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Best Consumer Digital Camera for Artists?

polycounter lvl 13
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cholden polycounter lvl 13
I bought a Canon Powershot many moons ago. It's since past it's prime, and I'm looking for something new. I've done the google, and reviews say the (new) powershot is still the hot thing. I've also discussed this with a professional photographer (you know a real one, not someone that takes pictures and calls themselves one). His camera was amazing, but also several thousand dollars. Which is why I'm going for something in the consumer market.

My research aside, I'm asking yous guys since you're more likely to use a camera for the same needs; texture sampling, environment references, pretty sunsets, etc.


  • Rick Stirling
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    Rick Stirling polycounter lvl 14
    Is it a DSLR you are after? There was a good thread on those a while back:


    I'm still using a Nikon D60, but want to get a D300 for more indoor sports.
  • [Deleted User]
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    [Deleted User] insane polycounter
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  • Purplepaint
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    Purplepaint polycounter lvl 8
    I love the Nikon d3000's with the factory lens, works nice for a cheaper DSLR
  • XenoKratios
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    XenoKratios polycounter lvl 12
    Best camera ever:

    Pentax K-x. ( comes with an awesome white storm trooper color, and like 100 other colors )
  • EarthQuake
    I wouldn't even bother buying a point and shoot like the powershot anymore just get a good camera phone.

    Right, the differences between a good camera phone, a shity P&S, and a good P&S camera are so small. The real driving force in these cameras is craming more and more megapixels into tiny sensors, producing worse and worse image quality past about 6 MP or so.

    Now, the difference between one of these cheap(or even a $400 one)P&S cameras and a proper dSLR is going to be massive. Lets look at the main selling points:

    1. Image quality, a MUCH larger sensor means you get much better image quality and noise performance. The smaller the pixels in your sensor are, the worse the IQ will be and the more your crap camera will have to blur the result to be usable, of course resulting in massive detail loss.

    2. Low-light/noise performance. This is part of the first point, but seriously it is such a huge issue it needs its own point. ISO 1600 on my 6 year old Canon EOS 350D gives about the same quality as ISO 200 or 400 on my 2-3 year old 10MP Canon compact P&S(SD1100, a decent camera). What that really means is that realistically, my dSLR can be used in 1/4th the amount of light without a flash, at the same F stop. When you consider that the largest aperture available on my compact camera is 2.8, my basic $100 50mm 1.8 lens coupled with m dSLR can perform in 8 times less light. This is such a huge issue, there really are SO many situations that my compact camera simply is not suitable for taking photos, pretty much anytime i'm not out on a sunny day, or without a tripod, its worthless(as a built in flash on *any* camera just sucks).

    Newer cameras will provide usable ISO performance at 3200 and in some cases 6400. Couple that sort of performance with a 50mm 1.4 lens(can usually be bough for about $250-300) and the possibilities are endless, basically night vision at this point.

    3. Interchangeable lenses, while this can become a very expensive hobby, your lenses will generally last much longer than your camera body. Need to upgrade? Get a new body, keep all your lenses and be a very happy guy. No need to be stuck with the same slow, blurry, terrible lens until you buy an entirely new camera. Again a 50mm 1.8 from any major camera manufacturer(Nikon, Canon, Pentax) is just going to absolutely blow a P&S camera out of the water in every category except convince(as zoom lenses and P&S cameras are convenient, I will give them that).

    4. Full manual control, ability to shoot in raw with about 12 bits per channel precision, very useful if your shot happens to be over/underexposed. Even a cheap/old dSLR is going to be.... Like an iphone compared to your development computer, to a P&S.

    5. Depth of field, Ability to use selective focus to isolate a subject. Pretty much anything artistic you will want to do will involve a very good grasp of DOF, and a compact P&S really only has infinite depth of field. Again, get a 50mm and you'll see how fun and easy it is, and the world of difference it can make when taking a picture of someone with a busy background. Is the background going to be a silky smooth blur, or is that taxi 200 feet behind your subject going to be just as sharp as your subject?

    One small note here, infinite DOF may be useful for texture reference, but at the same time, your blurry-noisy P&S is going to kill your detail so horribly, that it isnt worth it.

    At the end of the day, you can buy a SLR-Like, or really nice P&S camera that will offer *some* of this, but you'll end up spending just as much as you can spend to get a decent dSLR system.

    I like Canon EOS dSLRs, the XXXD line = entry level, XXD = semi-pro, and XD = pro. At the end of the day, any dSLR is going to just be a much better buy than a P&S, and the used market is quite good for dSLRs too, getting something in the 6-10MP range can cost about $200-350, plus a $100 50mm lens to get you started.

