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03-23-2008, 04:33 PM   #1
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New DSLR question...

I am very new to the whole DSLR game so please go easy with me here...

I am trying to determine the best camera for me between two cameras that I have chosen that I think I will grow with for a long time.

My background is strictly P&S. I have a Canon PS A540 that I have used for about a year and a half. Recently, I went down to watch a hockey game in AL and hung out with the team photographer who shoots with a Nikon D70s and a Sigma 70-200 f2.8 lens. I never used the M option on my P&S until he "showed me the light" so to speak! Ever since that weekend in Feb, I have been doing nothing but research on DSLR cameras. I am currently reading through Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson so that I can have some knowledge before I get my camera.

My intentions for the use of my new camera will be to have more control over the shots that I will be taking: landscapes, macro, minimal portraits, and some hockey photos from my seats. I have narrowed it down to two cameras: the Pentax K20D and the Nikon D80.

As an inexperienced user, I expect that there will be some (if not many) that will tell me to buy "less" of a camera, but that is not what I want. I want to be able to grow into my camera and its system. But I have been researching many, many, many sites and books, and magazines about each camera and now I am getting to the point where I am simply confusing myself about which camera system to actually buy into. Hence, the request for help.

As I see it, for me, the pros/cons of each after handling both (well, I actually held a K10D) at a local Ritz:

Pentax K20D
Pros:
*CMOS sensor
*body based IS (or SR as Pentax calls it)
*tough body to withstand just about anything thrown at it
*complete and total control over all picture taking
*live view mode for macro
*great hand feel though a little heavy
*dust reduction "stuff"
Cons:
*supposedly slow AF in low light conditions
*body based IS limitations - speaking here of zooms at the farthest end

Nikon D80
Pros:
*proven ability
*great ergonomic feel
*great local support
*supposed ease of use
*better pictures at higher ISO
Cons:
*lens based IS (potentially more costly than body based IS)
*CCD sensor
*"old" technology
*extra cost for Capture NX software

Now, I don't think that I can go wrong with either camera. My head is telling me to go with the Pentax. But for me, and what I can get, it IS more expensive. I can get the Nikon D80 with the 18-200 VR lens for $1188 through a personal purchase Nikon program for sales associates . The Pentax body alone costs more than that.

I've done the research. Both have about 3fps (which I may use for hockey shots) and both are well liked by many reviewers. Both feel great in my hands (K10D anyways). I like that the Pentax has the body based IS, though I've read numerous places that with teles, it is less than spectacular, and I will be using telephoto lenses for sure. The Pentax is rugged and proven (through the K10D). The Nikon has no live view and a smaller LCD, though the viewfinder is spectacular to say the least. The lens based IS is a downer for me though at this stage in my camera "career." Though it is probably better, it IS costlier for the consumer, especially us new people. And from everything I've read, the CMOS sensor is the way to go...

I'm sorry my post is soooo long, but I will be spending a lot of money (for me anyway) on this decision and I want some other opinions before laying that money out.

Thank you in advance for any helpful experiences that you can give to me.

03-23-2008, 04:39 PM   #2
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You've posted on a Pentax forum. Obviously my suggestion is to buy Pentax.
Never had any SR limitations with my Pentax cameras.
03-23-2008, 04:40 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by creampuff Quote
You've posted on a Pentax forum. Obviously my suggestion is to buy Pentax.
I understand that I've posted on a Pentax forum, but I was kind of hoping to get a little broader help than that...
03-23-2008, 04:52 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by willis Quote
I am very new to the whole DSLR game so please go easy with me here...

I am trying to determine the best camera for me between two cameras that I have chosen that I think I will grow with for a long time.

My background is strictly P&S. I have a Canon PS A540 that I have used for about a year and a half. Recently, I went down to watch a hockey game in AL and hung out with the team photographer who shoots with a Nikon D70s and a Sigma 70-200 f2.8 lens. I never used the M option on my P&S until he "showed me the light" so to speak! Ever since that weekend in Feb, I have been doing nothing but research on DSLR cameras. I am currently reading through Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson so that I can have some knowledge before I get my camera.

