Buying a digital camera (questions)

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joe.cool
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Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby joe.cool » Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:19 am UTC

Are there any camera fanatics in this section of the forum? If not, does anyone know anybody in particular that I should speak to?

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby mr-mitch » Sun Nov 08, 2009 10:38 am UTC

What do you want to use the camera for, specifically?

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby theorigamist » Sun Nov 08, 2009 3:56 pm UTC

Check out cameralabs.com. It has lots of very detailed reviews, video reviews in HD, and a good forums board.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby scienceroboticspunk » Sun Nov 08, 2009 6:24 pm UTC

It all depends on what you want out of it, what you plan on doing with it, and how much you are willing to pay for it.
I have a bunch of friends who are photographers and I sometimes takes photos at punk shows. For that I use a Nikon S620(I used to have an S200 I like both of them)
Do you want something big tht takes amazing photos, that is profesional, like a DSLR, or something small and simple that you can just take with you and just use it when you need it like a point and shoot.
Do you know the kind of megapixels you want?
Not sure what else to say without knowing more about the camera you would like.
If you want you can PM me and I will try and help
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby stephentyrone » Mon Nov 09, 2009 4:20 am UTC

There's any number of us who may be able to offer some guidance / answer questions. As others have noted some information about your budget and intended use[s] is needed to give meaningful advice.
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby joe.cool » Mon Nov 09, 2009 7:41 am UTC

Excellent :)

My top budget is about 300 dollars (US). I'd like to have a pretty decent zoom as well given that I probably won't be able to exchange lenses on a camera in that range (like sub-DSLR).

Megapixel count isn't so important, but image quality in terms of noise, color saturation, and optics are. I'd also like the ability to do some macro shooting, but I realize I may not be able to do that much without going to a true SLR with changeable lenses, although some sub-DSLRs have macro lenses available.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby Amnesiasoft » Mon Nov 09, 2009 8:12 am UTC

I quite like my Finepix S1500. The image quality is good enough for me, 12x optical zoom, and a macro mode. The only real issue I have with it is that it doesn't have a raw mode, but I'll get over that.

Quick sample image that I took in like 5 seconds at night indoors:
Spoiler:
Image


Best camera ever? No. But I'd say it's a good deal for $164.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby mosc » Mon Nov 09, 2009 7:04 pm UTC

The S1500 is a great value for the money. I use a Canon SX1 which is out of your pricerange but a very similar layout to the S1500. I personally prefer canon for it's user interface, more even color response, and just my general familiarity. The Canon SX10 is probably about $300 since it's been replaced by the SX20. Maybe not as good of a value but a bit more camera. It has a full hotshoe for a real flash, a nice 28mm wide angle, etc.

A nice zoom is useful but the lack of wide-angle on a lot of the cheap super-zooms is very limiting. That and F2.8 should really be a requirement if you take indoor shots without a real flash.
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby joe.cool » Mon Nov 09, 2009 7:40 pm UTC

Would anyone consider buying a used camera from Amazon? I'm noticing some previously high-end DSLRs are selling for quite cheap...

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby shieldforyoureyes » Mon Nov 09, 2009 7:53 pm UTC

joe.cool wrote:Would anyone consider buying a used camera from Amazon? I'm noticing some previously high-end DSLRs are selling for quite cheap...


I bought a used Nikon D70 body off Amazon, and it worked out very well.

Make sure you have a sensor cleaning kit, but that's true anyways if you're going DSLR.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby joe.cool » Mon Nov 09, 2009 8:14 pm UTC

Obviously, it is to clean a sensor, but where is the sensor located and why does it need to be cleaned?

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby mosc » Mon Nov 09, 2009 9:04 pm UTC

You should not consider a DSLR in the $300 pricerange. You may be able to find one but you will not get multiple lenses (if any). The main advantage of a DSLR is that it can change lenses. If you are not going to utilize that feature, you are better off with a point and shoot.

