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Old 12-13-2012, 01:46 PM   #1
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Default Yet Another Newb Camera buying question

I've been trying to read up on a lot of the threads regarding camera purchases but I don't feel like they've adequately answered my questions so I figured i'd put up one more. I'm looking to move up from my P/S camera (SD800 IS) and smartphone and get something with significantly better image quality. I recognize that the P/S is fine under ideal lighting conditions but it seems to generally suck in low-light situations, macro shots etc. I'll be going on a few scenic trips this year so I was thinking of moving up to a mirrorless or SLR camera with the following criteria:
1) Great for vacation photography: Mostly using it for Landscape (urban and nature), pics with GF/family against whatever background, evening/night/low light scenic shots. Some macro photography. Basically the standard stuff people would use cameras for on most vacations.

2) Will not be using a bazillion Lenses: I'm a realist. I don't see myself lugging along a bunch of lenses with me on any trip and swapping them in and out. I think i'll be using one lens setup for probably 90-100% of my pictures unless there's a really compelling reason to switch.

3) Not insanely bulky: Not expecting a pocketable camera but, at the same time, I don't want like a full frame monster of a machine. Something I can walk around with for miles comfortably (i'm big on walking places during vacay) and that's fairly innocuous. That's why I was thinking a mirrorless or a smaller SLR.

4) Price: Was thinking in the $500-$600 or less (less is always better). I'm willing to consider any brand.

5) Ability to "grow" into it a little: For the money I'm looking to spend, I'd rather not have a completely dumb camera. I'd like something with which I can take great pics out of the box but will then eventually try to figure out some of the more basic tricks for better photography. I'm never going to be a photoshop/perfect shot/touch up kinda guy. Just want to take some good pics is all.

6) Decent video: Ability to record decent quality 1080p video would be great.

If you've read this far, any thoughts on which camera system I should invest in would be greatly appreciated. This camera will be with me for the long haul so i'd like something that will work really well for 90-100% of my vacation needs without being overly complicated or bulky and will provide just enough functionality so I can mess around with different options in the future.
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Old 12-13-2012, 02:13 PM   #2
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Nikon D3200 $600 with 18-55 lens (Refurbished by Nikon).

http://www.adorama.com/INKD3200K.html
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Old 12-13-2012, 02:23 PM   #3
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Nikon D3200 $600 with 18-55 lens (Refurbished by Nikon).

http://www.adorama.com/INKD3200K.html
Is the 18-55 enough for a walk around?
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Old 12-13-2012, 02:38 PM   #4
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I use a Pentax K7 with a DA16-45mm and that lens hardly ever comes off. If you are not into zooming to the next zipcode, I think the 18-55 will be wide enough yet offers a small amount of zoom to be versatile at close ranges.
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Old 12-13-2012, 02:57 PM   #5
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Nikon D3200 $600 with 18-55 lens (Refurbished by Nikon).

http://www.adorama.com/INKD3200K.html
Thanks for the recommendation. Looking at the reviews, this looks like a very solid all around camera. If you don't mind, what are the pros/cons versus the following cameras:
1) Canon Digital Rebel T4i
2) Sony NEX-5N

I believe both are in the same price range and the T4i is also an entry level SLR. The Sony is mirrorless but Ive read that it takes really damn good images. It might be slightly smaller too for a little more compactness.
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Old 12-13-2012, 03:48 PM   #6
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As you move up in sensor size macro becomes more difficult. A decent DSLR macro lens will cost as much as your camera and they don't work the same as on small sensor p&s cameras. The depth of field will be much shallower for the same magnification with a DSLR vs a deeper depth of field for a p&s.