My intentions for the use of my new camera will be to have more control over the shots that I will be taking: landscapes, macro, minimal portraits, and some hockey photos from my seats. I have narrowed it down to two cameras: the Pentax K20D and the Nikon D80.

As an inexperienced user, I expect that there will be some (if not many) that will tell me to buy "less" of a camera, but that is not what I want. I want to be able to grow into my camera and its system. But I have been researching many, many, many sites and books, and magazines about each camera and now I am getting to the point where I am simply confusing myself about which camera system to actually buy into. Hence, the request for help.

As I see it, for me, the pros/cons of each after handling both (well, I actually held a K10D) at a local Ritz:

Pentax K20D
Pros:
*CMOS sensor
*body based IS (or SR as Pentax calls it)
*tough body to withstand just about anything thrown at it
*complete and total control over all picture taking
*live view mode for macro
*great hand feel though a little heavy
*dust reduction "stuff"
Cons:
*supposedly slow AF in low light conditions
*body based IS limitations - speaking here of zooms at the farthest end

Nikon D80
Pros:
*proven ability
*great ergonomic feel
*great local support
*supposed ease of use
*better pictures at higher ISO
Cons:
*lens based IS (potentially more costly than body based IS)
*CCD sensor
*"old" technology
*extra cost for Capture NX software

Now, I don't think that I can go wrong with either camera. My head is telling me to go with the Pentax. But for me, and what I can get, it IS more expensive. I can get the Nikon D80 with the 18-200 VR lens for $1188 through a personal purchase Nikon program for sales associates . The Pentax body alone costs more than that.

I've done the research. Both have about 3fps (which I may use for hockey shots) and both are well liked by many reviewers. Both feel great in my hands (K10D anyways). I like that the Pentax has the body based IS, though I've read numerous places that with teles, it is less than spectacular, and I will be using telephoto lenses for sure. The Pentax is rugged and proven (through the K10D). The Nikon has no live view and a smaller LCD, though the viewfinder is spectacular to say the least. The lens based IS is a downer for me though at this stage in my camera "career." Though it is probably better, it IS costlier for the consumer, especially us new people. And from everything I've read, the CMOS sensor is the way to go...

I'm sorry my post is soooo long, but I will be spending a lot of money (for me anyway) on this decision and I want some other opinions before laying that money out.

Thank you in advance for any helpful experiences that you can give to me.
Why do you think the D80 (same sensor as the K10D) has better pics at high ISO? The K20D is a stop cleaner than the K10D so should have less ISO noise than the D80 as well. Its also has 50% more resolution.

The K20D also has more exposure modes, no dummy settings, in-camera lens adjustment etc.

The D80 is a year old and soon to be replaced.

The K20D AF is widely reported to be better than the K10D as well. Nothing that great about the D80 from what I remember when using screw drive lenses (actually slower in good light) and it relied on its illuminator rather a lot.

There is no hard evidence that in-body IS is less effective at any focal length. If I can routinely get sharp shots from a 300mm F4.5 lens at 1/60 second then thats pretty good. Now try and find a VR wide angle lens from Nikon that lets you shoot interiors without flash at 1/8th of a second hand-held...

And finally, the Nikon 18-200 lens is not an optically impressive lens. Their 18-70 kit lens is OK though.

Nikon is a decent system but its not in the same market segment as the K20D. Its much closer to the K200D.

03-23-2008, 05:17 PM   #5
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You should compare potatoes with potatoes. The Nikon D80 and the Pentax K10D are on a par. As far as autofocus speed is concerned, they are both about even with motorized lens, although the Nikon has the edge in low light. As far as image stabilisation is concerned, ALL lenses are stabilized on the Pentax (even 40 years old lenses). Nobody else can claim that. As for the ergonomics, according to most users, the Pentax is THE winner. If you go with the K20D, then you are in a different leage, almost on par with the Nikon D300. I wouldn't be surprised, with firmware update, if the images quality of the K20D could rival that of the D300. But the D300 is quite a bit more expensive, and the old Nikon lenses won't fit on it (if it's a criteria for you) and even the regular Nikon lenses won't be stabilized. So, to summarize, you pay more for the K20D than the D80, but you have more of a camera. By the way, the K20D is unsurpassed for IQ in it's price range. Now, the choice is yours, but my choice would be ...(well it's a Pentax forum and I already have a K20D and I know what I get out of it).
03-23-2008, 05:26 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by willis Quote
...(snip) I am trying to determine the best camera for me between two cameras that I have chosen that I think I will grow with for a long time. (snip)...