For example, lets say you find an old Canon Digital Rebel XT with it's kit lens for $300. Possible. You've just bought an 18x55mm lens with a 3.5-5.6 fstop and a 1.6x camera for an effective 29-88mm zoom range (35mm equivalent). The SX10 for example is 28-560mm effective with a 2.8-5.6 fstop. That's mostly thanks to the much smaller sensor on the point and shoot but it highlights my point. DSLR's are pretty limiting when you only use 1 lens. They don't have ridiculous zoom ranges from nice and wide to full telephoto. The kit lens is also by far the best you could hope for in a $300 pricerange. A decent lens, even used, is going to be a lot more than that... each.
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby shieldforyoureyes » Tue Nov 10, 2009 2:10 am UTC

joe.cool wrote:Obviously, it is to clean a sensor, but where is the sensor located and why does it need to be cleaned?


The actual image sensor gets exposed to the outside when you change lenses, so it will occasionally pick up some dust.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby Carnildo » Tue Nov 10, 2009 3:57 am UTC

joe.cool wrote:Would anyone consider buying a used camera from Amazon? I'm noticing some previously high-end DSLRs are selling for quite cheap...

The cameras are cheap, but you still will need a selection of lenses. My latest camera (a Pentax K100) was $200 off Ebay. Secondhand Pentax manual-focus lenses are some of the least-expensive out there, but for the 28mm-500mm coverage I've got, that's still another $300 or more in hardware -- and that's without a macro lens. A good secondhand 1:1 macro lens will run at least $200; a new one will run $500 or more.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby joe.cool » Tue Nov 10, 2009 4:10 am UTC

Maybe a prosumer point and shoot would be a better choice at this point.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby shieldforyoureyes » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:02 am UTC

Carnildo wrote:
joe.cool wrote:Would anyone consider buying a used camera from Amazon? I'm noticing some previously high-end DSLRs are selling for quite cheap...

The cameras are cheap, but you still will need a selection of lenses. My latest camera (a Pentax K100) was $200 off Ebay. Secondhand Pentax manual-focus lenses are some of the least-expensive out there, but for the 28mm-500mm coverage I've got, that's still another $300 or more in hardware -- and that's without a macro lens. A good secondhand 1:1 macro lens will run at least $200; a new one will run $500 or more.


Old Nikon lenses range from very cheap to insanely expensive, but there's lots of good stuff to be had for less than $100 apiece. Nikon lens compatability goes back to the 70s easily, and back to the late 50s with very slight modifications. (All of my lenses are late 70s / early 80s.)

I do agree though - don't try to jump into DSLR's if you've only got $300 to start with. Buy a point-and-shoot, spend a year learning on it, and by the time you're ready to move up to a DSLR, you'll really understand why you want one, and what you need out of it.
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby masher » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:06 am UTC

Just make sure you try it out.

I _hate_ the digital cameras that let an eon elapse between pressing the shutter and actually taking the photo.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby mosc » Tue Nov 10, 2009 5:21 pm UTC

masher wrote:I _hate_ the digital cameras that let an eon elapse between pressing the shutter and actually taking the photo.

I would recommend a DIGIC-4 generation Canon if this is a main concern. Their speed is closer to that of a DSLR than most point and shoots. Note focusing time will suffer with a "superzoom". Try manually focusing an DSLR with a 500mm telephoto on and you'll understand why. It's really not fair to compare the time it takes to autofocus a typical DSLR kit lens (generally less than 100mm telephoto) against a camera that's zooming in much further.
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby masher » Tue Nov 10, 2009 10:02 pm UTC

I'm just speaking about generic point-shoot cameras.

I've now got a Canon 500D, so no more worries for me!

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby theorigamist » Tue Nov 10, 2009 11:46 pm UTC

At that price range, looking for a point and shoot, you should look very carefully into the Canon SX200 IS, the Canon SX120 IS, or the Panasonic Lumix ZS3. If you can stretch your budget a little, consider the Panasonic FZ38 or the Canon SX20 IS.

