Weapon of choice

In my last post I talked about my approach to this hobby and shared the list created from the advice given by my pals on Facebook. Today I am going to focus on step 1, “buy a camera”.

Four days have passed since that conversation and I can honestly say that this has been confusing as hell. It doesn’t seem to matter how many reviews or guides I read, it all seems to come down to one thing. This one is rubbish, get a more expensive one; then once you have it, take off the lens, throw that away and buy several new ones. Oh, and they are also rubbish, unless you get the bloody expensive ones.

This led me to my first real decision. I need to draw a line in the sand and steadfastly refuse to spend more than the amount I have promised myself. I have decided that my absolute limit for the price of a new camera is 600 quid. I am after all a complete beginner and suspect that anything better than that would be somewhat wasted on me, for now at least.
Now that I know how much I am going to spend, things start getting a little easier, this has narrowed the field quite significantly and a few candidates immediately start to show themselves. However, all the reviews and tech specs can be baffling if you don’t understand the lingo. As such, I have been doing a lot of reading,

Some of the resources I have found have been incredibly useful, so it is only fair to go through them here.

This site has an excellent introduction to DSLR cameras and lenses, along with explanations that any child, idiot or ‘Phil’ can easily understand. I found this invaluable in understanding the very basics of what to look for in a camera.

I have also found a couple of other sites which have given me insight into what things like ISO, aperture, shutter speed, auto-focus, burst rates and whatever-me-flips mean.

Once that reading was done I went back to the buying guides and reviews and started again. This time they all seemed to make a little more sense. These sites were particularly useful:
http://www.whatdigitalcamera.com/ – This link was sent over to me by Andy S, isn’t he lovely?
I shouldn’t forget to mention the ever faithful amazon.co.uk great for simple reviews from ordinary folk, like what I is.

To the short list, and some audience participation, I hope! 
These are the 3 cameras I like the look of, I guess it is going to have to be one of them:
  1. Nikon D5100 – There is so much good about this, not least the brand name, the quality of pictures it takes (apparently) and the healthy 1st & 3rd Party accessory / lens market.
  2. Canon EOS 600D – This cameras real strength is in producing video, not something I have a lot of interest in to be honest. Still a very capable camera mind.
  3. Sony A65 – Now, this one is a bit of a wild card. Officially it shouldn’t be in this list, as it is actually a lot more expensive than my budget allows. It is head and shoulders above the others in terms of specs, but about on par (apparently) in terms of picture quality, particularly in low light conditions.
    The reason it is here and does qualify is because with my Sony Staff discount, it comes in under budget and so suddenly it is a very strong contender!
So, decision time, which one should I buy?  I would love to hear your recommendations and thoughts in the comments section below.


5 responses to “Weapon of choice”

  1. thiswrittenriver avatar

    >Personally I hate Canon so I'm biased. There is only one opinion that matters in this instance at that is yours.
    Ignore every opinion you hear, ignore every review you've read, ignore every sales pitch you've been sold: Go into a shop and hold one. All 3 at once if you can. I worked in Jessops for two years and everyone who came into the shop knew exactly what camera they wanted but left with something else because I'd tell them to just hold another one and all sorts of things come to light:
    Are you left eyed?
    Do you have small big/hands?
    Is the grip too small?
    Are the buttons to big/small?
    Does anything get in the way?
    Does it look cool?
    Is it heavy?
    Does it fit a bag you already have?
    Does it follow your logical process in the menu or adjusting settings?

    All of those are answered in about a minute and half after holding it and every single piece of advice goes out the window. Its what works for you and don't let anyone else force you to think otherwise. Getting a good, intuitive, reliable, easy to use, good quality, that you LIKE saves you a lot of money and heartache a little down the line.

    Trust me. It's my job. I've talked to Martin Parr and David Bailey about this and they both said your first camera is your last. And they know their shit.

  2. >Couldn't agree more about'holding the cameras' of choice back to back. I was a Canon man back in the 80's and 90's, owning an icon Canon A1 film camera, followed by one of the first autofocus SLR's, the Canon EOS650. I got into video in the 90's and early naughties, but when the time was right to get back into still photography about 6 years ago, I fully expected to buy another Canon. However, I also thought the new (at the time) Sony Alpha's looked interesting and wanted to try one of them as well. So I went into Selfridges and asked to hold a Canon 400D, a Sony Alpha 100, and almost as an afterthought, a Nikon D80, which I'd ready some glowing reports on.

    Well surprise surprise, I fell in love with the way the Nikon felt and was put together and bought one with a couple of decent lenses. I upgraded 3 years later to a D300 and added more lenses, and I'm now awaiting the launch of it's replacement, the D400 sometime soon I hope. I love my Nikons, and have since oversaw the purchase of my g/f's D60 and D90, and my daughters D5000. Regardless of price and features, they all have a beautiful intuitive layout of controls, and the lenses are superb.

    You can see some of my work at http://www.flickr.com/photos/gadget333

  3. >Hey, Phil! I entered the world of DSLR two years ago. Bought a Canon Eos Rebel XS in the US (1000D in the rest of the world). It was a brand new world for me but I quickly grew frustrated with it. So now I finally upgraded to a Canon 60D. Many reviews compare it to the 600D because they're similar and share the same sensor. But the 60D is more of a still camera than the 600D. It has to do with focus systems and other technical stuff that won't say much if you're just starting.

    I've heard that Nikon has amazing cameras and Canon has amazing lenses. In the end you'll choose the one you'll like the most. But make sure you stick to that same brand once you start spending money in lenses. I spent a few thousands in lenses so now I won't ever consider moving to another brand. It's a continuous investment when you really get into it.

    I'm super happy with the 60D. Fast, solid, amazing swivel screen. Then it'll all come down to the lenses you get.

    I purchased Popular Photography, the e-version for my iPad. They review new cameras every issue and they say wonders of the new interchangeable lens compacts. They're powerful, versatile and full of high tech in those tiny bodies.


  4. >Hello again

    Reading your post again I paid more attention to the Sony cam. It Looks very interesting indeed. The price, at least on Amazon, is around the same price as my Canon 60D (body only), which is still a bit above the limit you established.

    It looks like a good camera, super high tech and with nice specs. But in the long run, I don't know how it'll be when you decide to buy a lens or two, if these will be compatible with other Sony cameras or if you'll have to sell everything and buy new gear.

    You can see some of my amateurish work at http://www.flickr.com/photos/btpascoal
    I'm not a pro like Mr Gadget!

  5. >Some great advice in here guys, thank you! I popped into Jessops today and spent about 10 minutes with the Nikon and Sony models.

    I have to say, I liked them both very much. They are a similar size and weight, but I think the hand grip on the Sony might just give it the edge, it seemed to fit my hand that little bit better. Also the Sony felt a little wider, which as a "left eyed" person, meant that I felt less squashed against my right hand.

    I will keep you all posted on next steps. 🙂

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