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Help! DSLR or Canon IXUS 800IS???

Travel Forums Travel Photography Help! DSLR or Canon IXUS 800IS???

1. Posted by andrewh (Budding Member 7 posts) 10y

Hi,

Wondering if anyone can help me out with some q's I have about cameras/travel.

I'm off in 6 weeks, travelling around SE Asia for 3 weeks before settling in Melbourne and then most likely onto S America. I'm currently deciding what type of camera to take. I'm a novice in every respect but would like to develop my photography skills, maybe when in Oz.

Age old choice: DSLR or Digital.

For DSLR, I'm looking at either the Nikon D50 or the Canon 350D
In terms of plain digital - Canon IXUS 800IS.

I was going to take the plunge and get a DSLR but now am more uncertain and am leaning towards the 800IS, for a number of reasons:

1. Would a novice get any increased benefit from a DSLR - reverse argument is if you don’t have one, how can you expect to learn/improve?
2. Is a DSLR worth taking around Asia for a few weeks and then S America, in terms of weight, worry and could I reasonably expect my photos to be any better?
3. 800IS has (as its name implies) image stabiliation which would have been very useful for all the blurry sports pics I've taken. 4x optical zoom and 6m pixels fit the bill too.

To be honest, I'm pretty confused and would appreciate any advice anyone could lend. There's not a massive price difference between the 2 (£380 v ££270) so in one sense it comes down to pure choice - on the other hand, money is v important now before going away and I guess the DSLR can always be bought in OZ after a little work.

Thoughts????

Also, does anyone know is the Canon 800IS a very slim model?

Many thanks in advance,
Andrew

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4809 posts) 10y

Quoting andrewh

Also, does anyone know is the Canon 800IS a very slim model?

yes, it is (dimensions: 90.4 x 56.5 x 26.4 mm (3.56 x 2.22 x 1.04 in))

Tough choice, this. I started out travelling with a 3 megapixel point 'n shoot and absolutely no knowledge about photography, and after 9 months I bought my first DSLR (the Nikon D70), with the nearly professional D200 replacing that barely a year and a half later. Both the beginner DSLR and the IXUS have something going for them, but there's no clear upgrade path between them. The ixus (as I understand it, having never owned one) takes pictures that will always be "good" just by a simple click on the button. There's no skill in using it whatsoever, and no way for you to learn anything about controlling the camera for greater effect (your shots will still get better as you learn about framing and when the light is good and such, but that'll be it). But going straight for a DSLR is a really big plunge, even though for me the increase in quality was phenomenal to such a degree that I'd never ever want to go back.

Instead, what I'd suggest is looking into a third option, namely a not quite as compact camera that will actually allow you to experiment and learn a bit (so it will need aperture and shutter priority modes, adjustable white balance and basically extensive manual control). Something like the Canon Powershot S80, or one of its earlier - and probably quite a bit cheaper - versions (S70, S60, etc). These are the successors to the Powershot S30 that I started out with way back when, and if you're willing to invest the time into learning how to handle them, they can give you a lot more worthwhile results than the default modes will allow, while still being good enough for just basic point 'n shoot. (No image stabilisation though, which would be a big selling point for just taking perfect snapshots with the ixus.)

On the gripping hand, the auto mode on the DSLR (either one, although being a Nikon shooter, I'd recommend the D50) :) should also give you very good snapshots for those occassions when you haven't yet mastered its full repertoire. So if you're certain enough that you will put in the time to learn the camera, that you will experiment and figure out what each individual control does, then I'd go with the DSLR.

Sorry, I suspect that's making the choice even more difficult than it already was. :)

One actual bit of useful advice though: whichever camera you get, get it as soon as possible, and get familiar with it. That means go out on at least three separate days for batches of extensive shooting of whatever subjects strike your eye, both indoors and outdoors. Get a feel for the camera. And analyze the results of this effort; learn what works, and what doesn't.