The Nikon D80 is a 10.2 megapixel camera. If the higher resolution of the K20D isn't required (you would rule out the D80 otherwise), perhaps you should consider the 10.2 megapixel Pentax K10D instead. It's price is more competitive with the D80, while still offering virtually every one of the "pros" you listed for the K20D.

As for CCD versus CMOS, according to Wikipedia, "Neither technology has a clear advantage in image quality. CMOS can potentially be implemented with fewer components, use less power and provide data faster than CCDs. CCD is a more mature technology and is in most respects the equal of CMOS." In other words, I certainly wouldn't put much weight on the type of image sensor when selecting a camera.

Finally, I'm not aware of any "body-based IS limitations" with regards to "zooms at the farthest end." As a K10D user, I routinely use an 18-250mm zoom lens with great success.

stewart
03-23-2008, 07:15 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by willis Quote
...snip...
*supposedly slow AF in low light conditions

I can't compare directly to the D80, but the low-light AF has improved in the K20D over the K10D, from what I hear - I can tell you definitively it has improved over the K100D.


QuoteQuote:
...
Nikon D80
Pros:
*supposed ease of use
*better pictures at higher ISO
"ease of use" is pretty subjective - any Nikon user will always tell you that the newest Nikon model is very easy to use - same with Canon, Olympus, Pentax... Once you get used to a particular camera's features, and proprietary system standards, they're all easy to use. I wouldn't use 'ease of use' as a criteria - ergonometrics, maybe.

Regarding 'better pictures at high ISO' - I really don't think that's the case at all - I'd be interested in seeing where you picked that up (Nikon publication or Nikon-specialized reviewer? I'm finding that my K20D has remarkable low-light/high ISO performance, and I think as more people and reviewers use the K20D in real-life situations over the course of the year, they'll see what I'm seeing... Keep in mind that at 14+ MP, if you drill down to the pixel level you're going to see some noise in shadows, but any full sized print or screen image, even any typical crop is going to be almost noise-free (as viewed) up to ISO 800, and ISO 1600 is still very, very good. I've seen ISO 3200 shots posted to this forum that were the equivalent to ISO 200 on my Panasonic P&S.

I've heard that the Nikon D300 has very good high-ISO performance, but not so much the D80. I don't personally know anyone who has the D300 yet, but I have a friend who has the D80, and it's high-ISO performance wasn't noticeably better than my K100D, much less my K20D.

QuoteQuote:
...I can get the Nikon D80 with the 18-200 VR lens for $1188 through a personal purchase Nikon program for sales associates . The Pentax body alone costs more than that.

One of the very first things you'll discover in the DSLR world is that lens quality is paramount. A relatively inexpensive super-zoom like the Nikon 18-200 may seem like a great deal, especially if it's VR, but once you compare it's IQ to say, the Pentax DA* 50-135, you'll feel like you've been had - taken for a ride by the mighty Nikon Marketing Machine.

QuoteQuote:
I like that the Pentax has the body based IS, though I've read numerous places that with teles, it is less than spectacular, and I will be using telephoto lenses for sure.
I also have not heard of or experienced IS limitations when using long telephotos - My 18-250 zoom is stabilized nicely at least two stops according to my tests. It's hard to overstate how useful that feature is. Shooting with my IS turned off is painful now - my keeper ratio takes a huge dive, and shooting just becomes less fun.

It's just a thrill to buy, say, an old razor-sharp Super Takumar 135mm and have it be image stabilized on your camera. Just sweet.

Anyway, I don't want to trash the D80, I actually like it, but as Stewart said, it compares more to the K10D, and the K20D is more in league with the D300.




.