    But it really all comes down to what you want, and what you want to do with it. If you just want something casual, that isn't complicated and is lightweight and easily fits into a pocket, get a P&S. It really doesn't matter which, search some reviews, P&S cameras have such little technical differences that the bigger concerns will be how easy it is to use, how compact it is, battery life, how cute it is, how easy it is to copy pictures to your computer, etc etc. All of these things that have nothing to do with taking photos, is generally what will separate a P&S camera from another.
  • attattattack
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    attattattack polycounter lvl 8
    Have you looked into the micro 4/3 cameras?
    Small size, but with changable lenses give you almost dslr quality.
    try google the panasonic one, I cant remember its name, and Olympus has EP 1, 2 and EP-L 1.

    Not too expensive I guess.
  • Muzzoid
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    Muzzoid polycounter lvl 10
    If you want to still go the powershot the s90 is a beast. Very good low light shooting, raw output, full manual controls with a control ring around the lens.

    Really happy with it.

    And yes it does kick the crap out of my iphone 4's camera.
    A quick search of the camera in flickr should give you a good example of what the camera can do.


    Now of course a good dslr will always beat it, so in that case listen to eq.

    Micro 4 thirds are also looking to be a good portable option with great quality photos.
  • EarthQuake
    The coolest thing about the 4/3rds camera is that you can use virtually any lens ever made on it. The compact mirrorless design means you just need to get the appropriate sized adaptor and the last 70 years or so of manual focus lenses are available for use one it. When dealing with a full size Nikon or Canon system, you're limted to lenses that meet specific criteria to adapt.

    For instance, you can't use old Canon FD lenses, on a Canon eos system, but you can on a 4/3rds system! So you can get otherwise "useless" lenses, that are of very high quality, for cheap because noone else wants them anymore.

    Edit: The s90 looks like a very capable P&S, but i shutter to think of spending $350 on a compact camera, when you can get a used dSLR for the same, that will last you a lot longer, and have better resale value when you do decide to upgrade.

    Here is a really good example of the DOF thing on a P&S camera. Even on a nice one like the s90 with full auto controls, and a F2.0 lens, you're still going to get this pretty much every time. Distant BG in focus as much/nearly as much as subject


    As apposed to this:

    Clear isolation, nice blurry BG, etc.
  • Muzzoid
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    Muzzoid polycounter lvl 10
    For me it was all about portability, i wanted to be able to take nice shots with a pocket sized camera as i know i wouldnt end up lugging it everywhere if i had a full dslr. I probably should have gone a micro 4/3 but i couldnt justify the extra $400 at the time. (cameras in aus are crazy expensive as is anything electronic.)
  • XenoKratios
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    XenoKratios polycounter lvl 12
    I still say think about the K-x man. Here is a fairly decent review.


    Also it comes with the lens you see in the video... it's a steal for under $600. If you want to see more stuff look up the K-X group on Vimeo, amazing stuff.
  • Joshua Stubbles
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    Joshua Stubbles polycounter lvl 18
    I still find my Nikon D40 to be more than adequate for texture photos and reference. Nikon and Nikkor lenses are pretty decently priced and it's a good camera to get started with, before moving on to hardcore setups (should you decide to do so).
  • sampson
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    sampson polycounter lvl 9
    What about hand-helds. i was thinking of taking snaps at concerts that dont allow dslrs. i'd be sorta far away i just want crisp pictures for the memories!
  • EarthQuake
    Muzz: Sure sure, I understand what you mean, I guess i just have a hard time with the "tweener" concept, paying near SLR money for a compact camera, when its always going to be just a compact, i think i would rather spend $150 or so instead.

    Xeno: Is there something specific the KX excels at? Something it offers over the similarly priced Nikon and Canon bodies(which are generally considered better)?

    Looks like it comes with a 18-55mm kit lens(like canon and nikon and everyone else) that is pretty much the worse lens you could use on your dSLR. =)
  • maze
    Hi Earthquake, thats pretty good info about PS and Dslr cameras, I also saw that pentax and thought of getting one, but I am really new to photography and it gets confusing as every camera I look at seems to offer outstanding quality...... and I can t really judge on this because of my lack of experience in this field

    sorry for stealing the thread !!! but I am looking for a decent camera not a ultra pro one, but a decent camera that I wont need to change in the coming 3 - 4 years at least...., mainly for taking photos as references for future matte paint backgrounds or textures. I am not in a rush but will try to get one by December...my budget is roughly around 800-1000 (including body and lenses) So if you can recomend me one I ll surely take your opinion in consideration, or if there is someone else you are welcome to give me a little help on this! thanks!
  • EarthQuake
    Well first off, I use Canon, so my recommendations will be based off of that. Nikon and Pentax make great cameras and have pretty equivalent systems, generally when i was researching my camera, I found Canon had better image quality and less noise at the same price point as other systems. Also canon EF lenses are very good. Choosing a camera system is a very important decision as you're in essentially "locking-in" to a system, and won't be able to switch unless you want to sell of of your lenses and gear.