Nothing sucks more than coming across that once in a lifetime moment early on in your travels, and messing up the picture because you're not yet familiar with how to use the camera.

3. Posted by andrewh (Budding Member 7 posts) 10y

Sander,

Thanks a lot for your reply - very interesting points.

Still confusion exists! My thoughts are now:

Realistically, you're going to be carrying a day bag with you everywhere on your travels - correct? With important documents, water, book, etc. A DLSR should fit reasonably well into this bag, therefore removing the need to carry a camera bag around with you, which might increase the possibility of the camera being stolen. Plus, world nomads can insure this, so the only loss would be the pictures (which would obviously be a blow too).

I do take (or more to the point, have tried) a lot of action pictures with my current camera(ie - a day at the races), and these pictures have been pretty awful due to the delay between pressing the button and the picture being taken. This is quite frustrating!

I appreciate the point about the third option, but I wouldn’t want to learn about the camera only to have to spend another large chunk of money in a few months. It's all or nothing! I currently have a finepix F610, which is not too bad, has some manual features but isnt slim enough to fit comfortably in your pocket, or quick enough to capture certain types of pictures.

I'm currently leaning towards the canon 350D over the Nikon D50 as my friend whom I'm meeting has a canon (and I could borrow his lenses), and it is smaller in size. However, if you feel (and I presume you do :) ) that the D50 has certain advantages over the 350D, feel free to share them.

Also, how would you describe the kit lens (18-55) - adequate for a beginneer? Have heard different things.

Final Q (I promise :-) ), what memory card/extras would you recommend buying with an SLR for a beginner?

Any answers will have to lead to me owing you quite a few drinks if ever we're in the same country!

Many thanks in advance,
Andrew

4. Posted by Sander (Moderator 4809 posts) 10y

Quoting andrewh

Realistically, you're going to be carrying a day bag with you everywhere on your travels - correct? With important documents, water, book, etc. A DLSR should fit reasonably well into this bag, therefore removing the need to carry a camera bag around with you, which might increase the possibility of the camera being stolen.

Correct. I wouldn't put the camera straight into the daypack though, but instead get a small toploading camera bag (something like this one, which you can store completely inside the daypack when you're not using it, or take out and wear separately when you're actively wandering around and taking pictures.

I appreciate the point about the third option, but I wouldn’t want to learn about the camera only to have to spend another large chunk of money in a few months. It's all or nothing!

Okay, in that case, especially given your current camera, I'd definitely go for "all".

However, if you feel (and I presume you do :) ) that the D50 has certain advantages over the 350D, feel free to share them.

Also, how would you describe the kit lens (18-55) - adequate for a beginneer? Have heard different things.

When I had to make the choice, there were only two realistic possibilities, the Canon 300D and the Nikon D70 (slightly more expensive, but far and far more complete in functionality).
On the Canon side, the 350D has been added as a small upgrade to the 300D, while on the Nikon side, the D50 has been added below the D70 (which in turn got a small upgrade to the D70s).
Canon was really holding back on the features they put into the 300D, while Nikon was going all out on the D70, and that really formed impressions at the time, making Nikon stand out really positively. Comparing the 350D and the D50 objectively now, however, I do not think I can say that either one is obviously better. The D50 should be quite a bit cheaper for the same general quality, but only takes "secure digital" cards, rather than the for DSLR common "compact flash", which means that if you upgrade the body at some point in the future, you'll be basically giving up your investment in memory cards. Not that big a loss, given the speed with which memory prices drop, but still worth considering. The Nikon doesn't have ISO 100, but then, Canon's ISO 100 is reportedly closer to ISO 150, and from experience with the D70's ISO 200, I can say that the grainyness won't really bother you in real life, only when zooming in in photoshop. :) 8MP versus 6MP means 13% "larger" (total area is more, percentage wisse, but 13% on a side), which you just can't see back in prints, so that's something which doesn't matter at all. The canon only has flash sync till 1/200 (versus 1/500 for Nikon), but I doubt you'll be in many situations where that'll matter much (or when it does, that you know how to take advantage of the extra speed). The Canon lacks "real" spot metering (only 9%, versus 2.5% for the Nikon), which does present a real limitation in certain circumstances, but I guess when you're just getting started, it's not that big a deal. The Nikon is slightly heavier, which might matter on the road, although personally it's the bulk of a DSLR which is far more of a 'problem' than the weight.
Ah, good feature comparison table here at dpreview.