Last edited by jsherman999; 03-23-2008 at 07:29 PM.
03-23-2008, 07:30 PM   #8
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Hi there, I went to the local Ritz last October to buy the D80, and ended up walking out with a brand new k10. Here are my simple reasons: (I say simple because I was not well versed in DSLRs)

- The price of the D80 (body only! No lens!) blew me away
- The price of the K10 body + kit was less than the D80 body alone!
- I had a brief lesson on image stabilization, and learned that it was built into the K10
- I had two Pentax 35mm lenses at home and realized that they were compatible (I'm pretty sure Nikon does not do this)

Even if you do not have Pentax lenses at home, it's helpful to know you can get 35mm lenses used/cheap if you need a lens and cannot afford a new one.

Also, as far as "ease of use" goes, these forums have been instrumental in my learning about the multitude of functions available on the K10.

That's my two cents .. Happy shopping ...


Last edited by deludel; 03-23-2008 at 07:32 PM. Reason: Update
03-23-2008, 08:33 PM   #9
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Thank you for your replies.

QuoteOriginally posted by stewart_photo Quote
The Nikon D80 is a 10.2 megapixel camera. If the higher resolution of the K20D isn't required (you would rule out the D80 otherwise), perhaps you should consider the 10.2 megapixel Pentax K10D instead. It's price is more competitive with the D80, while still offering virtually every one of the "pros" you listed for the K20D.
One of the reasons why I like the Pentax is because of the higher MP's - I like the idea that I can crop and then bring back up to larger size a smaller part of a given photo and still have it look awesome.

QuoteOriginally posted by stewart_photo Quote
As for CCD versus CMOS, according to Wikipedia, "Neither technology has a clear advantage in image quality. CMOS can potentially be implemented with fewer components, use less power and provide data faster than CCDs. CCD is a more mature technology and is in most respects the equal of CMOS." In other words, I certainly wouldn't put much weight on the type of image sensor when selecting a camera.
While you wouldn't put much weight on sensor selection while picking a camera, Pentax did: YouTube - Pentax K20D (listen at 1:50-2:03 when John Carlson explains why Pentax went with a CMOS sensor over the CCD sensor in the K10D). As well, Nikon put a new CMOS sensor in the D300, apparently the same one in the Sony A700, Sigma's latest DSLR has a CMOS sensor, and even Olympus has moved from a CCD to CMOS in the E510 and the E3. As such, this move away from CCD sensors in the highest cameras by both Nikon and Olympus seems like even they have given quite a bit of weight to the CMOS sensor.


QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
"ease of use" is pretty subjective - any Nikon user will always tell you that the newest Nikon model is very easy to use - same with Canon, Olympus, Pentax... Once you get used to a particular camera's features, and proprietary system standards, they're all easy to use. I wouldn't use 'ease of use' as a criteria - ergonometrics, maybe.
Agreed. I probably shouldn't have written that as a pro for the Nikon and not the Pentax as well.

QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
Regarding 'better pictures at high ISO' - I really don't think that's the case at all - I'd be interested in seeing where you picked that up (Nikon publication or Nikon-specialized reviewer? I'm finding that my K20D has remarkable low-light/high ISO performance, and I think as more people and reviewers use the K20D in real-life situations over the course of the year, they'll see what I'm seeing... Keep in mind that at 14+ MP, if you drill down to the pixel level you're going to see some noise in shadows, but any full sized print or screen image, even any typical crop is going to be almost noise-free (as viewed) up to ISO 800, and ISO 1600 is still very, very good. I've seen ISO 3200 shots posted to this forum that were the equivalent to ISO 200 on my Panasonic P&S.

I've heard that the Nikon D300 has very good high-ISO performance, but not so much the D80. I don't personally know anyone who has the D300 yet, but I have a friend who has the D80, and it's high-ISO performance wasn't noticeably better than my K100D, much less my K20D.
What you wrote makes sense to me....but....with all the stuff that I have been reading, I know that I read somewhere that the higher number of MP's allowed for much greater noise at higher ISOs then lower MPs. I'm not sure that I would use a very high ISO that much, but even the noise numbers in the lower ISO ranges were higher for the Pentax than for the Nikon from the reviews of each at Popular Photography:

Pentax
Nikon

Now, there may be bias involved in there somewhat. I don't know. I just know what it says. So does this mean that the CCD sensor on the Nikon is better than the CMOS sensor on the Pentax???

