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Thursday, 26 July 2007

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A great summary of the confusion many must be suffering Mike!

I think the answer (for B&W at least) lies in your text--just spend a little time practicing with that scanner and some chromogenic C41 film. A good starting point with the Epsons is to scan as Color Negative at 3200dpi, 16 bit Grayscale, unsharp mask and grain reduction set "low" and the DIGITAL ICE technology set to "speed".

For a small DSLR with prime my vote would be for any of the Pentaxes and an old 28 or 30mm.

Cheers, Robin

Well you are perplexed. I went to you for camera advice, although you didn't know it. Your review, months ago sent me after my Pentax K100 D. I had a K mount 50mm 1.7 from my K1000 days. I bought the kit lens and a 50-200 zoom. It is all I need. It takes as good a picture as I will let it take. So go get the K10 D. And don't look back.Carl Weese loves his. E.

Mike,
I'm in the same boat as you. I too started taking pictures seriously 38 years ago when I was 12 (with a 2nd-hand Voigtlander Vito C; my only DSLR is my KM 7D and it's getting a little long in the tooth and beginning to do slightly unexpected things now and then. My commitment's a little bigger - I have 3 K-M lenses: an 11-18, 24-105 and 100-300 and I have a Minolta flash (I was hoping these would keep me set for life).

I'd love to shoot Canon but lenses are so expensive if you want IS and since I'm not a pro - do I really need the full frame quality I crave?

If I were choosing today without the burden of my existing equipment and continued to be budget constrained I think Pentax seems to offer the best overall value all things considered (on paper, anyway) - but at the end of the day all that matters is that I keep taking pictures. - I haven't yet found myself in the position of not being able to take a picture I wanted to because I lacked a Canon 5D though after cropping I have often wished I had that magnificent sensor compared to my much noisier, smaller 6 MP and I have sometime coveted what I believe is faster more accurate autofocus.

In the meantime, I keep taking pictures (see some at http://aisler.photosite.com)

Mike, I was going to ask you a question about cameras. Nevermind. ;)

Mike: Like you I have a K-M 7D, but also a Maxxum 7 film camera with several lenses that I prefer to the digital. B&W film, I feel, makes for prints which I prefer over digital images converted to black and white. However, the camera I use the most is a K-M A2. Perfect size and weight for taking hiking every week and good external controls. With the Upstrap it stays on my shoulder. Plus nobody has made a better electronic viewfinder. I plan to use these three for as long as possible (of course the Maxxum 7 will outlast the digitals). I should add that the 7D is used primarily for some sports photography and macro work.

I too was a KM shooter, and faced your same dilemma when my 7d died.

after carefully weighing my options (price was a factor) I wound up going with pentax for a couple of reasons.

1. the lenses. I firmly believe that you should always buy into a system based on the lenses, and I am in love with Pentax's limited primes (both "pancake" and non-pancake.) simply some of the best lenses I've ever used. Bodies come and go, but the lenses will always be there...

2. in body antishake. stabilized primes, nuff said.

3. weather sealing on the k10d. I've got the 16-50/2.8 on order, which should ship in the next few weeks which will give an awesome kit to shoot in inclement weather (a situation I find myself in frequently)

3. supercompact kit of the k100d+pancake primes. I carry around the k100d with the 21mm and 40mm "pancakes" and the whole kit weighs around 2lbs total. fantastic "street shooting" kit.

surprisingly I don't find the k100d and k10d to be redundant, both bodies actually compliment each other nicely. The k100 is small, light very low noise and makes a great "street" camera, and a lightweight backup for the k10, while the k10d is higher rez and fuller featured at the expense of size and weight. Both are awesome cameras, and I know I will catch flak from the Nikonians, but I think the k10d is every bit the photographic tool that the d200 is, in terms of being fully featured and producing great images. plus you can't beat it for price/performance.

Here's another voice in the Pentax camp. I bought the original *ist D back in 2004, it ain't perfect but it's nice and light and quick and gets out of the way. Now I have the 40mm pancake on it probably 75% of the time, can't beat that lens for people and flowers and so on. And it's a conversation piece too, some photo-intensive event and there's all the photojocks with their monster zooms and me with this little flattie. I shoot *way* faster than they do. And I think the ergonomics are a little better than the Canikons, what with the superprogram mode and the little green button for asking the camera's opinion of the shot.

Mike,
Let me add to the Pentax chorus. I'm with everyone that adores the DA 21mm. I have a K100D and the 21mm, and I'm never encumbered by the camera. I love it, and if I ever want more pixels I can get them.
To be honest, I'm surprised you have trouble leaving the camera "on the door". I leave my camera with an empty card, and I can always just grab it. I have some PowerEX 2700mAh batteries in there, and they last just about forever on a charge if my shooting is of the grab-and-go variety. I'm no shooting-every-day pro, but I've charged them perhaps once a month at my shooting rate. Very impressive.

Joel

The D80 is most of a D200 (nice viewfinder and all) in a smaller package. I admit to having bought the D200, but I usually think I should have bought the 80.

Also, don't discount the D40 + 18-70 kit lens. The kit lens is sometimes disparaged but it should not be. It is usually fast enough and usually sharp enough and not that big, esp. on the little D40 body.

"you can't just hang the camera on a peg by the door and grab it every time you leave the house; you have to prepare to go shoot digital."
Prepare before you go to bed at night. Take the camera down from the peg and swap the battery with the one that's been charging all day in the charger. Swap the memory card for one that's empty and big enough for a few hours of photography.

