Help me choose between three!

Started Apr 30, 2012 | Discussions
ranger89
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Help me choose between three!
Apr 30, 2012

Hello, I am looking to buy my first DSLR camera. I have earned some points through work for a rewards catalog, and they have three in my price (points) range:

1.) Canon T3i kit (delayed 4-5 weeks)

2.) Sony SLTA55 kit (available now)

3.) Nikon D5100 kit (delayed 4-5 weeks)

I primarily shoot landscapes and wildlife. I also like to use panorama and macro; don't really use video. I'd be using it outdoors year round, in a variety of light and weather conditions. Durability is a concern, I'd like to carry it in a padded hard case while hiking.

My prior P&S experience has been with Sony, so I am leaning that way a little bit. Just because I am more familiar with the buttons/menus, and I do like the sweep panorama mode. Also, it's available now. The Canon and Nikon are not discounted in price, and are delayed. If I chose one of them, I'd have to think about waiting for the next model (T4i?).

I don't plan to become a pro photographer, but I am considering taking some classes to become a better amateur. I'd also like a longer lense and maybe a macro lense. What would you guys recommend for my intended uses?

Thanks for any thoughts!

Canon EOS 600D (EOS Rebel T3i / EOS Kiss X5) Nikon D5100
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Deleted1929
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Re: Help me choose between three!
In reply to ranger89, Apr 30, 2012

Personally I'd prefer the D5100 as the sensor is better and they're otherwise quite similar. However the Sony would be my second choice ( if I didn't personally dislike them as a company - the cameras are fine ) and the Canon third. Mind you it's pretty close.

The reason I prefer the D5100 is that it's sensor has a little more dynamic range at low ISO and that's useful ( to me ). The reason the Canon is the third choice is because the sensor is the poorest for dynamic range. I'm quite biased toward this measure.

Also note the Nikon kit lenses ( 18-55 VR, 55-200 VR and 18-105 VR ) are IMO the best kit lenses available for any system.

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theatrus
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Re: Help me choose between three!
In reply to ranger89, Apr 30, 2012

ranger89 wrote:

My prior P&S experience has been with Sony, so I am leaning that way a little bit. Just because I am more familiar with the buttons/menus, and I do like the sweep panorama mode. Also, it's available now. The Canon and Nikon are not discounted in price, and are delayed. If I chose one of them, I'd have to think about waiting for the next model (T4i?).

Fit and feel is important. If you can tolerate the electronic viewfinder, and feel comfortable using it, any advantages to the others are pretty much moot.

You could pour over technical rankings online, but there are no significant differences that you will notice (a few percent here, a few percent there).

I don't plan to become a pro photographer, but I am considering taking some classes to become a better amateur. I'd also like a longer lense and maybe a macro lense. What would you guys recommend for my intended uses?

Really any of them.

In my opinion, I like the Canon line the best. Great lenses (like the 18-55 kit, 55-250 kit, and up from there), non-obnoxious menu system, great image quality, and good support.

Thanks for any thoughts!

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ranger89
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Re: Help me choose between three!
In reply to Deleted1929, May 1, 2012

sjgcit wrote:

Personally I'd prefer the D5100 as the sensor is better and they're otherwise quite similar. However the Sony would be my second choice ( if I didn't personally dislike them as a company - the cameras are fine ) and the Canon third. Mind you it's pretty close.

From my comparison of the technical specs, that's exactly how they line up: Nikon, Sony, Canon. The Sony is a close second, and available this week, and I'm going to Moab soon... but I still want to make a good long-term decision that I can live with.

In reviewing the specs and sensor reviews, which metrics should I be focusing on if my priorities are landscape and wildlife? I find myself getting buried in the details.

Thanks for the thoughts and opinions so far!

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Guidenet
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Re: Help me choose between three!
In reply to ranger89, May 1, 2012

For the same reason that Stephen picks the D5100, I'd choose Nikon, Canon and Sony in that order. For Jpeg shooting, I find that Sony tends to default too many settings to crayon looking scenes, to me. This is changeable so just irritating.

