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  1. #1
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    Question DSLR or higher-end Point and Shoot?

    I'm looking to buy a camera for my girlfriend this Christmas. I'm buying in China, so everything's generally available for prices similar to the US, but US sale prices do me little good. She's a kindergarten teacher who often needs to take shots of kids, so fast shooting and sharp action shots are important.

    She really wants a DSLR, but she's not a technically-minded person. Although I know she'd get better pictures with a DSLR than her current off-brand 8 megapixel point and shoot, I'm not sure that she would actually bother to learn the skills to really utilize its functionality. However, the DSLR option is bolstered by its "image factor" - a wisely-chosen Point and Shoot isn't as sexy to her as a DSLR, it's a status symbol thing. In the end, the status and functionality arguments kind've cancel each other out, so both options are good.

    I don't see any video questions down on the form. High quality 1080p video would be fantastic, and being able to zoom in and out while shooting video would be tremendous (regardless of video quality). Non-video: manual focus would be another plus.

    On to the form.

    * What budget have you allocated for buying this camera? Please be as specific as possible.
    Up to $1000 if it's out of this world, maybe more like <$800 preferred.

    * What size camera are you looking for? Or does size not matter at all to you?
    Up to and including consumer DSLR size is fine. In cameras with like functionality, smaller is probably preferred.

    How many megapixels will suffice for you?
    Not important.

    * What optical zoom will you need? (None, Standard = 3x-4x, Ultrazoom = 10x-12x)
    Interested in all comers - I've looked at DSLRs with 18-55mm lens packages and ultrazoom P&S's with 50x and everything in between. Normal usage won't call for particularly high zoom, but it would be used on occasion if it's there.

    * How important is “image quality” to you? (Rate using a scale of 1-10)
    7-8? This is kind've a wacky question, though.

    Do you care for manual exposure modes (shutter priority, aperture priority, manual)?
    This is part of the DSLR vs. P&S argument IMO - not a current skill, but maybe one we could learn to utilize if the motivation is there.

    * What will you generally use the camera for?
    Primary use will be shooting kids 2-6 years old at kindergarten. Vacation shots would be number two on the list.

    * Will you be making big prints of your photos or not?
    Not regularly, but a ton of smaller (i.e. 4x6) prints.

    Will you be shooting a lot of indoor photos or low light photos?
    Indoor will probably account for 75% of usage. Low light, not regularly.

    Will you be shooting sports and/or action photos?
    Sports, rarely, but 2-6 year old kids are always on the move.

    Are there particular brands you like or hate?
    Had good luck historically with Canon (except that their pocket-size P&S's go through the washer too easily ). Open to anything.

    Are there particular models you already have in mind?
    If it's DSLR, I'm mostly thinking T3i/600D or T4i/E650D with the 18-55mm lens kit (the 18-135mm kit for the latter is $300 more here, which puts it within $100 of a 60D w/18-135mm lens...). For Point and Shoot I've been pointed to the Canon G1X (balk at spending that for a P&S) or the Nikon P7700 or the P510. I'm open to anything, though.

    (If applicable) Do you need any of the following special features? (Wide Angle, Image Stabilization, Weatherproof, Hotshoe, Rotating LCD)
    IS would be important, the others (except hotshoe) would all be nice extras, though I'd probably only specifically pay extra for weather/waterproof.

    Thanks in advance for the assistance!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: DSLR or higher-end Point and Shoot?

    I recommend going with a DSLR. Long zoom cameras are great (I own one) but their image quality is inferior to that of a DSLR, especially in low light. High quality point and shoots like the Canon G1x produce nice looking images but not as nice as those from a DSLR.

    You mentioned three Canon DSLRs, the T3i, T4i and 60D, all of which are excellent. All three have practically the same sensors, so image quality is going to be pretty much the same. But the 60D is larger and heavier than the other two, has a better viewfinder, is weatherproof and has a second LCD on the top plate. While the 60D is a better camera than the others, it might be too much camera for your girlfriend. As between the T3i and T4i, the T4i has a touchscreen and a stereo microphone. Otherwise it's almost identical to the T3i.
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: DSLR or higher-end Point and Shoot?

