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Stepping up to a DSLR £600 budget in mind....advice?

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Initial post: 20 Nov 2012 08:19:57 GMT
Kevin W says:
I'm looking at purchasing a DSLR entry/mid range and have a budget of around £600.

My current camera is a Canon S95, which has served me well and introduced me to manual controls. However I feel the zoom lets me down when trying to get in close for some shots and the small size makes me feel rather inadequate :D

Firstly, I'd like to ask about weatherproofing. What are the non-weather proofed cameras like for taking out in bad weather? Do they survive a rain shower? Or is it going to take extreme conditions for it to be inadvisable to use.

Secondly, although I use a Canon my preference is swaying towards Nikon as I do not see video as a feature that I would use often if at all and reviews on sortable and DXOmark rate the image quality of the nikon higher.

My main uses with my S95 so far have been landscapes, city scenes and night/low light shots.

Posted on 20 Nov 2012 09:56:01 GMT
S. Grason says:
Go for the Canon 650D, it's about £600 with the kit lens and there's some cashback on top. The Nikons are no better cameras plus the Canons have a wider range of lenses available (and a much bigger 2nd hand market!), the entry-level Nikon bodies have no AF motor in them so they will only AF with AF-S type lenses (so a lot of older lenses will not focus). There's nothing between the 2 for image quality, any SLR will be a significant improvement over your S95 (which is already very good, I have a S90 myself :)). All D-SLRs have video now, even the Nikons! Nothing in this price range will be weatherproof, if that is a concern for you then you can always buy a rain cover which I would recommend anyway if you're out doing landscapes, only pro lenses will be weatherproof anyway so you'd have to spend £2000+ on gear to get a fully weatherproof kit, you can get a rain cover for about £20!

Posted on 20 Nov 2012 12:37:15 GMT
Kevin W says:
Ergonomically I'm sure I would probably prefer the 650D but from what I read it is more towards video and other features. The price is around £450 with kit lens and cashback offer, which is now lower than the 550D. That worries me why it would so low other than they aren't shifting very many of them.

Weatherproof I could opt for the Canon 60D which is now under £600 with kit lens, but I'd be limited to just the kit lens till I could buy more glass.

I'm off on a tour of Asia, including a wintery China, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, hence the apprehension with weather conditions

Posted on 20 Nov 2012 13:32:53 GMT
Kevin W says:
option 1
Canon 550D with 18-55mm DC, 75-300mm DC and 50mm f/1.8 MKII Lens for £549.95

option 2
Nikon D5100 Digital SLR with 18-105mm VR Lens and 35mm F1.8G Lens £579.95

option 3
Canon 650D with 18-55mm lens £535

option 4
Canon 60D with 18-55mm lens £549

option 5
Nikon D7000 body only with basic lens added seperately £660

Posted on 20 Nov 2012 17:22:40 GMT
Last edited by the author on 20 Nov 2012 17:23:43 GMT
S. Grason says:
The 550D and the D5100 are now both discontinued models. The 650D would be my choice still, the AF system is better than even the 60D (the 650D is still 9 points but they are all cross-type). The 60D is not really weatherproof, even the 7D is not fully weatherproof, plus any lens in this price range won't be either so there's no point worrying about the body, just keep some packets of silica gell in the bottom of your camera bag.
Yes the 650D has improvements to the video but that is only because it is a newer camera, the AF improvements are hugely beneficial when shooting stills.
All that said, if you can stretch the budget a bit further a Nikon D7000 with 18-105 would be lovely!

Posted on 20 Nov 2012 22:45:44 GMT
Never buy a camera purely on specification. Always judge a camera buy how it feels in your hand, forming a gut reaction as you handle it. It has to have the type of controls you like to use. DSLR's are bulky and heavy and can be restricting if you like to travel light. As you are moving up from a compact camera you maybe better off looking at mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. If you want to improve on picture quality go for an APSC size sensor. Canon and Sony make these. Cameras which have high image quality will always give more satisfaction than little used gimmicks. Put build quality high on your priority list and access to superb optics.

Posted on 21 Nov 2012 10:08:02 GMT
Kevin W says:
Discontinued but by no mean obsolete, in fact greater value for money which can be spent towards more variety or better quality on lenses.