My current dDSLR lust item is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-L1, both for the styling and for the lenses. To me it looks like a fun camera to use.

Another consideration is software - if you shoot RAW, it might be worthwhile to consider how well your chosen brand is supported. Unfortunately, it seems that Nikon/Canon get picked up first and then Pentax a bit later, and sometimes not as well supported.

I went Nikon, but I have to say that I don't really love my D70s the way I loved my Pentax MX. But, buying/renting/borrowing gear is easier and I do love the Nikon flash system. OTOH, I do miss the PDML...

Hi Mike, my 7D fell 4 feet onto concrete so not surprisingly stopped working,no visible damage though so a fairly robust body,I sent it to the sony repair center in the Uk which replaced/repaired the antishake mechanism or so they say, but in any case it is now working fine so yes they will repair 7Ds,flat rate repair cost and shipping worked out around 150 sterling pounds.
I had since bought the sony as a stop gap measure but really don't like it as a camera.It does focus much faster and auto white balance is much better but I find the noise from the ten pixel sensor is more irritating and more softening than that from the more grainy 7d.
In good lighting at 100 or 200asa it can produce wonderful results.Another good point for the sony is battery life is extremely inpressive compared to the 7d,the 7d I would not dream of bringing out without a spare battery, I don't feel a need to own one for the Sony.

In the morning you will wake up and realize that what you really need is a Contax G2.

The problem isn't so much choosing, it's getting excited about any of them. Make up a list of all your must-have features then play with a number of cameras (and lens combinations) and go with the one you feel you'll use the most ... likely one missing half the features on your list.

Or just get a 4x5 ... or bigger!

Same as it ever was, Mike. Don't you remember agonizing over camera and lens choices back in the heyday of film? Did you ever find the "perfect" camera and lens combo even then? If you did, you're one of the lucky few--those who prefer what they do have to what they could have.

It's also funny how we (yes, I'm including myself in this neuroris) judge one camera system by standards that we don't always apply to another. For example, you criticize the Nikon D40/x for being "severely crippled in the lenses it will accept." But isn't that even more true of M-series Leicas? Then again, maybe that's why Leica isn't on your list either.

The bottom line here, IMHO, is that we've all taken great photographs with cameras far worse than the choices you're considering. Choose whatever you like--and I emphasize the words "YOU LIKE." You'll enjoy using it, you'll take more pictures, and odds are, you'll like more of them.

I sort of gravitate toward the school that that there is not much to choose between them if you are talking about images. It really comes down to how you feel about it taking pictures. Is it easy to use its features without carrying the manual? Do you not mind the awful mirror clack of some of them or are you really pleased when even the sound of the shutter impresses you with its refinement. You can work around particular missing features if you really like the camera.

"the two small cameras that appeal to me most ... the Nikon D40x ... are ... severely crippled in terms of the lenses they'll accept. ... with a small, moderate-wide prime lens would make a great complement to the bigger 7D and its zoom, but alas, there ain't no such lenses."

If I understand you correctly, you can use the Sigma 30mm f1.4 on the D40X. It has it's own focusing motor, and is a sorta wide prime. And, in keeping with the spirit of your post and the many comments, regardless of tech ratings, mine takes good pictures - if I aim it at the right subject ;)

I'm in the same boat with my K-M 7D: except mine still works well. Over the years with various Maxxum film cameras up to the 9xi and 9, I've accumulated 10 lenses - so I'm committed. As a stop gap, I'm getting a Sony A100 on my wife's affinity points but the true test will come with Sony's " advanced amateur" model. Can it replace the 7D in ergonomics as well as features. I would not fall for the Canikon hegemony. Canon in particular exhibits such corporate arrogance that I cannot bring myself to support them.

Mike,

You can't always get what you want.
But if you try sometime
you just might find
you get what you need
whooooo whooooooo
whooooo whooooooo

:-)

I know the real reason you don't just go ahead and buy a Pentax. It's because you know you'll start collecting those primes again. Well, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem ;-)

I went through all of this just recently when I decided to purchase my first DSLR.

I looked at all the cameras out there, Sony, Pentax, Cannon, Nikon D40x. I got all sorts of "helpful" advice from the "experts" at the camera shops. This one loved Pentax, that one loved Nikon, and another thought anyone that didn't choose Cannon had to be out of his mind. Yet photo quality seems to be pretty much equal between the brands.

In the end, since I wasn't locked into a lens system I just decided what features were important for me (IS, compact, and price) and I bought an Olympus E-510.

And do you know what? Five minutes after I placed my order I noticed that I wasn't struggling over the decision anymore. Now I've had my camera for almost a month and I'm taking some of the best pictures I think I've ever taken.

So my advice just pick a camera and go with it. You won't regret any of the models out there.

I don't mean to imply that I don't shoot. I shoot frequently.

Mike

Mike,
I like my Olympus e-410 a lot more than I expected to. The kit lens makes all the right compromises for this to be small, all-around camera that takes very nice pictures.

The cost is low enough that you can look at the same way people used to look at digicams- get one as a second camera even if you are invested in another system. The only difference is that this camera is nice enough to be your first camera.

I own a canon 5D and a few primes. Like you, I hate the big cameras and, even more, the big heavy lenses (those 'L" things). A few weeks ago I bought the Olympus 510. It's very sweet. True there is no prime yet in normal to wide but the 11-22mm zoom is almost as good. As you have pointed out the short (2x) range is preferable to the uberzooms that try to do it all. The 11-22 has great quality, reasonable speed and is relatively small (the total weight of it and the 510 being far less than comparable Canikons). I hope they do introduce a pancake or two. We'll see.
best,
MLMD

If I were starting again I'd plump for the Pentax. I never liked Canon or Nikon cameras, they always felt so clunky.

