Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?

Started Jun 4, 2013 | Discussions
trax87
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Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
Jun 4, 2013

I have a friend who is interested in getting a large sensor (ie non-compact) camera.  He knows a little about photography and has seen my NEX 6 and is considering buying one.   It would be used casually for family and vacation snap shots, but he also wants to get into photography as a hobby a little.  He's not sure whether it will be a passing phase or if he will really get into it, so he would like a camera that gives him the most options and that he can grow into.

Do you think the NEX 6 would be a good choice or might he be better off with a DSLR?  My only hesitation in recommending the NEX is that there is still a shortage of good zooms and the better lenses generally are a bit expensive.  I wonder if a DSLR might be more cost effective in the long run when taking lenses into consideration and provide more potential flexibility.   I am happy with my NEX and don't own a DSLR, so I'm probably a little biased.

He doesn't expect to be shooting any fast action, so the auto focus difference probably is not an issue and size of the camera (within reason) also doesn't seem to be a concern.   I don't think manual lenses will be something he is interested in.

Any thoughts?

saintz
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to trax87, Jun 4, 2013

Buy a used 5N or 6. He can always resell with minimal loss if he can't find lenses he likes.

The NEX is probably more conducive for a beginner because of the size and ease. A DSLR gets left at home a lot.

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EinsteinsGhost
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to trax87, Jun 4, 2013

trax87 wrote:

I have a friend who is interested in getting a large sensor (ie non-compact) camera.  He knows a little about photography and has seen my NEX 6 and is considering buying one.   It would be used casually for family and vacation snap shots, but he also wants to get into photography as a hobby a little.  He's not sure whether it will be a passing phase or if he will really get into it, so he would like a camera that gives him the most options and that he can grow into.

Do you think the NEX 6 would be a good choice or might he be better off with a DSLR?  My only hesitation in recommending the NEX is that there is still a shortage of good zooms and the better lenses generally are a bit expensive.  I wonder if a DSLR might be more cost effective in the long run when taking lenses into consideration and provide more potential flexibility.   I am happy with my NEX and don't own a DSLR, so I'm probably a little biased.

He doesn't expect to be shooting any fast action, so the auto focus difference probably is not an issue and size of the camera (within reason) also doesn't seem to be a concern.   I don't think manual lenses will be something he is interested in.

Any thoughts?

The only limitation I see with NEX is not with lens choices (any more), unless one is looking for pro-quality fast zoom lenses. It is with EVF being optional on 5-series. But, NEX-6 is still priced well. If it is within range, that will be my recommendation.

IMO, NEX is the more flexible and/or economical system, the latter being especially true if you don’t mind looking outside the box. Even better, if your friend can appreciate prime lenses. Consider this:

NEX-6 (body only), plus Sigma 19mm/2.8, Sigma 30mm/2.8 and Sigma 60mm/2.8 would cover the classic 28-90 FF equivalent range at f/2.8. Add, 55-210 OSS for zoom, and for less than $1.5K, you can have it fairly well covered.

Of course, one could also consider 35/1.8 OSS (instead of 30/2.8) or 50/1.8 OSS (instead of 60/2.8) for faster speed and/or OSS, the latter wouldn’t change the budget. Or, skip the trio, get the kit zoom, add either of the fast Sony primes with OSS, and add the telephoto zoom, about the same money.

Or, if you want to build a system for cheap, legacy lenses can do it too (but that will generally mean giving up auto-oriented photography unless exploring the vast collection of A-mount lenses from 1985 onwards). In fact, this is how I started with NEX:

Sony 18-55 OSS (Kit lens)

Sigma 24mm f/2.8 (A-mount)

Takumar 50mm f/1.4 (M42 mount, used chipped M42 to A-mount adapter)

Elicar V-HQ Macro (1:1) 90mm f/2.5 (Contax-Yashica mount)

Vivitar Series I 70-210mm f/2.8-4 (Konica AR-mount)

Sony LA-EA1 adapter

Cost for all of the above: $650, including adapters and the camera body (NEX-3). Of course, I had additional lenses at my disposal (A-mount) which I didn’t list above.

Now, of course, the NEX also serves an expanded role: Sports/Action photography. My Minolta 200mm f/2.8 sees quite a bit of time on my NEX-3 (via LA-EA2 adapter).