    Now, if you're looking for something that does video, you're going to want to look at the:
    500D (T1I) It does 720p video, and should cost about $700 new with a Kit lens. Or about $500 used without a lens on ebay.

    The 550D does 1080P video, but that is probably a bit excessive for most people, and the price is going to blow most of your budget without leaving much room for lenses. Its about $850 or so new.

    Now, if you don't care for video, i would suggest a XXD body, a used 30D(while pretty old) is going to be a very good value, used SLR cameras last much longer than consumer cameras, and a 30D is going be rated at 100,000 shutter actuations. New a 30D body may run in the 8-900 range, but used you can probably find one for $450 on ebay, a 40D similarly will run about $600


    Now, my take on lenses. This is what i use 98% of the time:
    Canon EF 50mm 1.8 $100 new
    Canon EF 28mm 2.8 $150-200 Used

    These two lenses are an excellent choice, you may want to consider a cheap 3rd party zoom lens with a lot of range for when you don't want to swap out lenses. Or something like a canon EF 35-135mm, I sold a couple of these on ebay recently for $160, but you can find them a little cheaper than that. Very good general purpose lens.

    Kit lens that comes with your camera; honestly I would never even put this on your camera, I would sell it instantly on ebay(put it up "buy it now" for $100 or so) and use that money to buy the 50mm instead. You can buy a new body without a lens, but generally its not a good value, you're better off keeping or selling the kit lens. I still have my 18-55mm lens and use it almost exclusively as a 18mm 3.5 wide angle, for the odd time my 28mm isn't quite wide enough and i can't back up enough to get a shot(mostly interior shots around the house, stopped down, on a tripod).

    Now again, Nikon and Pentax make good stuff too, you'll just have to do some research on the pros/cons and find the equivalents. One nice thing about Nikon and Pentax is that a lot of old Manual Focus lenses are still compatible with these systems (All Nikon AI lenses on nikon, and all Pentax K lenses on pentax). So if thats your thing, you should consider that. You can also adapt screw mount m42 lenses to virtually any camera system, and there is a wide variety of cheap Olympus OM lenses that are very nice to adapt to Canon EF systems.

    About used cameras and ebay: Again, these SLR cameras are meant to last a very long time, and many times you'll buy one from some guy who bought it and never really used it, so you can get used equipment for an excellent value. Some people may not like the idea of ebay, but here is the thing: On ebay, the buyer is always right. Ebay has a buyer protection system, if you get something that is not as advertised(EVEN IF IT IS LISTED AS "NO RETURNS", unless it is listed as "For parts/repairs") you can return it! You just have to file a claim with ebay and state the the item is damaged or not as listed, 99% of the time ebay will side with you and even pay for return shipping, no matter what the seller tries to tell you. Ebay wants buyers and isn't in the market to screw them over, I know this as a seller. Often times sellers will accept returns even on items that are stated "no returns" if it turns out the item is faulty/damaged. Also, auctionsniper is your friend, decide what you want to pay for equipment, snipe it and wait until you win an item! Patience here is key =)

    Edit: Now my personal recommendation:
    Canon 30D body $450 (used on ebay)
    Canon EF 50mm 1.8 $100 (buy this new from B&H, used it sells for the same price)
    Canon EF 28mm 2.8 $175 (used on ebay)
    Total = $725

    Under budget, with some really great lenses. Wait a bit and use these lenses, then decide if you want a wider lens, a longer lens, or the convenience of a zoom lens, and then buy it later.

    Edit Edit: Final thought on XXD vrs XXXD, the 500D for example has live view, meaning you can use the camera much like a regular digicam and shoot off the LCD screen. The 30D does NOT, however the 40D does also have live view.