Maybe take a look at the Lumix LX7 (with optional EVF and filter holder) or Sony RX100? The Lumix cameras are designed for nerds with lots of adjustments readily available. The RX-100 is as adjustable but it takes a bit of hunting to find the settings.
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Old 12-13-2012, 04:15 PM   #7
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If your lens can support it (I think 43-52mm or something like that, is the range), get a Raynox DCR-250 or 150. Cheaper, lighter, and almost as good as dedicated macro lenses except at the extreme corners, but unless you are doing reproductions of flat papers or something (for a library?), do the corners really matter? Most macro corners are going to be blurred due to DoF anyway, so why not make them blurrier?
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Old 12-13-2012, 05:26 PM   #8
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"3) Not insanely bulky: Not expecting a pocketable camera but, at the same time, I don't want like a full frame monster of a machine. Something I can walk around with for miles comfortably (i'm big on walking places during vacay) and that's fairly innocuous. That's why I was thinking a mirrorless or a smaller SLR."

This can vary a lot, esp if you have multiple lenses. Truth be told you sound like you don't want to mess with lots of lens swaps and just want to get the job done. The LX7 and RX100 are pretty good options.. yes the sensors are smaller but the glass is faster than on most kit DSLRs, and they are compact, even pocketable if you have a large enough pocket for the RX100. DSLRs are the best bang for the buck only if you have the time and patience to do things like lens swaps, and need PDAF and a viewfinder.
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Old 12-13-2012, 06:03 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the suggestions! So a follow up question. The LX7 and RX100 both seem like very high end portable cameras (i.e. smaller sensor). With all other environmental conditions being equal, comparing these cameras to an SLR like a D3200 (with the standard 18-55 lens), which would take better:
1) Outdoor shots?
2) Nighttime shots (more scenic) - I'm pretty sensitive to noise (as in it bothers me a lot with nighttime shots)
3) Portraits?

I guess I can clarify a bit more. When I say not bulky, I didn't at all mean something that I can hide away. I just didn't want a professional level camera that was super big and required me to carry it's own backpack to accommodate all of the extra lenses. As mentioned, in 90% of the cases, i'm thinking of sticking with one lens but I also want very good image quality to go along with it. I was thinking of investing in a larger-sensor camera (as I understand Micro 4/3 and APS are the next step up from point and shoot) to get the better photo quality for scenery both during the day and night.

Of course if there's a compelling argument that I absolutely won't notice the difference between the high end compacts and the larger sensor cameras for my use cases, i'm certainly willing to consider that.
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Old 12-13-2012, 07:05 PM   #10
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As for lenses, the kit lens on almost all ILC systems costing less than $1k, is likely to be a f/3.5-5.6 lens. Compare that to the much larger max apertures of cameras like the LX7 and RX100 and you can see how that faster glass goes a long way towards making up for the sensor size deficit. Furthermore, some of the premium compacts go beyond the ~85mm FX-equivalent that most ILC cameras top out at. 14-42mm on MFT is 84mm, and NEX and Nikon and Canon's DSLR kit lenses are all bunched up around 85mm FX-equivalent as well.

Scroll down to the table comparing these numbers, here:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sony...shot-dsc-rx100

I also think the Dimensions column is interesting... a RX100 clock in at 210 cubic centimeters, compared to 1788 cc for the D3200 + 18-55mm VR lens.

Someone else can answer your other q's; I've spent enough time on this subforum for today.

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Thanks for all the suggestions! So a follow up question. The LX7 and RX100 both seem like very high end portable cameras (i.e. smaller sensor). With all other environmental conditions being equal, comparing these cameras to an SLR like a D3200 (with the standard 18-55 lens), which would take better:
1) Outdoor shots?
2) Nighttime shots (more scenic) - I'm pretty sensitive to noise (as in it bothers me a lot with nighttime shots)
3) Portraits?

I guess I can clarify a bit more. When I say not bulky, I didn't at all mean something that I can hide away. I just didn't want a professional level camera that was super big and required me to carry it's own backpack to accommodate all of the extra lenses. As mentioned, in 90% of the cases, i'm thinking of sticking with one lens but I also want very good image quality to go along with it. I was thinking of investing in a larger-sensor camera (as I understand Micro 4/3 and APS are the next step up from point and shoot) to get the better photo quality for scenery both during the day and night.

