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Help Wanted in Choosing a New Camera.

Discussion in 'Animal Photography' started by LaughingDove, 7 Jan 2017.

  1. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Today I went to a very large electronics shop to try and buy a new camera for my birthday (my old camera is getting old and knackered from general wear and tear and being used a lot) but I spent quite a while and ended up not being able to decide what to buy. With further research on the internet, I still was not able to find anything that exactly matched what I wanted, so I was hoping someone on ZooChat might be able to help.

    My first issue is that I really want a camera that uses AA batteries, as my current camera does (currently I have a Fujifilm HS25 EXR) because I use NiMH ones so I get about 1000 pictures per charge, and I already have a few sets of them and I also really like the flexibility to just be able to get them anywhere when travelling, which I do a lot. I was only able to find one model in the shop, and only a handful online, and none of them meet all my other criteria.
    Also, I would like to upgrade the image quality as well as the zoom of my current camera because at the moment I have 16 megapixels and 30x optical zoom but I think 16Mp is a bit on the low end and I use zoom quite a bit when photographic wildlife.

    The main decision that I'm struggling with is how much of an inconvenience not having AA batteries would be, so I'm hoping that someone who has a camera that uses its own special battery will be able to give some advice. On some days when I visit a zoo I can take close to 2000 pictures and go through two or sometimes even three sets of batteries (this would of course be expensive, but I use rechargeable AAs) but I'm not sure how long one of those Li-ion batteries would last. Secondly, sometimes when travelling I don't have the opportunity to charge a camera for a few days and if I need to with my current camera I can just buy some AAs anywhere, but of course I couldn't do that if it is not a generic size battery. (note: if I was to get a camera with an Li-ion battery, I would get a spare or two, but I don't know if that would be enough even then.)

    There was one camera at the shop that used AAs, a Sony DSCH300B.CE3 and this had a better quality that I think was good at 20.1Mp, the zoom was less than all of the similar compact superzooms at only 35x optical zoom (27.2-954 mm) compared to all the others at 50x or more. Would I realistically be able to use 50x zoom without a tripod? I often use my current camera's 30x zoom at 720 mm when photographic wild birds, so I think more zoom may be more useful. Does anyone who knows more about cameras than me think this would be a good model?

    Also, if anyone knows of any other models of cameras that fit my requirements to be a good travel, zoo, and birding camera, please let me know. I would quite like an improvement on my current camera to allow me to improve my photography skills.

    TL;DR: how long does the battery last in a camera that does not use AAs? Would you recommend a Sony DSCH300B.CE3 camera? Are there any better cameras that use AAs?

    Thanks very much if anyone replies! :)
     
  2. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Hi LD,
    I've benefited a lot from advice on camera choice here, and the main thing I've learnt in the long run is don't be afraid to upgrade to a DSLR. If it's out of your price range that's another matter, but don't feel restrained otherwise - at least aim towards it in the coming years. Photo quality will generally be better, and you'll manage to take some absolutely stunning shots.

    Don't feel restricted by the use of AA batteries. Like you, I can typically eat my way through several batteries' worth of charge on an intense zoo trip, so I just carry spares. Generally the more expensive the spares are, the fewer you'll need (not sure if I've persuaded myself into that hypothesis.)
    For my Panasonic lumix TZ-series, I used to get through about 3 batteries a day; for my Canon bridge camera, it was closer to two. For my 750D it was about 1.5-2, and now with my 7D I rarely need much more than one battery. I still carry plenty of spares, as it is convenient.
    I bought my Canon SX50 for the superzoom (50x) but in reality the photos taken were of poor quality and the camera itself was a poor substitute for similarly-priced DSLRs. :)
     
  3. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the advice. Sounds like I could probably manage without AA batteries then, though I think if AA options were available they would be preferable.

    As for the DSLR, I've just spent about three hours discussing it at length in the chatroom with @KevinVar and @Vision and I still don't know. As for budget, around 500 euros is about tops, so I could just about afford an entry level DSLR and one relatively cheap lens with that, it seems.

    I am not quite sure of the difference between the focal length in a superzoom camera and in a DSLR and I don't see how I would be able to do much widlife photography at all with a 55-300mm focal length on a DSLR lens when I am using and wanted to upgrade my current camera which does 24-720mm. How would a DLSR perform on the 'zoom' front because it seems like I must be missing something with the difference between the 'real' focal length in a DSLR and the focal length in a superzoom.

    Also, how does a DSLR perform in a zoo when switching from exhibit pictures to animal pictures?

