'Prosumer' digital camera recommendations?
January 10, 2008 5:35 AM   Subscribe

Greetings Photo-Hive. It's finally time to retire my DSC-V1, but I've ignored the camera scene since I bought it in 2003. Help me pick a new camera!

If I could buy the 'DSC-V1 2008 Edition', I would. It's been a great camera.

I liked:
- the level of manual control. You can fiddle with just about everything. I might only use this for 15 - 20% of the shots I take, but it really comes in handy.
- the lens, which was great for the time.
- the Nightshot.

I hated (or now hate):
- the start-up time. Not to mention the wait between shots.
- the lack of image stabilisation.
- the incredibly short battery life.
- the low-res video, even though it was great at the time I bought it.

I've got a K800i for a pocket camera now, so I'm not too worried about the size of this potential new one. I'll be using it mainly when I travel, rather than at the bar. I'm a bit leary of buying a full on DSLR, partly for budgetary reasons, partly b/c I don't think I'd really use it enough, or use enough of its features to justify one. I like the speed of some of the new cameras that I've used in the last year or so. I like some of the photo-stitching/continuous shooting/face-recognising craziness as well, although that sort of thing would be a secondary concern.

I'll probably spend about £600 ($1200, for those of you in the States and Canada), but I'm not wedded to that figure. If there's an awesome camera for a couple hundred more, I'd buy it.

Speaking of travelling, I'm flying out for a five week vacation on the 25th, so if it's coming out in March, no matter how cool it is, I'm not going to buy it.

I haven't looked at still cameras since about 2003, so I don't even know what to look for these days. Who's making good cameras? Who's fallen off? What about these 'semi-DSLR' things like the Sony DSC-H9? What sort (and size) of sensor should I look for?

Specific model recommendations, manufacturer recommendations, or suggestions of particular technologies to look for are all welcome.
posted by Kreiger to Technology (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'd take a serious look at Pentax if I were you. I have Canon gear, some semi-pro stuff (5d, good lenses, etc). It's EXPENSIVE. I'm not particularly impressed with the Rebel line. I know people are into them, but I had one and the viewfinder was so tiny it was barely useable. Unless you are going to go with one of the pro or prosumer models, Canon stuff is overpriced IMOH. Similar but different with Nikon.

Pentax is very reasonably priced. Their viewfinders are among the best in the consumer class. Image quality is very good.

But the very coolest part is that you can use any Pentax lens pretty much ever made. And there are some amazingly good buys in manual focus lenses. That's very cool. And not possible with Canon or Nikon.

I'd go DSLR. I don't have any info on Digicams. The Canon G9 is supposed to be very sweet though.
posted by sully75 at 5:43 AM on January 10, 2008

Best answer: Would you mind spending less?

The DSLR-like Canon S5 has lots of manual controls, a darn good lens, good night mode, fast start up, image stabilization, good battery life, and good video.

Here's a review and here's the flickr photo pool for the camera.

I just got one for Christmas and absolutely love it! I mostly stay in manual modes, but the auto mode is great, too, for a quick picture.
posted by odi.et.amo at 5:47 AM on January 10, 2008

Second the G9, have heard alot of good things about it. 12mp, nearly full manual control, good quality prosumer.

Amazon has it for £297
with free shipping

If you have budgeted for £600 though, you may want to look at SLR's again, as they are not much of a jump from the prosumers, with a lot more flexibility. The Canon 400d is £397 for the body only and I have also hear alot of good things about the pentax as well. Sony has just announced the A200, although i'm not sure when it will get released.

Good luck...
posted by chromatist at 5:55 AM on January 10, 2008

I just got the Canon G9, it is in fact very sweet. The absolute best thing about it is that it can control a hot shoe flash with E-TTL2 (Canon's through-the-lens metering). Now I have a pocket camera with every manual control I could possibly want (including a physical ISO dial rather than through the menu), image stabilization, RAW mode, and an external hot-shoe bounce flash (I got a Sunpak because it was smaller but could still bounce). Together that takes up two pockets, but still substantially less than a D-SLR. It has the photo-stitching, face recognition, etc. I'd highly recommend it as I went through the same debate and decided I was fooling myself if I thought I'd ever carry around a SLR or SLR-like form factor camera nearly as much. With the added flash it was about $600.
posted by true at 5:59 AM on January 10, 2008

The Canon S series is really very nice. My wife and I got a lot of good use out of our S1 IS; we just replaced it with a Rebel XTi DSLR as the S1 has begun slipping a gear in the lens when shutting off. (It still works, and could probably be repaired, but we figured at 3.2 megapixel we might as well just upgrade). Our S1 has been a solid camera, it has a wide range of automatic or manual settings, there are additional lens add-ons available, and we even used it while scuba diving (Canon makes some good underwater cases!). The newer revisions like the S5 have much better resolution. The camera takes full video, good quality, and the newer S-series cameras can even snap full-resolution still shots without stopping video filming.

The newer face-recognition technology in some cameras might be worth looking in to, but I find that I am often taking pictures of something that is not a face, or that I have a face in my shot which is not my main focus. I prefer a multipoint focus that allows me to determine what I feel is or is not the main element of my composition. I don't know how much the face-recognition messes with this.

