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Thread: Compacts, DSLR's, kit lenses, and travel...what should I do?

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    Member seaneking's Avatar
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    Question Compacts, DSLR's, kit lenses, and travel...what should I do?

    I'm backpacking through asia for a year soon, and I'm looking for a decent camera to suit. I'm certainly no pro, but I have had a bit of experience with manual controls on my old FZ50 and know the basics of photography (hoping to learn more!).

    Basically I figure it comes down to two broad options, get an 'enthusiast compact' (like panasonic LX3/5) or a small and cheap DSLR, (like the Olympus E420 or old canon/nikkon). My budget is under $500 2nd hand. I didn't consider m4/3's because they still aren't pocketable like the compacts are, so for the extra price I see no advantage over a cheap DSLR.

    Obviously the DSLR would give the better picture, has better performance, etc. But thing is, I would probably only use the kit lens (and maybe grab a cheap telephoto). So would it be worth the extra inconvenience, size, weight, price, etc. of the DSLR if I wasn't going to be changing lenses or using good glass? And how important is focal length for travel anyway? Is the 70-90mm range offered by either the LX5/etc. or kit lenses enough? Can I still get more into photography as a hobby with the compacts?

    Thanks!

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    Lots of questions here, and welcome to AP. Firstly photography is not something you are going to be great at in a short amount of time, there is a good sized learning curve ahead of you. For what you are saying (backpacking) I reckon you should consider one of the new range of mirrorless camera's like the Olympus Pen or the Sony Nex. Both offer you interchangeable lenses, in a smaller more compact form, that would suit throwing in a backpack, but you are not going to get one for under $500.00. If you decide to go with a second hand DSLR, you will then need a lens or two as well, suddenly this becomes $500.00 on a body and a few hundred more on lenses, and they weigh a nice bit to lug around in your backpack

    There is not perfect solution to your questions.

    Lenses for travel, assuming you want to take some landscapes and portraits, one of the 18-200mm lenses would be a good all round choice, to suit whatever brand you decide upon.

    Getting into photography is quite possible with a compact, but make sure you get one that allows a lot of control for the user, including a complete manual mode is worth considering. There is lots of choice out there in brands and models in that range. Note that most P&S camera's are not good above about ISO 400 (if you are lucky), so the larger sensor of a mirrorless camera or DSLR gives you more scope to expand your creativity and not be limited by your gear.
    "It is one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it is another thing to make a portrait of who they are" - Paul Caponigro

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    I did consider the mirrorless m4/3's, but I'd still need to throw them in a bag rather than pocket, so I would rather just get a more capable and cheaper old DSLR for not much difference in inconvenience.

    I've found some E420's and such with lenses in my range (eg: http://cgi.ebay.com.au/Olympus-E420-...item3a60dfd821 ). But the lenses are still slow (f3.5).

    As far as compacts, I'd be considering the Panasonic LX5, Canon S90, or Samsung EX1. However the biggest range there is 90mm, is that a problem?

    As I see it, the only real advantages for me with DSLR over compact is performance (small diff. in AF and big improvement in fps burst, is that important?) and IQ in low ISO (I can always just not shoot in the dark). So many options, so confused!

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    In the end it is your choice, we can only give advice. Seems you have researched this a fair bit. You have to make a decision for yourself, within your budget constraints.

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    It is a very difficult choice and only you know how you work! For me it is going to come down to weight. I am going to take 3 lenses and my D300s body. I have decided to leave my big heavy glass at home as it is too much hastle for me and I won't use it. TBH I think a 50mm and good body will do me for 90% of the time.

    It is going to come down to travelling for travelling or travelling for photography....unfortunately there are always comprimises!
    Call me Roo......
    Nikon D300s, Nikon 35mm 1.8 DX, Nikkor 50mm 1.4 Af-S, Nikon 18-200mm VR, Nikon 70-200VRII 2.8, Sigma 105 Macro, Sigma 150-500mm f5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM, Tokina 12-24mm, Sb-600, D50, Nikon 1.7 T/C, Gitzo CF Monopod

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    Member smallfooties's Avatar
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    Ever considered Ricoh? If you want a brainless P&S camera, Ricoh CX3 is pretty good image quality wise but there is no manual mode on these...
    I think the next range of Ricoh has manual mode and you can change the lens too! To me, it looks pretty compact and light! But not sure if you can steal one for $500....