For 20 years I used an OM4 with a 35-105 Zuiko. It was a beautiful camera and felt just right. The metering was superb. Then a while ago while photographing a wedding I dropped it. First time I'd ever dropped a camera, and even though I had it repaired it became extremely erratic. At that time I was extremely hard up and so a replacement was not going to viable. My father-in -law had just gone digital with the Canon EOS D30 and so gave me his unused EOS3 and a couple of lenses. So suddenly I have found myself in the Canon camp. I now have a 300D and a 5D but they just don't feel right. I don't even like the results they give...too plastic..too digital.

What I want is a digital OM4 with some nice prime lenses, the Pentax offerings look the closest with their lens line up. If Olympus came out out with some nice primes the E410 might fit the bill.

Oh I'll admit it I suffer from a chronic case of photographic equipment dysthymia. I'm just damned to the eternal quest.

What would Mike like?

* weight
* good primes
* anti-shake

Come to think of it, I don't think Mike would be happy with a camera lacking the above features after the 7D. Start from there, I would say.

K10D, a couple of the Limited primes, a couple of the classic primes, and a katz eye split prism focusing screen = sheer joy again

The one "pancake" lens that Pentax DOESN'T have is the standard focal length. They have a 20=30mm, and a 40=60mm. Where the hell's their 30=45mm?
Well, just how good is the 30mm Signa? Do it have problems?

Hi Mike,

It sounds like the Canon 5D is exactly what you need - full frame sensor for all the primes you'll be shooting - and the non-L Canon primes are no slouches either!

I've reduced my kit to just a 5D with a 24mm f2.8 and a 35mm f2, and having a great blast. My M6 with 28, 35, 50 fast primes are currently on vacation :) It's great to be able to finally use a 35mm as a 35mm in digital photography!

The camera I've always liked the best is the Leica-M6, but, like one of the posters above, cannot find any DSLR that I can get excited about, and the same goes for the M8, on which my views are similare to those of Mike. My solution for the time being has been to use two small-sensor cameras, the Ricoh GR-D and the Leica D-Lux 3, although I recently bought a Leica V-Lux 1 as well, not being able to resist the idea of a 420-equivalent lens with the DOF of a 90mm lens.

The small-sensor cameras give me the 35mm-film look that I want because I like the "35mm aesthetic". Mind you, I don't try to get a film look as such but, as I process files, I find that the tones I like and end up with are those of fast 35mm film of 400-1600 speed. To me the look produced by DSLRs at low ISOs are those of scanned medium-format film, and this is particulalry the case of the Leica M8. That means that I would have to shoot the DSLRs or the M8 at very high ISOs, like 1600, to get the look that I want: that is too fast for bright places like Bangkok where I live.

So far the small-sensor cameras give me what I want as you can see in my Bangkok series of 113 photos, of which 48 were taken with the M6 and the remainder with the GR-D except for a dozen taken with the D-Lux 3, and there is one portrait taken with the V-Lux 1. For mosy of the pictures you'll be hard-pressed to figure out which are digital and which are film:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/10268776@N00/sets/72157594271568487/show/

If I were to get a DSLR perhaps it would be the Olympus E510, but the primes available, like the Leica 25mm f/1.4 are huge and heavy, and the wide primes are non-existent.

—Mitch/Potomac, MD

My advice is to wait for the passion of the new model, that not yet released, dreamed about beauty, she will renew your desire, put her on your shoulder, cup her lens in your left hand and press her button with your right.
When we were younger we bought into a system thinking it would last forever, now in our fifties we think about the few productive years we have left and understand that it is passion not hardware that drives us.
The beautiful Maria Muldaur sang “It ain’t the meat, it’s the motion, that makes your momma want to rock”, good advice for the photographer seeking rejuvenation, wait for the passion to take hold and then use your credit card wisely.

to make the most of your new scanner and printer, i'd recommend a fuji gw690iii and a sekonic l-308s. you know you want to.

Richard,
I thought that was Southside Johnny and the Ashbury Jukes?

Mike

Mike,

When I previsualize Maria Muldaur singing that song I am in the zone and ready to shoot, a little pull processing maybe?

I just started shooting Tri-X again. Got an M6, a Canon 1V, and a scanner for less than the price of getting a Canon 5D. Am a happy happy man too...

First I should disclose that I am heavily biased towards Nikon, and wholeheartedly recommend to most people one of their new DSLR's. And I have nothing against Canon really, but I dislike Sony (always trying to ram proprietary formats down the consumer's throat).

However, Mike, you have chosen the camera for yourself if you look at your criteria, and a Pentax is the obvious choice: compact, nicely built, lots of primes available, in camera stabilization, works like a camera because it's built by a camera company (sorry, Sony). If it weren't for the prime issue, I'd still recommend the D40(x).

Just remember, it's the camera that chooses you, Harry I mean Mike.

Mike,
Like some others, your article on the original Pentax *ist DS made me get back to Pentax again. For over two years and over 35,000 clicks, the Pentax DS was my companion. It is a pure joy to use. I believe the Pentax K100D (super) has the same feel.
Well, after two years, I picked up the K10D on the first day it became available here in US. However, I still use the old DS and "enjoy" the way it feels in my hands ;-)

My suggestion: Pentax K100D super, and a 3-pack of 21mm-pancake, 43mm-Limited, & 70mm-pancake. All three are about the same physical size (very small), and have outstanding image quality.

