Monday, June 11, 2007

help me choose a new digital camera

Way back in the stone ages of digital photography we bought an Olympus C-755 UZ. The main reason we settled on this model was the 10x optical zoom and super macro mode since we do lots of wildlife and plant photography. The biggest downsides are the tiny LCD on the back, the lack of image stabilization and the 4.1 MP resolution. Oh, and after several years of use (and abuse) the flash doesn't work consistently.

It's time to get a new one, and I've decided to go with a higher end camera. I'm looking for at least 6 MP, optical image stabilization and a zoom in the 300mm or 8x - 10x range. The option to add lenses would be nice, too. I don't want digital image stabilization, and I don't want a Sony camera with it's wacko nonstandard media.

So far I'm most seriously considering the following:

Nikon D40

  • Digital SLR
  • Very highly rated
  • Wide array of lenses
  • Potentially lots of lens changes or stacking/removing lenses
  • No autofocus motor or image stabilization built into the body
  • I'll have to buy lenses with these features, and they're quite pricey

Pentax K100D

  • Digital SLR
  • Image stabilization and an autofocus motor built into the camera body.
  • Slightly less expensive than the Nikon D40
  • Potentially lots of lens changes or stacking/removing lenses
  • Comparatively fewer high quality lenses available

Canon Powershot S5 IS

  • Point and shoot = less complex
  • 12x zoom = 438mm FOV out of the box
  • Canon's image stabilization is legendary
  • Not a digital SLR
  • Costs as much as the other two so I just feel like I'm getting ripped off somehow
They all three have the same basic form factor, so it's not like the S5 is any smaller. It boils down to how I see myself using the camera in the future. Am I more of a point and shoot kinda guy, or do I take my time to do composition and fully utilize the manual modes that are available? I've never had a fully manual camera so I'm honestly not sure. At this point I think it's something I would like to at least have as an option, and both the D40 and K100D seem to be very capable in fully automatic mode and offer the option to step out of the box a bit more. I just wonder about the price I pay for that flexibility that I may not use.

Does anyone out there have any suggestions?


  1. Odd Åge SkogheimTue Jun 12, 02:30:00 AM


    I Personally find that these SLR cameras are a bit small to hold, but they are both great cameras.
    I use a lot to check out cameras. As a competitor to the Canon, you might also take a look at Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8

    Another camera worth checking out is the Olympus E-410, which has an activ LCD screen. This might be useful with Macro photos.

  2. Charles,
    I believe Sony is starting to back away from the 'wacko media', the new α DSLR-A100K supports both memory stick and Compact Flash, they're offering a $100 rebate until the 16th on a bundle with a 18-70mm lens. If the wacko media is all you have against Sony you should check this one.

  3. I actually recently bought a Canon S3 and I LOVE it. I was replacing an old Nikon coolpix 880. The Canon is fairly easy to use. If you're truly serious about photography, I was recommended the Nikon D40. I just couldn't swing the cost at the time. I know what you mean about the extra for lenses, but from what I understand it's worth it. Personally, I enjoy the Canon's point and shoot ease, but I'm not that good at this either. ;)

  4. Charles -

    Not sure what your budget is (and I'm no photog expert), but check out--

    (+) 10MP, 12x optical, SD, built-in LEICA lens

    (-) built in lens, only 2" display, cost ($850)


    (+) 10 MP, SD, built-in LEICA lens, lots of manual adjustments

    (-) Only 4x optical (plus 4x digital), cost (~$600)

    On another note: I inherited a Sony Cybershot DSC-P150 and its quickly become the fave cam I ever owned once I got over the memory stick and proprietary cable (also, remember that Canon uses those crazy xD cards). It's only 7MP, 3x optical, 2" screen, but it's pocketable and I've been really happy with the results from the Zeiss lens.

    Good luck! I'll be interested to hear what you decide on...

  5. Did you look at Canon's digital Rebel XTi?

    it's a little more than what you list, but there's also and XT for a slightly older version that's in your price range.

  6. Thanks for all the input, it's given me a lot more to consider. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not. ;-) I've decided to go the SLR route, and the Nikon D40 is near the top of my list. I already know I'll have to bite the bullet and spend about $700 - $900 for a good versatile 18 - 200mm lens, so that means I need to collect some more spare change. :-) I'm looking at the Digital Rebel XTi, too. It's a little beyond my budget for now, but I'll check it again in a couple of months when I'm ready to get the new camera. I'll definitely have it before my trip to Barcelona in November.

  7. For what it's worth, Consumer Reports (I live & die by CR), ranks the D40 as a Best Buy and rates it equal to the Rebel (both score 70). The K100D scores 68. Of course, they are probably judging using different criteria than you. Related note: the K100D uses AA batteries so if you need more juice, stopping at 7-11 will fix you up!

  8. I have the Nikon D50 and love it, even though it meant abandoning Minolta SLRs that I had been using for the last dozen years.

    I spent more like $300 for a great 70-300 lens to go with the 18-55 lens that came with the initial kit. Been very happy with both, though I'm sure I'll want more over time.

    The thing about the D50 is the battery seems to last forever. Way better than my Panasonic pocket camera, perhaps because you can sight through the lens as opposed to needing to use a screen. There are also way more settings than I could ever learn, but maybe that was true with the Minolta, too :)

    Most of my Prague pictures from last fall were taken with the D50. When you look at some of them like this one, wow. It was amazing.

  9. t. brian - I have that issue, too, and read through it last night. :-)

    Ed - I *knew* you had recently gotten a camera, and I searched for it on your blog but couldn't find it. I didn't want to ask you specifically, so thanks for chiming in. :-) The D50 was actually on my list since it has a built in auto focus motor. The cost for the lens with the D40 was specifically for one with image stabilization (since I do lots of telephoto shots) and the autofocus motor. It looks like I'll still need to get a VR lens with the D50, but that's less expensive than one with AF-S and VR.

  10. I don't know you at all, so, All I can do is share my $.02 I have the Cannon S2 and love it. Since I do love it I am not up to speed on all the camera developments since my purchase.

    I can say, that the SUPER-WONDERFULL proprietary battery Nikon has, no matter how good it is, will die at the wrong time, leaving you in Zimbabwe looking for a replacement battery, when you should be taking pictures. You can however buy AA batteries anywhere. This, for me excludes any camera that does not allow me normal batteries.

  11. I have Nikon D80 and I'm more than happy. I was thinking about D40 as well, but the missing autofocus motor led me to D80.