    I dont mind "living in the viewfinder" but i'm sure it would be nice to have live view. You will also of course have a standard viewfinder(which is very important for shooting on a bright sunny day) with the cameras that have live view. Just another thing to consider.
  • maze
    wooow!!! hey man seriously thanks a lot for taking the time writing all that, I really appreciate your time on this sincerely!!.
    Surely having video will be a nice feature, 1080 thats even cooler, but for my current purposes I will be more than happy with a camera that can capture good enough real life photo references for any future project in relation to what I mentioned previously. Your suggestion about the Canon 30D seems pretty reasonable and it does look really tempting to me. Also thanks a lot for your insight about default camera lenses.
    I ignored all of this! before you mention it. I will keep this info for when I start looking to buy it in a couple months from now, thank you again for your time and valuable info on this!
  • EarthQuake
    No problem, I would also highly suggest going to a store, even better if you can find the specific camera you'de like to buy(but newer versions will give you an idea) and just feel the camera, play with it in the store etc, it will tell you a lot.
  • Ryan Hawkins
    I asked Mathis this same question not to long ago and he recommended a Cannon S90 for my style. This thing rocks and takes some crazy nice photos considering how small it is.
  • evad310
    Just a quick reference DoF comment by Earthquake. That link is a picture that I took and directs you to my photostream on flickr. The aperture used for that shot was f8.0, which will keep more of the scene in focus. Had I used f2.0, the people in the background would have been blurred, as the bokeh is quite nice with that camera. While I don't have any shots uploaded at the wide f2.0 setting, I can assure you that the DoF is fantastic and the low aperture! I actually just picked up the S95, which has identical amazing quality!!
  • Paul Pepera
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    Paul Pepera polycounter lvl 9
    I was extremely happy with my Rebel XSi until I got a 5D Mark II. Ultimately it's the lenses, not the body, you'll want to invest the most money in, which in turn depends what kind of photography you want to do. I personally do a lot of long exposure photography so I'm rather happy with my f/4 lineup, but I love the 50mm 1.4 for low light and just general use. You'll probably want to get faster lenses, f/2.8 and faster; if you decide on a DSLR that is.

    Also, as a side note, more expensive camera and lenses doesn't equal better photos. Check out this gallery of photographs taken with a small, toy camera you can get on eBay for $20: http://microsites.lomography.com/holga/galleries/natural-and-filtered

    Once again, depends on the kind of photography you want to practice.
  • [HP]
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    [HP] polycounter lvl 13
    Get a SLDR, like a man.
  • kat
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    kat polycounter lvl 14
    EarthQuake wrote: »
    Xeno: Is there something specific the KX excels at? Something it offers over the similarly priced Nikon and Canon bodies(which are generally considered better)?
    They're supposed to be much better for outdoors because they have better water/moisture sealing than similar class cams, that in itself is a good selling point for texture artists; I've been thinking about getting one but that 4/3rds thing you mentioned is worth looking at as I've got a load of old lenses I could use.
  • XenoKratios
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    XenoKratios polycounter lvl 12
    They also have a k-mount so it can use any K type Pentax lenses. Also takes 720p video, so you have make some wicked movies.

    There is also the Sony's A55, they just came out and have a translucent mirror = amazingly fast photos with auto focus on each one, it's a bit more expensive than the Kx as it just came out, but the mirror is totally unique.

    The a33 is the more affordable version of the A55.


    All the info on both of those can be found here:


    Also the A55 is $740 and the A33 is $100 cheaper.
  • EarthQuake
    evad310 wrote: »
    Just a quick reference DoF comment by Earthquake. That link is a picture that I took and directs you to my photostream on flickr. The aperture used for that shot was f8.0, which will keep more of the scene in focus. Had I used f2.0, the people in the background would have been blurred, as the bokeh is quite nice with that camera. While I don't have any shots uploaded at the wide f2.0 setting, I can assure you that the DoF is fantastic and the low aperture! I actually just picked up the S95, which has identical amazing quality!!

    That is good to know, I would like to see some more examples of the bokeh if you've got them. From everything I understand about compact P&S cameras and the distance from lens to sensor, I thought dSLR style bokeh simple wasn't possible on a P&S.
  • sampson
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    sampson polycounter lvl 9
    Hey guys - i was wondering if i could import cameras from the us to australia and it would work fine? Do you guys use the same batteries and stuff? The only problem i could think of would be recharging the battery was we have different power.
  • EarthQuake
    You'll be able to either A. buy an adapter for your charger or B. buy a charger that is made for AU.
  • sampson
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    sampson polycounter lvl 9
    Alright cool prices here seem to be relatively inflated. EQ - Any reccomended point and shoot that you know of?. Can't take DSLRs into music gigs and need a good point and shoot. Image quality is main priority (esp low light) followed by zoom

    (thanks for below link didn't want to post again)

    ...leaning towards s95
  • Rick Stirling
  • poopinmymouth
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    poopinmymouth polycounter lvl 17
    If you really want a point and shoot, don't consider anything but the Canon s90 or s95.
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