.Sam.

I wonder if it helps: I'm also using a Contax 139Q that I like a lot and picked a D80 (instead of the D200 which is too heavy and expensive for my taste). The other choice was the K10D (of course) but since I already had several Nikon lenses, the move to Pentax would've been too expensive and time-consuming. The D80 suits me very well, I'm very happy with my pick. I'm using it with a 24 mm prime, mainly for (color) street photography (b&w is done on film) and for everything else that's not worth shooting on film (concerts and other events for instance).

Mike, get a Nikon D200, 1-3 lenses you like [Nikon and Sigma] and take pictures.

Mike I don't know if this helps or not, but I just can't help tooting Pentax's horn. Here is their lens roadmap for the next 6 to 12 months.

http://www.digital.pentax.co.jp/en/lens/roadmap.pdf

Mike, I'm also in the Pentax camp, with a K10D (and semi-retired *istDS), and some of those lovely primes. I would say go Pentax, and to satisfy that urge to play with real B&W, get an LX body as well to use with those same lenses. Sure, you'll have to have it serviced properly, but once that is done you will have the best of all worlds; a modern digital body, a film body (that you can leave hanging on the peg by the door) and those lovely prime lenses. Good luck!

When you say you start thinking about "antiquated film cameras with big negatives", you just reminded me of myself: I just bought my new "pockatable" camera, a Mamiya 6 Automat from the '50.
http://www.mamiya-op.co.jp/home/camera/museum/saishu-page/1950/mamiya6-automat.htm
And I'm really happy with that, so much that I'm gonna buy soon the Epson scanner in fact :)

"you can't just hang the camera on a peg by the door and grab it every time you leave the house; you have to prepare to go shoot digital"

Can't agree Mike. My Canon 5D battery is good for about 600 shots (not using IS lenses) and lasts for a week or two. A 4GB CF card holds 250 RAW shots. I just change the card and battery any time there's less than 100 spare shots on the camera.

35/2.0 on the camera, 85/1.8 in my pocket and I'm out the door in seconds.

You could do the same with the Nikon D80, 24mm and 50mm lenses.

Mike, apologies if I'm presuming too much here but from everything you've previously written, I'd always pictured you going for the Pentax K10D without hesitation - anti-shake, plenty of old & new prime/pancake lenses, brand history, etc. In fact, if I weren't already tied into Nikon and Pentax had a few more (affordable) f/1.4 options, I'd be going that way myself for the features.

I sure you have a friend with a D200. Borrow it for a day or two and see if it fits. If not, move along to the next choice.

5D/35mm/1.4, nothing more nothing less

Well, my the digital side started with a Fujifilm 9000, which was nice, practical but very noisy at high ISOs, and the lens had some distortion and purple fringing. It's command dial died after 3000 shots. Last november, I bought a Canon 400D (Rebel XTI). Fantastic up to 800-1600 ISO shots, lousy kit lens.
Bought a Sigma 18-50 (28-80 equiv.)f2.8. Mag-ni-fi-scent lens,(see photodo.com test) but the combo became indecently nose heavy. Bought the battery grip. Very happy with my photos, and with the handling... But now my rig is too heavy and clumsy for my shooting style. No more buys... I'm stuck for some time with this system... I get very good results, but surprised myself shooting again also with my 28 year old, trusty, small, light, ever ready, delicious Olympus OM-1N, 24mm f2.8 and 50mm f1.4 Zuikos, and "high tech" Ilford Delta 400/Microphen, instead of TRI-X and D-76, and getting surprisingly good results... IMO, B&W and film are inseparable...
ELJr./ Rio, Brazil

As always an interesting discussion and synopsis of the market and photographer's needs - actually with very little disagreement. The recent announcement here about Zeiss primes in Pentax mount would appear to bolster the Pentax camp. Regarding the comment on Raw support, Pentax has this covered (K10)with DNG - something I suspect we may wait a long time for from Canikon. As Mike I tend to favour the underdog! Now a 20D user but with a MZ3 and 645 languishing in a cupboard and depreciating heavily...
Dominic

I'm a Canon person (almost from birth!) so I won't even attempt to suggest a camera. IMHO any of the big names will have periods of strength and times they'd rather forget. I've always resisted the temptation to jump ship (even when Canon changed lens mounts on me) because I think I have come to work in a style which matches the Canon design philosophy (be it good or bad) - I can pick up any Canon and it feels familiar. I may not know all the features, but I will know what to expect, and how well or otherwise it will work.

A nice feeling.

One other point is that I think too many worry about what's coming down the pipe - there will ALWAYS be a better DSLR in the near future (usually announced shortly after you part with a large wad of cash). I would look at what is available now. Do any meet your requirements? If not, then wait. If any do, why hesitate?

Pictures taken with today's camera are generally better than pictures not taken because you were waiting for the camera that might have done a better job!

Cheers,

Colin

Like you, I had a K-M 7D, only I commited myself to arming it with 5 lens. So when K-M folded, my concern for my investment made me sell the 7D and take the plunge into the Sony Alpha. I haven't regretted it. I sometimes make 13"x19" prints and I'm pleased with the results. But I also agree with you that it's not the kind of camera that you can keep available by hanging on the coat rack. For that kind of spontaneity I keep a 5 year old Kodak DX6490 4MP Digicam in a small bag on the rear floorboard of my car. For "street" type shooting or spur of the moment events, it has been more than adequate in quality and resolution. You might consider a quality Digicam as a backup/fun camera, and leave the K-M 7D for your deliberate artistic work.

