I thought I would share with you the findings, of my hours upon end of research conducted, in order to choose the most perfect camera for me! The holidays will be here before you know it...so you better start making your list!
Let me start by telling you all how difficult it is to sort through the reviews of biased individuals out there. It would seem that there is a definite split between camps of camera guru's and they divide almost equally down the middle between Canon and Nikon. BUT....that isn't to suggest that there aren't other options out there that aren't entirely viable as well! I learned a lot in the research process about how cameras work and what the terminology is for the functions that are important. It was an exhaustive process, but one I took on out of joy for the fact that they end result was a brand new beauty for me to use!
Let's begin by talking about the 3 main contenders for my particular price range and their associated prices (in no particular order):
Please note I am including prices on kits that included a lens (18-55mm) because honestly what the heck would I do with just the body...?
1. Sony A560L - $749
2. Nikon D5000 - $699
3. Cannon EOS T1i - $749
I have included pictures from each angle above so that you might have an understanding of what each camera looks like and how it compares to the other options.
After reading dozens and dozens of reviews, I came to the conclusion that while there is a lot to be said for each of these cameras, the differences boil down to only a few basic things. So I am going to share them with you, and hope you will know that my list only shares the major notable differences and doesn't include ALL of the wonderous things each camera will do, because they all have SOME similar functionality, so why split hairs...let's get down to the knitty gritty!
First I am going to talk about certain features that are important and list the best producer in each category. Then I may follow that up with a few notes on each camera and my general opinion on the cost benefit.
Megapixels: This is important for shot clarity. The higher the number of megapixels, generally the more clear and optimal your shots will be. This also into how large you can blow up an image before it pixelates and looks less than stellar.
Canon takes the cake here with 15.1 MP and has a definite lead on the competitors in photo clarity. They all take fabulous photos so this is only a selling point if it is worth it to you to pay the higher price for this. Both Sony and Nikon do take amazing shots, so how you will weigh this will depend on your particular needs.
ISO & Noise Reduction: This refers to light sensitivity. In a situation with low light where a flash can't be used to correct and properly expose your shot you would most likely increase your ISO. However this comes with a bit of a compromise on quality in that while it allows you to shoot in low light situations it tends to add "noise" to your shots which is another way to say...it makes them grainy. A camera claiming to have high ISO ranges available is great except that while it allows the shot to occur, it doesn't necessarily make that shot a good one that is clear and sharp. Sometimes having something is pointless if you can't have it work well while using it. This seems to be the case with the Sony that claims wide ranges of ISO settings..
Nikon takes the prize for low light shooting with the best noise reduction out of the group. Sony offers the widest range of ISO settings, but really I'm not sure why that is a benefit if they haven't perfected their Noise Reduction to the level of the Nikon. To help with noise reduction there are a few tricks to be learned, but they aren't easy if you are a novice, and still they seem to flatten the image a bit when edited.
User Friendliness: Each of the cameras above has live view for those of us accustomed to digital camera lcd screens, to help us with our shots. They all also shoot video in HD and SOny & Nikon have articulated or adjustable LCD screens on the back for filming or shooting those over the head shots or waist high candids. They all offer on-screen menu options for adjusting shots and adding effects etc. Sony & Nikon seem to offer the largest number of fun effects, but all 3 are close in the race and so you won't be missing out on features by choosing one over the other, at least not by much.
Sony seems to offer the most user friendly camera out of the bunch. Period...the menu design and one touch buttons on the camera body, make adjusting the aperture or ISO an easy one or 2 touch process. The Nikon and Canon are both a little more cumbersome in this area, for example requiring something akin to a 13 step toggle through the menu to adjust settings for your shots. With Nikon and Sony offering the most interesting and versatile features, having them be easy to access and maneuver around seems like a pretty important thing!
HD Video capability: All 3 have this, and while this wasn't the most crucial factor for me since I am not even sure I have the ability to watch something in HD, I like having both camera and video in one machine Since I frequently switch back and forth between the 2 for recording my little guy. Sometimes in the middle of photo shooting, he is doing something cute that needs to be captured with audio. So, I am glad to have the option.
Sony and Canon definitely excel in this area, with Sony I believe being the slight front runner. If this is important to you, I feel as though you will have good quality in any of the 3 however Sony seems to have the most technologically advanced features in this category. Nikon is sure to catch up in some of the future camera releases, but for the present...Sony all the way and Canon a close 2nd.