But then I read what you wrote next:

QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
One of the very first things you'll discover in the DSLR world is that lens quality is paramount. A relatively inexpensive super-zoom like the Nikon 18-200 may seem like a great deal, especially if it's VR, but once you compare it's IQ to say, the Pentax DA* 50-135, you'll feel like you've been had - taken for a ride by the mighty Nikon Marketing Machine.
...and I'm back to that state of confusion again.


QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
I also have not heard of or experienced IS limitations when using long telephotos - My 18-250 zoom is stabilized nicely at least two stops according to my tests. It's hard to overstate how useful that feature is. Shooting with my IS turned off is painful now - my keeper ratio takes a huge dive, and shooting just becomes less fun.
Read section 4 here. "And although the current image stabilized digital camera bodies offer excellent results with wide angle and normal telephoto lenses, the benefits will diminish at longer telephoto lengths (200mm and longer)."
[/I][/I]
Also here from Bobatkins.com. "This may be more of an issue with long telephoto lenses than wideangle lenses, since the image shift for a given amount of camera movement is proportional to the focal length of the lens in use."

This same info can be found on numerous sites just by searching Google. But that's just what's assumed. Perhaps in the real world, it is different from what they are saying...


I am still leaning towards the Pentax though. Now if I could only find a better price for it...
03-23-2008, 09:18 PM   #10
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.

QuoteQuote:
Read section 4 here. "And although the current image stabilized digital camera bodies offer excellent results with wide angle and normal telephoto lenses, the benefits will diminish at longer telephoto lengths (200mm and longer)."
[/i][/i]
Also here from Bobatkins.com. "This may be more of an issue with long telephoto lenses than wideangle lenses, since the image shift for a given amount of camera movement is proportional to the focal length of the lens in use."

My experience is that from about 16 to 50mm, I'm seeing 3-4 stops improvement with IS on, 2-3 50-200mm, and generally about 2 stops at 250mm. So yes, it's effect is reduced as you go longer, but even two stops makes an enormous difference for me.

I think that if you can get your hands on both cameras at the same time and try them out, low light, quick IS testing, etc, that would be better than any further online research at this point.
I was sold on my K100D when I had originally went in to check out the Canon XTi & Nikon D40 - same tier cameras, but the in-hand quality and IS of the Pentax changed my direction entirely and made the decision easy.


.
03-23-2008, 09:40 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
.




My experience is that from about 16 to 50mm, I'm seeing 3-4 stops improvement with IS on, 2-3 50-200mm, and generally about 2 stops at 250mm. So yes, it's effect is reduced as you go longer, but even two stops makes an enormous difference for me.
I routinely am getting 2 stops with the 400. That means I can use 1/100 sec without too much sweat, and can hold half that with careful technique - watching breathing, bracing lens arm on body, etc.

Hunters know what I am saying here. The "snap" shot, off the cuff, will be more prone to shake than a careful one where one braces oneself, turns sideways to the subject so that the lens to body bracing is more firm, controls the breathing, squeeeeeezes the shutter release very gently, leans against a tree, etc.

I took a shot with the 50-135 today, and it shows some shaking, despite leaning on a fence. I think it might have helped if the SR switch was in the ON position when I took the shot.
03-23-2008, 10:14 PM   #12
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I am a newbie too. What impress me the most when I was deciding on whether I should get a XTi, D80 or K100D (cheaper that time) was that I was able to take a nice sharp picture with shutter speed 1/6 consistently handheld without flash, even at 1/4 I can do that half of time. My friend who have the Canon and Nikon and IS/VR lens are not able to do the same. Of course, if you ask Canon and Nikon sales represent, do you expect them to tell you the body IS is better than lens IS? I also did like the fact the Pentax uses SD card instead of CF format. SD is the standard of the future with better price/performance than CF which is the older technology and can be damaged easily with bent pins.
03-24-2008, 12:22 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by willis Quote
...(snip) While you wouldn't put much weight on sensor selection while picking a camera, Pentax did: YouTube - Pentax K20D (listen at 1:50-2:03 when John Carlson explains why Pentax went with a CMOS sensor over the CCD sensor in the K10D). As well, Nikon put a new CMOS sensor in the D300, apparently the same one in the Sony A700, Sigma's latest DSLR has a CMOS sensor, and even Olympus has moved from a CCD to CMOS in the E510 and the E3. As such, this move away from CCD sensors in the highest cameras by both Nikon and Olympus seems like even they have given quite a bit of weight to the CMOS sensor. (snip)...