I've gone through a similar contemplation myself regarding purchase of a DSLR. After handling the few models available at a local camera chain the decision turned on the interface with exposure control. Not one camera I tried "fell to hand". The C, N, O, P all required menus and button pressing to set SS and aperture, ugh! So....I always seem to wind up walking out with my 30 year old, full manual, compact, not battery dependent, all matte screen, refuses to die, film SLR.

To me, it's like buying a pair of gloves. Any pair will keep your hands warm, more or less. But it's all about how they feel on your hands. I chose my camera, a Brand X, because darn it, it just feels good to use.

Hi Mike !

My 7D is getting quirky lately (it was in under warranty for a handful of things a while back). Most notable - sometimes it won't turn off. Slide the power switch to off ... and every couple mins it makes a noise like it's trying to focus; do a half-press and the lcd springs to life. Remove battery and reinstall - no change. Last time, I left the battery out overnight and it fixed itself. However, I'm planning to use it until it's no longer usable.

Anyway, regarding the 7D replacement, have you seen this:
http://photoclubalpha.com/2007/07/25/how-big-will-the-new-alpha-be/

I wanted to remind you of something ... antishake. Not just "yeah, don't forget antishake" but "hey Mike, remember you said you'd never want to use a camera without antishake again".

Your one lens is the 28-75/2.8 right ? So you could always pair up a Tamron with a Pentax body. My most used lens is the 28-75 also, but the 28/2 is a close second. I love the compactness but it's kind of spoiled by the big 7D body. (The above linked article mentions that while the 7D seems to be bigger than its successor it looks smaller at a glance by design ... I agree ... the 7D looks like it should be small but then you pick up your trusty old film 7 and you've got a much smaller camera with a beautiful big viewfinder).

You've written about the joys of a 40mm lens. Think about a system that offers you a more compact camera (future Sony or Pentax) with antishake that works with a KM/Tamron 28-75/2.8 and a 28/2. They're hard to find in Maxxum mount in the used market, but they're out there.

Oh, and if anyone ever comes out with a large sensor fixed lens camera with a fast 40mm-ish (equiv FOV), and antishake (of course) then my DSLR decision really becomes even more academic as that becomes my camera of choice.

Anyway, as a long-time Maxxum user, believe me, I can sympathize with that nagging desire to give up the fight and make life easier with the 'big two'. While I have a legacy Maxxum lens lineup (much smaller than before - I sold off some nice lenses) my approach today would be to get a midrange (glass VF) compact Pentax/Sony body with antishake to pair with a couple modest fast lenses for handheld use, and then, if I were to get back into nature photography, a Nikon/Canon kit.

I have just made a one-post blog about choosing a digital camera. I think the issues are not whether it is to be Canon or Nikon or an other brand, but rather knowing what you can see through the viewfinder on a compact versus and SLR; that SLRs at 800ISO have as good image quality as compacts at 100ISO; etc.

Very recognizable from back when I had my last camera choosing/identity crisis... glad that's over (for now). I must admit that the luxury of having all options still open felt good for a while though. Good luck and enjoy the luxury and joy of being able to choose. I look forward to reading about how you get along.
Best, Nick

Buy the camera you think looks the nicest.

They're all good these days. They all take nice prints of ungodly size (which is more a hallmark of the look of digital grain than any particular camera), and they all have lenses available that will do anything you want (even if it means going through Sigma to do it).

Cogitating over formats is unduly stressful.

Seems like almost everyone is in agreement that all the makes and models discussed take very good photos. So it really comes down to what we decide we will have to do without.

When I bought my last DSLR, I knew my choice did not have EVERYTHING I wanted, but I made my it based on how it felt in my hands and on the accessibility exterior controls.

"...my thoughts turn to antiquated film cameras with big negatives that I could scan...augh, shake it off, Johnston, shake it off."

Why shake off such an excellent instinct? You wrote favorably about the Bronica RF645; did you ever get one of your own? If not, why not? :-)

Well, my head is spinning. Too bad there isn't a way to see the pictures that are getting folks so excited about their gear. Now, I have a bias towards manual focus primes, I own a lot of 'em in different lens mounts (Pentax screw-mount, Nikon, Leica). They are plentiful used, tend to be faster than their zoom-ier cousins and cost a song compared to their prices when new. The only cameras I know of that will let me use them are the Canon DSLRs and the new Olympus E-410/510, in both cases with adapters. However, the only camera I've used that lets me accurately focus these lenses is the Canon 5D (note: with fast primes, anti-shake becomes less important). I will check out the Oly's when I am next in NYC. Battery life in the Canon is excellent -- they've really set the standard there. It will be interesting to hear what you wind up choosing.

Ben Marks

Great piece Mike just about sums it up for a lot of enthusiasts,I've got the D200+18-200,Sigma 10-20,Nikon 50 and 35 plus Canon G7 if the G7 had raw capability it would serve all my needs. I love the convenience of a small unobtrusive silent camera for street/holidays/and general shooting.