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smallLebowski
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to trax87, Jun 4, 2013

As I understand fast high-grade G zoom will be announced in August. NEX 6 with that G zoom will be a wonderful choice for enthusiast - I would even say it will be the best combo currently available on market from ALL manufacturers considering: size, functions, price, technology e.t.c.

If your friend can't wait - then a DSLR may be a better choice as for now, unless he likes primes only and will consider MF with focus peaking on NEX to add additional lenses in future.

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TiagoReil
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to smallLebowski, Jun 4, 2013

smallLebowski wrote:

As I understand fast high-grade G zoom will be announced in August. NEX 6 with that G zoom will be a wonderful choice for enthusiast - I would even say it will be the best combo currently available on market from ALL manufacturers considering: size, functions, price, technology e.t.c.

If your friend can't wait - then a DSLR may be a better choice as for now, unless he likes primes only and will consider MF with focus peaking on NEX to add additional lenses in future.

G zoom will be anounces, no where it said fast, we asume it, but it could be not that fast but of better optical quality. Until it is anounced we wont know what it is exactly. OF course we can guess, and it will probably be fast, but it is just a guess.

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DtEW
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to trax87, Jun 4, 2013

For as much as people gripe about the NEX's controls and menus, it is actually more straightforward than a dSLR and hence easier to comprehend for somebody starting to take photography more seriously.

How?  The NEX is basically just Live-View (i.e. exposure & white balance preview), and perma-DoF preview, which means it's WYSIWYG.  Although a dSLR is capable of doing Live-View and doing a DoF preview, a beginner shooter has to be taught to do this... or else he just resorts to chimping.  Shortening the time between input and feedback (instantaneous WYSIWYG vs. chimping vs. having to choose between OVF/PDAF versus Live-View-really-slow-CDAF) also significantly shortens the understanding of each adjustment, and their interactions with each other.

And then there is the dSLR PDAF/CDAF dichotomy that has to be explained.  The NEX's always-there CDAF allows you to autofocus on whatever is on the screen without being limited to autofocus points, and OSPDAF (if present) merely speeds up the focusing if your subject is within its region of influence.  There is no either/or choice that needs to be made, and hence the photographer is left to focus on the central concepts in photography (aperture/shutter speed/ISO, and maybe even lens performance curves), and less on the steps in-between.

But of course, the NEX is a more limited system (even OSPDAF isn't as quick as PDAF; less flexibility in the controls; missing advanced functions; less lenses and third-party accessories).

[It needs to be noted that some (read: firmware) of these limitations are actually conscious design decisions meant to simplify the camera, as opposed to further complicating the already-derided menu system with more choices that don't amount to increased capability, but would only exist to satisfy the personal whims of people who are bent on making the camera work the way they want to, instead of adapting to it.]

So the problem is that while I think the NEX is easier to learn and can really accelerate the growth of an incoming photographer... it also tends to turn these people into whiners ("why can't the NEX do this?!  Why can't the NEX do that?!  It should be just an easy software tweak!") that don't realize that they might otherwise have ended up like millions of people with Canon Rebels and low-end Nikon dSLRs, wielding it like a P&S on Auto... daunted by its complexities and kludges that originate from its SLR forebearers, afraid/loathe to dig deeper to strive for mastery.

Therefore I'd say the NEX-6 is a good place to start.  If your friend stays a casual shooter (not even a hobbyist), the NEX-6 will meet his needs and go with him to more places than any dSLR. If he becomes a hobbyist and starts exploring the 6, he might progress pretty quickly (probably faster than if he started with a dSLR) and master the 6.  There is also the possibility that he might outgrow/whine about the NEX for the things he can't do (but see dSLRs doing), not realizing the advantages that he had with the 6 that got him so quickly and effortlessly to this point.

Since there is nothing anybody in the world can do to imbue others with a sense of perspective, c'est la vie.

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trax87
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbyist: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to EinsteinsGhost, Jun 4, 2013

All very viable options.  Thanks.  That's a lot of choices to consider- for me as well 

By the way, I actually do know how to spell "hobbyist" but my iPad was not cooperating! -- I don't know why the forum doesn't let you change typos if you wait too long!  

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trax87
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbyist: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to smallLebowski, Jun 4, 2013

That's a good point.  I forgot that a better quality zoom is expected, although we don't know anything about it for sure yet, including price and its actual quality.  In any event, I assume the kit zoom would be good enough for now if there will be other options not too far off.

