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04-18-2010, 09:00 PM   #1
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Best Body or Best Lens?

Hi everyone. I have a question to ponder.

Would buying a better camera give me better photos in terms of colour, contrast, resolution, sharpness?
Or would buying a better lens do that?

I know a better camera gives me more options to play with in terms of better ISO, flexibilities, bigger print size, wireless flash option, video capability, etc. But would it give better photo quality if the lens I use is average?

04-18-2010, 09:20 PM   #2
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My opinion and experience is that glass is more important. Great lenses will last 30+ years, will your dSLR body be around that long? Personally, spend the money on the glass first, then get a better body later if you need to.
04-18-2010, 09:28 PM   #3
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I can tell the difference between average and excellent lenses on my 5 year old, 6Mp DSLR. Lenses are more important, unless you absolutely need some body feature.
04-18-2010, 09:55 PM   #4
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I would agree with earlier posts that the lens(es) is(are) important. Your question is however possibly: what is the best trade-off/optimum? There is no simple answer in my opinion and everyone will have some different optimum configuration for a given budget.

As an example, I wanted WR and video, with good Hi continuous shooting capabilities. The market is limited and I went for the cheapest body: the K-7. In turn this allowed me to buy the few lenses that I needed. In this instance, colour, contrast, resolution, sharpness were not the key issues: most modern dSLRs have relatively similar characteristics.

Another issue is the hand feel for the camera body. You must select a camera that you will enjoy, that fits on your hands, with a weight and size that suits you .... It is not all about colour, contrast, resolution, sharpness...

Glass is important, but I would stress that the feel for the camera body is as important.

04-18-2010, 09:56 PM   #5
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If you are soliciting opinions, I'll offer mine. In general, a camera is just a box to hang the lens on that records the collected light. I'm usually fixed at ISO 100 and I process all of my own JPGs from RAW so second in my consideration would be the camera and how well the sensor records the information. After that, it's about the bells and whistles. I've had satisfactory to great results from all of my Pentax DSLRs (the only ones I have any experience with) so given the choice of a new body or a great lens, I'll take the glass every time. Neither will make me a better photographer but both will help me make great photos. In my humble opinion anyway..

04-18-2010, 10:08 PM   #6
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Sharpness - you want the best lens.
Everything else on your list - that's stuff you can deal with in PP (even with a simple preset you apply in bulk).
04-19-2010, 04:30 AM   #7
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A camera is a box to hang lenses upon. [That's MY mantra.] Lenses (except modern motorized crud that's destined to stop working before long) will long outlast any single camera, especially since new and better cameras come along all the time, and prime lens designs haven't advanced for awhile. For example, a good FA lens works (possibly without autofocus) on Pentax bodies made in 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2010 -- and probably into another couple generations, unless we all go 645. (Or we drop all this stuff and use 30mpx phone.cams.)

As I mentioned in a nearby thread, there's a prominent photographer and teacher (whose name I forget) who operates on the model of few lenses, several bodies. Maybe she's on the right track. Considering the relative prices of top-notch glass and decent bodies, that's not such a crazy paradigm. A few great Takumar screwmounts could be mounted on numerous Pentax, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Sigma, other dSLRs. Manual, of course, but otherwise, pick the feature set and resolution and rendition you want, get an adapter, migrate the lens(es) you know and love to that body, and go.

So, get glass that will help you make the pictures you're interested in. Then get a body you'll be happy with for awhile. All the hoo-haw about ISO, resolution, rendition, features -- that's mostly irrelevant, arguments about trivial differences. If you're aiming to make a living placing impeccable pictures in major markets, buy whatever it takes (and don't forget the lighting gear). If you're doing this for your own pleasure, don't sweat it. Learn to see, to react, to feel, to use light. Some of the most significant photos in history were shot with crappy gear and look like blurry blobs. The tools don't do the work -- YOU do the work.
04-19-2010, 03:35 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentaxie Quote
I know a better camera gives me more options to play with in terms of better ISO, flexibilities, bigger print size, wireless flash option, video capability, etc. But would it give better photo quality if the lens I use is average?
Absolutely not. If you put an average lens on the Nikon D3 and one of the FA limiteds on a Pentax K-x, the K-x would easily produce better quality images (as long as you weren't shooting at a high ISO).

When I upgraded from the *ist DL to the K200D, I noticed virtually no improvement in image quality. But when I upgrades from the kit lens to the 12-24, I was shocked at how much better my images were.