Below is an image I took with the Canon SX10 IS while I was trying it out. It is very similar to the SX 20 IS, which just came out. It is a very nice camera.

Spoiler:
Image

I don't remember, but I think this was probably in Macro mode, from a few inches away.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby joe.cool » Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:51 am UTC

Actually those are on my list, I created a filter list on Amazon for camera types. I remember hearing really good things about the Lumix.

10x to 12.9x, $25-300 price range, any megapixel size.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby mosc » Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:17 pm UTC

Amazon is weird. They have the SX20IS for $365 and the SX10IS for $399. People should be clearing out the SX10IS these days and it shouldn't be too hard to find one for <$300.
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby Carnildo » Thu Nov 12, 2009 4:24 am UTC

mosc wrote:
masher wrote:I _hate_ the digital cameras that let an eon elapse between pressing the shutter and actually taking the photo.

I would recommend a DIGIC-4 generation Canon if this is a main concern. Their speed is closer to that of a DSLR than most point and shoots. Note focusing time will suffer with a "superzoom". Try manually focusing an DSLR with a 500mm telephoto on and you'll understand why. It's really not fair to compare the time it takes to autofocus a typical DSLR kit lens (generally less than 100mm telephoto) against a camera that's zooming in much further.

Focus speed is limited more by technique than by mechanics. DSLRs typically use phase-detection systems, which tell you approximately how far out of focus you are in which direction. The camera can immediately move the lens to roughly the right focus position and refine from there. Point-and-shoot cameras use contrast-detection systems, which tell you neither how far out of focus you are nor which way you need to move the lens. This means that the camera needs to guess-and-check to figure out which way to move the lens, then overshoot and back up to hit the best-focus point, which is slow.

The reason for the difference in what systems cameras use is that contrast detection can be done with the image sensor, which makes for cheap, compact cameras. Phase detection needs a separate sensor.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby joe.cool » Thu Nov 12, 2009 5:45 am UTC

So are there any point and shoots with a manual focus? Is that the right question to ask?

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby mosc » Thu Nov 12, 2009 8:23 pm UTC

Almost all have manual focus but it won't be directly on the lens. You'll be hitting a button or turning a wheel that will indirectly effect the focus. The focus wheel on the G10-G11 and SX10 or higher canon is a pretty good example of the best that point and shoots have to offer in terms of manual focus. Others will have up and down arrows. There is one exception which is from Fuji, the S200. The lens can be used more directly like a DSLR but it is integrated with the camera. The S200 has other advantages like a larger sensor than most point and shoots. It's also expensive and has a limited zoom range for it's class, particularly at wide (30.5mm equivalent isn't that wide).
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby joe.cool » Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:38 pm UTC

Does anyone own an SX10IS? What's the shutter time between pushing the button and getting your picture? This seems like a good camera and I might stretch my budget just a little to get one.

Also are there any recommendations for places to buy a camera other than Amazon?

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby Axman » Thu Nov 12, 2009 10:01 pm UTC


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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby joe.cool » Thu Nov 12, 2009 11:50 pm UTC

I know google, but I was hoping that someone would chime in and say "Hey, I've dealt with so and so, and they were outstanding."

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby Carnildo » Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:57 am UTC

If you're buying a DSLR, B&H Photo is the place everybody swears by -- prices are a bit higher than average, but the customer service is outstanding. For point-and-shoot cameras, customer service is less important.

Watch out for scam sites: there aren't many that will simply take your money and run, but there are plenty that will nickel-and-dime you to death. The common variant is to offer the camera for a low price, then gouge you on accessories that reputable places include standard. For example, a $200 camera might be offered for $130 -- plus $75 for the battery, $50 for the transfer cable, $50 for the carrying case, $30 for the manual, and so on.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby mosc » Fri Nov 13, 2009 3:51 pm UTC

joe.cool wrote:Does anyone own an SX10IS? What's the shutter time between pushing the button and getting your picture? This seems like a good camera and I might stretch my budget just a little to get one.