My main reasoning is glass. I think Nikon has the best choices in kit glass with Canon second and Sony a distant third. Nikon has a new inexpensive 55-300 that will do an excellent job on wildlife in decent light. Canon also has a fairly good 55-250.

If it's available in your catalog, Nikon offers a better kit lens in their 18-105 VR. Canon has a 18-135 IS, but I'd not advise it quite as strongly.
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Barry Fitzgerald
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Re: Help me choose between three!
In reply to ranger89, May 1, 2012

I'd avoid Sony myself patchy history and the SLT light sucking mirror does them no favours.

I use Nikon but won't recommend the D5100 because it's got a poor viewfinder and crippled functionality no wireless flash, no HSS (important for fill shots outside) controls could be better, nice sensor though. Nikon get good after this model so spend more for Nikon unless you have no intentions of using flash etc.

I'd go with Canon on this one at this price point it's well rounded features wise.

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zackiedawg
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Re: Help me choose between three!
In reply to ranger89, May 1, 2012

As you can see, opinions vary greatly, so I wouln't let any of them in particular sway your decision - use them as information to put in the gristmill with your own opinions, reviews, ergonomics, prices, etc and that will help you get the right one for you.

I personally decided on a different camera than the three you mentioned - one that is recently discontinued but I much preferred over the others (Sony A580) but that's my own personal needs and likes. As for the three you have listed, if I hadn't been able to choose the one I did, I'd probably lean to the D5100 first, the A55 second, and the T3 third.

It would be a tough call as there are some things I prefer on the Sony body that are missing from the Nikon, and it would hurt. But at the same time, there are things I prefer from the DSLR body over the SLT bodies - namely bigger battery life and an optical viewfinder, and that would likely force me to go to the Nikon despite losing in body stabilization and a workable live view. The Canon would be out for me as I simply don't get on with Canons in general - ergonomically they just don't work for me, and I just find I have a hard-to-knock bias that is completely unfair to Canon but I can't help it.

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dojoklo
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The Canon and here's why:
In reply to ranger89, May 1, 2012

I would recommend the Canon. The D5100 and the T3i are quite similar in most every way, and either one of them will meet or exceed your needs. As far as image quality, sensor, dynamic range, blah blah blah, yawn , they both excel and will enable you to capture excellent images.

But there are a number of little differences that begin to add up when you take them all into account. Many of the differences may not affect how you plan to shoot and use the camera, but in case they do, have a look at how they compare here:

Canon T3i vs Nikon D5100
http://blog.dojoklo.com/2011/04/05/nikon-d5100-announced/

Learning how to use the camera and then creating interesting, meaningful images is FAR, far, far, far, far, far...far, far more important than a 2% difference in dynamic range and color rendition. I would like to present exhibits A and B, 8 megapixel images taken with a Canon Rebel XT that has a lousy sensor, excessive noise, and no dynamic range:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojoklo/3928624281

or this one

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojoklo/2904249150

Or how about this, exhibit C, a 6 MP image taken with a point and shoot that is now used on a travel guide cover:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojoklo/3968582842/

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unravel
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Re: The Canon and here's why:
In reply to dojoklo, May 1, 2012

I'd recommend sony a57 if you could, but a55 is great too... for the entry level nothing beats the large EVF and all the informative it provides, as well as seeing what the sensor sees in terms of your image. All of them should suit you just fine though, but i love my a57 and i've used both my friends d5100 and girlfriends t2i for weeks at a time. I just feel that my camera has a lot more bells and whistles.

The main selling point for me was the lens choice though

I literally got a lens off ebay for $60 that takes pictures that are a whole lot sharper than any kit lens could, and i just bought a $65 50mm prime in flawless condition. Next up i will be getting a 70-210mm f4 lens that has stellar reviews and a reputation for $150. So for $250 i have a nice variety of very sharp glass including a zoom, a telephoto, and a prime. $250 wont get you very far in canikon land to be honest.

Nikon d5100 has no motor in-body, so the great lens selection is handicapped in my opinion.

Overall when i was in the same boat as you, choosing between those 3 cameras (well the a57 over a55 at the time), i went with sony and am SO glad after having experience with all three cameras.