    I do definitely want to improve my photography, and a DSLR is obviously the next level up, but I'm not sure whether a basic DSLR would be better than a top-end superzoom because it will be a long time before I can afford a 24-720mm lens for a DSLR, and I don't even know if that exists.
     
  4. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    I had a similar issue when trying to choose a DSLR, and because there wasn't a single lens which would cover things well, and which couldn't give the length I thought I needed, I bought the superzoom bridge first and as I say, at distance the photos were very poor. I'd have been much better off just cropping my closer DSLR lens photos.

    I'm no expert, so it's worth hearing from professionals too, but you might want to take a look at photos like these comparing the shots using longer lenses: Secrets of Digital Bird Photography
    As you say, you'd probably need a tripod for those longer shots, and anything beyond 300mm is likely outside your price range.

    I mainly use two lenses: an 18-135mm and a 55-250mm (Canon EF-S IS STM). The photos on the 55-250 are usually of a better quality, so if I'm photographing something especially important, small or far away, then I tend to switch to this one. It's also the lens which usually sits on my camera if I'm in the wilds, just as it's more likely that wild animals will be small or far away. The 18-135 I tend to use in aquariums, or as a point-and-shoot lens (which I know I shouldn't, in order to make the most of the camera's functions, but the photos are better than my compacts), so it's the one you'd be more likely to come across on a regular zoo visit.

    I often carry a compact around on my travels as a spare, and I was forced to use it in Singapore this year. The image quality was generally much poorer than I remember, now that I'm used to DSLR shots.

    Once you're used to it the DSLR is actually very versatile; I'm glad I had it with me because otherwise many of my photos from last year (including the goblin shark!) wouldn't have even been possible.

    You've got plenty of time to try it out and play with it a little. If you're still in doubt I'd suggest borrowing someone's to play with, if that's an option, or of buying the lenses, which you can use on future models, along with a refurbished body of an intermediate/entry level camera.
     
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  5. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I can't speak for the cameras you're talking about as I have a Canon DSLR and a smaller Canon IXUS but I can tell you that the rechargeable batteries in both last for a lot of shots. I've never bothered counting but when I was in the Serengeti I had about 4 days with no electricity, no way to recharge - but I still have about 650 images taken over those days and there was at least the same number I deleted (possibly more). And I was taken photos in both jpeg and RAW.

    Hope that helps.

    :p

    Hix
     
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  6. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

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    For what it's worth, my advice would definitely be to go down the DSLR route.

    I think, as has been suggested above, that the battery issue is a red herring.

    A good bridge camera will serve you well, but a DSLR takes you to a whole different level - and gives you the option to upgrade lenses further down the line.

    At the moment you are having the opportunity to do some truly extraordinary travelling, seeing zoos and wild animals of which many could only dream. It is wholly possible that, in the future, you may not have such opportunities again, for a while, and so, when you are visiting places like Thailand and Australia, I would say it would be worth having the best possible camera equipment.
     
  7. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    What I'm wondering is why can't DSLRs have lenses that come even close to those on superzoom cameras? If it's possible to have a 24-1200mm lens on a compact camera, why can't you get something like that or even 24-720mm for a DSLR? From what I can tell it doesn't seem like that's possible but out of my price range, but I can't find anything that exists.

    Also, I'm unsure with how to numerically compare the quality of a DSLR to a compact, because the megapixel number doesn't seem to work in that regard because there are compacts with more megapixels (20) than the entry-level DSLRs (18) but of course the DSLR seems to have much better quality regardless.

    I'm still not 100% sold that it will be sufficiently versatile, but I do want to go to the next level up with a DSLR.

    Sounds like a camera that doesn't use AA batteries will be a lot less trouble than I envisaged, thanks.
     
  8. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    At risk of sounding slightly ignorant, what advantages does a DSLR have other than higher quality images, quicker speed at taking images, and better pictures in low light?
    I'm trying to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of a compact superzoom and a DSLR so would like to make sure I know all of them. For disadvantages of a DSLR it seems they are cost, size/weight, magnification, and additional hassle changing lenses between subjects.
     
  9. Yassa

    Yassa Well-Known Member

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    The answer to your lens question is the sensor size. The smaller the sensor, the smaller (in size) and longer (in regards to focal length) the lens can be. These crazy super zoom lenses on a bridge camera are only possible because the sensor of that camera is tiny in comparation to a DSLR.
    So, with a DSLR, you get a much much bigger sensor, which translates into way superior picture quality. I have a small compact camera which I sometimes use to take pictures of enclosures, and now that I am used to the picture quality of a DSLR, I can see the noise even in pictures that are taken at ISO 100. Which totally sucks. Even with a "cheap" DSLR of entry level category, you can easily use ISO 1600 without getting too much noise. Which makes it possible to crop. I do a lot of wildlife shooting and seriously, I have NO IDEA how you manage with the low light in a lot of situations and the nigh noise of a compact camera. The limitations due to poor light (for example in forests, even during the day) and the high noise in a compact camera was what made me switch to a DSLR, and I havn´t looked back once. For the first years after getting my first DSLR, I did shoot wildlife and birds with a 70-300 lens and while more reach would have been better, I got a lot of magnificent animal pictures with that lens that would have never been possible with a bridge.

