Digital cameras

I’ve decided, the time has come for me to move to digital. Just really for the convenience. I’m always conscious when taking photos that I’ve got to pay to have them developed.

I’m going to change to a digital SLR and so have spent some time researching what my options are. I narrowed the field down to the following makes Olympus, Canon and Nikon.

Initially my thought was get an Olympus and then get an adaptor which would allow me to use my existing 35mm film lenses with it. This would only work in a totally manual mode, but I didn’t see that as a big issue. Then I started thinking ‘was I choosing this camera in my mind just so I didn’t have to invest in new lenses’ and ‘were my lenses really that good that a modern digital lens wouldn’t be as good or better’. The more I thought about it the more I concluded that my lenses were fine for what I was using, but they are old technology and weren’t exceptional even in their day.

If I was going to use an adaptor, I could do this equally as well with Canon or Nikon, so this opened the field back up. Reading many online reviews and comparisions gave me much information to go on. The Olympus was designed as a digital camera only and wasn’t designed to be compatible with any legacy lenses unlike the Canon and Nikon which are compatible with a wide range of their previous lenses. This reduced the options for purchasing older lenses to fill a short term gap in lens focal length until I could afford new. Also the Olympus uses a new sensor size 4/3 which doesn’t have a great adoption by third party lens manufacturers.

Yesterday, I went up to Jessops to have a look at and handle a selection of the cameras.

Canon 40DI started with the Canon 40D. This is a 10 megapixel camera ‘prosumer’ launched in August this year as a replacement to the 30D. It has a large 3″ LCD on the back and has live view, which allows you to compose on the LCD like a compact digital camera as opposed to through the viewfinder like a SLR. I personally thought the camera a bit heavy to be holding out to compose with the LCD, but the salesman did mention someone who had bought one for diving as this feature was perfect for this. The viewfinder was clear with a good size image (larger than my film SLR). While most of the buttons fell to hand, I did have an issue with holding the camera; where my left hand held under the lens with my finger where the aperture ring would be, it touched the fingers of my right hand holding the body. The gap between lens and the body grip is fairly small and for me it was just not right. That said, the body itself felt good and solid. The lens motor on autofocus was noisier than I was expecting. It had a very quick starup.

Nikon D200Next I looked at the Nikon D200. This is also a 10 megapixel camera, but it has been around for a bit longer, since November 2005. The first thing I noticed when handling it was just how comfortable it was in my hand. Although the gap between lens and body grip didn’t appear much different, the issue I had with the Canon wasn’t apparent. It felt a very solid camera and all controls fell nicely to hand (or finger). Unlike the Canon, the 2.5″ LCD isn’t used for live view, only for playback and configuration of options, it is very clear and the menus are good. The lens motor was extremely quiet, but then it was a very good lens that had been attached for testing. On paper this is a heavier camera than the Canon, but I didn’t really notice it.

Nikon D80Next I looked at the Nikon D80. This is also a 10 megapixel camera, launched in September last year. Again it felt good in the hand, but I’d been spoilt by the D200, it didn’t feel as solid and the controls didn’t fall as easy to the hand. The controls were slightly different, but well placed. That said, it was very easy to use and the configuration menus were clear and easy. I didn’t spend too long on it. On paper it is lighter than the D200, but again I didn’t really notice this.

Olympus E510Lastly I looked at the Olympus E510. First reaction was that it was small and felt like a plastic toy. It didn’t recover from first impressions. The viewfinder was much smaller image size than the Canon or Nikons. The startup time was much slower due to the dust cleaning cycle and the menu wasn’t initially intuative. I took a couple of photos and put it back.

So at least I have handled the possible options and its looking like it will be a Nikon at the moment. I’ve just got to save my pennies now and then make the call between the D80 or D200.

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