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KCook
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Re: Help me choose between three!
In reply to ranger89, May 1, 2012

ranger89 wrote:

sjgcit wrote:

Personally I'd prefer the D5100 as the sensor is better and they're otherwise quite similar. However the Sony would be my second choice ( if I didn't personally dislike them as a company - the cameras are fine ) and the Canon third. Mind you it's pretty close.

From my comparison of the technical specs, that's exactly how they line up: Nikon, Sony, Canon. The Sony is a close second, and available this week, and I'm going to Moab soon... but I still want to make a good long-term decision that I can live with.

In reviewing the specs and sensor reviews, which metrics should I be focusing on if my priorities are landscape and wildlife? I find myself getting buried in the details.

Thanks for the thoughts and opinions so far!

Nikon usually does win on specs. But by what size margin? And do those specs show how well the design fits your idea of camera operation? Different folks have very different ideas of what is really important, it's nice that we have all these choices. Links to lots more opinions -

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1002&message=38802100

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1002&message=39547374

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1034&message=40743117

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Bjorn_L
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what a waste of time reading your blog was.
In reply to dojoklo, May 1, 2012

dojoklo wrote:

2% difference in dynamic range and color rendition.

I read your blog post, meaningless drivel. Other then constant self-promotion I can not understand why you trot it out several times a day.

It is a just an opinion blog based on seemingly very little understanding of the differences in technology. I suggest you read DPR's reviews of the same two and compare them to your fluff piece. They are fact based with sound testing and generally very trustable results.

Here is a clue, running down the spec sheets and comparing them is not a review. And certainly not a comparitive reivew. It that is all you want then even snapsort.com

As for your 2% difference in DR and color rendition.

Well in dynamic range it is 2.1EVs not 2%. Use google and learn the value of an EVs in DR. The difference is considerably, as in nearly an order of magnitude.

ISO is around 2/3's of a stop. Since each stop lets in twice as much light, this too is a significant difference.

Color depth is the closest to what you claimed there you were off only by a factor of 5 times.

Not impressed by your effort. Particularly given how much time and energy you spend pimping the site on here.
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dojoklo
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2% or "2%"
In reply to Bjorn_L, May 1, 2012

Bjorn_L wrote:

dojoklo wrote:

2% difference in dynamic range and color rendition.

I read your blog post, meaningless drivel. Other then constant self-promotion I can not understand why you trot it out several times a day.

I don't intend "self-promotion." When readers ask similar questions week after week, it is easiest to refer them to a more detailed article that I have already written that answers their questions. Many, many readers have find these articles to be helpful, and I'm sorry they don't appeal to you.

My intention is to be helpful, and I'm sorry that isn't clear to you.

It is a just an opinion blog

Isn't that what the definition of what a blog is...?!

As for your 2% difference in DR and color rendition.

Well in dynamic range it is 2.1EVs not 2%. Use google and learn the value of an EVs in DR. The difference is considerably, as in nearly an order of magnitude.

ISO is around 2/3's of a stop. Since each stop lets in twice as much light, this too is a significant difference.

Color depth is the closest to what you claimed there you were off only by a factor of 5 times.

Sorry, the 2% should have been put in quotes or followed by a - it was meant to be an exaggeration. The point I was trying to make is that for someone starting out with a dSLR, analyzing the differences in color rendition, DR, etc as they read post after post and review after review will drive them crazy and have them running in circles. Most often the cameras they are looking at or fit their budget will more than fulfill their needs, and I wish to keep that in perspective.

Not impressed by your effort. Particularly given how much time and energy you spend pimping the site on here.
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Thank you for taking the time to let me know!

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Bjorn_L
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Re: Help me choose between three!
In reply to ranger89, May 1, 2012

They are all very competitive and will prove enough for any task.

Give your interest in wildlife either the Canon or Nikon would be a better choice. The Sony has a much more limited selection of wildlife lenses (long lenses).

I used to shoot Minolta (now the Sony mount). I shot Canon briefly (and occasionally still do) and how shoot Nikon (where I have been for several years and plan to remain for the time being).

At the level you are looking at there is not much difference.

