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Comparing prices – what do I pay for?

February 12, 2010 Leave a comment

In my research I found some info atRadiant Lite Photographythat is helpful even though it was published a few months ago.  I left most of the content but added some quick facts and updated the prices* by cross referencing some retail stores and consumer sites (based on the body only). There are plenty of deals for body and lens kits, perhaps because of some new releases coming out this month and next.

Canon T1i /500D

– Cmos sensor-15.1 effective megapixels, ISO 12800, HD video, 3.0 inch 920k pixels viewing screen, HDMI output, Face detection

Nikon D5000

– rotating vari-angle view monitor, DX-format 12.3-megapixel CMOS image sensor, Approx. 1.5 x lens focal length, ISO 200 to 3200 or 1 EV (ISO 6400 equivalent) over ISO 3200, 720p video at 24fps

Pentax K-x

–  (uses AA batteries – it makes the camera feel lopsided and I would prefer to carry Li-ion packs) 23.6 x 15.8 mm CMOS sensor, 12.9 million effective pixels, Auto (selectable range) • Manual : 200-6400* • Bulb Mode: up to ISO 1600 • Expandable ISO 100 – 12800 • 1EV, 1/2EV or 1/3EV steps, widescreen HD video – 720p resolution (1280×720) at 24 FPS

Name MP fps LCD MV LV Price ISO Note
Canon T1i / 500D 15 3.4 3″ hi res Y Y $799 12800 record 1080p @ 20fps
Nikon D5000 12 4 3″ swivel Y Y $679 6400 no AF motor
Nikon D3000 10 3 3″ Y N $449 3200 no AF motor
Olympus E-620 12 3.4 2.7″ swivel N Y $659 3200 compact, 4/3 sensor
Sony A230 10 2.5 2.7″ N N $500 3200
Sony A330 10 2.5 2.7″ tilt N Y $600 3200 fast AF in live view
Sony A380 14 2.5 2.7″ tilt N Y $800 3200
Pentax K-x 12 4.7 2.7″ Y Y $579 12800 compact, hdr, no AF indicator light in viewfinder

1. Pentax K-x Price: $579*

Pentax_KxAlthough it is not released to the public yet, Pentax K-X is the best value DSLR camera 2009 on the paper. It has advanced features of higher end DSLR camera, but it is significantly cheaper than beginner digital SLR cameras. It features 12 megapixel, 4.7 fps continuous burst and wide ISO range up to 12800 (Because physical limitation, I believe that ISO 1600 – 3200 will be the limit of acceptable images).

It also has a very compact DSLR camera body, built-in image stabilization, movie recording mode, and auto HDR (high dynamic range). Pentax k-x is surely a small camera that have a lot of potential inside it. The nice thing is it comes with several alternative colors such as red, white, and navy blue.

It does has a downside. There is no auto focus light indicator in the viewfinder (the indicator will be in the lcd screen), and smaller camera body might be not comfortable for user that has big hand.

One thing that unique about K-X, like other Pentax beginner cameras is the use of four AA batteries instead of rechargeable lithium battery. Pentax claims that four AA lithium batteries will be able to power the camera up to 1900 shots (based on CIPA Standard), which is very impressive. This could be an advantage but can also be disadvantage. For example, AA batteries are universally available and cheaper, but it might not be very reliable.

2. Canon T1i / 500D Price: $799*

T1i is the most expensive beginner DSLR cameras up to date, but it is also very high in performance. It has 15 megapixel sensor, ISO sensitivities up to 12800 (producing acceptable images up to ISO 3200). It has movie recording mode and able to record full HD 1028 but only at 20 fps. Canon T1i LCD screen is also the best of the bunch, 3″ with 910k resolution. Various reviews also state that Canon T1i has a very fast auto focus system either in bright light or dim light condition.

Perhaps, the most important feature that Canon T1i has is the compatibility to all Canon EOS lenses from very cheap model (50mm f/1.8 which is under $100 until the super telephoto pro grade lenses). Canon has a wide collection of high-end lenses with a reasonable price.

For beginners who does not interested in movie recording mode, then I will suggest to get Canon EOS XSi / 450D. It is $200 cheaper, but you will lose some features such as 15 mp, hi res lcd screen, wide ISO range up to 12800 and movie mode.

3. Nikon D5000 Price: $679*

Nikon D5000 has the same sensor as the higher end cameras such as Nikon D90, so it has nice looking and relatively clean images in high ISO setting (1600-3200). Nikon D5000 has swivel LCD screen to support the movie recording mode.

At a glance, this camera seems to be a better value compared to Canon T1i because it is cheaper than Canon T1i, but Nikon D5000 has a major downside. It does not have built-in AF motor in camera body. Therefore, the camera is not compatible with many older lenses Nikon produces, especially prime/fixed focal length. The new lenses with built-in motor such as Nikon 35mm f/1.8 and Nikon 50mm f/1.4G are not very cheap either. However you will still able to mount the lens and focus it manually.

4. Sony A230 Price: $450

Sony A230 is the cheapest beginner DSLR camera released in 2009. A230 is a very basic photography camera without any gimmicky features. A230 features are pretty much the same as older A200 model, but the the body design has been changed significantly. It looks more modern and stylish, but many users reports that the cameras are not very comfortable to hold.  A230 features built-in image stabilization but there is no live view or movie recording mode.

5. Nikon D3000 Price: $449*

Nikon D3000 is an improved version of Nikon D60. It adds a guide mode, 11 auto focus points, and a larger LCD screen. But it still does not have live view and buit in AF motor. Therefore, like D5000, you can’t auto focus when using older Nikon AF lenses.

Thanks to guide mode, operating Nikon D3000 become very easy and simple for beginners. You might pick up some interesting insights too. The kit lens is quite good for casual shooting from landscape to close up. [Read D3000 Full Review]

6. Olympus E-620 Price $659*

Unlike the other DSLR cameras, Olympus use four third sensor which is smaller than regular digital SLR camera. This has a good and a bad implication. The good side Olympus is able to make the camera and lens smaller and lighter, but the bad side is performance in high ISO. E-620 image is good up to ISO 800, a stop lower than most APS-C digital SLR cameras. The other disadvantage lies in Olympus lens collection. Because Olympus DSLR camera has small bayonet mount, Olympus does not have big aperture lenses such as f/1.2 or f/1.4 (except Sigma 30mm and 50mm f/1.4 HSM). However, other than compact body, E-620 still has some good selling points such as swivel LCD, better than average kit lens and back-lit buttons.

7. Sony A330 and A380 Price: $600 – $800

Sony A330 design is similar to Sony A230. It has more advanced feature such as live view mode. Unlike other DSLR, Sony A330 and A380 has two sensors. This additional sensor is built to enable faster auto focus in live view mode. Therefore, you might consider this camera if you love composing picture using LCD screen. To exploit live view feature, Sony A330 and A380 has tilt-able LCD screen. A330 and A380 weaknesses include poorer noise control, uncomfortable grip, relatively expensive price per features ratio.

Conclusion

Competition between manufacturers are very tight in 2009 especially in beginner DSLR cameras. Many of the new cameras has been only slightly improved from its predecessors so you might find unnecessary to upgrade. The biggest improvement might be the addition of movie mode in DSLR cameras. Many still photographers do not like it because it drives the price up, but for amateur videographer or multimedia designers, this might be a dream product.

However if you are looking for an entry level dslr camera for still photography, then you might look at last year models, They might be cheaper so that you can invest more on lenses. Check link below for last year beginner and enthusiasts DSLR cameras.

(Be sure to keep an eye on new products being released over the next few weeks – I will be posting info on these new cameras as it becomes available)

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