Also are there any recommendations for places to buy a camera other than Amazon?

I own an SX1-IS which is almost identical to the SX10 except with a CMOS sensor instead of a CCD which gives you features like 1920x1080x30fps video, 4fps continuous at full res, and raw mode. They share the same lens, body, and DIGIC-4 processor though. I'm a big fan of canon's "SLR-Like" cameras, have been since the S1-IS which I also own (38-380mm 3.2mp camera).

Amazon seems to sell the SX20IS for less than the SX10IS. I don't know why, it makes no sense.

Maybe this link will help:
viewtopic.php?f=36&t=30143
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby hintss » Sat Nov 28, 2009 7:28 am UTC

shieldforyoureyes wrote:
joe.cool wrote:Obviously, it is to clean a sensor, but where is the sensor located and why does it need to be cleaned?


The actual image sensor gets exposed to the outside when you change lenses, so it will occasionally pick up some dust.

also, the sensor is not the mirror thingy! the mirror thingy acts like a shutter and moves up the let light onto the sensor behind it.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby joe.cool » Sun Dec 06, 2009 3:59 am UTC

I have some (good?) news; my budget has inflated to about 400-450 dollars US. At this point should I consider getting a lower-end DSLR and a mid-range lens?

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:19 am UTC

joe.cool wrote:I have some (good?) news; my budget has inflated to about 400-450 dollars US. At this point should I consider getting a lower-end DSLR and a mid-range lens?

Well, at that point, I'd hesitate to say you'd manage to get a truly mid-range lens in there, but the whole DSLR idea is much more feasable. Also, the image quality from, say, a 6MP DSLR is still very likely to be better then that of almost all the compact cameras out there.

One website that I haven't seen mentioned here is KEH.com. They're a major used camera dealer, and by far one of the more reputable - they have a strong reputation for being very conservative with their quality ratings. You pay a bit of a premium for it, but it's worth in IMHO.

I'd imagine you could pick up an entry-level body and kit lens, and have money left over for a cheap-but-good prime, kit-lens-type telephoto zoom, or some other useful accessories.
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby stephentyrone » Sun Dec 06, 2009 4:32 am UTC

More than that. I probably wouldn't look at a DSLR if I had a budget under $1k.
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:13 am UTC

stephentyrone wrote:More than that. I probably wouldn't look at a DSLR if I had a budget under $1k.


Gently used Rebel XT, 18-55, and a nifty fifty? That's a great starter kit, and it'll run you about $450. If a DSLR is for you, of course you'll end up spending more, but to start with, why spend the extra $500?
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby stephentyrone » Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:29 am UTC

PhoenixEnigma wrote:Gently used Rebel XT, 18-55, and a nifty fifty? That's a great starter kit, and it'll run you about $450. If a DSLR is for you, of course you'll end up spending more, but to start with, why spend the extra $500?


You answered your own question.

I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't buy a DSLR under $1k. I'm saying "don't buy a DSLR unless your budget allows you to spend that much on camera equipment in total" If you're only going to spend $450, you can substantially more camera by not buying a DSLR. If it's just the first of many purchases, then by all means get a DSLR.

On the other hand, I'm an avowed camera snob, so take my advice with a grain of salt or two. =)
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby Carnildo » Sun Dec 06, 2009 11:17 pm UTC

stephentyrone wrote:
PhoenixEnigma wrote:Gently used Rebel XT, 18-55, and a nifty fifty? That's a great starter kit, and it'll run you about $450. If a DSLR is for you, of course you'll end up spending more, but to start with, why spend the extra $500?


You answered your own question.