    By the way, these crazy super zoom lenses of bridge cameras are of very poor quality at the long end that, compared to te quality of a good DSLR lens with 250/300 mm reach. At 100% resolution, they are all blurry. They might be fine if you print them out in a small size, but otherwise not.

    So, you gain a magnitude of image quality which makes it possible to crop (and therefore compansate the loss of focal length), you get a much faster camera (which makes it possible to photograph moving animals, for example, and is all around a huge advantage at wildlife photography since animals have the tendency to not wait until you have their picture taken), and you get the possibility to take good quality pictures in light conditions of which the user of a bridge camera can only dream about.

    But yeah, it comes at a price. The set I would recommend for a low budget is a Canon 750d + 18-55 IS STM lens + 55-250 IS STM II lens. I have no idea how much both would cost in your country, but most likely closer to 700 € then to 500 €. And DSLR photography as a hobby IS expensive - the urge to get a better tele lens will appear soon, and the dream tele lens for animal photographers - the Canon 100-400 L II - costs around 1800 €.
     
    Last edited: 8 Jan 2017
  10. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    A few thoughts:

    1) What kind of charger are you using for your AA batteries? A lot of chargers are quick charge types, but that is detrimental to the lifespan o the batteries themselves. Best policy is to slowly recharge AA and similar batteries as that both increases their lifespan and the amount of charge that they can hold (up to their maximum of course).
    I use a Powerrex/Maha brand charger and they've some good 8 unit options that let you slow charge the batteries. I use mine mostly for AA batteries in flashes which can be drained very quickly by continuous use so its good to have more batteries and then slow charge what are drained overnight.

    2) What kind of batteries are you using; the newer memory ones (the ones that are sold pre-charged in a pack) are the best option these days; might be a bit more pricy but well worth the cost esp if you're travelling.


    On the DSLR front a few thoughts:
    1) DSLRs are heavier; they are bigger and they are more expensive. If what you want is a camera you carry around that does all you want in a single package and is easy to pack and light and unobtrusive then a bridge camera is likely your best bet. Yes its image quality; low light performance and shutter response won't be as good as a DSLR - but it ticks all the other practical concerns boxes.
    Of course nothing stops you having both (given time) - a DSLR for quality and a point and shoot/bridge or even one of the newer mirrorless cameras for convenience.

    2) A DSLR setup is costly; but you can grow it over time to suit your needs. Saving up and adding a lens here and there and other accessories as you need. It certainly offers a much more diverse and powerful setup with the option of doing fancy things down the road as well (eg setting up a camera and lights along with laser trips for some photography at a trap site or a feeder - doing that with laser trips and, say, a bird feeder and flashes and you can get some outstanding frozen moments without any wingblur at all).

    3) Remember DSLR users are going to push you toward DSLRs because we love them and; for their faults, we accept them as such and encourage others to take up the DSLR.

    For you it might be the wrong or right choice; however what might be the right choice is to get one and actually try it out using one. For your interests a 70-300mm would be an ideal starting point along with a DSLR - it puts the price up a bit; but it means that you've got the focal length to get shots in a captive and wild environment (wildlife photography starts at around 300mm - give or take - whilst birds are 400mm - that's a stupidly rough way of averaging what min-focal lengths people feel is practical - variations in situation; approach and skill will vary these estimations).

    4) Don't get too hung up on equivalent focal lengths; its somewhat of a pit-fall trap. Instead just get one and try it out and see how it works and feels for you. Equivalents are nice, but you can get horribly confused easily (its not complex just a pain to think through) as there's more to play than just the equivalent focal length in terms of image quality.



    I think if you're as on the fence as you are then a DSLR might be a good option to consider strongly to compliment your current camera. You've still got your superzoom in your current camera to use; but you'll have the option of the DSLR to use alongside and you can grow its kit over time to suit your needs.
     
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  11. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

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    Everything that Yassa says is spot on!

    I am this person! I use a Canon 650d - an earlier version of the 750d, as far as I know - and having started out with a fairly basic pair of lenses, I eventually splashed out on that lens (as discussed in this thread, here: the perfect zoo lens).

