Best camera for $500?

Started Apr 1, 2011 | Discussions thread
zackiedawg
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Re: Best camera for $500?
In reply to jungleexplorer, Apr 1, 2011

One thing you should try to separate yourself from is the '12x, 30x, 15x' as an indicator of telephoto capability. It's actually possible for a 12x camera to reach farther than a 15x camera. the multiplier is added to whatever the widest angle of the lens is - so a 24mm wide end with a 15x zoom would be the equivalent of 360mm lens' reach...while a 36mm wide end with a 12x zoom would be the equivalent of a 432mm lens' reach. So don't get too wrapped up in the X factor.

That said, a megazoom P&S camera will typically have more overall reach and range than any DSLR or mirrorless camera (which includes micro 4:3, Samsung NX, and Sony NEX). They can achieve this by reducing everything in scale - they start by using a tiny itty bitty little sensor - orders of magnitude smaller than that of a DSLR, and even quite a bit smaller than the one in your old V1. It's so tiny that the optical lenses needed to produce big telephoto range can be tiny too - since light only needs to fall on a tiny little speck of a sensor. So these cameras can be something that fits in a coat pocket, with lenses that extend only 5-6 inches at most, yet can reach 600-800mm. Upside? Much more flexibility of focal range. Downside? Tiny sensor = not as good details, poor low light capability, less cropping room, and often smearing effects from noise-reduction in the camera even at lower ISOs. Are they so bad that they are unusable? Not at all - they can be just fine for many people, and I shot for years with an ultrazoom camera and had fine 8x10 prints. You really only will discover the limitations when it comes to camera speed, fine detail, heavy cropping needs, or low light situations.

There actually ARE some 'ultrazoom' type lenses that can come pretty close to the range of the ultrazoom camers on a DSLR. They can be pretty decent, and also surprisingly compact (for a DSLR...not compared to a P&S camera). For example, years ago I got a DSLR and one of the first lenses I paired with it was an 18-250mm lens...I specifically wanted it as a 'travel zoom' that could somewhat replace my ultrazoom camera I had been used to - with a typical DSLR using an APS-C sensor, that lens was basically a 27mm to 375mm equivalent, and wasn't much bigger or heavier than a kit lens. it was a '14x' zoom, to put it in P&S terms. Not as big as today's 30x zooms, but quite good. To this day, I still use this lens as my go-to default lens, travel lens, and all-purpose lens - the one I can use to shoot a closeup of a flower, a scenic landscape, a building, a portrait zoom, or an animal in the distance. No lens changes. Does it satisfy my every DSLR need? Well, no - but I'm a big DSLR fan and I became addicted to the idea of having specialized lenses for different purposes, and covering focal lengths farther and wider than the 18-250 could...so I've got 8 lenses to serve different needs. But if I go on a trip where I want to travel light, or am unsure of what situations I'll need to cover, or where traveling with a bag of lenses is inconvenient or unsafe, I maintain the option and ability to just stick the 18-250mm on the camera, and head out - no other lenses or bags.

That type of lens can be picked up used by the way, in the vicinity of $400-500...the camera body for a half decent one might go for $300-500...so it will be over your budget to get both together. Maybe you're willing to go a bit over budget...or maybe you could live with a more basic lens range initially and save up to buy the ultrazoom lens later...something to think about. You can get a nice DSLR for $500 nowadays - Pentax KX & Sony A500 or A550 for example - both very good all around performers.

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