"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Friday, April 06, 2007

Camera Conundrum

Calling all shutterbugs!

I'm about to buy a new camera; I've narrowed the field of choices down to two, and could use some help deciding between them. I've had an early-generation 2-megapixel Canon Powershot for the last couple of years, and while it takes decent photos in good light, it doesn't do very well under less-than-optimal conditions, especially when the lighting is poor or there's motion in the shot. For this reason I'm leaning towards the Canon S3-IS, mainly due to its image stabilization feature -- not to mention the fact that it's almost half the price of the Nikon. However, the Nikon D-40 is a true through-the-lens digital SLR (the Canon's lens is fixed) and has received rave reviews. Take a look at this table which compares the major features of the two:

ModelCanon S3-ISNikon D-40
TypeDigital Point & ShootDigital SLR
LensFixed, 12X optical zoom (equiv. to 36-432 mm)Interchangeable, pkg. lens equiv. to 27-82.5 mm
Digital Zoom4XNo
Image StabilizationYesNo
Records VideoYesNo
Records AudioYesNo
Auto-ISO settingNoYes
Viewfinder2.0" tilt 'n swivel LCD2.5" fixed LCD
Max Resolution2816 x 21123008 x 2000
Battery TypeAA (x4)Proprietary Li-Io battery pack
MemorySD CardSD Card
Price (delivered)$323.70$547.70

Nikon's prior models in the D-line (the D-50, D-80, and high-end D-100) with their legendary Nikkor lenses have set the bar for digital photography, and the D-40 is their entry into the lower end of the DSLR market. It's intended for people exactly like me, who have used a point & shoot camera up till now and might be ready to move up, but aren't keen to drop the really big bucks ($700-$1200+) that these models have been selling for in the past. Nikon's real competition to the D-40 has been Canon's Digital Rebel line, which revolutionized the market as the first sub-$1000 DSLR when it came out a couple of years ago. But at $599 for the 6-mP Digital Rebel XT and $799 for the upgraded 10-mP XTi, these models are just out of my price range. If I were a "pro" or even "semi-pro" photographer, I'd probably get the Nikon in a heartbeat -- but the measly photos I take (both in quality and quantity) just don't justify spending that kind of money.

So that's why I keep coming back to the S3-IS. Even though it's still technically a point-and-shooter, it's received excellent user reviews and is quite "SLR-like" in its look, feel, and operation. In addition to the image stabilizer, it also has a much higher zoom level, and will shoot video and stereo audio -- which the D-40 does not. Not only that, but the main advantage of a DSLR is its interchangeable lenses, and to be honest, the chances that I will be wanting to spend a couple of hundred extra bucks on more glass for the Nikon are not that great.

Well I seem to have talked myself out of the D-40, but damn, it's still awfully appealing. It's kinda like buying a Chevy will get you where you want to go just fine, but wouldn't you really rather have a Porsche? Anyone with thoughts, opinions or -- hopefully -- actual experience as an owner of either of these two models, please leave a comment. Thanks.


  • At 4/06/2007 07:07:00 PM, Blogger April said…

    I'd go with the D-40.. although I'm a Canon girl myself (I'm currently looking into upgrading from my Rebel) But having a DSLR, I'd never go back to just point and shoot. You have MUCH more control over exactly HOW you want you picture to turn out, and that is what Mrs. Toast would appreciate if she is taking it with her on her trip. I've heard from some people (I used to sell cameras) that the "image stabilization" feature doesn't help THAT much, and there seems to always be a very very short delay as the camera has to take that extra millisecond to "capture" the moment. Most people say although they see a small difference, they could take it or leave it, so I wouldn't weigh that feature too heavily on your pros and cons list. I say spend the extra and go with the Nikon... unless, of course, you're looking to buy a used Canon Rebel..... kidding... unless you really want to... no, really I'm kidding... unless... nevermind.

    Good luck with your decision!

  • At 4/07/2007 05:24:00 PM, Blogger Mr. Toast said…

    Thanks, April, I know you've done some serious photography, so your advice is very much appreciated. I recently wrote a long email to my nephew (the Professional Photographer), explaining in great detail the pros and cons of each camera, specs, pricing, review quotes, yada yada yada. He wrote back three words: "Get the Nikon." Back in the days of 35mm film (remember that?) I had a Canon AE-1 which I loved, so that's one reason I really want a DSLR. But $600 is still a pretty huge chunk of change considering how few pictures I take. Maybe the D40 will be on sale soon. :-)

  • At 4/09/2007 04:21:00 PM, Blogger SupaCoo said…

    Go with the D40. It's worth it!

  • At 4/09/2007 06:51:00 PM, Blogger bossann said…

    I am not a pro photographer by a long shot...just call me the PHD queen...and I bought the Canon last week for a trip to DC to see the Cherry Blossoms...brrrrr, but I digress.

    The Canon is easy. I haven't figured out (or even tried to, for that matter) all of its bells and whistles but I was able to pull it out of the box, pop in the batteries and a memory card (it comes with a card that holds exactly 6 photos...spend the extra $30 for a 2 gig card - at least 200 photos - I haven't reached the upper limit yet), (by glancing at the quick start guide) locate the power and shutter buttons (there are also controls for shutter speed and manually adjusting focus...whatever), and start clicking photos that came out great...ok, the firework photos didn't all work well but I think that was because the photographer was shivering uncontrollably so I can't really blame the camera...a couple of those shots were good, too, when I managed to hold the camera still.

    I am VERY happy with my purchase...and the $325 price tag didn't hurt either. While I would like to learn how to shoot videos and record sound, most of the features on this camera will never be used...

    Just my 2 cents...


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