    As someone who is very much an enthusiastic amateur rather than anything more than that, and for whom the more technical discussions engaged in by some truly great photographers such as Gentle Lemur and Arizona Docent are occasionally a little baffling, I find this a wonderful lens to use. The only problem is the size - it is big, which does mean that it can be quite awkward to carry around - and it can feel a little ostentatious! The results are worth it, however - especially at low-light levels.
     
  12. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Thank you all for the suggestions and the input, I appreciate it very much. I still have to think it through, and I won't buy anything until next weekend at the earliest so I have quite a bit of time to think it all over.

    Having said that though, I think you have persuaded me that rather than a step along and buying effectively just an improved, modernised version of my current camera, I think I'm better off taking a step up and getting an entry-level DSLR. I think I'm decided on that, but I will see if I still think that the weekend. Assuming I don't change my mind, what is the best DSLR and lens or two lenses?

    So I looked up your suggestion and it seems like the right sort of thing. I also looked at the website of my local electronics shop which is in Polish (but can easily be translated and the names of the cameras are the same anyway) and there seems to be quite a considerable selection of very similar cameras and lenses. The page for DSLRs that I am looking at is here: Lustrzanki cyfrowe - Ceny, Opinie w Sklepie RTV EURO AGD and it seems that a 750d is a bit pricier than some of the other ones.

    I don't really know how to compare the camera bodies, but it seems that the best value one is a Canon EOS 1300D + 18-55mm III + Tamron 70-300mm (Canon EOS 1300D + 18-55mm III + Tamron 70-300mm + torba + karta - Dobra cena, Opinie w Sklepie RTV EURO AGD) which is 2000PLN compared to the Canon EOS 750D + 18-55 mm IS STM (Canon EOS 1300D + 18-55mm III + Tamron 70-300mm + torba + karta - Dobra cena, Opinie w Sklepie RTV EURO AGD) for 2900PLN and I would have to buy another lens. Is a Canon EOS 750D much better than a Canon EOS 1300D to justify being almost double the price? I can see that the former has 24.2 megapixels rather than 18 megapixels in the latter.


    As for batteries in my current camera, I use NiMH batteries and I think a normal, slow recharge charger. The charger that charges the AA batteries in my camera also charges the AAA batteries in my torch which I use when spotlightling, so it is quite convenient.
     
  13. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    When it comes to camera bodies I would suggest a XXXD over a XXXXD body from canon. The XXXXD bodies from canon are their bottom of the franchise DSLR bodies and they tend to be a bit more limited than the rest. That's not to say they are bad, but that you might find you want a few more features than they can offer or just a bit more performance (eg they tend to have less AF points in the viewfinder).

    However any DSLR body will do well and let you grow and expand. Canon "tends" to be more popular with wildlife photographers purely because they've got a wider range of longer lenses such as the 400mm f5.6; the 300mm f4; the 100-400mm and others - however Nikon has a bit of an edge with their sensors at present so that's another consideration; however in truth at this stage any DSLR would suit you well to grow into.

    About the only time I'd really suggest Canon more over Nikon would b if you're really into macro as Canon has the MPE 65mm (hardest lens to use ever) which allows for 5 times life size magnification (pretty much all others on the market are only 1 times life size - or ergo life size magnification).
     
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  14. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    What Yassa said about why you cannot have a really long telephoto zoom is one hundred percent correct. I hope it made sense to you. The length of lens is in direct relation to the size of the sensor it is recording on. When you say your superzoom goes to 720mm, the truth is it does not. It goes to what would be a 720mm lens on a full frame digital camera (or a 35mm film camera). But because it is a small sensor it is in reality likely less than 200mm. That is why it is called (if you read your camera literature) 720mm "equivalent." Well I tried to clarify the topic but I fear I made it more confusing as my friend Devilfish said. So if the above is not helpful just disregard it.

    What you want (a great quality camera and lens that can go super telephoto at a cheap price) is what a lot of us want and what sadly does not exist. The disappointing answer is there is no affordable way to get what you want.

    With that said, I concur with all of the above sentiments that the quality of an SLR with its larger sensor cannot be matched by any all-in-one camera with its smaller sensor. You will have to crop your photos in the computer (hopefully you know how to do that), but this should result in just as good of quality as if you had used your superzoom with no crop. I also use the Canon 100-400 ii lens for my long lens, but a good alternative that is even longer is the Tamron or Sigma 100-600. Both are fairly sharp and get good reviews, but the Canon will be even sharper (absolutely professional quality).