    For nice video also consider Panasonic -

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2 Review

    Kelly Cook
    Olympus PL2, Canon EOS 50D, Fujifilm F45fd, various film dinosaurs

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    Default Re: DSLR or higher-end Point and Shoot?

    Thanks guys (and girls?). I almost gave up on this thread because of the dreaded "A moderator must verify this post before it goes up" notification that's swallowed some of my attempts on sister site DesktopReview. I was leaning away from DSLR because of advice in the Off-Topic Photography thread of another sister site, NotebookReview. I've since asked at another (much more active) DC forum and received the same advice pointing me toward a DSLR in spite of the learning curve.

    My girlfriend and I have narrowed it down to the Sony A57 (EVF for easier composition, but possible lag on action shots, silly-fast burst shooting, wish it could do 30fps video) and the 650D/T4i (better accessory and lens selection down the line, would likely have to deal with recall issues because amazon.cn is shipping the recalled cameras right now, and about $80 more). We'll be going hands-on in a few days. Since I haven't actually bought the camera yet, I'm naturally still susceptible to another alternative, but I'm trying to narrow it down to a decision rather than widen it out again. If something in the same price range absolutely blows those two away my ears are open, but otherwise I'm gonna keep it simple.

    So, any opinions between the two?
    Last edited by FatDragon; 11-27-2012 at 07:03 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: DSLR or higher-end Point and Shoot?

    I have no clue why the Sony SLT EVF would be considered "easier composition"! It's easy to find EVF fans whoop up the exposure simulation, but I've used both types of viewfinders and I find this "advantage" moot. My exposures with the traditional optical viewfinder are not off that much or that often. If anything I would say that Canon AE has a higher success rate than Sony, regardless of the viewfinder differences. The biggest advantage of an EVF is in very low light, it can act as a light amplifier (cue James Bond).

    The Canon burst rate is plenty fast, for most purposes. But the buffer is not big, you get only a handful of frames at the high rate. Which is a common limitation of all entry level DSLR. My 50D has burst, but I find Continuous more useful, over burst mode. As in continuous mode you don't hit the buffer wall as soon, and the AF tracking gets a much better look at the target. Burst is really useful only for "fixed" targets, that is targets at a fixed distance.

    While I will be sticking with Canon, I would not rule out Sony entirely. Their in-camera features for compositing images (panorama, etc), are a very nice plus for JPG shooters who want nothing to do with photo editors. And the Sony control / menu layout can be an easier go than Canon for casual shooters who don't pick up the camera often enough to get the drill down.

    Kelly
    Olympus PL2, Canon EOS 50D, Fujifilm F45fd, various film dinosaurs

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    Default Re: DSLR or higher-end Point and Shoot?

    Quote Originally Posted by KCook View Post
    I have no clue why the Sony SLT EVF would be considered "easier composition"! It's easy to find EVF fans whoop up the exposure simulation, but I've used both types of viewfinders and I find this "advantage" moot. My exposures with the traditional optical viewfinder are not off that much or that often. If anything I would say that Canon AE has a higher success rate than Sony, regardless of the viewfinder differences. The biggest advantage of an EVF is in very low light, it can act as a light amplifier (cue James Bond).

    The Canon burst rate is plenty fast, for most purposes. But the buffer is not big, you get only a handful of frames at the high rate. Which is a common limitation of all entry level DSLR. My 50D has burst, but I find Continuous more useful, over burst mode. As in continuous mode you don't hit the buffer wall as soon, and the AF tracking gets a much better look at the target. Burst is really useful only for "fixed" targets, that is targets at a fixed distance.

    While I will be sticking with Canon, I would not rule out Sony entirely. Their in-camera features for compositing images (panorama, etc), are a very nice plus for JPG shooters who want nothing to do with photo editors. And the Sony control / menu layout can be an easier go than Canon for casual shooters who don't pick up the camera often enough to get the drill down.

    Kelly
    Excellent comparison, thanks!

