Archives for December 15, 2008

Best dslr camera for enthusiasts end of the year 2008

Enthusiasts class is a step up from entry level, providing better features and control for hobbyist and enthusiasts. Although it is labeled for enthusiasts, some professional use this camera for some of their job.

The winner of this class is Nikon D90 – 12 points
Nikon D90 is an exciting camera that replacing the famous Nikon D80. After three years of waiting, D80 users at last got a very good upgrade. Nikon D90 is the first dslr announced that has capability of video recording. Not only that, Nikon D90 has been improved on many areas including the better noise handling. Now users can enjoy usable iso up to 3200. The continuous burst rate has been better from 3fps to 4.5 fps. Unlike Nikon D60, D90 is compatible with all the Nikon lenses. D90 also shines because of the ergonomic, built quality with top lcd which is usually lacking from cameras in this class.

Pentax k200d surprisingly get the runner-up position earning 11 points. This camera has weather shield body, top lcd screen. It has 11 auto focus system, deals with noise pretty good and built-in stabilizer that helps combat hand shake. The downside of this camera might be AF is not as fast as competitor and slightly slower continuous burst (only 2.8 fps), and also no live view. It is definitely not for sport or fast action photography but it will certainly suitable for many other occasions.

Sony A350 is the next with 9 points, the strong point of A350 is it offers 14 megapixel resolution, and tiltable lcd screen, but it suffers from poor noise handling and lens collection.

Canon XSi also earns 9 points, it is slightly better than Canon XS with bigger screen (2.5 vs 3 inch), dedicated iso button, 12 megapixel and compatible with all Canon EOS lens.

Recently announced Olympus E-30 gets 9 points. It inherit most of the good thing from his big brother E-3 without the weather seal body. The strong point is the swivel lcd screen with live view, fairly fast continuous burst 4fps but it is a little bit pricy relatively to the competitor in the same class.

Olympus E-520
also gets 9 points. Even though it has body image stabilization that work with most lenses, it suffers from noise handling problem and 3 points auto focus system.

So there are no exactly least recommended cameras because Canon XSi, Olympus E-30 and E-520 all share the same points. But subjectively I will recommend to stay away from E-30 due to the price. With the same amount of cash, you can get the Nikon D90 instead.

Best entry level dslr camera end of the year 2008

Almost the end of the year now, and it is time to judge what camera has the best value for your bucks this holiday season, of course, straight to the point Radiant Lite style. I evaluate these cameras based on features, image quality, camera body, auto focus, continuous burst, IS availability and off course, price.

In this class, there are Nikon D60, Olympus E-420, Canon XS, Sony A200 and Pentax k-m/k2000.

Canon XS is the winner of this category with 9 points.
Canon XS is the best amongs the crops in noise handling, has Live View mode, compatible with all Canon EF or EF-S lenses, and priced around right at $550 with image stabilized18-55mm lens. This camera will serve entry level digital slr user well and also provide room to expansion and upgrade through Canon extensive accessories and lens collection.

The runner-up is the newly designed ultra-compact dslr, Pentax k-m. Although it has no Live mode, it is good designed, complement well with Pentax tiny pancake lenses. It performs very well and compatible with Pentax lenses and accessories. It has 3.5 fps burst which is a little bit faster than the average of the group (3fps), and has sensor shift stabilization. Pentax k-m receive 8 points.

Sony A200 has built in stabilization but doing poor in noise handling, the kit lens is not awesome, and upgrade for better lenses and accessories will be expensive.

Olympus E-420, the ultra compact dslr camera, suffers from no image stabilization option either in body or in lens. It handles noise relatively poor and like Nikon D60, it only has 3 point auto focus system. Both Sony A200 and Olympus E-420 get 7 points. The upside of this camera is the size and live view mode.

Nikon D60
wins the least recommended camera to buy in 2008. It suffers from compatibility. Nikon D60 auto focus won’t work unless you fit it with Nikon AF-S or Sigma HSM lens. Because many of Nikon prime (fixed focal lens) are not AF-S, so Nikon D60 it will be a problem. In the future, Nikon will release more AF-S lenses including prime, but it will be more expensive. D60 also lack of AF points (only 3), and there is no live view mode that could help on manual focusing for accurate focus in macro or still life shooting. D60 earns 6 points.

Pentax 40mm f/2.8 Limited Review

Pentax 40mm f/2.8 limited is an exotic lens which can produce a really nice image quality even wide open at f/2.8. Physically, it is very small and thin even with the lens hood attached. (When you buy this lens you will get the lens hood and also nice small leather pouch). It can focus pretty close 30cm to infinity. When you focus in, the lens will rotate and protrude around 1/2 inch. At around 165g, this lens is very light, basically you’ll feel like you are only carrying a camera without lens, which is good for portability.

This lens is capable to produce very good quality image with nice background blur at f/2.8. It is also very sharp that it can capture speckles of dust. The focal length is equivalent to 60mm which is considered a standard lens.

Being a standard lens, there are many things you can do with the lens, portrait, still life, general travel are some of the application. But for indoor, wide landscape or architecture shots, this lens is not wide enough.

Tried with Pentax k100D, the lens focuses accurately but not as quickly as lens with SDM (Supersonic Drive Motor) or other lens-based motor. It takes almost 1 second for the lens to focus. It also create a some noise in the process. So this lens with Pentax k100d is not ideal for action or candid shots. For general photography such as still life, travel, portrait, the lens will do very fine.

Build Quality
The built quality is also impressive, it is all metal construction, no plastic or rubber. Due to the size of the lens, the focusing barrel is quite small, but it is very smooth and easy to work with.

The other not so good about the lens is the lens cap. It is screw cap, means that you need to screw out the cap by hand. It takes me at least 5-10 seconds. the lens cap is very small and if you’re not careful, you could lose it.

Sample pic on the above right is taken by Pentax 40mm with Pentax k100d camera, no post-editing, straight out from the camera.

Overall this lens deliver a very impressive image quality, detail and sharpness with reasonable price. I will highly recommend this lens.

Other alternative will be Pentax 50mm f/1.4 which is slightly bigger, longer, sand cheaper but 2 stop faster. Also consider Pentax 70mm f/2.4 Limited pan cake lens which is ideal for portrait.

Image Quality : Excellent 5/5
Build Quality : Very Good 4/5
Price value: 5/5

Related article:
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX HSM