I will ultimately have to take a trip to a camera shop where I can try out the cameras and look through the settings/features first hand but in respect of testing out the focus or picture quality I don't think I would be able to see much difference between the cameras shooting with kit lens in a shop and viewing on the screen.

The mirrorless cameras are often more expensive than the dslr range I am looking at or the improvement not great enough from my Canon S95 to warrant the additiona purchase price. I really have no issues with a bulky DSLR, carrying a 20kg backpack full of clothes 2/3 of which I don't end up that would give me cause to grumble.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Nov 2012 11:24:08 GMT
I think you would find either a Canon, Nikon, Sony or Pentax would do the business. Canon/Nikon are most popular by some way. Make sure you have image stabilised lenses for Canon and Nikon though. Pentax K30 is weather sealed and costs £500. I've not looked at one mind you. I would't overlook the Sony NEX for what you plan - cameras aren't just about weight but also bulk - especially if you buy bazooka lenses. Maybe you don't think a Nex (or 4/3s) is sufficiently different from your canon?
I'd suggest comparing several cameras up close - the feel of a camera is important. I think people often forget to check out the ease of use of the menus, which are important if you want to use more than auto settings.

Posted on 21 Nov 2012 14:09:39 GMT
Kevin W says:
Thanks for the advice Dr G. I remember it was between yourself and Mr Hearn on this very forum that helped to decide on my Canon S95 and I'm very grateful as I have managed to take some wonderful photographs on my last three vacations. Some of which is my reasoning behind taking the big step up to DSLR.

I've read very good reviews of Sony Alpha and Pentax K series, my only reason to disregard them so far is my past experience owning a Sony T10 which I ended up being thoroughly disappointed with and quickly resold. I am a little apprehensive with Pentax purely for not being one of the mainstream brands, lens prices and having no friends who use/used one.

I'll have a trip in to town to my local Jessops and have a look around the various options so I can at least make a preference based on settings and handling.

Posted on 21 Nov 2012 15:12:24 GMT
Last edited by the author on 21 Nov 2012 15:12:37 GMT
G. E. Hearn says:
Thanks for the namecheck! I'm glad I could help with your Canon '95.

As for Pentax not being a mainstream brand... Are you kidding? Pentax are an extremely capable and top quality camera company of many, many years' standing. I have the highest regard for their kit.
I think the reason they suffer in the marketplace is purely because they don't have the advertising budget of Canon or even Nikon.
Certainly I'd check out their range if I were in your position.

All the best,


In reply to an earlier post on 21 Nov 2012 19:01:40 GMT
Hi Kevin,
Whatever you choose, and I'm sure you wouldn't go wrong with either Canon or Nikon, getting a big sensor camera has to be the way to get better quality. Do take your S95 though - a back up is always a good thing.

Posted on 21 Nov 2012 23:34:14 GMT
G. E. Hearn says:
As we both found out at the weekend! Dr G had his Bronica medium format and I had my Olympus OM-2n. The lighting at the venue we were at was so bad that both of us had to resort to our digitals.
Always good to have a backup.

Posted on 22 Nov 2012 08:13:26 GMT
Lucius says:
Is there any particular reason you need a dSLR and are not interested in one of the compact system cameras with interchangeable lenses such as the Olympus PEN or Sony NEX?

I ask because most people don't really need a dSLR, they just think it's the only next step up from a compact, and once they have a dSLR they tend not to carry it around after the initial excitement because they find it too big! Sorry if that comes across a bit patronising, it isn't meant to be.

As for weatherproofing, unless you're planning to use it in the driving rain, desert or jungle regularly I really wouldn't worry about it. My Fuji gear has been absolutely soaked, isn't weather sealed and has never had any problems. There is a funny YouTube video from DigitalRev if you want to look it up where they torture some non-weathersealed dSLR's - it's a bit silly, but makes a valid point that they can cope with a lot more than you think.


In reply to an earlier post on 22 Nov 2012 09:22:19 GMT
Kevin W says:
I'll be sure to check out the pentax when I pop in to my local camera store over the weekend. I'll try to research up a little more on them. I have been comparing using the website but it does favour nikon in almost every Vs

Are you still using that Olympus ZX-1?