Of course if there's a compelling argument that I absolutely won't notice the difference between the high end compacts and the larger sensor cameras for my use cases, i'm certainly willing to consider that.
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Old 12-13-2012, 08:30 PM   #11
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1) Outdoor shots?
With good light, you likely won't notice huge differences between a good P&S and a mid-range DSLR ( assuming basic photo taking skills. )

2) Nighttime shots (more scenic) - I'm pretty sensitive to noise (as in it bothers me a lot with nighttime shots)
Low-light is where the DSLR has the chance to blow P&S's out of the water. There's a threshhold for "light" where most cameras decide it's time to use the flash; while you might look at a scene and think there's plenty of light, cameras don't always think that way. In moderate light, a P&S is likely going to want to use the flash (with mixed results.) With a DSLR, you'll learn to watch what the shutter-speed is telling you for a scene. Based on that, you'll be able to decide if you want to use the flash or push your ISO higher (grain) to have a steadier shot. With DSLR's, you can buy a range of flashes that allow you to "bounce" the flash, which is many scenes gives a superior light to the scene.

3) Portraits?
For basic portraits, a P&S can do what you want... but they're typically incapable of "subject isolation" = "bokeh" = "shallow depth of field."
The ability to isolate the subject so that they're in perfect focus, but the distractions of the background are blurred out is one of the useful tools that larger sensor cameras can do that P&S's generally cannot.
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Old 12-14-2012, 01:07 PM   #12
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1) Outdoor shots?
With good light, you likely won't notice huge differences between a good P&S and a mid-range DSLR ( assuming basic photo taking skills. )

2) Nighttime shots (more scenic) - I'm pretty sensitive to noise (as in it bothers me a lot with nighttime shots)
Low-light is where the DSLR has the chance to blow P&S's out of the water. There's a threshhold for "light" where most cameras decide it's time to use the flash; while you might look at a scene and think there's plenty of light, cameras don't always think that way. In moderate light, a P&S is likely going to want to use the flash (with mixed results.) With a DSLR, you'll learn to watch what the shutter-speed is telling you for a scene. Based on that, you'll be able to decide if you want to use the flash or push your ISO higher (grain) to have a steadier shot. With DSLR's, you can buy a range of flashes that allow you to "bounce" the flash, which is many scenes gives a superior light to the scene.

3) Portraits?
For basic portraits, a P&S can do what you want... but they're typically incapable of "subject isolation" = "bokeh" = "shallow depth of field."
The ability to isolate the subject so that they're in perfect focus, but the distractions of the background are blurred out is one of the useful tools that larger sensor cameras can do that P&S's generally cannot.
Hmm thanks for all the advice. It seems some of these higher end portable cameras might be up my alley. With the amount of money spent I just want to make sure i'm getting a damn good quality product. Not sure how much I'm going to get into photography as a hobby though... Besides the RX100 or LX7, are there any other suggestions for portable cameras/portable interchangeable lens cameras in this price range? I just want to compare as many as I can to make the best decision.
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Old 12-14-2012, 01:24 PM   #13
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Nikon 1 J1 is now on sale as well and it's pretty small with interchangeable lenses.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...s_Digital.html

$500 gets you the 10-30 and 30-110 lens.

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Old 12-14-2012, 02:26 PM   #14
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Sony NEX
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Old 12-14-2012, 03:04 PM   #15
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Sony NEX
Looking at the Sony NEX-5N it seems like a great camera for the money. Comparing this to the RX100, I'm assuming i'll get better image quality with the NEX? Also, I know it's not really a "compact" camera with the lens (although much smaller than regular slrs), is it better if I just go for an SLR like the Nikon for quality?
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Old 12-14-2012, 04:48 PM   #16
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Fwiw, B&H Photo has a heavily discounted package deal on the LX7 - $323 including a case & SDHC card. To see the package deals, click on the "Essential Kits" link on the product page on their site.
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Old 12-14-2012, 05:01 PM   #17
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Theoretically, "you'll get better image quality from the NEX than the RX100."

