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back to article Best Buys: Budget DSLR Cameras

If you shop around you won’t have to try too hard to find deals around £100 cheaper than the manufacturer prices quoted here. Moreover, even at the budget end of the market, there really does appear to be something for everyone. DSLR Group Test The Olympus E-450 is a fast shooter and very pocketable too. However, the storage …

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"Relying on AA batteries is a mixed blessing"

But with two big pluses:

a) you can leave standard AA batteries in the camera and it will stay charged and ready to go, whereas all rechargeables leak their charge away over (typically) a few days.

b) if you run out of battery power, AAs are ubiquitously available at sensible prices - whereas rechargeables require a specialist shop (and charging before use, of course).

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"..a mixed blessing" - the flip side

NiMH rechargeables leak away over months, not days (unless there is considerable standby drain from the equipment they are used in).

Newer NiMH rechargables are also low-leakage, which means they lose a small fraction of their charge over literally years. Sanyo Eneloop is one common example; they also come pre-charged.

NiMH kick ass over alkalines with high current appliances, such as cameras. A good 2.5AH NiMH will yield a good 2.0AH with a drain of 1 amp. Duracell alkaline equivalent (2.2AH) will yield only 0.7AH under the same conditions.

Prices of low leakage NiMH aren't as competitive as alkalines, but they are at least as good in every way and offer a sensible long-term investment (compared to hundreds of sets of alkalines).

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Coat

AA = good

Yes, I know a lot of folk say they want smaller batteries and/or bigger capacity, but I greatly miss the use of the AA cells for things. For example, my flash gun takes AA, my (old) GPS takes AA, and would much rather my Nikon camera took them as well.

Who really wants to take half a dozen different chargers on a trip? And why can't they get together and have a single charging system, ideally taking a laptop into account as well.

Jacket with big pockets for all those damn chargers & spare batteries :(

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Another AA advantage

If you also have an add-on flash unit, it typically will use AA cells. Dedicated battery for the camera = dedicated charger for the camera battery. AA rechargeables for your flash as well means now you need two chargers. But if the camera can use the same rechargeables as the flash, that's one less charger to lug around on your travels.

Stick with Eneloops or other hybrid-type NiMH batteries and self-discharge is a non-issue. Keep a set of those lithium AAs in the bag as an emergency fallback. Alkalines don't do so well in these type of applications.

I think Pentax got it (nearly) right with the just-announced K-r which uses a dedicated Li-ion battery but has an optional holder to use AA cells. The (nearly) is because it looks to be a separate item instead of coming with the camera.

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NiMH kick ass over alkalines

That's true, but if you need power in a hurry then Li-ion AAs are much more common now than they used to be and deliver consistent power over very long periods. I concur with the comments here, AA is a great format and it's the ultimate convenience if you are on a prolonged trip to be able to pick up a new charge without having to carry around a lot of extra baggage - camera and lens bags are already quite heavy enough.

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Not so sure about that.....

On my last two week holiday, I took 3000 pics and four, 4Gb videos and my 7D lost one of it's 3 blobs, to be fair that is using a twin battery grip (and the grip can take an AA magazine if needs be, which is the best compromise), same was true for my 400d, lots of battery life, and would hold it's charge for weeks, so maybe you're thinking about old technology (NiCd?).

I know it's not really a budget camera, but if you want what an SLR can do for you then the Canon 550D is really fantastic for the money (kit for around £650, so a notch up from budget), however you get 18 megapixel, Full HD video (on SLR glass is amazing, and an SD 640x480 mode which is great for you tube etc.), 6400ISO sensitivity (with noisy 12800 boost if you must), nearly 4fps, you also have a metal body, 3" screen (4x as many dots too), there's also better metering (4 modes), wider bracketing (5Ev).

Basically you get a cut down 7D when you buy a 550D (for less than half the price, although the 7D has mag body, weather sealing and 8fps), if you're thinking of spending £500 on a DSLR, then spend £650 and get a 550D it is far more future-proof, and if video is your thing, ditch the standard zoom and get a 50mm F1.8, it's cheap as chips and the video quality on that lens will blow you away.

Good article, but not so clear on price/perfomance and other options.

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NiMH (and Li-Ion can) kick ass over alkalines

It is true that Li-ion AA are also capable of delivering great power with great capacity and low leakage. However, they are 3V cells and one of these must replace 2AA cells. This can been done (CR-V3), but some portable appliances that take AA cannot physically accept the Li-ion configuration. My flash doesn't.

Of course, this is an issue with the mechanics of the appliance, not the batteries themselves.

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Not true

AA batteries are completely useless in a DSLR camera, expensive and wont last long, I have a Nikon D90 and my Lithium batteries hold their charge for weeks

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One thing to keep in mind if you're new to SLRs

Sorry if this rehashes too much from the article...

