Camera Shopping

I want to move up.  I love my point and shoot,  a Sony HX5V,  which I still intend to use as my “in my pack” camera.  But I’m tired of grainy low light pictures from family gatherings.  I think my waterscapes are improving to the point where they merit a better sensor as well. (Shut up. They are improving.)  So,  I’m shopping for an entry to mid-range DSLR.  Here is where I stand in my thought process so far.

I prefer to have image stabilization (IS) in the camera’s body versus having to pay for it in each lens.  Pentax and Sony are the only major brands with IS in the body.  I personally prefer the picture quality (PQ) from a Sony but that is uber-subjective.  The downside of body-side IS is that the load on the CPU can cause the body to overheat.  For lens-side IS,  I like the Sony NEX-series and Nikon D5100.  But again,  I prefer the Sony PQ.

Part of my decision is dependent on the quality and variety of lenses available for the camera.  Peter West Carey recommends these lenses:

  • 18-200 or 300 for the single lens traveler (12-195 on APS-C)
  • 85-105 for portraiture (55-68 on APS-C)
  • 60 or 105 for macro (39 or 68 on APS-C)
  • 70-200mm/f2.8 for weddings (45-130 on APS-C) plus 24-70mm for wide shots (16-45mm on APS-C)
  • 300mm with as fast a lens as you can afford for kids sports (195mm on APS-C)

I’m guessing no one is going to trust me to take their wedding pictures.  I do a lot of travel photography,  party pictures (low light),   and water-sports pictures (back light).

My two top camera choices

$1400:   NEX-C3(orNEX-5) with 16mm/f2.8 ($600) plus the $800 75-200mm.  The sensor is the same in the C3 as the 5 but it has more megapixels for the stills.  The C3 shoots 720/30p video versus the 1080/60i of the NEX-5.

$1480: A55 ($750) with 18-250mm/f3.5-6.3 ($580) plus the 50mm/f1.8 ($150)

The $450 Sony HX100V bridge camera sports a nicely bright (f2.8) wide angle lens and 30x zoom (35mm equivalent 27-810mm).  It also has one of the larger sensors in a bridge camera.  I think it is the largest in a superzoom.  However,  the sensor is tiny compared to a DSLR  One still has the control of Manual,  Aperture Priority,  and Shutter Priority modes.   I think it would make a great companion camera to a DSLR.  But I think I really want the better DSLR sensor.

Points of Consideration:

I like the video capacity (29 minutes at a stretch) of the NEX but I have a serviceable video camera so that won’t be the deciding criteria.  The NEX is actually beautiful.   I love the way both the body and the lenses look. The lens selection is limited but they have the ones I want except the macro which is due out in October.  Happily the minimum focus distance on the telephoto lens is 12″ (0.3m).  The focus ring action is very smooth relative to the “catchy” ring on the a55.  Sadly there is no 50mm/f1.8 unless I get the $200 lens adapter.  (“Attaching Sony A-mount lens requires LA-EA1 adaptor (sold separately). Manual focus and full open aperture shooting only.”)  The 16mm lens is reasonably fast (f2.8),  but some users report distortion at the edges typical of a wide angle kit lens.  It also has an optional $200 optical view finder and $130 external stereo microphone.  To trick this baby out puts the price close to $2,000.

The a55 has very similar specifications including weight.  (The body is heavier but the lenses are lighter.)  The a55 has a much greater selection of lenses including Minolta Konica.  I like the physical knob for mode selection.  The viewfineder on the a55 would be great in bright conditions or underwater.  The 50mm/f1.8 lens would be awesome for family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas as well as for dinner parties.  My two favorite types of pictures are the opposite extremes,  low light parties and backlit beach and lake scenes.  Sadly the maximum video clip with IS is only 9 minutes due to overheating issues,  but at least it is 1080p at 30fps.   She seems like a great camera,  but also like the homely best friend to the sexy NEX cameras.

I’ve done my homework,  but I’m open to advice. Any recommendations?

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