It really depends on the situation; low light comes to mind that would be an advantage for the NEX because it uses an APS-C sensor.

The "downside" to the NEX is you're buying into the Sony Lens eco-system which isn't as mature as Canon/Nikon. But if that system has the lens you care about ( and chance are they do ), then so what?

The argument of "smaller size of nex / 4/3" vs entry-level DSLR ( t4i/d3200 ) vs rx100 is one you'll have to decide on for yourself.

Honestly, go hold the cameras. That will likely push you in a direction.
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Old 12-14-2012, 07:19 PM   #18
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Looking at the Sony NEX-5N it seems like a great camera for the money. Comparing this to the RX100, I'm assuming i'll get better image quality with the NEX? Also, I know it's not really a "compact" camera with the lens (although much smaller than regular slrs), is it better if I just go for an SLR like the Nikon for quality?
Better in theory with good lenses, but in practice if you just use the 5N with the kit lens, it will be only slightly better in all but the highest ISO situations. That's because the kit lens glass is slow and is of decent but not exactly amazing sharpness, CA, vignetting, etc. Not that the RX100 lens is necessarily better, but wide open vs wide open at widest focal lengths, it's f/1.8 vs f/3.5 which is a little over 2 stops difference or something like that. The 5N sensor is also roughly 2 stops larger (that is, four times the surface area) of the RX100 sensor, and it's one Sony sensor vs another of the same vintage so ultimately it's kind of a wash between the RX100 vs the NEX-5N with kit lens. DR is a wash, too. NEX-5N will give you greater DoF control, though. It's also significantly larger, heavier, and not pocketable, and the kit lens doesn't have as much reach as the RX100's kit lens.

On a per pixel basis the 5N wins even at lower ISOs but you can downsample the RX100's 20MP to 16MP to reduce that advantage.

All of the above is an oversimplification because in reality it's never a complete wash.

Anyway don't sweat "image quality" if it doesn't impede what you want to do with your photography. Lots of people gush about "image quality" without really asking themselves what it means, and think that a high-ISO shot of their cat with f/1.2 lens on a Canon 5DMKIII is good because of its "image quality," when in reality it's a boring photo that is far worse than a noisier, grainier, technically "lower image quality" photo of something more interesting or from a more interesting point of view.
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Old 12-14-2012, 08:05 PM   #19
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I've been trying to read up on a lot of the threads regarding camera purchases but I don't feel like they've adequately answered my questions so I figured i'd put up one more. I'm looking to move up from my P/S camera (SD800 IS) and smartphone and get something with significantly better image quality. I recognize that the P/S is fine under ideal lighting conditions but it seems to generally suck in low-light situations, macro shots etc. I'll be going on a few scenic trips this year so I was thinking of moving up to a mirrorless or SLR camera with the following criteria:
1) Great for vacation photography: Mostly using it for Landscape (urban and nature), pics with GF/family against whatever background, evening/night/low light scenic shots. Some macro photography. Basically the standard stuff people would use cameras for on most vacations.

2) Will not be using a bazillion Lenses: I'm a realist. I don't see myself lugging along a bunch of lenses with me on any trip and swapping them in and out. I think i'll be using one lens setup for probably 90-100% of my pictures unless there's a really compelling reason to switch.

3) Not insanely bulky: Not expecting a pocketable camera but, at the same time, I don't want like a full frame monster of a machine. Something I can walk around with for miles comfortably (i'm big on walking places during vacay) and that's fairly innocuous. That's why I was thinking a mirrorless or a smaller SLR.