The Sony has more consumer gimmicks. The Canon has a fair bit too, but not as much. Sony works very hard to be "forward thinking". This can be good or bad. I heard from Alphoid (one of our resident Sony fans) that customer service can be a bit off from Sony. The Sony is the only one with fast AF in video. But since you don't care about video that might not be important. The Sony also does not use an optical viewfinder but an electronic one. For me this is yucky. For others it is not. Also the Sony EVF gets it signal by using a translucent mirror (which in some extreme cases has cause mild ghosting) this mirrror is in front of the sensor reducing the amount of light the sensor receives. The result is that the Nikon is around 1/3 to 1/2 stop better in low-light, and other tough lighting situations.

The Canon is well specified. Better specified in most regards than the Nikon and to a degree the Sony. It has better manual video modes (important if you actually want to make quality video from a DSLR). It has a smaller sensor (good or bad). The result of the smaller sensor is that the wide angles (for landscape) are 6.7% less wide and the long lenses are 6.7% less long. For me, I prefer the larger sensor since you can crop to get back the "long" but you can not crop wider. This plays a specific role for you since two of your preferred shooting styles favor the opposite. Landscapes, panoramas and similar photos are better wide. Wild life it is better to be long. The other issue with the Canon is that the sensor is older and does not perform as well as the Nikon or Sony (which use the same sensor and so perform similarly). To compare the raw actual sensor performance (a camera is much more than a sensor) go to dxomark.com and you can compare all three side by side. To a degree the noise can be dealt with using a tools such as noiseware, but with the Sony or Nikon you will be able to take ohotos with 60-70% less light before you will need to. (look at the charting of ISO performance to get a idea at the various light levels and note that near the min light levels they all perform badly and fairly close to each other). The other bigger issue is dynamic range. Sony & Nikon have much more DR. This means better shadow details, fewer blown high lights, and as you raise ISO (to deal with low light) you lose DR. It is better to have a little extra DR in my opinion so that it takes a little longer for the image quality to go flat and boring. But Canon has some cheaper long lenses which are better than their Nikon or Sony equivalents. So a bit of a trade of either way.

The Nikon is the best of the bunch in tough light. With the Sony taking a reasonably close 2nd place. It is perhaps a touch faster to AF with a similar quality lens. If you want to do landscapes and such, it will do excellent. A Nikon 10-24 would give the same view as a 9.3-22.5. Might not sound like much but do the math on the angle of view and it makes a difference. If for no other reason then you can avoid the extremes of the lens (where they are not at their best) and still get as wide a view as is possible on the Canon. The flip side is if you do (as many do) and opt for a lens like the Sigma 50-500os as a budget long lens for your wildlife shots, then the Canon will give you an equivalent FOV of 800mm compared to 750mm from the Nikon. In this case you can crop to match the FOV of the Canon, but the canon can of course crop too. But assuming the goal was a specific FOV, in the case of long lenses it can be met with both Nikon and Canon but the Canon will put a few more pixels on the subject matter.

The best way to differentiate such similar cameras is:

Do you have friends or family you could share lenses with? What do they shoot? Get the same brand.

Do you find that one is just more comfortable to work with, get that one. The ergonomics of the Canon is the main reason I am now a Nikon shooter. It is the opposite for others. Where the Nikon just feels alien in their hands. In my case I grew up on Minolta and I was inclined to stay with Sony to keep using my old lenses. But I got in to sports shooting and there are very few sports lenses for the Sony mount. With Nikon and Canon you can almost always get whatever you want. They have twice as many lenses even if you include all those old trusty Minolta lenses. It is all about market share there. Nikon and Canon sell around 4 cameras each for every one Sony sells. The other big issue (for me) is the EVF on the Sony (mentioning it twice because it bugs me that much). The view from looking at a little LCD screen is not the same as looking actually through the lens.

Do not buy based on any one opinion on a forum. A few on here have agendas where they want you to validate their purchase by making the same. Others are just really big fans of a brand and think it will get better if they advocate the stink out of it. Others are out to try and get traffic on vanity-blogs. Most are honest and well intended, but even so most have limited experience with other brands or even with DSLRs in general. This does make them bad, it just means you should take what you read with a grain of salt and be sure to include reputable reviews such as those on DPR. And to try and hold and use as many different cameras to get a feel for what is out there.