04-19-2010, 03:39 PM   #9
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If you constantly worry about which camera you want to get, and keep looking at newer ones that are better and have newer features and just plain look cooler, then you're never going to be happy with your photos. I know this from personal experience, all I ever do is go and buy new cameras and decide that I don't like them and then sell them and buy another one. The one thing that's really missing from all of that is the photos though. I'm so obsessed about which cameras to buy that I never even go out and take any photos with them, and when I do I realize that it doesn't even matter which camera you have because they basically take the same kind of photos. Lenses are also a problem, just get yourself some really good ones, and worry about that more than the camera that you're going to take photos with, and you should be happy if it's the photos that you really want to take and not the constant worry about not having the best camera for you and always wanting more or to keep getting different cameras. Just go out and take some photos instead.
04-19-2010, 04:45 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Pentaxie Quote
But would it give better photo quality if the lens I use is average?
No. Just get an old body for a couple hundred bucks, say a K100D Super. It's fantastic for the price. Buy two sets of Eneloop batteries. Put some bubble wrap in whatever bag you already use. Maybe think about a tripod.

Then spend all the rest of your money on the single best piece of glass you can afford.

Next, practice like a demon and learn to be very critical. Read books, read the web, read your manual. Buy a second lens. Sell your TV. Learn how to get the best prints. Buy a third lens. Sell your car. Practice PhotoShop, Gimp, or your digital tool of choice. Buy a fourth lens. Take lots of photos that please your friends and family. Die happy.

04-19-2010, 05:44 PM   #11
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I love this advice. As for the body vs lens, I'm still using my ist DL. I used the ist DL and the kit 18-55 for the last five years. I used it to learn the basics of photography such as getting composition and exposure right straight out of the camera. I rarely spend any time in post processing other than some basic colour correction in the raw converter.

So what have I learned? Lack of bells and whistles and the limitations of such a basic old entry level camera have really forced me to learn more about photography. Now I've gone ahead and ordered a Sigma 70mm Macro and I can't wait to put it on my ist DL to see what I can do with it.

QuoteOriginally posted by rparmar Quote
No. Just get an old body for a couple hundred bucks, say a K100D Super. It's fantastic for the price. Buy two sets of Eneloop batteries. Put some bubble wrap in whatever bag you already use. Maybe think about a tripod.

Then spend all the rest of your money on the single best piece of glass you can afford.

Next, practice like a demon and learn to be very critical. Read books, read the web, read your manual. Buy a second lens. Sell your TV. Learn how to get the best prints. Buy a third lens. Sell your car. Practice PhotoShop, Gimp, or your digital tool of choice. Buy a fourth lens. Take lots of photos that please your friends and family. Die happy.

04-19-2010, 10:36 PM   #12
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Real photographers build their own equipment
04-20-2010, 01:10 AM   #13
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Since most of the other replies are in favor of better glass, I'll take the opposite point of view to make this thread more interesting.

Points:
1. April Outdoor Photographer has an article by George Lepp: High ISO Changes Everything. He points out that with some of the new high ISO cameras, that some photographers are finding out they can get by with buying their own F4 max telescopic lens rather than having to rent an expensive F2.8 lens, less weight, less cost, more DOF, etc via higher ISO

2. A few days ago, i was shooting an amateur play during the final dress rehearsal, with a guy whose camera shot at 3200 with ease. The quality of his images blew me away. Cameras like the Kx that have 3200 or higher ISO capability are more important than glass if your priority is low light situations. I will be selling a coupla of my lenses to pick up a Kx. I'm not at all against fine lenses, but the mantra of lenses always being more important dates back to film cameras. Newer ISO improvements offer many benefits.
04-20-2010, 01:13 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by philbaum Quote
Since all the other replies are in favor of better glass, I'll take the opposite point of view to make this thread more interesting.
Points:
1. April Outdoor Photographer has an article by George Lepp: High ISO Changes Everything. He points out that with some of the new high ISO cameras, that some photographers are finding out they can get by with buying their own F4 max telescopic lens rather than having to rent an expensive F2.8 lens, less weight, less cost, more DOF, etc via higher ISO
2. A few days ago, i was shooting an amateur play during the final dress rehearsal, with a guy whose camera shot at 3200 with ease. The quality of his images blew me away. Cameras like the Kx that have 3200 or higher ISO capability are more important than glass if your priority is low light situations. I will be selling a coupla of my lenses to pick up a Kx. I'm not at all against fine lenses, but the mantra of lenses always being more important dates back to film cameras. Newer ISO improvements offer many benefits.
Well honestly I don't like this argument, because it makes it sound more like before high ISO ability, people were never able to take good photos like they can now. That's just simply untrue, and the easier we make it for people to take more snapshots at ISO 12,800 and above, the less the photographer is going to be in touch with their camera, at least that's what I think about that.
04-20-2010, 01:40 AM   #15
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Philbaum makes an interesting point. If my K200D had better high iso perhaps I wouldn't have been so obsessed with picking up fast primes. That said, the primes were cheap and will outlive my K200D without doubt.

A good lens on a poorer camera is still more appealing than a poor lens on a good camera. Glass lasts, bodies pass. Well, that's my take on it at least.

Nevertheless, I know that my K200D and kit lens are still capable of greater images - it's me that's lacking.
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