Speed: When I am talking about speed here, I am actually referring to how quickly the camera will set up and take the shot as well as how many frames per second the cameras will shoot.
They all talk about how many frames per second they can shoot and the Sony is the highest of the bunch coming in at 7fps, this makes it an ideal choice for folks trying to capture small bumbling children or sporting events. Not only does it shoot continuously the fastest, but it sets up for the shot and takes it faster than both of the others. If speed is a concern for you, this is an ideal choice by far.
Features: This includes all of the fun stuff in addition to the "pro photographer" capabilities and editing.
This is a close tie between Sony and Nikon. Sony has a few more options than Nikon, but Nikon offering a few extra pro features that include on screen image editing like perspective control which I plan to use a lot, since I will be shooting Architectural and interior images. They both feature fun image settings like sunset, b&w etc. Sony also has a 3d panoramic option which allows you to capture a series of images to create a sweeping panorama! cooooool! Both Sony and Nikon have the articulating LCD screens on back allowing you to shoot at odd angles and still view the screen while also allowing the screen to flip inward and remain protected while not in use.
Body Style: This is all about how the cameras feel to hold and grip. Before I even knew this was something that even pros concern themselves with, I went out to a few stores and picked each of these cameras up and held it to see how they felt in my hands. Were they heavy? light? good hand hold grips? Cheap feeling? etc..
Nikon is the leader in this category by leaps and bounds...though honestly the Sony is a close second in my opinion. Of the 3 I loved the size of the grip on the Nikon and how the controls and lens was situated on this camera much more than the other 2. But If I was choosing a second place winner it would be the Sony for sure. I just didn't' love the way the Canon felt. I have very small hands (child like really) and if the grip felt small and undersized or wonky to me, I can't imagine how it would feel to say a grown man...However, all of the reviews suggest that this is probably something you learn to live with since it is only important to the person who will spend days/hours/weeks on end behind their camera, and most likely if that is you, you will not be searching in this camera buying level, you will be buying really really expensive cameras and they might be entirely different! I wouldn't know...
Stability: Every one of these cameras has an image stabilizer.
Sony has this feature built into the camera body...translation...since both the Nikon and Canon add this to the Lens, you are only able to use modern digital lenses on these cameras. If you have collected lenses for Film Cameras, you are out of luck and must begin again at a great expense! BUT, the Sony with it's in camera stabilizer, allows for the use of older lenses and even Minolta lenses etc. So, for example, the camera bag that is sitting on my piano as decor, which I now know has older lenses in it (I thought that sucker was empty!) could have been used on a new Sony Camera, if I had gone that route....insert wailing cry here...
You can spend a small fortune on lenses alone...consider this when choosing your camera.
Well I have to be honest here...and I know any of you die-hards out there will fuhreeeak when I say this...but this camera seems to be an all around fabulous buy. It is comparable to the Nikon in all of the fun features it has, is the fastest of the group by a lot, user friendly, and has a nice and comfortable body style. It has the greatest HD video capability and fabulous clarity of shots and is hands down the fastest of all 3 cameras. More expensive than the Nikon, but deal are out there to be found. In Camera Image stability means that older lenses and Minolta lenses can be used on this guy! That could really save you a bundle.
Best functioning in low light situations, least noise visible, can even shoot well in evening outdoor environments (like parties). Has a large number of features and functions that span both amateur and pro editing requirements. This is the least expensive of all 3 cameras and has the articulating LCD Screen and fabulous clarity of shot. I chose this camera because I tend to find myself in low light situations most frequently and find that to be my Achilles heal so to speak. Not to mention, I am familiar with Nikon SLR cameras from my days in College and High School Photo Classes and much preferred the $609 price tag I managed to score at an online shop! Can't beat that...and so there you have it.
Canon EOS T1i:
Best shot clarity and great HD Video capabilities. Not the greatest comfort in hand grip and holding, doesn't have articulating LCD screen, and generally coming in at the most expensive, my thought on this guy is that it isn't the best buy out of the group unless you can find a screamin deal on price with a lens included and that it might be worth it to wait and buy the next level up for this price point...or buy a different camera? If shot clarity is the most important factor to you (keep in mind they all take amazing photos, and the differences will be minute to you unless you are a pro...which again, means you won't be choosing from these options, you will not even notice) and it is worth the extra $150-$200 difference, then by all means...buy away!