    Considering that we're complete newbies, I wonder if that makes exposure simulation a better tool for us than it would for you. For photo editing, my Envy 14 laptop came with Photoshop Elements 9 a couple years ago, but most shots will probably be left alone unless my girlfriend gets into the editing side of things (and I don't think she has the time). However, I don't know if she would use in-camera editing features much more than desktop editors, so that might be moot.

    I'll chalk this up as a vote for the T4i.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: DSLR or higher-end Point and Shoot?

    No. That exposure simulation game requires 2 conditions to be met:

    1 - That you are shooting in one of the PASM modes. As those modes make adjustments to the exposure (based on what you saw in the viewfinder) easiest. If you are shooting in Auto, or one of the scene modes, then likely you are not fussing about the exact exposure in the first place.

    2 - That the brightness levels shown in the EVF are calibrated. Obviously exposure simulation fans are convinced this is the case. I am highly dubious. For field checks of the exposure I prefer to use the histogram, and the highlight clipping warning. Neither of which requires an EVF, both are shown on the usual LCD on the camera's back. Though seeing these checks in the EVF may be a little more convenient.

    My view of the exposure simulation game is that it might be useful as a transition tool. Something that you eventually outgrow.

    Elements9 is an excellent editor, I use it a great deal. Frankly, if you are never editing at all, then a DSLR is a poor choice. Any DSLR. But in such a dual use situation, your partner may enjoy the JPG features built into the Sony.

    Kelly

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    Default Re: DSLR or higher-end Point and Shoot?

    Quote Originally Posted by KCook View Post
    No. That exposure simulation game requires 2 conditions to be met:

    1 - That you are shooting in one of the PASM modes. As those modes make adjustments to the exposure (based on what you saw in the viewfinder) easiest. If you are shooting in Auto, or one of the scene modes, then likely you are not fussing about the exact exposure in the first place.

    2 - That the brightness levels shown in the EVF are calibrated. Obviously exposure simulation fans are convinced this is the case. I am highly dubious. For field checks of the exposure I prefer to use the histogram, and the highlight clipping warning. Neither of which requires an EVF, both are shown on the usual LCD on the camera's back. Though seeing these checks in the EVF may be a little more convenient.

    My view of the exposure simulation game is that it might be useful as a transition tool. Something that you eventually outgrow.

    Elements9 is an excellent editor, I use it a great deal. Frankly, if you are never editing at all, then a DSLR is a poor choice. Any DSLR. But in such a dual use situation, your partner may enjoy the JPG features built into the Sony.

    Kelly
    Thanks, more excellent information. The recent posts on the other site are generally against the EVF as well. It's certainly possible she'll do basic editing once she gets the hang of things - I've never actually used Elements in these two and a half years, so I don't know how much work it takes to improve images with it - I imagine some simple editing and filtering could work wonders in a few minutes per shot if you knew what you were doing, though. I'll encourage her to learn it since we've already got it.

    I started off thinking I'd get a 650D/T4i. Now after hours of research and posting I'm leaning toward the 650D/T4i. I think I need to start taking professional reviews at face value more often...

  9. #9
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    Default Re: DSLR or higher-end Point and Shoot?

    We'll be going hands-on in a few days.
    Good idea. No matter what the reviewers think it's your girlfriend who has to be happy with it. A hands-on trial is essential. She might find that she loves the A57's EVF (it's exceptionally nice) or she might find the Canon's grip and overall balance to be superior (as many people do). Or she might love the Canon's touchscreen, or the A57's sweep panorama mode.

    Whichever one you decide to buy you'll be getting a high quality device that will take great looking images.
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    Default Re: DSLR or higher-end Point and Shoot?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Stanton View Post
    Whichever one you decide to buy you'll be getting a high quality device that will take great looking images.
    Thanks, it's easy to lose sight of that in the quest to be an informed buyer. I can spend so much time comparing the shortcomings of various models that I end up feeling like I'm settling for the lesser evil rather than buying a camera that's light years better than anything I've ever owned.

 

 
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