martynj.com - things I have learnt

Choosing between Canon SX 110 IS, G10, and 450D Digital Cameras

Here's the pointers I gave to a friend who was comparing high-end compact / entry-level DSLR offerings from Canon. His requirements were decent image quality and high level of manual control; photo taking scenarios would be split between in-the-pub and more arty landscapes / architecture while travelling.

"Prosumer (high end 'compact') vs DSLR is an ongoing debate. There's plenty of photography forums where you can read arguments either way, but in my opinion it depends on what features you'll actually use and how much cash you've got to splash.

Stuff like resolution, preset modes, video playback are all similar enough to be irrelevant to the decision (except you don't get video with DSLRs in general). I've listed the key differentiators for me below, and they actually all shape up pretty well.

Canon PowerShot SX110 IS Digital Camera
Lens 36-360mm (35mm equiv) <-- that's some pretty awesome telephoto. Not sure if you'd use it much.
Shutter speed 15-1/2500 sec
Power 2x AA Alkaline or NiMH batteries <--- deal breaker for me.
LCD 3", no viewfinder
ISO up to 1600 <-- I'd be a little skeptical over image quality for a compact at this ISO
Amazon price £164 (1st Dec '08)

Canon PowerShot G10 Digital Camera
Lens 28-140mm 35mm-equiv.
Shutter speed 15-1/4000 sec
ISO up to 1600
LCD 3", with optical viewfinder
Power Lithium-Ion NB-7L battery & charger
Amazon price £362 (1st Dec '08)

Canon EOS 450D Digital SLR Camera (the DSLR you should get if you want an entry-level DSLR)
Lens - your choice
Shutter speed 30 - 1/4000 sec <-- 30s is nice for nighttime light trails etc, but really you could get away with 15s.
ISO up to 1600
LCD 3" with "live view" (previous models haven't had live view), plus Optical Viewfinder
Power Lithium-Ion NB-7L battery & charger
Amazon price £388 body-only (1st Dec '08) plus £50ish for kit lens up to practically unlimited (this one's >£6K !)

Conclusion:
If you want a camera for 'artistic' photography and a significant step up from your existing compact, I'd focus on the G10 or 450D unless the 10x zoom thing on the SX 110 is very important to you. To include a decent wide to medium telephoto zoom lens, would add at least another £200 to the 450D, so it comes down to whether bulk+cost+flexibility beats smaller+cheaper+less_flexible. I see my DSLR body as an investment that will last a few more years, at which point I can get a new body and still have good lenses -- so in the long run perhaps the costs even out.

Don't forget that focal length of lenses on DSLRs have an effective 1.6 multiplier. So an 17mm wide-angle lens on a DSLR is equivalent to a 28mm lens on a 35mm film SLR (or 35mm 'equivalent').

Happy shopping!"

UPDATE: Said friend opted for the Canon G10 and it does seem like a great camera and probably the best match for his requirements. It's worth mentioning that one metric not included above, and in none of the technical specs, is the shutter lag (time between pressing the 'shoot' button and the photo actually being taken). My 350D has no noticeable shutter lag so presumably neither does the 450D. The G10 does have ~0.5s of shutter lag, even in manual focus mode, which would be annoying some circumstances. Not a deal-breaker, but worth bearing in mind.

Tagged: photography

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