Certainly put me the happy with Pentax camp. I find the K10D a remarkably well-though-out, versatile, and solid camera - one that I really enjoy using. I bought the Sigma 17-70mm as a great general purpose walkaround, and have more recently picked up the DA 40mm as a lightweight, discreet street shooter. And of course there are all these bargain-tastic older prime lenses floating around (I've bought 28mm, a 30mm and a 50mm MF lenses which often came with easy-to-fix 35mm bodies).

Now if you wanted to wait on the basis or rumours, all of the big boys (except maybe Olympus) are probably going to come out with improved models in the coming few months.

For me, the Pentax K10D was just the most affordable DSLR with a really good viewfinder. The anti-shake and weather sealing and great ergonomics were gravy. But the big surprise was discovering that the $300 film-era FA35mm f2 outperformed the expensive Limiteds in every respect. An astounding lens.

Personally I think all the middle range DSLRs from Canon/Nikon/Pentax/Olympus are good but:

Canon: better for noise, ugly design, pricey, waiting for updates;

Nikon: good design, pricey;

Pentax: good price, good lens, few lenses really available in shops;

Olympus: good design, compact;

Personally I found it boring to use the same Canikon as everybody so I chose the Pentax k10d and I'm happy (and even more happy now that Zeiss do lens for K mount). I could have chosen the Olympus too, very good and so compact.

My advice: all the cameras are great now; choose the camera that gives you some emotion when you use it.

You know you want to shoot 35mm rangefinders again, so just do it, and you can scan a whole roll of film at a time with the Epson scanner!

And with film you don't have to worry about backing up the back ups as much as you do with digital (as long as you keep your negatives in a nice and safe place). So pick up that camera and buy yourself a bulk roll of your favorite film.

Like some others above, I'm a big fan of the Canon 5D together with Canon's 35/1.4, 50/1.4 or 50/1.2. But if that's too much money, then I recommend a 30D or a 20D with Canon's 28/1.8. With the 1.6 crop factor, the 28 will crop to a 45 normal lens, and the crop will eliminate the fuzzy corners that appear on a full-frame camera. The battery lasts pretty long and these cameras are very good up to iso 1600. Image stabilization would be nice, but it's not essential. Or wait for the 30D update and maybe get a few more megapixels.

Since mine was the comment Mike built this post around, I'd like to elaborate a bit more on my thoughts on camera selection. I note a lot of enthusiasm for Pentax.

I tried one out (a 10d) in the store and it seemed to me that the autofocus was noticeably slower than other cameras. I like to photograph people, and scenes with people, you know, decisive moment stuff. The last thing I'd want it to have to wait an extra second or two for autofocus.

The D80 autofocus seems really fast in comparison. Also regarding primes: Firstly, those Pentax primes don't come cheap (400 to 600 each). Secondly, I want to avoid changing lenses on a digital SLR because I don't want to have to clean dust spots off my sensor.

That's why I'm attracted to do-it-all zooms like the Zeiss 16-80 or the Nikon 18-200vr. From what I've read, both seem to give pretty decent quality throughout the range, and the Nikon lens adds VR to the equation as well, which is a plus.

One other system I consider is the Sigma sd14. The prospect of a sensor that gives truer colours, of flesh tones especially, is appealing, as is the small raw file size. Although the prospect of not being able to use it above ISO 200 because of wierd noise issues is a definite downside for me because I'm shooting my D60 Canon at ISO 1000 just about all the time for low light, and I'd miss those extra 2.5 stops of speed.

Plus, the Sigma is quite a bit costlier than the other options. However, the possibility of shooting infrared without a permanent mod job that would cost $500 is an intriguing plus.

Overall,these days I'm leaning towards a Nikon D80 with the 18-200VR. I do prefer the sound and feel of the D200, but the extra weight, the extra cost, and the fact that I'll probably want to replace it with something new and improved in another five years or less, argue for the relative economy of the D80. I like the viewing, autofocus speed, ergonomics, flash systems, and lens availability (18-200 VR + if I want a low-cost fast prime for throwing portrait backgrounds out of focus, there's always the 50 mm f1.8 for about $150)

For a carry all the time camera these days I'm using a Canon G7, which is fun, although the lens is a little soft and subject to flare, and the noise gets excessive above ISO 400. Still, it's small, has IS and a reasonable range of control, and gives me the appearance of being a less serious photographer than I am, an anonymity factor which is nice in many situations.

For a while I did try the Sony R1, but it seemed to suffer from a lack of dynamic range, and I didn't like the electronic finder. So I took it back and got the G7.

Mike, do give E-510 a try. It's an excellent camera. You might not get lenses as wide as you'd like or as fast as you'd like but there are some excellent, quite small lenses for 4/3: 35/3.5 macro, Sigma 30/1.4, the kit 14-42 and 40-150. (Multiply the length by 2.) Admittedly, the last two are not really fast, but they are very good for what they are and the smaller zoom is quite close to rivalling more expensive lenses like Leica 14-50 OIS.

And you can get Olympus 50/2 macro which can serve as an excellent portrait lens.

Plus you can find all kinds of adapters for 4/3 and use old manual lenses (Leica R, Contax, M42, Pentax K, Nikon), although the wider ones are not really good for that.

BTW, I've tried both D40X and E-510, and the latter simply gives you more.

I went with Pentax because of their primes - and I knew about the primes because of your articles. (31mm and 77mm)

The K100D is very loud - I stopped using it for street work. The K10D is not as loud, but it's big, though not as big as a D200. Metering is not the K10D's strong point. I love the 31mm lens. The K10D focus more quickly and more accurately than the K100.