I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't buy a DSLR under $1k. I'm saying "don't buy a DSLR unless your budget allows you to spend that much on camera equipment in total" If you're only going to spend $450, you can substantially more camera by not buying a DSLR.

Depends on what you mean by "more camera". I've yet to see a point-and-shoot with the low-light abilities of my Pentax, or the reach of my long telephoto, and if you're willing to spend some time on Ebay (and you're willing to use manual-focus lenses), you can get an equivalent setup for around $500.

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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:50 am UTC

Carnildo wrote:
stephentyrone wrote:
PhoenixEnigma wrote:Gently used Rebel XT, 18-55, and a nifty fifty? That's a great starter kit, and it'll run you about $450. If a DSLR is for you, of course you'll end up spending more, but to start with, why spend the extra $500?


You answered your own question.

I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't buy a DSLR under $1k. I'm saying "don't buy a DSLR unless your budget allows you to spend that much on camera equipment in total" If you're only going to spend $450, you can substantially more camera by not buying a DSLR.

Depends on what you mean by "more camera". I've yet to see a point-and-shoot with the low-light abilities of my Pentax, or the reach of my long telephoto, and if you're willing to spend some time on Ebay (and you're willing to use manual-focus lenses), you can get an equivalent setup for around $500.

Quoted for turth. Also, good to actually find another Pentaxian in the world - I believe this makes three of us :P

Another area in which a DSLR will eat compact cameras for breakfast is portrait photography. There's no replacement for pure sensor size in some issues, and shallow depth of field and low-light are two of them.
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby stephentyrone » Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:11 am UTC

Carnildo wrote:
stephentyrone wrote:
PhoenixEnigma wrote:Gently used Rebel XT, 18-55, and a nifty fifty? That's a great starter kit, and it'll run you about $450. If a DSLR is for you, of course you'll end up spending more, but to start with, why spend the extra $500?


You answered your own question.

I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't buy a DSLR under $1k. I'm saying "don't buy a DSLR unless your budget allows you to spend that much on camera equipment in total" If you're only going to spend $450, you can substantially more camera by not buying a DSLR.

Depends on what you mean by "more camera". I've yet to see a point-and-shoot with the low-light abilities of my Pentax, or the reach of my long telephoto, and if you're willing to spend some time on Ebay (and you're willing to use manual-focus lenses), you can get an equivalent setup for around $500.


Sure, that could be true. I have no experience with the Pentax DSLRs. I have, however, seen point and shoots with better low light performance, less noise, and vastly better color depth (despite having a smaller sensor and higher resolution -- what a difference a few years of technology makes) than the Rebel XT, and the 18-55 kit lens is what I would lovingly refer to as "crap". Unless one has a specific use in mind for which a DSLR is necessary (like you want to use the old 800mm mirror lens you found in your crazy uncle's garage), I believe that a modern point and shoot is a better deal (for most people) than an outdated DSLR in the sub-$500 range.

Don't get me wrong. I love my SLR -- and you can try to pry my Canon 70-200 f2.8 out of my dead hands -- I'm just saying that if your budget is limited and you don't have a specific use in mind that requires interchangeable lenses, a P/S is likely a better bet.
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Re: Buying a digital camera (questions)

Postby theorigamist » Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:50 am UTC

I don't know why the comparison is to the Rebel XT. I got my Rebel XS at ecomelectronics. A mildly sketchy site, but they sent me my camera. They're selling the XS refurbished with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS kit lens (this is not the same as the kit lens of the XT) for $430. Also in the sub-$500 segment is the new Nikon D3000, for example. I don't know a point and shoot that has "better low light performance, less noise, and vastly better color depth" than either of these cameras with their kit lens.

You certainly can spend more down the line, and you should to take full advantage of the DSLR. But you will by no means need to spend more in the near future to have a kit that will outperform a point and shoot. (But if you'd like to, the Canon 50mm f/1.8 is only $100, and is quite a bit better than the kit lens. Also, there's a 75-300mm for something like $200.)


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