    As for what brand, quality wise all are good (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony). My push for Canon is that their layout seems more intuitive and easier to figure out than Nikon. Also their customer support is better, which you can read about here (I am MrFotoFool on this forum): Canon Releases Survey Results Confirming Consumer Perceptions of Better Service than Nikon
     
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  15. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    I think Cannon is probably what I want to go with then, and it seems that combination body+lens package type things are much cheaper with Canons than with Nikons even with similarly priced bodies.

    You mention the three-number Canons over the four-number Canons so how does the 700D compare? It seems to be intermediate in price between the 1300D and the 750D.
    In terms of how much I can afford, the original idea is that the camera was supposed to be a birthday present from my parents and they have agreed to a DSLR but I will have to pay the additional cost so I could afford a 750D if I went considerably into my savings, but I only want to do that if it really will be worth the additional cost.

    Thank you for your reply, it is helpful in explaining things. You mention cropping and I just wanted to ask about a vaguely related topic to this. I have seen many people on this forum refer to taking pictures as RAW files and then editing them using Lightroom. I have only ever taken pictures as JPEGs and only used very simple photo editing (cropping, rotating, adding simple colour filters, that sort of thing) so I am wondering if there are any further considerations that I need to take into account with regards to this. Especially if Adobe Lightroom is actually necessary to work with pictures from a DSLR because that would be a further cost that I would need to take into account.
     
  16. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    DSLRs can take photos in JPEG and RAW formats and even save as both at the same time; so you can stay with JPEGs if you want. New cameras (from either brand) also ship with their own RAW processing software which is good (its just not as good nor complete a package as photoshop).

    You can also now get lightroom and photoshop on a rolling account at around £10 or similar per month; a small amount for most photographers when you get access to two of the top software options for working with photos. Lightroom can be bought separately still so if you want one software option without recurring costs then that would be one option - but as I said you don't have to jump into that from the start if you don't wish to.


    The 750 is a step up from the 700 but at that level the steps are not huge between models. I must admit its been a while since I was buying camera bodies so I don't know the specifics of the two nor how practically they compare. However either would serve you very well as a starting point.
     
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  17. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    It depends who you ask about RAW vs JPEG (and there are a couple ZooChat threads on the topic and tons of threads on photography forums). Most serious photographers will swear by it and imply that anyone who shoots JPEG only is an idiot. I am going to disagree with this and say for your purposes (and most people's purposes) shooting JPEG is fine. You should not need to buy Lightroom.

    I shot JPEG only for the first few years of my digital experience (and I jumped into digital later than most, shooting film only until 2009 or 2010). I now shoot RAW plus JPEG and use the RAW when I need it to correct for difficult lighting. How often do I need it? Not very often and I would say 90% of the photos I process I work straight from the JPEG. Others I am sure are going to jump in now and say RAW is the way to go, but I am a part-time professional photographer who has been internationally published and have taught photo classes and workshops for over a decade, so I think I know a little bit about photography.

    If you are unsure you can do what I do and shoot both RAW and JPEG simultaneously. That way you have the RAW if you need it (which may be even two years down the road after you are more proficient at processing files) and you can use the JPEG if it looks okay. The major downside to this is that RAW files take up a lot more space than JPEG, so you will need bigger memory cards and a high capacity external hard drive.
     
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  18. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I also shoot in both RAW and jpeg, for the same reasons Arizona Docent mentioned above. There have been times when phots have turned out under- or over-exposed and Lightroom is brilliant at correcting for this. For a lot of photos of birds in flight you end up with just a silhouette, but Lightroom can enhance the image so you can see identifying colours/patterns/characteristics, and then be able to identify the bird (however, too much enhancement can mean the photos are no good for publishing).

    Recently you may have noticed I've been doing a lot of photography underwater. This has a lot more challenges than photographing in air, and Lightroom has helped with making photos clearer and better.

    One other reason why I shoot in RAW - it's lossless, as opposed to jpegs which are lossy compressed.

    I'm not suggesting this is the way to go for you, but just making you aware of the options available if you get a DSLR and decide to give RAW a go.

    :p

    Hix
     
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  19. LaughingDove

    LaughingDove Well-Known Member

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    Sounds good then. I will probably go to the camera shop at the weekend and have a look at the cameras and lenses mentioned above, and possibly buy one because I think a DSLR is what I am going to get.
    I had a look to compare prices online at Amazon and also at a site called BHPhotoVideo that someone recommended, but they don't seem to be any cheaper than my local electronics shop and in some cases more expensive, especially when including shipping.

    So thanks again everyone for all the help. :)
     
  20. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    B&H and Adorama are good stores for the USA but for European you might be better placed to check local websites for info on what stores are good to look at. I bet B&H shipping would be expensive all the way to Poland from the USA
     
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