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trax87
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbyist: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to DtEW, Jun 4, 2013

DtEW wrote:

So the problem is that while I think the NEX is easier to learn and can really accelerate the growth of an incoming photographer... it also tends to turn these people into whiners ("why can't the NEX do this?!  Why can't the NEX do that?!  It should be just an easy software tweak!") that don't realize that they might otherwise have ended up like millions of people with Canon Rebels and low-end Nikon dSLRs, wielding it like a P&S on Auto... daunted by its complexities and kludges that originate from its SLR forebearers, afraid/loathe to dig deeper to strive for mastery.

LOL.  Point taken.

Therefore I'd say the NEX-6 is a good place to start.  If your friend stays a casual shooter (not even a hobbyist), the NEX-6 will meet his needs and go with him to more places than any dSLR. If he becomes a hobbyist and starts exploring the 6, he might progress pretty quickly (probably faster than if he started with a dSLR) and master the 6.  There is also the possibility that he might outgrow/whine about the NEX for the things he can't do (but see dSLRs doing), not realizing the advantages that he had with the 6 that got him so quickly and effortlessly to this point.

Good points.  Thanks for your thoughts.

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xxbluejay21
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to trax87, Jun 4, 2013

None of the fancy stuff matters when you're a beginner hobbyist with no plans to go pro. Don't even look at specs or IQ or AF or anything like that. Just go to Best Buy and tell him to play around with the DSLR's there and then give him your NEX to hold and then tell him to decide based on which one looks and feels cooler to him. That honestly is the best decision. Photography isn't about your gear, and both of these cameras will allow him to do everything he wants to do.

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tqlla
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to xxbluejay21, Jun 4, 2013

It depends on what he wants... if he is using the camera to take pictures while going out with Friends in social settings... I would go for a Nex with the PZ 16-50mm lens.  Much more portable.

Its awkward busting out my DSLR for social settings.   But for events and such, I do prefer my A65 or A850. (In body stabilized primes)

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expireduser
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I recommend a third option...
In reply to trax87, Jun 5, 2013

Based on what you've described, I would say to consider a Fuji X-E1 with the Fuji 18-55mm lens for $1199. Your friend will probably not want to be swapping lenses, will probably not want to be shooting raw. The Sony kit zoom is pretty awful, and NEX out-of-camera jpeg is pretty awful. The Fuji is superb on both counts. NEX is faster at AF but you said your friend probably doesn't care, so I would say SLR is pointlessly big and heavy for him.

If he wanted to dive into raw workflow, prime lenses and legacy manual focus lenses, I would enthusiastically recommend an NEX-7. If he wanted very high performance AF I would recommend an SLR.

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xxbluejay21
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to tqlla, Jun 5, 2013

tqlla wrote:

Much more portable.

That's why I suggested he try holding both cameras. I asked some of my DSLR friends if they would rather have a mirrorless and they say no, because of the ergonomics and because a DSLR makes you look like a photographer. Honestly as stupid as that may sound, if you're just a hobbyist, your emotional attachment to the camera is way more important than how powerful the sensor or processor inside of it is.

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pede59
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to trax87, Jun 5, 2013

points to consider:

- size: your friend has seen your NEX-6. Not sure if he had a chance to handle a DSLR with zoom lens. Strongly recommend to try and hang it around your neck for a while. Even that will not necessarily tell you if you will get tired of carrying the camera around. I did not want to carry my DSLR anymore once i experienced the NEX-7

- controls: i have a NEX-7 and a Canon 7D. I would say that the 7D has slightly better ergonomics but really the NEX-7 is right there (the NEX-6 is similar with a mode dial instead of the 2 generic assignable wheels). But a lot of this is a matter of personal preference

- AF: if you are after fast AF with tracking then get a DSLR

- do you want a viewfinder or do you prefer to use the LCD screen? if the former then I would either go for NEX-6 or NEX-7, if the latter i would get a NEX-5R

- lenses: if it is critical for your friend to get a decent zoom with particular focal length range then he could start with the lens selection. Also there are other mirrorless systems such as M4/3 or Fuji that might offer the lens options you are after. There are certainly a lot more choices if you go with a Canon or Nikon DSLR.

