The Bridge Camera Advantage
From the previous article we have established that there are a good many cameras that are available to those who seek a slightly better to much better range of cameras in the sub $1000.00 range.
If you live in a country that uses US dollars, then the buying threshold will no doubt be different.
For those of us living in the Australasia/Pacific region it depends a great deal more on exchange rates.
This is where the bridge cameras come into their own. Rather than opt for a DSLR kit you get arguably a more useful tool with the bridge camera. This is due primarily to their having large focal length good quality lenses and a large range of controls. Another advantage of the bridge camera ( although less so now) is having live view. Simply put live view allows you to see the subject on the rear LCD screen as you compose and take the photo. I tested the Nikon d3000 earlier this year and was thinking of buying it as its a good entry level DSLR. However it didn't have live view so I didn't buy it. At the time it was on special for $849.00NZ. As it turns out it was superceeded by the D3100 a month later which did have live view.
For those of us here in New Zealand who want good quality cameras $1000.00 is going to be pretty well the upper limit for a camera as the average family budget in todays economy would be stretched at higher price tags. The good news of coarse is that you can get an awful lot of camera for the money in this price range.
DSLR's On A Budget
There are now a lot of good quality "Entry Level" DSLR's on the market today. The starting price point is now beginning to rival the bridge camera market prices so the enthusiast and serious amateur is inundated with a vast array of cameras and equipment. This adds to the confusion level for a good many people when they approach a store that sells cameras. In todays large department stores there is a large range to choose from but sadly more often you are dealing with a sales person who is more interested in the sale than what the customer wants. Very few department store personnel that I have dealt with have even a good basic knowledge of cameras and photography.
This makes sorting out a good camera a minefield for those less experienced with DSLR cameras. You could deal with a specialist photography store, whose staff generally "know their stuff" and the buying process is a lot more relaxed. The down side of doing this can be higher prices as these stores typically dont buy in bulk, therefore dont have as much leeway in their prices for discounting.
I would recommend that once you have decided on what type of camera you want , buy it from the department store, making sure it has a good warranty, and purchase sundry items, such as lens hoods, filters, flash units etc from your local photography store. This helps both your budget and the specialty store as well. As consumers we need to ensure that we help our local stores, specialized items and service are never readily available from a department store. Once the department store has your money they have no further interest in you. The specialty store however will build a relationship over time that you can rely on for quality service.
So what exactly is an "Entry Level DSLR"?
In the simplest terms it is the cheapest DSLR camera with a lens that you can buy. As with the rest of this article all prices will be in New Zealand dollars. Thats one camera body and one basic lens. Doesn't sound like much does it?
Sony Alpha 290 with standard 18-55mm lens is available for $736.00NZ. This is about as entry level as you can get. How ever it is not a camera I would suggest you buy as there is no live view of tilt-able LCD. On a modern DSLR these two items are pretty well a must. Its bigger brother the Sony Alpha 390 does have these options and is available for $1048.00NZ
Olympus e-450 is a petite 10 mega pixel DSLR offering a large array of functionality. At $798.00NZ it offers good economy. The standard lens it comes with is the 14-42mm unit. A little on the small side compared to its rivals. If you are looking for a camera that doesn't take up a lot of room this could be the one.
Pentax K-x comes with the standard 18-55mm lens, offers high performance, including HD video. Priced at $999.00 it is a little more costly, but the added functionality found in the Pentax makes this a superb entry level camera. It sports the Highly Recommended award from DPreview.com, which is a very good rating for an entry level DSLR
Panasonic DMC-G1 sporting 1080p HD video, priced at $899.00NZ with a 14-45mm lens as standard, is the new kid on the block from Panasonic's, Lumix brand DSLR.
Nikon d3100 is known as one of the very best entry level DSLR's available today. It sports a very useful feature set and comes with the standard Nikon 18-55mm lens. At $1080.00 NZ it is a little more expensive than the others, but is still well within budget levels.
Canon EOS 1000D. Possibly the most popular entry level DSLR in Australasia today. Its pricing and performance levels are excellent. The 1000D is currently on sale by some retailers at $998.00NZ. This includes two lenses, the standard 18-55mm unit and the 75-300mm unit, making this camera the bargain of the year in entry level DSLR's.
So what does this tells us? Certainly that there has in the past 12 months (mostly likely generated by recession pressure) been a sharp downturn in the cost of entry level DSLR cameras. This is very good for the consumer as it brings what was perceived as Pro level cameras into the mainstream camera market. For those on a budget with a ceiling of $1500.00 NZ the range of entry level and low priced mid level DSLR's available is nothing short of excellent. The main criteria after price for buyers will be simply who has the best range of features that is most useful and what each camera has to offer in ergonomics, such as tilt-able LCD's, Live View etc.
So as 2010 draws to a close the future looks good for the new camera buyer whatever their price point and requirements maybe. One can only wonder as to what manufactures will dream up for future models and what changing user requirements may demand.
In Photography on a budget part 3, we will examine another area of budget level photography often overlooked.