Lenses are a *big* part of the image quality (IQ). In many ways they're more important than the back. When looking at the test images there are certain things that will always be consistent with a given back (ISO performance, white balance) but most of what people think of when they think of IQ (depth of field, bokeh, color rendition, sharpness) is either directly or in large part due to the lens.

So with the test images, keep in mind that if you're only planning on keeping the kit lens these are what your images will look like... but if you throw a prime, or a soft focus lens, or a macro lens on you'll be able to do some really wild stuff and get some great images (if you know what you're doing of course) even with one of these cheap backs.

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Yes (and no)

While some of the things you say are true, and this was almost completely true with film, but the back is now more important that it has ever been, pixel count (and density, APS-C vs FF), auto ISO, noise reduction and automatic vignetting correction, AF accuracy (and speed), not forgetting video modes and FPS all add up.

Standard kit lenses are the best they have ever been (some with built in stabilisation), the glass is critical to the quality, BUT the standard glass is very good, a cheap kit lens will produce outstanding results used in the right way and an expensive lens with produce rubbish used in the wrong way.

Notwithstanding, don't forget the post-processing possible, automatic adjustment for CA and distortion depending on lens used, and it's trivial to blur a background after masking your subject, fake bokeh can look identical to even the trained eye.

My 70-200mm 2.8L IS is fantastic, but a cheap 55-250mm will produce superb pics if used well (and better than my 70-200mm used badly), same is true for a kit lens with a £20 extension tube compared to a £700 L macro.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, while your comments are generally true, it's not as important as all that, so don't get hung up on expensive glass.

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Happy

Not much disagreement here

I might have sounded like it, but I'm not a lens/kit snob I swear it! I guess at the end of it all, there were really two points (not hard and fast of course) I was trying to get at:

1.) The SLR system is made for interchangeable lenses. A lot of people don't take advantage of that, just like they don't take advantage of Manual/Program modes vs. the Automatic settings.

2.) You don't have to break the bank to use non-kit glass. The cheap little Canon 50m F1.8 (new for £77.44 on Amazon), for example, can do some really neat things when it comes to low light and defocus (bokeh). You can also rent glass from a number of providers.

All that said, and finally to your point... knowing your equipment and how to use it rules all else and you don't need the latest/greatest/biggest/baddest of everything to make a good picture.

A camera system is like a set of chef knives - buying a really expensive set will not make you a great chef... especially if you don't really know how to use that paring knife, boning knife, etc.

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... it is the issue of image quality that has been a priority in this group test

So you selected the Nikon D3000 then ... did you actually look at the pics that you posted? The Nikon's performance at ISO 200 is very ugly with poor colour handling and focus - significantly worse than the Olympus. That said, the situation reverses at 1600 but that's a pretty sterile speed to be using for most applications.

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Another AA good post...an a plus for the K-x

I bought the Pentax K-x after I read the review on the Reg a few months ago, the deciding feature being its use of AA cells. All my cameras (a venerable Konica-Minolta Z3, and a fairly aged Nikon Coolpix L16) have run off AA cells, simply due to their universal availability. The camera can manage 1500+ frames off a set of NiMHs (3.99 from 7day shop), and about 650+ off a set of alkalis, which I find more than adequate.

The camera cost me then 400 pounds, and included a 16GB SD card (amazon), and I've been extremely pleased with my choice - its low light capabilities seem to be exceptional in its class, and it's dainty frame makes it extremely portable.

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Pentax K-x

As an owner of a Pentax film SLR (Super-A) and a few nice Pentax 35mm lenses I've been following the evolution of Pentax DSLRs closely. This one seems quite nice. Can someone explain what using a manual focus lens on one of these cameras actually entails? I gather you first focus manually and the camera turns on some indicator in the viewfinder when the center is in focus?

With older A-lenses the camera should be able to control the lens aperture automatically but I have a few Pentax-M-lenses, a nice 85mm f/2 and a 40mm 'pancake' and with these one has to resort to 'stop down metering'. Is this just a matter of focusing with the full aperture and then setting the aperture from the lense or do I need to press a separate button to stop down the lens?

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Answers fron a Pentax DSLR owner

1. That's about it.. There's a focus indicator should you need it though Pentax DSLRs tend to have pretty good viewfinders and you can always buy third party screens with microprism/split prism focusing aids.

2. Pentax M lenses stop down to meter and stop down to shoot on modern cameras so you don't get fully auto exposure but you don't need to bother fiddling with the aperture ring that's only for screw-mount lenses if you want to be really old school.

Or you could buy a Canon and sell me the 85mm lens (I already have the pancake!). Seriously, old Pentax glass fetches a good price these days since it's both high quality and very usable. Your lenses have probably doubled or tripled their value in the last few years.

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