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Help "my friend" choose a camera

March 23, 2009

My friend asks…

I would really like to get a DSLR camera, possibly before going to South Africa so that I could take some amazing photos of all those animals. Is that a wise thing to do given that…

  1. I won’t have electricity to charge the battery (possible solutions are to take loads of batteries or charge from a vehicle but I’m not sure if the second option is feasible)
  2. Its gonna be hot, humid and possibly raining a lot – or dusty. And I’m going to be living in a tent. I could spend all that money on a pimping new camera only to ruin it.

But there would be no shutter lag and I could get some amazing shots.

Hmm… I’ve been having a little dig around and have found this Nikon and this Canon deal.

What do you think?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2009 3:30 pm


    1. If you’re going for a month, then you’d need a few batteries if you weren’t going to charge them. I think you can get car chargers that would work.

    Not sure how long they would take to charge though. You’d probably want a couple of batteries anyway.

    2. Weather is a problem. The cameras you are looking at aren’t pro models so they don’t have the weather sealing of the pro models. I wouldn’t want to get my Nikon wet, and if its very dusty you don’t want to be changing lenses too often, so you’d probably want quite a versatile lens. The Nikon twin lens kit has a 70mm-300m tamron lens which would be good for wildlife.

    I’m a Nikon person :-), so I’d go for the Nikon bundle. Get a decent bag with padding and water-proofing, and be very careful with the weather. But don’t blame me if you break it….

  2. March 23, 2009 3:56 pm

    Shutter lag is something to look out for but bear in mind that you probably also care about the time to focus and meter.

    I have the Canon 400D (the older version of what Dan has linked to above) and I think it’s great.

    If you get a DSLR, changing lenses is a pain so I’d just get/take the one lens while you’re still learning the camera anyway. The standard 18-55mm lenses that come with most kits are pretty good all-rounders. I’ve heard that the image stabilisation they’re chucking in these things now can drink the battery juice though.

    If you get a DSLR, stick to Nikon, Canon or Sony as these have the best range of lenses/accessories etc. You’ll have to pick which one is best for you, but there’s not much between them so I wouldn’t stress too much.

    If you get a point-and-shoot the Canon G10 looks amazing and is £372 at John Lewis at the moment. It is just like a little SLR and gives you all the same controls. I’d quite like one of these myself because it has a hot shoe for flashes and would work nicely with my Canon flash. Karen has a Panasonic Lumix TZ5 and has taken some amazing photos almost entirely on auto modes. It has more zoom range than you’d ever need and shoots decent HD video. Personally, I find it annoying to use because I can never work out how to get manual control over the thing, but to be honest, the auto modes seem to be better than my judgement most of the time anyway

    I’ve got no stats to back me up, but in my experience, DSLR batteries last a lot longer that the ones in compact cameras. I presume it’s because the batteries are bigger and the screen isn’t on as much, but that’s just a guess. I’d buy a spare or two if you can. I bought a spare battery from gadgetinfinity (Hong Kong I think) and although it wasn’t a real Canon battery, it works ok and was dead cheap. (well, cheaper than making a solar panel)

    If you spend quite a bit, get special insurance that’ll cover your camera gear, you don’t want to spend all your time worrying about the thing, you’re there to have fun.

    It’s taken me 2 years to get used to controlling my camera and I still don’t know it 100%. Whatever you do, make sure you have enough time to take loads of pictures in different situations before you go to get used to it.

  3. March 24, 2009 8:05 am

    Don’t listen to those fools. You know that they’re only trying to push you into getting an DSLR because they made that mistake, and they’re hoping that if you do too it won’t make them look so stupid. And you know I’m saying that as a DSLR owner myself.

    I went on the Jessops website and used the camera selector to find compact that (a) shot in RAW, and (b) took AA batteries. No wonder John Lewis has the Canon G10 on the cheap – who wants one of those when you can have the SX1 IS? It’s everything the G10 is, plus it runs off 4xAA batteries! Have an look on the Canon Products Comparison page (click on PowerShot) and see for yourself.


