Your first time: fixed lens to removable lens camera. Expectations met?

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Mahmoud Mousef
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Your first time: fixed lens to removable lens camera. Expectations met?
7 months ago

I am curious about your first experiences with a DSLR or any other swappable lens camera.

My move

I still remember my first camera that took interchangeable lenses. I was moving from the Olympus C-4000 compact to a Nikon D50 DSLR http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/nikond50 and I was ready for it. I was familiar with ISO/shutter/aperture and all that and I was frustrated by the speed of my C-4000 and the price of SmartMedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SmartMedia and the fact that their maximum size was 128MB and had no future. SD and XD (and CompactFlash) were fighting it out on the market at this point. Anyway, all these frustrations with the cam (better low light shots, the ability to have a brighter image in dimmer light, etc.) they all have a breaking point. I wanted more. DSLRs were dropping in price. Under $1,000 Australian dollars for a 2 lens kit. Yes please.

I remember my expectations. Some were met. Some weren't.

disappointment

* no macro ability without buying an expensive lens (this affected me mentally...). I never wanted to spend $300+ dollars more for a lens that did macro. All of a sudden I could see the appeal of a small sensor camera.

* dust that got stuck in the viewfinder after some use (I'm fussy about my gear, so this affected me mentally...). I could always see the speck in the viewfinder.

* I always hated that they made more noise when taking a shot after being accustomed to near-silence with my compact. In recent years this has been remedied in some models. With some limitations.

* size (impressive at first, but wears thin if I have to travel with the thing and that still limits me today). I still prefer a larger grip to the block-of-soap models though.

* an ultra crappy telephoto lens was bundled with my unit (AF Nikkor 70-300mm 4.5-5.6 G - non VR version) which I was never satisfied with and made me think long and hard about my $999 purchase for the camera kit, which to me meant "I better be satisfied". I wasn't totally.

* No Pixel Mapping feature found in my compact which I already used once to fix a bad pixel that was showing up in my shots (it looks like Nikon still hasn't learned to put this in their DSLRs)

* white balance was not as good as my C-4000. I was more satisfied with the shots on the C-4000 in terms of colour. I expected more from a DSLR but didn't really get that "pop" and "magic" that my C-4000 did.

* sharpness seemed better on my C-4000 in general.

* I liked "live view" and digital SLRs were a step back in some ways.

good things

* speed of operation (yes, yes, yes). I hated the lag of my C-4000. What a relief. I felt like the camera would do things when I wanted them done. At last. Impressive speed.

* a direct ISO button (fantastic) with far greater low light capability (I'm still unsatisfied with today's models but this alone separates the small sensors form the big sensors).

* direct White Balance button

* easier and faster manual focus (yes)

* faster autofocus (particularly with the external flash that I bought later)

* external flash is a real revelation but again is heavy and big to carry all the time

* memory cards with bigger capacity and more reasonable cost

verdict

It was a mixed bag moving to a camera with swappable lenses. I got some benefits by going to the bigger gear (some that shaped my needs to this day like needing a good usability and speed) but I also got some things that disappointed me; I understood first-hand that some interchangeable lenses could be really crappy and unsatisfying (I paid almost no attention to separate lenses back then; I thought anything was better than what I had, and in some ways it was...). I also learned that some cameras have a certain "magic" in operation or output even if they are old and can't do high ISO well (C-4000). I learned that this is rarely expressed in reviews but it made me know what to look for more. Basically, I started to understand that every camera has its own personality that doesn't come across from many reviews, nor a brief try-out in-store. Do you remember the first time you tried a camera with a swappable lens? What did you think? What did you learn from the experience?

Did it change your expectations of what you look for in a camera? Did it make you miss some things you had in a previous compact? I am interested in your thoughts. I think most manufacturers would be too.

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