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Nov 2012 09:27:18 GMT
Kevin W says:
Your right, if I was considerably richer or intent to progress to a professional career in photography then I would purchase a full frame DSLR but it's not the case and the next down from a full frame is the CMOS.

I do intend to take my S95 with me as it is so small and lightweight it is hardly noticeable even in jeans pocket.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Nov 2012 09:38:15 GMT
Kevin W says:
Thanks for your input Matt.

It's not patronising at all I'm sure there are many people who purchase a DSLR and then later regret as they get tired with lumbering kit around. Which is why I purchased the S95 with manual controls as my taster into amateur photography.

I haven't handled the PEN or NEX but those interchangeable lens would be where the majority of the weight comes from and they would still need to be carried around in a bag as having only one lens would be pointless. The handling issue with the S95 is that the area which you hold it is is by finger and thumbs on the top/bottom edges and never feels secure, I would imagine that this is only intensified when holding a similar rectangular body with a larger lens stuck on the front. I want something to wrap my fingers around the side/front of a camera and be able to hold it more stable. And the price is way up there with DSLR

If I were to consider any of the inbetween models it would be something like a Panasonic G10 or Canon G15....something more grippy

I'll have a look for the youtube stuff, I was watching some DigitalRev clips a couple of days ago with the crazy chinese guy who talks far more rubbish than sense while wondering around swinging his DSLR like he is James Bond

Posted on 22 Nov 2012 09:47:03 GMT
Last edited by the author on 22 Nov 2012 09:47:32 GMT
Lucius says:

I appreciate what you're saying, the PEN is still more compact camera like to hold, although the new collapsing lenses are really small, it's still not 'grippy'! I don't know what lenses are are planning on getting, I guess you'd get the kit 18-55 lens with your dSLR for a while?

Have a go with the NEX - the 5N has a great grip and honestly had better image quality than my pro body Nikon dSLR! I know the 5N has recently been replaced but that doesn't make it a bad camera and you can get them for around £350 kit price (I actually missed out on getting one by about 30 seconds in Comet closing down sale yesterday for £200!). I have all Fuji pro gear now, which is simply amazing, but I couldn't resist another go with the 5N at that price! It's worth at least going and having a go, you never know.


In reply to an earlier post on 22 Nov 2012 10:07:20 GMT
Kevin W says:
I was actually going to try and avoid the standard kit lens and go for a 18-105mm, 55-200mm or 55-300mm as they are on cashback and match this up with a 35mm or 55mm prime lens. Ideally I'd like an ultra wide angle lens as it would capture cityscape and landscapes much better but an expensive £300/600 lens would only happen if I am comfortable with the camera and happy to progress.

I know the image quality is very high on those NEX series as they are very highly rated on DXOmark along with the Pentax K series and Nikons. The problem with places like Comet is they have them connected on the security tags and can usually only barely lift them away from its stand.

I feel you pain on missing out on Comet deal, I saw my Canon S95 in my local one listed as end of line £70 as the S100 had just been released. It cost me £320 and they actually still selling them new at £200 on amazon

Posted on 22 Nov 2012 10:38:32 GMT
Lucius says:
Sounds like you've done plenty of research Kevin. I've had both the Nikon and Canon dSLRs and just got along with the Nikons better, they seemed more logically laid out and their kit lenses felt much better quality build than the kit Canon lenses, I mean in terms of build, not necessarily optically. Thinking ahead, Canon do a better range of cheaper semi-pro lenses though - having said that, Nikon have just introduced an f/4 70-200 so maybe they will move into that space more in the future.


Posted on 23 Nov 2012 08:11:46 GMT
G. E. Hearn says:
Plus one vote for Nikon from me. But as Lucius points out, this is based on personal preference and "gut feeling". I simply find the lower and mid priced Canon offerings a little too plasticky for my tastes.
Although I can't really comment because I've been using my Fujifilm X10 more than my DSLR this year. I think I can count the D90's outings in 2012 on the thumbs of one hand.

