What is an "entry level" dSLR?
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Old 06-09-2006   #1
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Default What is an "entry level" dSLR?

The question recently came up in this thread just what can be expected from an "entry-level" dSLR and who would be using one.

In recent history but before digital photography became affordable, most people who were truly interested in photography had little choice but to go with a 35mm SLR camera. There was little alternative. The cameras with noninterchangeable lenses were generally stuck with a brightness that may not have exceeded f/8 at the telephoto end and the cameras were stuck with parallax errors. This didn't make any real difference for shooting most of the stuff that beginning photographers would shoot, but it made a difference when it came to shooting in low light or with objects close to the lens.

Today, freedom from parallax errors is taken for granted. The monitor LCD can even go the film SLR one better: not only is the image taken from the same lens used for viewing, it is taken from the same photosensitive material as well. Zoom is also now pretty much taken for granted in all but the really "bare bones" entry level digitals and they have lenses that can typically do something like f/2.8-4.9 over their entire zoom range.

Given the existing state of the digital marketplace, are "entry level," i.e., beginning, photographers well-served by "entry-level" dSLRs? Should they be? What should we expect from an "entry-level" dSLR? What features/performance should it have? What photographers should it serve?

My own feeling is that the performance standards for even entry-level dSLRs are pretty high, which is just fine with me because I think beginning photographers would be better-served by smaller, lighter, less expensive, and less complicated cameras anyway. I think that even "entry-level" dSLRs should be marketed to people who have at least some experience with photography, I usually steer beginners away from these models.

What do you think?

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Old 06-09-2006   #2
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Default Re: What is an "entry level" dSLR?

Since I helped start this...

I think entry level DSLRs should be limited for sure. I'd say that they should top out at 6 or 8 MPs, and probably not be a full frame sensor. Probably be limited to 800 or 1600 on the ISO side too. And the shutter ought to be around 3 fps. JPG is a requirement, and RAW is okay. simple controls and easy menus are a must too.
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Old 06-09-2006   #3
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Default Re: What is an "entry level" dSLR?

I'd say any current model DSLR in the 5-8 Megapixel range that sells for under $1000 for the complete kit, including the standard lens (ranging from moderate wide ange to moderate telephoto) and a memory card of at least 1 GB. They will probably also have a built in pop-up flash.
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Old 06-09-2006   #4
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Default Re: What is an "entry level" dSLR?

Quote:
Originally Posted by dougjgreen
I'd say any current model DSLR in the 5-8 Megapixel range that sells for under $1000 for the complete kit, including the standard lens (ranging from moderate wide ange to moderate telephoto) and a memory card of at least 1 GB. They will probably also have a built in pop-up flash.
I basically agree except for the megapixel count. As long as it has all the other criteria you list, then the megapixel count (Sony A100) although larger, would surely qualify as entry level based upon the cost. There is nothing to make one believe, based upon the past that the megapixel count may not increase on all entry level cameras. I bought an entry level some time back at 3.2 MP with no idea that one day they would be 6 or 8 as the average size.
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Old 06-09-2006   #5
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Default Re: What is an "entry level" dSLR?

If a 11mp sensor is gonna cost $200 more, than slap an 8 in there. Work on the other features and stuff to make it more friendly. Going from a 6 or 8mp prosumer, up to the DSLR sized sensor at the same 8mp res will be huge enough improvment.

When you hit 12mp range, then you are talking a pro type deal (like how many "rookies" need a 20x30 print). Same with a full frame sensor to me.
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Old 06-09-2006   #6
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Default Re: What is an "entry level" dSLR?

Digital technology has created a revolution in photography. Camera features which were considered entry level 10 years ago would not be taken seriously today. To put it in anopther perspective, what would an "entry level" personal computer be today versus 10 years ago.

My own definition of entry level is one price point lower than the model I can afford to buy.
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Old 06-09-2006   #7
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Default Re: What is an "entry level" dSLR?

Entry level is the first rung on the DSLR food chain for any given brand. They usually have around 6 to 8 megapixels, a plastic housing, a pop up flash, pentamirror instead of pentaprism, 3 fps, and the automatic modes. Controls are designed for ease of use and are relatively simple. These cameras usually serve enthusiasts and may act as a back up for a pro's camera. Pricing is just a bit below $1,000.

And as for steering a beginner away from them, I did just that today. Someone asked me what she'd be getting herself into by switching to a DSLR. I explained the expense involved as well as the necessity for post processing, something that beginners often fail to realize until it's too late. The person who asked me said she's just going to stick with film and use a point and shoot for snapshots.
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Old 06-10-2006   #8
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Default Re: What is an "entry level" dSLR?

I understand where you are all coming from, I think, but in a way it is still amusing. Anybody remember the days when a digital camera with as many as 6 megapixels was considered top of the line and cost US$30,000? And imagers had crop factors more like 3x than 1.6x? Times have changed indeed!

I also found it interesting in the way the entry level models were sometimes defined as the features they had that presumably more advanced models may lack: on-camera flash, scene modes, with easy-to-use menus. If entry level means good ergonomics while a more advanced model does not, bring on the entry level model! Just as long as I don't have to give up anything I really want. Of course, this just means making the model friendly to less experienced photographers, which makes sense. Doug's concept of defining the entry level models by price is more in line with my own thinking: the entry level model needs to be relatively low in cost.