Somehow, I suspect lower manufacturing costs (fewer components) might have almost as much influence on that increased interest by manufacturers as recent advances in CMOS sensor technology. Regardless, perhaps I should have added more, a logical conclusion, after the sentence about myself not putting much weight on the type of image sensor. Therefore, I'll do so now. Why a manufacturer might choose a particular image sensor has little real bearing on either of us beyond how it impacts image quality. Hence, the type of image sensor would not really sway me towards any one of these cameras. Instead, I would look for a particular advantage one of these cameras might have over the others in terms of image quality. But, since the K10D, K20D, and D80 all take fairly excellent images, other things (your list of pros & cons, for example) would more likely be the deciding factors for me.

By the way, the camera I have now is my first Pentax in over twenty years, with a long list of cameras used prior to this (Minolta, Canon, Mamiya, Chinon, Fujifilm, Olympus, and others). I'm quite satisfied with my K10D (two actually), but will likely add a K20D (keeping at least one of the K10D cameras as well) in the coming months to gain the higher resolution since I now perceive a use for that. Without that use, I would probably not buy the K20D. As it is, I'm not exactly rushing to get a K20D since my K10D's continue to serve me very well.

stewart
03-24-2008, 02:29 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by willis Quote
T

here from Bobatkins.com. "This may be more of an issue with long telephoto lenses than wideangle lenses, since the image shift for a given amount of camera movement is proportional to the focal length of the lens in use."
While that is true, it's not the whole story. Motion blur starts when the projected image moves more then one pixel width over the sensor, regardless of the lens focal length.

So when you reach your hand holding limits, the sensor only needs to move a few pixels, again regardless of focal length. What will differ is at what shutter speed your limits will be visible and thus the speed the sensor has to move with.
03-24-2008, 08:58 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by willis Quote
I am very new to the whole DSLR game so please go easy with me here...

...snip...
My intentions for the use of my new camera will be to have more control over the shots that I will be taking: landscapes, macro, minimal portraits, and some hockey photos from my seats. I have narrowed it down to two cameras: the Pentax K20D and the Nikon D80.

As I see it, for me, the pros/cons of each after handling both (well, I actually held a K10D) at a local Ritz:

Now, I don't think that I can go wrong with either camera. My head is telling me to go with the Pentax. But for me, and what I can get, it IS more expensive. I can get the Nikon D80 with the 18-200 VR lens for $1188 through a personal purchase Nikon program for sales associates . The Pentax body alone costs more than that.

...snip...
Thank you in advance for any helpful experiences that you can give to me.
Is there any reason why you compare the K20D versus the D80? They are in different levels. The K10D is often compared with the D200 and 30D (Canon). D80 is more of consumer grade than D200; all three share the same CCD sensor from SONY. If you are serious about photography and can do without the scene mode, K10D is the best tool available in the market. I don't mean to sway you to one over the other, I went through the same exercise before. Unlike most Canikon owners, at least you do your homework, most only know the two choices C or N. Whatever decision you make, I am sure you will be happy. I feel for those who jumped on the bandwagon lately of owning the RebelXT with deep price discount just because they want to own the C camera.

QuoteOriginally posted by Gimbal Quote
While that is true, it's not the whole story. Motion blur starts when the projected image moves more then one pixel width over the sensor, regardless of the lens focal length.

So when you reach your hand holding limits, the sensor only needs to move a few pixels, again regardless of focal length. What will differ is at what shutter speed your limits will be visible and thus the speed the sensor has to move with.
I have heard arguments from the other camp (Canikon) that on the wide end you don't need SR compensation. Does that mean we should turn SR off when the FL is on the wide end? Comments are appreciated.
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