4) Price: Was thinking in the $500-$600 or less (less is always better). I'm willing to consider any brand.

5) Ability to "grow" into it a little: For the money I'm looking to spend, I'd rather not have a completely dumb camera. I'd like something with which I can take great pics out of the box but will then eventually try to figure out some of the more basic tricks for better photography. I'm never going to be a photoshop/perfect shot/touch up kinda guy. Just want to take some good pics is all.

6) Decent video: Ability to record decent quality 1080p video would be great.

If you've read this far, any thoughts on which camera system I should invest in would be greatly appreciated. This camera will be with me for the long haul so i'd like something that will work really well for 90-100% of my vacation needs without being overly complicated or bulky and will provide just enough functionality so I can mess around with different options in the future.
Aside from point 2, you are looking for basically what I was looking for two years ago (I had Christmas money to blow from my wife). Or, rather, I only changed my tune about lenses after I decided on my camera.

I'll list the kinds of cameras that spring to mind as I read each point.

1) Top-end compact P&S. E.g., Panasonic LX-7 or Olympus XZ-2 (or others). Small, light with fast lenses. The small sensors are a plus for macro photography as you can practically have the lens touching the subject.

2) Same as 1. I ended up with a m4/3 GH1 and don't regret it. The versatility of multiple lenses (I have 4 of them. 1-10x telephoto zoom, wide angle, 'normal' focal length fast prime, 7-22x super-zoom for when I can't get close) makes photography FUN. But if you aren't going to change lenses, don't bother with an interchangeable lens camera.

3) "not insanely bulky" Basically any of the mirrorless cameras will suffice. A compact P&S will be even less bulky as the lenses will completely retract, except on the super-zooms. But those are vastly smaller than a DSLR of equivalent reach.

4) Your price range is about the top end for a P&S, or less if on sale. You should also be able to find a mid-range mirrorless for that amount.

5) Again, any of the top-end compacts or a mirrorless (or, really, any of the interchangeable lens cameras) will be something you can grow with. You'll get the basic PASM options, you can shoot in RAW if you want to edit later, and the cameras will be good enough (either because they come that way like with a compact or you can buy better lenses - kit lenses are somewhat limiting) that you can try different things. I've heard that Olympus cameras have particularly good JPEGS without having to do anything.

6) Not all cameras can do 1080p, but most can. That's certainly something to look on the spec sheet for. There is one camera, the Panasonic GH2, that does awesome video that is just at the edge of your price range as it's $600 with kit lens.

Personally, I'd only get an interchangeable lens camera if you think you are eventually going to get more lenses and other accessories. My enjoyment of photography went up immensely after I got a few lenses. It's just FUN to play and I've got a body that is decent enough I can do stuff with it.

I've spent $2k on glass (although one of the lenses was a kit lens, so it came at a discount) but glass is forever. Bodies are disposable and mine, although bought for Christmas 2010, was introduced in spring 2009.

I'd recommend a top-notch compact. Even if you end up buying an interchangeable lens camera later, the compact will still be a fantastic camera because of its size and fast lens that you can use indoors.

If you buy an ILC and only use the kit lens, you'll likely be cursing it when the light is low or you are indoors. I bought a 20mm/1.7 lens for my camera at the same time I got the body/kit lens and it was a great choice. Yes, the lens was $300, but it will stomp all over a compact because it's just as fast but the sensor is something like 9x the size (but no zoom!)