Posted on 23 Nov 2012 09:18:15 GMT
C. Laister says:
I would go for the pentax k-30 which is full waterproof body and with offers available at the minute you can get the full waterproof lens version after rebate for £339 leaving you extra £260 for another lens the 55-300mm pentax is very good and could be picked up for that, i have a friend who works for a camera shop who let me try a sony a57, nikon 3200 etc and the image quality was miles better with the pentax he said the pentax are very good but people stick with the big 3 names also the pentax mount has not changed since the beginning so im picking up some f1.7 prime lens for like £30 talk about quality pictures. my 2p worth im sure the nikon etc die hards will flame me.

Posted on 23 Nov 2012 15:22:09 GMT
G. E. Hearn says:
No, not at all C.L.

I use Nikon, but the reason I chose the D90 was partly because I can use the old (film) lenses. Canon adopted a completely different lens mount after 1986, so none of the old ones can be used on the digitals, unlike Nikon where you can go back to the '70s and still use them today.
Pentax made some excellent glass. As I opined above, I think the reason no-one buys Pentax is because Pentax don't shout about their products loudly enough in the media.
Look at the Pentax K1000. One of the best and most rugged cameras ever made, and a favourite with many, many photographers worldwide.

Posted on 23 Nov 2012 15:26:25 GMT
Kevin W says:
Just back from my local LondonCameraExchange and handled and had a play with D5100, 650D and NEX-5N. Both the sales staff there now use NEX as opposed to their DSLR stuff and raved about them as comparable in quality with the DSLR range I was looking at. I did like the menu system which was touch screen and incorporated the wheel function and the lenses were incredibly light even the telephoto. If I didn't already own a good point and shoot then this would have been a serious contender.

The 650D sits much better in my hands and the lens feels easier to zoom, the shutter button being in a slightly better position being angled forward and the grip on the reverse sitting right where my thumb rested. The menu system is more simplified and easier to alter ISO/AF etc without taking your eye from the view finder. He also said the 650D's digic 5 processor was much better then the older expeed 2 on the Nikon

The D5100 had a nice menu system which looked easier to understand and make your way around. The manual focus ring on the Nikon lens felt more comfortable to use than the Canon but the zoom felt stiff and ended up not keeping the camera as still trying to adjust zoom. I liked the focus points being lit on the viewfinder (I can't remember if the Canon did this). I felt slightly more awkward to hold but not to the point of dislike.

The staff member told me that both the Canons and Nikons are on par with each other on image quality but I am still concerned if this is true or not as DXOmark rates 82.0 nikon v 62.0 canon....thats a serious difference. The nikon has the larger sensor and higher ISO, greater color depth surely all these must be noticeable not just under test conditions.

Pentax was dismissed by both staff members even when opened up a debate on brand recognition, I presumed it was more because I didn't see any Pentax sitting on their shelves for sale.

Price wise;
Nikon D5100 18-55 + 55-200 - £558
Canon 650D 18-55 + used 55-250 - £684
Canon 600D 18-55 + used 55-250 - £550

Posted on 23 Nov 2012 19:15:43 GMT
Unclemeat says:
Personally I went for a 60D body only and bought another lens.I can personally attest to the weather proofing on this camera after mine was hit by two big waves and survived once it had spent two days drying,I think a lesser camera 650,600,550 would have been destroyed as they have no weather sealing although I'm sure they are shower proof,I had a Canon 10-22mm attached at the time and that survived too.The sealing on the 60 is not as extensive as on the 7,5D mk 2/3 etc but it is good.You might also like to think about buying from Panamoz based in Hongkong,I did and saved a packet,don't be put of by imports.I have made 3 purchases from them since and they are superb,3 working days delivery and replacement warranties,no fixing,just a new camera/lens if it should have a fault.Quality controls are so high nowadays that it is very unlikely though,so I can recommend them,you will save hundreds!! Any questions just ask!

Posted on 23 Nov 2012 20:45:54 GMT
Peter Piper says:
I'm not sure you have a problem that a £600 DSLR set-up will solve. But if you're determined, I'd suggest you buy a great lens that does what you want and a cheap used DSLR that you can live with, and see how you get on.
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