- as i said i had a Canon 7D before getting a NEX-7. I had a 15-85mm and 70-200mm zoom. It turns out that i did not miss the zooms. In fact i ended up making most of my pictures with the cheap but great Sigma 19mm and 30mm primes. I heard from other NEX users on this forum that if you like zoom the 18-200mm is a good option, although not small or cheap or fast.

- in order to learn photography i actually believe the NEX is great. To some extent i believe the live view has the advantage that it gives you a pretty good impression of how the shot will come out including depth of field. If you make changes to exposure you see the effect immediately. Also the NEX with focus peaking is very good to work with manual focus.

- i currently have a Sony RX100 as second camera. I would even suggest to consider that. You can do almost everything you can do with a NEX or DSLR. The sensor is fairly big and the IQ is very good. But you cannot get a view finder.

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Faketastic
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to xxbluejay21, Jun 5, 2013

xxbluejay21 wrote:

None of the fancy stuff matters when you're a beginner hobbyist with no plans to go pro. Don't even look at specs or IQ or AF or anything like that. Just go to Best Buy and tell him to play around with the DSLR's there and then give him your NEX to hold and then tell him to decide based on which one looks and feels cooler to him. That honestly is the best decision. Photography isn't about your gear, and both of these cameras will allow him to do everything he wants to do.

Very good advice.

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Faketastic
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to trax87, Jun 5, 2013

I would have a hard time recommending the NEX system to someone new to photography.

The system is still too limited to suit everyone. What if he wants to do serious flash photography? Or wild life?

I always joking that if you want to learn photography, start with shooting slides.

A low end Sony Alpha or a used A77 and a decent zoom is a good starting point.

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GaryW
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to Faketastic, Jun 5, 2013

Faketastic wrote:

I would have a hard time recommending the NEX system to someone new to photography.

The system is still too limited to suit everyone. What if he wants to do serious flash photography?

Nex-6 and 7 have better flash support.

Or wild life?

EA2 adapter, then you have all A-mount lenses to chose from.  I used the EA1 and with manual focus did an airshow.  I got a lot of misses, but with an EA2, it wouldn't have been different than a Sony DSLT.

I always joking that if you want to learn photography, start with shooting slides.

A low end Sony Alpha or a used A77 and a decent zoom is a good starting point.

Worst-case with the Nex, if it was found to be limiting, you'd have to sell the equipment and re-buy in the system you want.  But chances are he'd buy a new camera after a couple of years anyway.  As long as it doesn't put you in a financial bind, it shouldn't be too tragic.

I guess what I object to is this sense of, "If I don't get a DSLR, then I'll be stuck and *can't* do something."  There are some obscure accessories and lenses that are probably only available for Canikon cameras.  If you really want to be sure that you're never stuck where you can't do something, that would be the way to go.  Some people would complain on the Sony DSLR  forum about things lacking in Sony's DSLR and DSLT line (such as ring flash for macro work or larger exposure bracketing), so just going for a DSLR won't necessarily cover "everything".

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Gary W.

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Faketastic
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to GaryW, Jun 5, 2013

First, I sold off my A850 and lenses to go NEX all the way so I've been there.

GaryW wrote:

Faketastic wrote:

I would have a hard time recommending the NEX system to someone new to photography.

The system is still too limited to suit everyone. What if he wants to do serious flash photography?

Nex-6 and 7 have better flash support.

What? My ring won't fit on any of the NEX lenses. I need an adapter for my Metz. And even if it works it's really to heavy to use. Does NEX do wireless flash?

Or wild life?

EA2 adapter, then you have all A-mount lenses to chose from.  I used the EA1 and with manual focus did an airshow.  I got a lot of misses, but with an EA2, it wouldn't have been different than a Sony DSLT.

To suggest that a newbie should get an adapter which is more than the lens and makes the "package" more akward to handle is poor advice. To use manual focus only is also bad advice.

I always joking that if you want to learn photography, start with shooting slides.

A low end Sony Alpha or a used A77 and a decent zoom is a good starting point.

Worst-case with the Nex, if it was found to be limiting, you'd have to sell the equipment and re-buy in the system you want.  But chances are he'd buy a new camera after a couple of years anyway.  As long as it doesn't put you in a financial bind, it shouldn't be too tragic.