    • Don’t get an SLR
    • Do get something with a hotshoe
    • Do get a Canon
    • Don’t get something with proprietary batteries
    • Do take lots and lots and lots of photos.

    Oh, and…

    • Don’t listen to us. If our flickr activity is anything to go by, we can’t even call ourselves enthusiastic amateurs.
  4. March 24, 2009 9:56 am

    Dan’s right, don’t listen to us, we’re idiots.
    The SX1 IS looks like a good camera but I wouldn’t say it’s everything the G10 is, although it is close.
    SX1 IS pros:

    Better zoom
    AA batteries
    HD video

    G10 pros:

    Better screen
    Significantly smaller & lighter
    Better sensor (more megapixels may help make up for that reduced zoom)
    Sexier than the other camera (that’s just my opinion)

    For your needs on your travels, the SX1 IS is probably the better camera, but they’re both a lot of money. Personally, I’d go for the G10 because it’s small enough to stick in your handbag on nights out and stuff for when you get back.

  5. March 24, 2009 10:24 am

    Matt’s stuck in the classic trap of “I once decided that this was the right thing to do, and now I’m loathe to change my mind”.

    Matt says he’d “go for the G10 because it’s small enough to stick in your handbag on nights out “. What would you rather have in your handbag; a small camera with flat batteries that you can’t take any photographs with, or a slightly bigger camera that takes off-the-shelf (or out-the-rucksack) AAs that is always good to go?

    Don’t forget that you’re not going on a photography trip (right?); you’ll have other things to carry and do besides take photos and change lenses and setup tripods and… You’ll want a camera that Just Works.

    Go to a shop and try out the SX1. There’s also an SX10, which is significantly cheaper, and it still very high spec. Or there are other PowerShot cameras that might be better; I’ve really only had a cursory glance round the Jessops/Canon website. But make a list of what you want, before you go to the shop, and base your decision on your list. To err is human, and to get carried away by sales talk and shiny new things and special offers and for you I give good price is human too.

    Start with a list of what you want to do, and from that come up with a list of what you’ll need to do it with. Think of all the RAP Club challenges; which ones did you enjoy? Which were the ones where you wished that you had feature X that Matt had or accessory Y that Jamie had?

    Once you’ve got those lists, post them both here, so that we can help check that (a) you haven’t missed anything, and that (b) the stuff you want will  help you do the things you want to do.

    …and as if my anti-DSLR viewpoint needed any further validation (which it doesn’t, because I always right, right?), on my way to work this morning, there was a lady in a car pulled up outside the MegaBus bus stop, taking a photo (with her digital compact) of the sunlight glinting off the new Colston Hall foyer. I can guarantee that neither Matt nor Jamie nor I would have had our DSLR on us in a similar situation and would have been able to take that shot – even if our cameras had been in the car, they would’ve been in the boot.*

    *I think that Matt’s boot is big enough for his DSLR. But not much else.

  6. April 30, 2009 2:55 am

    Based on the environmental considerations:

    Its gonna be hot, humid and possibly raining a lot – or dusty. And I’m going to be living in a tent. I could spend all that money on a pimping new camera only to ruin it.

    My recommendation would be either:

    One of the Olympus rugged / waterproof point & shoot cameras, or
    A Canon 40D, 50D or if you have the cash, a 5Dmk2 with environmentally sealed (L series) lenses.

    The first option is by far the cheaper one (a few hundred compared to at least $2k USD) and is almost certainly the better choice for your friend… The second option is really only there if he/she happens to be a very keen photographer (which I’m assuming they’re not since they don’t already have an appropriate camera to take 😉

    Of course I’m ignoring the battery considerations here, so you need to find out what’s possible there… I believe you can get solar powered chargers which may be a good backup for when electricity is unavailable… but it really depends on where exactly they’re going, and how often the electricity is available (if at all).

    If electricity is not an option, you could always convince them to pick up an old film SLR that won’t need batteries at all (; … just a few rolls of film… (at least 1 a day, but probably a few more than that) 😛

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