    Nikon D700 in all it's glory!

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Wow. I don't know how many times I read your posts Sean. (And Rick's compact replies.) I'll pick at your Qs and offer some impressions...
    1) "Backpacking" and "decent camera to suit"
    Backpacking for photography? Take serious gear.

    Backpacking and taking some pictures? OK, maybe a compact, but then the image quality will be lower and how "capable" will such a camera be in low light? You intimated that f/3.5 was a slow in a lens. Well, many compacts start around there. In my opinion, your Pan FZ50 would have acquitted itself reasonable for IQ and general "decency" compared to a compact.

    2) Budget $500 second hand.
    A hard Q to answer. If you mean getting a 2nd hand compact...

    3) Importance of focal length for travel?
    Well, I have two answers: both wide angle, for interiors of buildings, open vistas, and the like, is very important; long telephoto lengths I have GENERALLY found to be less important. But then if you want to have a swag of wildlife shots it would become more important. I have always tended for good wide angle, typically a minimum of f=28mm in 35mm equivalent, though I have often used semi-fisheye.

    4) photography as a hobby with compacts?
    Another hard Q. Theoretically, yes, because a photographer should be able to do the best with what's available. But, I think it's harder to do so as compacts are generally more finicky to use than DSLRs. BUT, one day you're going to lament the poorer IQ that even good compacts can offer. But then this Q does not have immediate bearing on the backpacking issues.

    Now, if you want a reasonable side-by-side comparison of some recent compacts, have a look at this article from DP Review.
    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/q420...dcompactgroup/
    And good luck, Am.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    Ausphotography Site Sponsor/Advertiser OzzieTraveller's Avatar
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    G'day Seane

    Well mate - you're getting good value for money here
    As a Pany user, I would suggest you look at the new FZ-40 - it is compact, light, powerful lens, got the slr options [you'll know em all from the FZ50]

    Regards, phil
    Of all the stuff in a busy photographers kitbag, the ability to see photographically is the most important
    google me at Travelling School of Photography
    images.: flickr.com/photos/ozzie_traveller/sets/

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    For $500, I wouldn't even consider an SLR - you just won't get anything worth the hassle of lugging it around for that price. You'll get a very good compact though and even a new Canon S95 could be had for that money. You would have to spend twice that much at very least to get appreciably better quality in a second hand SLR and even more if you wanted a reasonable zoom range.

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    Member richie4540's Avatar
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    back in the day when i was backpacking around it was film or nothing, your answer will depend on what you want to achieve once you are home= do you want to look back at your pics for memory's sake or print them out/publish them. if its just a case of wanting to look at the memories i would suggest a cheap waterproof camera, that will take all the knocks and you wont miss it when some theifing scumbag steals it from the dorm room. best of luck in all your travels. richie

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    Thanks for all the advice guys! And yes ameerat, I did post this question in a few forums to get a range of opinions and see what the response would be, but everyone here has been so helpful (and quick!), so I'll be sticking here for the future!

    As for the cameras, I'm closer to a decision. The trip is for travelings sake primarily, not photography. So with that in mind, and a majority of the comments so far, seems a high end compact would be the best choice. It certainly makes the most rational sense. It's pocketable while giving the same focal range as a single kit lens, offering a comparable IQ (especially for an amateur like me), still letting me learn more with manual controls and RAW, and some even have a half decent burst frame speed for things that move (dunno if that's important though? never had experience with the feature). Although I have to admit there's just something more alluring about wandering around the world with a 'real' DSLR camera. I guess I'll just have to get over that!
    Last edited by seaneking; 07-12-2010 at 11:52pm.

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    Thom hogan has just finished a review of mirrorless 4/3 cameras and the high end compacts that might interest you. Hrs normally a pretty good reviewer of this sort of stuff.
    Www.bythom.com
    Your budget is too low for a dslr IMO so I would go with the fancy compacts. I've always liked the canon g series despite never having bought one. Enjoy your travels and get the camera a long rime before you travel so you can learn its foibles.