But now that I earn my living with my cameras, Pentax isn't so appealing. I ordered the 77mm lens in March and got it last week. None of the shops here seem to stock Pentax lenses with any regularity, though Canon and Nikon are easy to get/replace if necessary.

I also have the Nikon D40/Sigma 30mm. It's small, very quiet, and focus is accurate with the Sigma 30. Metering is also more reliable than the Pentax.

In body IS isn't all that important. I've taken plenty of sharp shots with the Nikon at 1/8. Subject movement is more an issue than me shaking the camera.

If I had to do it over again, it would be the Canon 5D or its replacement. Otherwise the Nikon D40 series - they're small, as quiet or more quiet than a Leica, and I get lovely results with the 30mm (but not as nice as I do with the Pentax 31mm).

Hi Mike,

If you kept your K-M 7D this long you are truly lucky. I am a victim of “camera lust” and buy and sell cameras like some people trade stocks. I have yet to find the perfect camera, but like you want light weight, anti-shake and great lenses. That grab ‘n’ go, love to shoot camera. I now own a Nikon D40x/18-200mm, a Canon D30/24-105mm and a Leica M-8/35mm. My first DSLR was a Nikon D50. Since then I’ve had a couple of others. My two cents worth:
D40: Insufficient quality, a “starter” DSLR.
D40x: Small and fun to shoot, quality matches the D200 in most respects. No separate ISO/WB/Qual buttons. Limited lenses, but the 18-200 is unmatched.
D200: Had it, loved it, sold it. In the end it was just too darn heavy to haul around.
D30: Despite the expense, I like Canon glass. I bought this for astrophotography, but use it for everything. Good camera, but it will go when the 40D is introduced. It’s not a light weight either.
Leica M-8: Unmatched sharpness. Heavier than expected. Squirrelly as all heck and long learning curve for a beginner like me. What, no auto focus!? You may see it on E Bay.
A caveat: If you make exposures longer than 30 sec. avoid all Nikons. After conducting tests on both a D40 and a D200 I found purple fringing occurring in as little as half a minute. As for Sony, they make television sets don’t they.

Now, where can I get my hands on a Pentax K100D and a couple of those primes?

I bought a K-M 7D at knock-down prices after they went out of business; with lens for $560 US. Given that it's still effectively new I'm still happy with it, but I do regret the loss of Minolta. I'm still up in the air about what to do when it gets old.

You *can* find a new-in-box 7D around these days if you search, so replacement is an option. OTOH, it's still an old camera, and its long-term reliability is suspect; it was K-M's first effort at a DSLR, and it does show in some aspects.

As far as Sony goes, it's worth remembering that most of the engineering team is still the same guys as when it was K-M; Sony apparently bought the engineers as well as the rights. I'm interested to see what happens in the next few years.

If not Sony, then Pentax does have a lot of the same things.

From the beginning I was a Pentax guy and now I'm on the edge of buying my first DSLR, the K10d.

But I'm a bit concerned about its weight. My Mz-5n with lens and BP is just a bit heavier then k10d body.

Eh.. if only Pentax put CCD matrix in Mz-5n

Well, I might as well add my 2 cents.

I am a long time Nikon user and have a D200, D2H and some nice Nikon glass.

About 6 months ago I got a Pentax K10D and the limited prime lenses for a small walk around kit.

Whenever I pick up my Nikon gear, it feels great, but 90% of the photos I have taken have been with the Pentax.

The limited lenses are just too sweet and convenient for me. For example, my favorite all time lens has been my Nikon 85 1.4. But I find with the Pentax 77 1.8 I get comparable image quality with a smaller, lighter, less obtrusive (and less expensive) kit. Ditto for my Pentax 31 1.8 as compared to my Nikkor 28 1.4. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Jeff

Unless your 7D is terminal and on life support I would suggest waiting for the Sony replacement. If they can deliver a camera with the spirit of the 7D in a slightly more compact and lighter package at a keen price they'll certainly be able to keep me as a customer.

That's what I'm doing. My Maxxum 5D has gone unreliable and is on life-support, but I like the Minolta camera aesthetic so I'm sticking around to see if any of that spirit remains after the buyout. In the interest of full-disclosure, I also have a non-trivial (for me) investment in glass, as almost all of it can be used on my film 7 (until she croaks) so I wouldn't be able to sell any of my lenses to offset the cost of switching mounts.

Until then I'm just going to shoot more film with my RF (or at least try too... I don't seem to be shooting much these days but that's an entirely different post).

If I'm allowed a second contribution ...

Spurred by all the K10D recommendations I spent some time reading Pentax lens reviews and it looks like you could put together a really nice system around these. I'm sure you've done similar research.

The K10D wasn't shipping when I bought my D80. I still think Nikon is competitive (and possibly better bang-for-buck) due to the 35/2, 50/1.4 and 85/1.8 lenses ... all reasonably priced and great performers (none of which work on the D40/D40X). No compelling current wide-angle primes sadly. The D80 is competently designed with no real shortcomings but a bit utilitarian. If you want to balance lenses over (say) 500g you'd probably have to move up to a D200. The D40X/D80/D200 (they're all the same) will do nice prints up to 13x19 from quality optics and with careful processing ... though I'm sure there are many that push the files further. For anything larger I use a 4x5. I bought the D80 as a stepping stone to an as-yet-unannounced D300 (presumably a step up in image quality and a metal body). The 5D (which I've used briefly) gives marginally better results but is too big for me and overpriced IMHO. Really, there's not a lot to distinguish between any of them in areas that really matter. It's specific lenses (and your budget for same) that should drive your decision. But you know all this and are just after a nudge, one way or the other :-).