If you are thinking DSLR, don't be too afraid. You get the same level of automatic settings as in the cheaper cameras, but you also get the ability to go semi- or full-manual if you want. When you're buying DSLR you're buying in to a lens set, not so much a specific camera, as others here on the green have said before. You'll end up spending more on lenses than you do on the body, and will likely replace the body several times before you start replacing lenses. General consensus seems to be that Canon or Nikon are the best DSLRs. More people seem to use Canon currently, and I really prefer them - have never had a single Canon imaging device I have disliked, from my first bubble jet printer to my old-ass (and still fully functional) SCSI scanner to my brand new DSLR - but Nikon has a good reputation as well. My understanding is that Canon is generally thought to be better than Nikon in low-light situations.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:42 AM on January 10, 2008

Honestly, as good as the G9 is, the £400-odd for the Canon D400 buys you a heck of a lot more camera than the £300 for the G9. You could probably even get a kit with the excellent 17-85mm zoom lens (with image stabilisation) for your budgetary area.

Or you could go a tad more hardcore and pick up excellent primes, like the 28mm, the 35mm, the 50mm or the 85mm. All good for street shooting and the image quality is fantastic.

Or just get it with the 18-55mm kit lens. I've seen some excellent shots taken with it, and if you're travelling and expect to take pics during the day time it's perfect.

It took me a while to muster up the courage (and the money) to take the leap into SLRville. I haven't looked back, and I'm enjoying photography more than ever.
posted by Magnakai at 7:17 AM on January 10, 2008

Upon reflection, I'd advise you to go to a camera shop and try out the different SLRs in your price range. One of the joys of having an SLR is that the manual controls are much more accessible, and you'll want to go with one that works. At the moment, Canon have the best low light capability, but anything will be a (pretty huge) step up from what you're used to.

Remember that you're buying into the lenses, not the camera. The levels of importance go thus:
Photographer>lenses>camera. There's also big jump inbetween each one.
posted by Magnakai at 7:23 AM on January 10, 2008

My girlfriend bought me a Canon Powershot SD850 IS as a Xmas gift, and so far I absolutely love it. If your not going to get go for an SLR, I would highly recommend it for both it's image stabilizer and it's range of features including color accent, digital macro, etc. Granted, I'm not super camera-saavy but it serves my needs nicely.
posted by adustum at 7:38 AM on January 10, 2008

After re-reading your post it looks like your willing spend a larger sum of money than I was thinking when I responded. I'm sure you can find some pretty impressive cameras in the $1200 range. Not to say the above mentioned isn't great for the $200-300 range though.
posted by adustum at 7:41 AM on January 10, 2008

You might want to look into some of the recent Sony DSLRs, since you don't have an existing investment in lenses that's going to push you towards another brand. They are basically Minolta cameras -- Sony bought Konica-Minolta's camera division (Minolta), and the models coming out now are basically the ones that were on the drawing board, possibly slightly simplified for a more 'consumer' market segment.

I've always been a fan of Minolta products and recommend them. If the lower-end P&S models (like the Z series) were still around, I'd probably point you towards them, but if you're interested in a DSLR they're quite solid. I have a 7D, which is a fairly high-end model, but they have produced a series of cameras since mine at basically declining price/complexity points.

Only thing I'm not sure it would have, along with virtually all DSLRs, is a movie mode.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:04 AM on January 10, 2008

I'd vote for a DSLR. $1200 will buy you a lot of camera nowadays - hell, that's more than I've spent on my DSLR, including lenses.

For example, you could get a Nikon D40X as well as Nikon's 18-300mm zoom lens with vibration reduction. This is more camera than you're likely to get with most "prosumer" models.
posted by neckro23 at 10:34 AM on January 10, 2008

I agree. Buy a DSLR. I bought a Nikon D70 when they first came out. Haven't regretted the decision one bit. They're reasonably cheap, and when you see what you can do with even the low-priced lenses (like the 50mm prime or the kit lens which is 18-70mm) you won't even think about the pocket-sized stuff anymore. Once you get the hang of focussing and the program controls (full manual skills not even required), you'll start taking photos that your friends will comment look like they should be in magazines. Plus, photos will be around for a long time and 20 years from now you don't want to regret compromising on taking a pic of something using a bollocks camera. The only photos of me as a kid and my family and childhood friends are sepia-colored (I'm not yet 40) and some crappy 8mm footage where you have to turn a crank handle on a little projector to see it. Other friends have beautiful color photos of themselves and their families from the early 70s. Sure, a DSLR won't fit in your pocket and you'll need a small messenger bag to carry it and one or two lenses, but moments in time pass by and are lost - and a camera will capture those moments for you to laugh at and reminisce about for the rest of your life and quite possibly for generations to come. Just do it. And get your partner a small point-and-shoot so you can cover both bases if necessary. And don't worry about photo size - I have over 15,000 digital photos taken over the last ten or so years and I'm barely over 10Gb.
posted by tra at 11:32 AM on January 10, 2008

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