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    I would rather just get a more capable and cheaper old DSLR for not much difference in inconvenience.
    I have to disagree with you there. A 4/3rds camera is going to be far easier for travel, and it is also less of a target for ignorant theives. The image quality of the m4/3rds surpasses DSLR's in certain circumstances, and JPEG's from the Olypmus Pen camera's are probably the best JPEG's straight from camera that you can get today. You can pick up an Olypmus E-P1 with a lens or two for about $700. HERE's a review of the EP-1/Panasonic 20mm up against the Nikon D3 (quick and dirty compare of basic IQ, not cameras). I've owned both of these cameras, and for most enthusiast photographers, I think the Olympus is the better choice.

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    Oh I totally agree that if it was between a m4/3 or DSLR for travel, and I had deeper pockets, then the m4/3's would win out, mainly for the reasons you listed (lower weight, less attractive for thieves, etc.). But compared between compacts and DSLR's, they still need their own bag, so for the extra price I just couldn't justify getting one personally.

    I've got myself some photography books (Understanding Exposure and The Photographer's Eye) and have decided to definitely get a compact, now I just need to decide which one! (if only I was more decisive). I've narrowed it down to the LX5, EX1 and G11. Okay, so:
    1) The G11 has a significantly longer focal length, but also not as wide. I think I would rather a wide angle, so is the 4mm between the LX5/EX1 (24) and the G11 (28) significant and noticeable?
    2) I love the articulated screen of the EX1 and G11, could very well sway me. But I'm also concerned about the slow shutter speed on the EX1 (1/1500) and slow lens G11 (f2.8), are these big problems?
    3) The LX5 also has a much faster burst mode (2.5fps compared to ~1fps on the others) but is limited to 3 or 5 shots (no lag after that though) where the others are continuous. Which is more useful?
    4) Does the plethora of external control on the bulkier G11 make it feel more DSLR-like and help me grow more for when I do get a DSLR?

    Sorry for asking so many questions, I just want to get this right because I'll be living with it for a year and be in some amazing places to take some (hopefully) awesome photos. An opportunity I may not get again for a while. You don't have to answer them all, I'm thinking aloud more than anything else
    Last edited by seaneking; 09-12-2010 at 12:40pm.

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    These are very difficult questions for someone other than you to answer because the answer depends on what's important to you and only you can easily know that.

    My advice is to get a G11 and go out and take some pictures. It's a great camera and you will be happy with it.

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    last time I checked a G11 is the same size as an Olympus EP1 with a pancake lens on it - I know what I would prefer for better IQ and performance

    the pocketable issue is funny, I am a frequent traveler for work around remote locations in Asia, and pretty much any regular travelers and myself have and use oversized pockets which can accomodate big things. Not to mention its safer to store a compact camera in your breast pocket or on a strap around your neck with a hand on it - than in your pants or shorts pocket.

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    Ausphotography Site Sponsor/Advertiser OzzieTraveller's Avatar
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    G'day Sean

    I've just looked up all 3 cameras as a side-by-side view on dpreview
    ~yes~ they're all very similar ... tho some differences are there and it will probably be those that sway your choice

    Of the 3, the Lumix LX5 seems the most 'advanced' and offering the most by way of features & controls ~ top speed, bottom speed, image ratios, ISO range etc
    It is also 100grams lighter than the other 2 cameras ... and you are backpacking don't forget [likely statement !!! that's wot started this thread off wasn't it]
    It has an accessory 'lens adapter' [looks like an extension tube] that allows filters to be used, and which becomes a very valuable lens-hood when used for day-to-day stuff
    and lastly, it will shoot burst images at twice the speed of the G11 [tho the samsung's burst is mentioned as 'yes']

    It seems to me that apart from the above, your decision will also come down to the lenses ... do you want the 24mm wide end 'mostly' or do you want the long end [140 on the G11] mostly

    I can't offer you any more detailed advice as my camera choice is very different from yours

    However, I hope this helps a bit ...
    Regards, Phil

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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    I think you are getting a bit confused with your apertures if you think f2.8 is slow : go have a read of this : http://www.ausphotography.net.au/for...-with-Aperture cause you are getting your apertures around the wrong way

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