It would be easier if there were some standout cameras available (at any price) that you knew you could build a future around but the landscape of photography has sadly changed.

Just commit. It will save future grief and indecision. Once you've acquired 4-5 camera bodies of a particular brand and a dozen or so lenses to fit them, the decision of which new camera to buy is moot. Every system out there has strong points and weak points. All of them work pretty well for those who are using them.

Get an OM-4T and a bunch of Tri-X and simplify your life. You know you want to.

Actually use my OM-1 more often than the 4. I'm too old to worry about trying to trick computers and printers into giving me BW print that I can be proud of.

Faster isn't always better......but I have to admit that my new Lumix TZ3 is a hoot.

John

So much angst over such a trivial issue. If you like taking pictures does the camera matter that much? I don't like my Eos 1Ds and the lenses for it one little bit but it does let me take the pictures I want to. I like my F-1n but it doesn't make such good pictures.

If you get results does the aesthetics and feel of the camera matter, or is all this angst about the camera a substitute for the photographer's worry about his own shortcomings?

Keep us informed about your adventures in scanning film. The comments to this post appear to indicate that people (more than I would have expected) are still interested in this approach.

I'm more of a zoom fan. An 18-200 seems like a great range and Nikon seems to make the best. I'd like a small light body, but the D40 only AFs with a limited number of lenses, so the D80 seems the best choice for me.

It's funny Mike. You're all the time talking about tiny cameras and tiny primes, but you use a moderately big camera and a huge 2.8 zoom. Like a lot of people said here, is obvious you want a Pentax, so just get one. There's a nice attachment for the k10d viewfinder, a loupe, that makes the image huge, a la MX, and is the size of a common eyecup.
I really like the D40. It's very silent (the more silent slr I've heard), as compact as it gets, lightweight, and it's the only Nikon DSLR that can use the oldest Nikon lenses, the pre-AI ones (obviously without metering). But it doesn't have built-in VR nor a huge viewfinder, so it's not your camera...

"5D/35mm/1.4, nothing more nothing less"

Nothing less than $3,500 you mean.

Mike, I don't know what lenses from a given system might interest you, so perhaps you could at least discuss howmuch you'd pay for a new camera. Would you spend $1,600 for a body today?

I have a Zeiss Ikon with a C Sonnar 1.5/50mm and a Nikon D70s with a 18-70mm zoom and a 60mm Macro prime. I'm happy.

I think you answered your own question(s), Mike! You're not tied down to any particular brand, so why not buy a camera that's already out (no waiting), it's already more than proved itself (just ask anyone who owns and uses one, myself included), and just spring for the Canon 5D with a 35mm f/2 prime? Small, great image quality, and more than enough pixels and high ISO goodness to keep you busy for a long time... and if you want to really treat yourself, stretch to the 35/1.4 L prime, it really shines on the 5D.

Surprising to learn, Mike, that compared to the sage blog god who granted me official web-based sanction to buy a KM 7D a year ago, I now own eight more Maxxum lenses than you!

I hear your complaint, Mike. One of my 7Ds developed small problems, and it's been bouncing around the black hole between Mack, Precision Camera Repair and KM for five months how. You have to own two of these, and with luck you'll have one to use.

I've bonded with the 7D. But even if you haven't, this seems like a lousy time to choose among the three underdog camera makers. Sony is tantilizingly, teasingly on the brink of an announcement. Pentax just experienced a shotgun marriage with a new corporate parent whose priorities may be elsewhere. It's like the Wall Street Journal, which could hew to its original journalistic mission under Murdoch's control, but you can't expect that. Knowing you, however, I'd wager you'll buy a Pentax just to have something new to write about.

Of the little three, Olympus seems the most solid player at the moment. They've popped out new models quicker than anyone else the past two years, haven't they? They've been more forthcoming about their promised pro-level camera than has Sony. Their lens choices are stellar on the long end, but wides are pricey and primes are scarce. Only the small VFs give me pause, but they're getting closer to the OM-digital look and feel that many of us wanted. The 4:3 format is a real plus to me; the first thing I do to most of my best 2:3 images is crop off one end or the other to make it resemble "art," which hangs in 8x10 frames as God intended.

My other camera is a Nikon D40. It produces really fine results, including some photos you can't make with most other cameras. That electronic shutter syncs at 1/500 (or faster), making syncro-sunlight a breeze even with a small flash. That's a real advantage over the D40x, IMO. But its small VF and lack of controls, it'll never take the place of my 7D.

Spending too much time with online photography makes us impatient for new gear that we may or may not need. You could follow my example, though. I'm stocking up on quality full-frame Minolta lenses while they're affordable, before Sony unveils its top-banana Canon-killer. Used Minolta lenses aren't as cheap as a few years ago, but they still offer big bargains compared to the Big Two. Those optical acquisitions have distracted me from the shame of being seen using a (gasp) two-year-old camera.

Mike, I deliberately did not read any of 80-something comments so that my answer will be in a sense pure.

For all I know you (which is not much, but still), you may want to consider either Pentax (for its glass quality, think full frame Limited lenses ;-) ) or Leica M8. Either is not perfect, but I suspect ;-) that you might immensely enjoy 43 Lim attached to K10D or some Leica quality glass attached to M8.

If I had infinite amount of money (or good equivalent thereof) I'd probably buy Pentax (again) *and* Leica as well.

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