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Bjorn_L
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Re: 2% or "2%"
In reply to dojoklo, May 1, 2012

dojoklo wrote:

Thank you for taking the time to let me know!

Perhaps some more inclusion of hard facts (not specification sheet data) an opinion without context is not very valuable.

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Barry Fitzgerald
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Re: Help me choose between three!
In reply to Bjorn_L, May 1, 2012

Bjorn_L wrote:

Do not buy based on any one opinion on a forum. A few on here have agendas where they want you to validate their purchase by making the same. Others are just really big fans of a brand and think it will get better if they advocate the stink out of it. Others are out to try and get traffic on vanity-blogs. Most are honest and well intended, but even so most have limited experience with other brands or even with DSLRs in general. This does make them bad, it just means you should take what you read with a grain of salt and be sure to include reputable reviews such as those on DPR. And to try and hold and use as many different cameras to get a feel for what is out there.

I won't disagree..but I actually use Nikon and recommend (in this case) Canon
So work that one out!

It's actually pretty simple really at this price I honestly think that Canon are better and less limiting. The D5100 has a great sensor and it's by no means bad, but it's really quite a basic camera in many ways and lacks many of the "useful" bits like wireless built in, and HSS which is a major deal for flash users.

Granted the OP might never even mount a flash, so it can be ignored in that case, but better to be aware of this than not to.

I honestly think Nikon are quite stingy and behind the times with their 2 entry models, both are quite clearly crippled and don't even offer basic functions I can get off budget 35mm bodies from over a decade ago.

Until I see a change of heart from Nikon (for heavens sake it's 2012, not 1995) I'd find it difficult to recommend these cameras to anyone bar someone who is very undemanding with their requirements. Good sensors or not even the D3200 could add exposure bracketing..something even a bog standard compact can. Nikon IMO cut down these models to the point they're not really worth looking at, and you'd be better served (Bang per buck) with other makers.

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dojoklo
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Re: 2% or "2%"
In reply to Bjorn_L, May 1, 2012

Bjorn_L wrote:

Perhaps some more inclusion of hard facts (not specification sheet data) an opinion without context is not very valuable.

There are countless different ways to approach the discussion, comparison, and reviews of dSLR cameras. DP Review takes one approach, DXO Mark takes another, Cambridge in Colour still another, and then Ken Rockwell follows his own drummer. There are the pixel peepers, the user-experience people, the technical articles, the "photographic vision" guys, etc.

There is not much point repeating the excellent technical information, reviews, and analysis provided by DPR, DXO, and other sites often referred to here. I assume anyone on this site has already read those, yet they are still looking for more help to make their decisions. And thus I try to add another perspective - typically focused on what the specs, controls, features, and buttons mean to actual real-life use.

If that approach does not appeal to you, it is certainly imperative that you let everyone know how you feel about my efforts, and so I thank you for your feedback!

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Guidenet
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Re: 2% or "2%"
In reply to dojoklo, May 1, 2012

dojoklo, I'm sure you mean well and are a nice guy, but your blog comes across as terribly biased towards Canon. You emphasize things you consider to be a bonus with Canon and downplay benefits of the Nikon.

Let's take one for a moment. You make a big deal out of that spot circle etched in the ground glass. You say Nikon doesn't have this because their spot metering is tied to the focus point as if that is a negative. Come on pal. That is a huge benefit for the Nikon. The Nikon allows me to move my spot metering to different areas of the screen where the Canon is fixed in the middle. Don't you see such as this as biased and poor reporting? Moreover, it's throughout your opinion blog.

You mentioned that 2% you claim as an exaggeration, but notice is was describing rather large and important advantages of the Nikon over the Canon. You made no such exaggerations the other way.

Now, I don't know how much real experience your have with photography and I'm not sure it anyone pays any attention to your blog, but you do poke it out their a lot and sometimes preface it as something other than your blog and only your opinion. I've seen you say things like, "You might want to look at this article" and such as that rather that telling the OP it's your Canon blog.

You have the right to post your opinion in a blog. You also have a right to think you're not biased. Bjorn also has the right to call it "fluff."

