-C vs FF), auto ISO, noise reduction and automatic vignetting correction, AF accuracy (and speed), not forgetting video modes and FPS all add up.
Standard kit lenses are the best they have ever been (some with built in stabilisation), the glass is critical to the quality, BUT the standard glass is very good, a cheap kit lens will produce outstanding results used in the right way and an expensive lens with produce rubbish used in the wrong way.
Notwithstanding, don't forget the post-processing possible, automatic adjustment for CA and distortion depending on lens used, and it's trivial to blur a background after masking your subject, fake bokeh can look identical to even the trained eye.
My 70-200mm 2.8L IS is fantastic, but a cheap 55-250mm will produce superb pics if used well (and better than my 70-200mm used badly), same is true for a kit lens with a £20 extension tube compared to a £700 L macro.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, while your comments are generally true, it's not as important as all that, so don't get hung up on expensive glass.
One thing to keep in mind if you're new to SLRs
Sorry if this rehashes too much from the article...
Lenses are a *big* part of the image quality (IQ). In many ways they're more important than the back. When looking at the test images there are certain things that will always be consistent with a given back (ISO performance, white balance) but most of what people think of when they think of IQ (depth of field, bokeh, color rendition, sharpness) is either directly or in large part due to the lens.
So with the test images, keep in mind that if you're only planning on keeping the kit lens these are what your images will look like... but if you throw a prime, or a soft focus lens, or a macro lens on you'll be able to do some really wild stuff and get some great images (if you know what you're doing of course) even with one of these cheap backs.
Not much disagreement here
I might have sounded like it, but I'm not a lens/kit snob I swear it! I guess at the end of it all, there were really two points (not hard and fast of course) I was trying to get at:
1.) The SLR system is made for interchangeable lenses. A lot of people don't take advantage of that, just like they don't take advantage of Manual/Program modes vs. the Automatic settings.
2.) You don't have to break the bank to use non-kit glass. The cheap little Canon 50m F1.8 (new for £77.44 on Amazon), for example, can do some really neat things when it comes to low light and defocus (bokeh). You can also rent glass from a number of providers.
All that said, and finally to your point... knowing your equipment and how to use it rules all else and you don't need the latest/greatest/biggest/baddest of everything to make a good picture.
A camera system is like a set of chef knives - buying a really expensive set will not make you a great chef... especially if you don't really know how to use that paring knife, boning knife, etc.
AA batteries are completely useless in a DSLR camera, expensive and wont last long, I have a Nikon D90 and my Lithium batteries hold their charge for weeks
Answers fron a Pentax DSLR owner
1. That's about it.. There's a focus indicator should you need it though Pentax DSLRs tend to have pretty good viewfinders and you can always buy third party screens with microprism/split prism focusing aids.
2. Pentax M lenses stop down to meter and stop down to shoot on modern cameras so you don't get fully auto exposure but you don't need to bother fiddling with the aperture ring that's only for screw-mount lenses if you want to be really old school.
Or you could buy a Canon and sell me the 85mm lens (I already have the pancake!). Seriously, old Pentax glass fetches a good price these days since it's both high quality and very usable. Your lenses have probably doubled or tripled their value in the last few years.