I guess what I object to is this sense of, "If I don't get a DSLR, then I'll be stuck and *can't* do something."  There are some obscure accessories and lenses that are probably only available for Canikon cameras.  If you really want to be sure that you're never stuck where you can't do something, that would be the way to go.  Some people would complain on the Sony DSLR  forum about things lacking in Sony's DSLR and DSLT line (such as ring flash for macro work or larger exposure bracketing), so just going for a DSLR won't necessarily cover "everything".

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Gary W.

I would say, buy a cheap Alpha with kit lens + 35/1.8 to learn. Then add a NEX + LA-EA1 +nice prime if he gets hooked. The cheap Alpha is as much as the LA-EA2 here almost

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GaryW
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Re: Recommendation for new hobbiest: NEX or DSLR?
In reply to Faketastic, Jun 5, 2013

Faketastic wrote:

First, I sold off my A850 and lenses to go NEX all the way so I've been there.

GaryW wrote:

Faketastic wrote:

I would have a hard time recommending the NEX system to someone new to photography.

The system is still too limited to suit everyone. What if he wants to do serious flash photography?

Nex-6 and 7 have better flash support.

What? My ring won't fit on any of the NEX lenses. I need an adapter for my Metz. And even if it works it's really to heavy to use.

With a $25 adapter, I should be able to use my Alpha flash.  Why would it be any heavier than my DSLR with the same flash unit?

As for ring flashes, I even mentioned that as a weakness for the Alpha line!  Can you buy a new Sony ring flash?  There was a Minolta one, if you can find it....

Does NEX do wireless flash?

From what I've read, yes -- you just have to add a controlling flash.

One of the weaknesses of Nex is that the built-in flashes do not control wirelessly.  If this is a top needed feature (to get introduced into photography), then by all means, buy a DSLR!

Personally, I am excited at the improved flash support for the Nex-6 over the Nex-5, but then, my needs are more limited.   If I wanted to control off-camera flash, I'd have to purchase 3rd party wireless adapters or buy a 2nd Sony flash.

Or wild life?

EA2 adapter, then you have all A-mount lenses to chose from.  I used the EA1 and with manual focus did an airshow.  I got a lot of misses, but with an EA2, it wouldn't have been different than a Sony DSLT.

To suggest that a newbie should get an adapter which is more than the lens and makes the "package" more akward to handle is poor advice. To use manual focus only is also bad advice.

EA2 isn't that awkward.  The EA1 is, if you are not comfortable with manual focus.  But I think I'm safe recommending the EA2 if you already had a Nex system then get a desire to shoot wildlife.  I've rarely done this with my DSLR, and it was quite challenging with that, so I'm not saying it's the *best* solution, but it is a solution.  If all you do is shoot wildlife, then, sure, buy a DSLR.  But I'm not going to buy a DSLR for the rare case; buy the camera on what you'll use it for most often.  The DSLR is over-engineered for what most people use a camera for.

I always joking that if you want to learn photography, start with shooting slides.

A low end Sony Alpha or a used A77 and a decent zoom is a good starting point.

Worst-case with the Nex, if it was found to be limiting, you'd have to sell the equipment and re-buy in the system you want.  But chances are he'd buy a new camera after a couple of years anyway.  As long as it doesn't put you in a financial bind, it shouldn't be too tragic.

I guess what I object to is this sense of, "If I don't get a DSLR, then I'll be stuck and *can't* do something."  There are some obscure accessories and lenses that are probably only available for Canikon cameras.  If you really want to be sure that you're never stuck where you can't do something, that would be the way to go.  Some people would complain on the Sony DSLR  forum about things lacking in Sony's DSLR and DSLT line (such as ring flash for macro work or larger exposure bracketing), so just going for a DSLR won't necessarily cover "everything".

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Gary W.

I would say, buy a cheap Alpha with kit lens + 35/1.8 to learn. Then add a NEX + LA-EA1 +nice prime if he gets hooked. The cheap Alpha is as much as the LA-EA2 here almost

I think a lot of it comes down to size and convenience.  If you don't mind the larger size of the DSLR, there's little reason to get a Nex.

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Gary W.

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Dirk W
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NEX or neither
In reply to trax87, Jun 5, 2013

If I'd recommend this today, I would not recommend buying a DSLR any more. They will soon be yesterday's technique. Mirrorless is the future. Sony will entirely go over to mirrorless in their SLR-mount (in a way they have done so already with SLT), and others will (have to) follow. The NEX line is great, but I would also consider mft for the currently better AF and lens options.

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