I also like Mr. Pickles' signature: "Shooting an old Canon D60...because having the best, doesn't mean you are." Can a pro be happy with the performance of an entry-level dSLR? I suppose it depends on the pro, but the surprise is that the answer isn't an unequivocal no.

So far, I am pretty satisfied with the performance of my "entry level" Canon 350D. It lacks a couple of features I wish it had, such as a true spot meter and a brighter, larger viewfinder, and weather sealing. Nevertheless, despite these limitations, I could get professional-quality results with this camera. Come to think of it, a pro could get good results from an "entry level" 35mm film camera body too, though getting good results from an "entry level" kit lens would be more limiting.

I suppose for me the "entry level" would be best defined as what it lacks: heavy-duty construction, weather sealing, field-interchangeable viewfinders, and perhaps a few other options. The full-frame imager would disqualify a model from being an entry model, at least for now, but for my kind of shooting I would prefer the smaller imager.

A pro might keep an entry level model around as an auxiliary or backup body but not the primary one because it couldn't stand up to the heavy use and inclement conditions a pro would put the primary body. An entry level camera, as currently conceived, would be capable enough for usage by intermediate or advanced amateurs and "pro-sumers" and would not be readily outgrown, though nothing in the "entry level" concept requires this.

Perhaps I should also define my terminology a bit more closely here.

A casual photographer is one who uses a camera mainly for documenting friends, family members, special events, and the like. The casual photographer has little or no interest in either the technical or the aesthetic aspects of photography and is probably unwilling to learn. This kind of photographer would be happy with a point and shoot and would prefer that the camera itself make the photographic decisions. Such a photographer would be uninterested in such refinements as depth of field or manual focus. Scene modes were invented to help such photographers tell their cameras what they want done. Such a photographer has no business owning a dSLR, even an entry level model, and would be much better advised to stay with a small, inexpensive point and shoot. The extra expense of manual controls would be wasted on such a photographer.

The beginning photographer is inexperienced and, like the casual photographer, knows little or nothing about the technical or aesthetic aspect of photography. The difference between the beginner and the casual photographer is one of attitude: the beginner is interested in photography as such; the casual photographer is not. The beginner wants to learn. Just this different mindset means a different kind of equipment is necessary. The beginner, if he is to learn the technical side of photography, will be needing manual overrides on his camera and will soon outgrow a point and shoot. The concept of reciprocity - complementary combinations of shutter speed and aperture - would be a concept the beginner must master to proceed, as would such basic aesthetic concepts as the rule of thirds and such techniques as controlling the depth of field and elementary lighting.

The photographer who is comfortable with manual exposure (and possibly focus) controls and can successfully operate a camera without automatic controls and scene modes and has learned the basics of aesthetics and lighting is ready to advance to the intermediate stage. This is the earliest stage at which a dSLR should be introduced, though a photographer might well go completely through the intermediate stage before needing one. A photographer at this level would expect some manual controls and would use them and would miss them if they weren't available on the equipment he used regularly. Although perhaps not consistently capable of taking good photos, the amateur would at least be able to look at a bad photo and be able to tell in a basic way what was wrong with it.

During this stage the photographer is developing and refining his artistic vision, increasing his technical prowess, and developing a preferred style and genre of photography. In a sense, the photographer specializes and proceeds to advanced status in only some fields of photography. Once the photographer can consistently deliver good - though not necessarily perfect - results in a chosen field, the photographer is ready for advanced status in that field. In other fields, he may remain an intermediate photographer.

The advanced photographer is likely to have acquired equipment peculiar to the chosen specialty: light stands, backgrounds, diffusers, and the like for studio photography, extra-long telephotos and especially fast-responding cameras and lenses for sports photography, medium or large-format cameras with lenses and specialized filters like a collection of ND grads for landscape photography, and so on, and to know what each piece of equipment is used for and to be able to use it effectively to take good photos.

The difference between amateur, semi-pro, and pro photographers isn't so much in their skill levels or in their equipment as in their attitudes toward photography and the equipment.

The pro may have fun at photography, but he is in it as a business. Much, though perhaps not all, of the pro's personal income derives from selling photography as a service to clients. In other words, the pro is in it for the money. The amateur is into photography as a hobby and has few or no clients to satisfy, though the amateur may sell the occasional print or take on an occasional project for money. The semipro is between the amateur and the pro, also taking on occasional photographic gigs, but the semipro differs from the amateur in actively looking for these opportunities. However, the semipro isn't as committed to photography as a business and doesn't derive a substantial part of his personal income from photography. In other words, the semipro is a pro photographer lite.
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Old 06-10-2006   #9
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Default Re: What is an "entry level" dSLR?

Quote:
Originally Posted by scoundrel1728
Perhaps I should also define my terminology a bit more closely here.
BRAVO!

One of if not the best definitions/explanations I have come across...

Thank you!

Kindest regards

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Old 06-14-2006   #10
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Default Re: What is an "entry level" dSLR?

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