But, again, if you are just learning, buy a good compact and practice. The glass on ILCs will still be there for years and years to come and in the mean time the bodies will only get better and you'll have learned enough to know what to buy and why you're buying it.
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Old 12-21-2012, 11:37 PM   #20
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Thanks for all the suggestions. Probably after the holidays, i'll swing by a local camera store and try the RX100 vs a Nikon D3200 and see which one I like. Realistically i'll probably go with the former because the pocketability is very nice. Out of curiosity, does the RX100 allow for those good short depth of field photos (where the subject is in focus and everything else is fuzzy)? Like I said, I don't plan on being a pro photographer but some of those shots look really cool and I'd love to learn it.
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Old 12-22-2012, 12:06 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by Connoisseur View Post
Out of curiosity, does the RX100 allow for those good short depth of field photos (where the subject is in focus and everything else is fuzzy)? Like I said, I don't plan on being a pro photographer but some of those shots look really cool and I'd love to learn it.
Compared to a DSLR, no. Compared to other compacts, it is a bit better as the sensor is bigger and therefore doesn't have quite the same pinhole effect as smaller sensor cameras. It is definitely closer to other compacts than it is to the DSLRs in this regard. To try it out in the store you want to put the camera in aperture priority (A mode) and set the aperture as wide open as you can (lower f-number).

If you go with the RX100 I highly recommend spending the extra $35 on this after market grip.

http://www.kleptography.com/rf/#camera_rx100


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Old 12-22-2012, 07:43 PM   #22
SecurityTheatre
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Quote:
does the RX100 allow for those good short depth of field photos (where the subject is in focus and everything else is fuzzy)?
As a very quick check for this... (this is unscientific, but usually pretty accurate), the DIAMETER of the glass on the lens is a pretty good indicator of the ability to get a narrow depth of field.

It's a complicated relationship between the f-stop and the size of the sensor. Generally a bigger sensor gives you shallower depth of field, which is why you get it with an SLR and not with a compact camera. Additionally, the relationships between the focal length and the aperture (the zoom, and the f-stop number) also helps. To get shallow depth of field, you need a lower f-number (f/1.8 for example). This basically (in a vague sense) means that the lens has a larger diameter compared to the image circle of the sensor.

A full-frame SLR with an f/2.8 lens will get a comparable depth of field to an APS-C (crop frame) SLR with a f/2.0 lens, which will get a similar depth of field to a Micro4/3 camera with an f/1.8 lens. And you would need a lens that is around f/1.0 to get a comparable depth of field with a more compact camera (which simply doesn't exist).

In this case, it's all about the size (diameter) that matters.

To illustrate, this is what a 200mm f/5.6 lens looks like:



Here are 200mm lenses at f/4, f/2.8 and f/2.0:



And this is what you can do with a 200mm f/2.0 lens:



All that said, (and you will notice from the above comparisons) simply looking at the front of the lens and seeing how BIG the front element is can give you a reasonable indication of ability to compress depth of field. And for the pedants, I know it varies, but this is just a vague indicator that usually gives you *some* feel for it.

Last edited by SecurityTheatre; 12-22-2012 at 07:48 PM.
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Old 12-22-2012, 07:46 PM   #23
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dupe
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Old 12-22-2012, 10:35 PM   #24
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I would still recommend you to buy a dslr. The nikon one is a fine choice and i currently recommend any new buyers to buy into nikon as they have been putting out better cameras these last few years. So whatever newer nikon dslr you may decide on is a good choice. The dslr will be bigger, or i should say its really the lenses that make the camera bigger. My thought is that since you already have a p&s then you already have a pocketable camera. The upgrade to another p&s style camera wont make too much of a difference while a dslr will. Buy 1 or 2 lenses to pair with it such as a short telephoto and then maybe a mid-long range telephoto if you think you will use it and you should be set.
In any case the dslr's will win over other cameras but the size is the annoyance.
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Old 12-22-2012, 11:24 PM   #25
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Another thing to mention, if you want to get the "shallow depth of field" for the minimum amount of money, then you need to purchase either the 50mm f/1.8 lens or the 35mm f/1.8 lens (the 85mm f/1.8 lens is also an option). They are (respectively) $100, $200 and $400 lenses, so they are *very* cheap compared to other wide-aperture lenses.

keep in mind they're not zoom lenses, but that's fine, it will force you to improve your technique. :-)
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