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Guidenet
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Re: Help me choose between three!
In reply to Barry Fitzgerald, May 1, 2012

Barry Fitzgerald wrote:

undemanding with their requirements. Good sensors or not even the D3200 could add exposure bracketing..something even a bog standard compact can. Nikon IMO cut down these models to the point they're not really worth looking at, and you'd be better served (Bang per buck) with other makers.

Barry, I don't totally disagree with you, but to say it doesn't have exposure bracketing is a bit of a reach. You mean it doesn't have automatic exposure bracketing. I'm not sure how important that is unless you're doing hand held manual HDR. If you're on a tripod, you can bracket just like we all have since the beginning of photography. You changes some aspect and fire more than one shot. No big deal. We say exposure bracketing as if automatic is the only way to do it.

My D700 has 9 stops of autobracketing of up to one stop per. Do I use it? Sometimes, but when I want +2 and -2 I do it manually and could do it on the D3200 just as easily.

As far as flash goes, the D5100 does have CLS, just not the Commander part. To suggest it's missing the rest isn't fair either and I think the rest if far more important. Adding a trigger is trivial. Moreover, many of us don't trust IR triggering and you don't find it on Nikon's flagship models either, nor Canon's flagships.

You can go, as I did, with Pocket Wizards, or inexpensive $20 trigger from eBay. You can go with a cheap PC cord which is far more reliable and what I used for many years in the studio.

Nikon also provides Commander Mode in the SB800, SB900, SB910, SU800 and the RC1 Macro Lighting kit all of which transforms the D5100 into a complete triggering package.

The point is that there are lots of ways to go if you want what might be the best crop sensor made which is in the D5100 while also wanting wireless flash triggering and bracketing. You can even still buy new D90 models which have all that at pretty much the same price as the D5100. I like it better anyway. In fact, I'm falling for my old D300 all over again. I've not taken the D700 out of the bag except in the studio in three weeks or more. What a wonderful camera.

Oh, and good to see you Barry.

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Bjorn_L
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Re: Help me choose between three!
In reply to Barry Fitzgerald, May 1, 2012

Barry Fitzgerald wrote:

I won't disagree..but I actually use Nikon and recommend (in this case) Canon
So work that one out!

It's actually pretty simple really at this price I honestly think that Canon are better and less limiting. The D5100 has a great sensor and it's by no means bad, but it's really quite a basic camera in many ways and lacks many of the "useful" bits like wireless built in, and HSS which is a major deal for flash users.

For me, the photo is the thing. I want the camera that gives me the best photos not the best features. That means I am more focused on the sensor than some I guess. Between the three the OP wanted to know about, I'd actually pick "none of the above". Since the ones which interest me are the next level up (d7000 and 60d/7d or equivalent). But between those three I would not struggle to get the d5100 unless I was shopping for mostly video in which case I would get the d600.

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Barry Fitzgerald
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Re: Help me choose between three!
In reply to Bjorn_L, May 1, 2012

Bjorn_L wrote:

For me, the photo is the thing. I want the camera that gives me the best photos not the best features. That means I am more focused on the sensor than some I guess. Between the three the OP wanted to know about, I'd actually pick "none of the above". Since the ones which interest me are the next level up (d7000 and 60d/7d or equivalent). But between those three I would not struggle to get the d5100 unless I was shopping for mostly video in which case I would get the d600.

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It's not about a "nice feature list" if I'm shooting outside using fill flash I'll hit a wall with a kit lens in bright light for flash sync. It's a far more practical approach that comes into play here, HSS is a bog standard feature and without it you're losing half the point of investing in a decent flash gun.

I actually think it's quite embarrassing that a so called upper entry model in incapable of this and wireless via the on-board. Even Canon got with the times and started doing wireless using the on-board flash and yes the 600d can do it and cough so does everyone else too (Pentax/Sony)

I can't endorse models that are deliberately crippled by a maker esp not in 2012 when this stuff has been around for ages (mid 90's for Minolta's wireless flash)

You can have the best sensor in the world but a lack of bog standard basic stuff will hold back even novice users after a while.

I use both wireless and HSS extensively and wouldn't even look at a model that didn't have that.

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