Beyond features, what made the choice for me, and what I suggest you let make the choice for you, is ergonomics. Go to a camera store, and hold the cameras in your hand, operating it, feeling where all the frequently used buttons are, and decide which fits your hand better. For me, the Canon felt like a cheap plastic toy, where the buttons didn't sit under my fingers comfortably, while the Nikon was more solid and had the dials right where my fingers were. It felt better, and that's what'll matter quite a bit in operating it.

The biggest issue are the kit lenses. I wouldn't get either camera with kit lens. Get them body-only, and buy a better lens with it. I don't have experience with either 18-55 kit lens, but experts I trust in such matters say that the Nikon 18-55 is barely "okay", while the Canon 18-55 is plain crap (aka not worth the money, severely limiting the quality of the photos the body is capable of taking otherwise). On the Nikon side, I'd recommend the $200 more expensive 18-70 DX, which is the kitlens for the D70 (you might also find it bundled with the D50 at a camera shop - browse around). On the Canon side I don't know what to get, but there definitely should be some decent options of roughly the same focal lengths for around $300-$600. Maybe some Canon shooter (Jason?) here can recommend something.
If you have the money for it, for $750 the Nikon 18-200 DX VR (vibration reduction) is quite possibly the best single travel lens in existence

Final Q (I promise :-) ), what memory card/extras would you recommend buying with an SLR for a beginner?

Not much - an extra battery won't be necessary unless you're going into the deep wilderness - both these cameras should allow you to shoot semi-heavily for several days before needing to be recharged. If you're going into the mountains, a UV filter might be nice. I'd recommend one or two 2GB Ultra cards (the higher read/write speed definitely matters), although for the Nikon with its 6MP, 1GB cards might just suffice, especially if you don't shoot in RAW. A tripod is way too bulky, alas, alas, while external flash just isn't worth the money and weight so early on - much better to invest in a better lens.

5. Posted by Jase007 (Travel Guru 8870 posts) 10y

Nice piece Sander,
With Canon there is confusion with the array of lenses - just too many to chose from, they may sound the same but they aren't.
Recommendations for travelling would be 17-55m or 28-135mm,and a 70-300mm.
Personally i'd avoid the EFs lenses, as in the future you may want to upgrade (bodies are cheaper than lenses) and the build quality isn't fantastic. I got the kit lens (28-55mm EFs)with my 20D but that was because it was only £10 different, it's ok but not good enough to live with ling term.

OK here is a brief run down on Canon lens classes:

EF - standard autofocus lens (fits all 35mm and digital SLR's)
EFs - Autofocus lens for the cheaper digital SLR's - 350D, 30D (these will not fit the upper models (1D,5D etc.)
EF IS - Autofocus lenses with image stabiliser, good for telephoto lenses but this feature costs about 70% more than a non IS lens.
EF L - The L signifies the luxury lens range, the optics on these lenses are noticeably better than the non L ranges, however again you pay for these.

I've talked to a lot of people reciently and lots are saying that some of the Sigma lenses are worth getting. They are cheaper than Canon branded - good if your tight for cash

I recently got a 70-200mm F4 EF L for £400, great lens but expensive compaired to the other classes (still a bargin for what it is though).

Depending on your budget will dictate the lens you can afford to buy.
Good luck, and don't hesitate to ask, as it's a long term decision.
Jase

6. Posted by Q' (Travel Guru 1987 posts) 10y

Sigma EX's are good quality. But the price drop isn't as sweet.