Roundup: 3 New Beginner DSLRs

View and Control

We mentioned previously that a number of cameras on the market today are made without an optical viewfinder, depending solely on the LCD monitor for framing the image. All three cameras here are equipped with both the optical viewfinder and an LCD monitor. And the viewfinder is truly a viewfinder. By that we mean that, unlike several cameras that appear to be an SLR, with no optional lenses and an electronic viewfinder, these cameras utilize a viewfinder in the traditional sense, as found on 35mm SLR cameras.

Each of the three cameras has multiple focusing points in the viewfinder: the Olympus with seven, the Canon with nine and the Nikon with eleven. These multiple focus points provide the photographer with ability to focus on one object and, with sufficient depth-of-field, keep everything from ten feet to twenty-five feet sharply in focus, as an example.

With the Nikon D5000, you can select a different focus mode that the default Auto-area. Then, using the arrow keys on the back of the camera body, you can select a focus point that will ensure the image has sufficient depth-of-field for your picture. On the Canon T1i, you press the button on the top right of the back of the camera and select the desired focus point with the arrow buttons. The buttons for this feature on the Olympus E-620 are located in the same position as the Canon.

Image framing, and review after capture, can also be obtained by using the built in LCD monitor. The Olympus and the Nikon make use of a 2.7-inch TFT LCD monitor and the Canon uses a 3.0-inch monitor. With the Canon T1i, the monitor is fixed into its position on the back of the camera body. Both the Nikon and the Olympus have articulated monitors. This means that you can rotate or angle the monitor away from the camera body. With this feature, you can hold the camera body at your waist or over your head and angle the monitor so that you are still in control of the camera and frame your image as you want.

We understand that this feature isn’t just a gimmick, but we wonder whether it is worth including. The purpose of the SLR form factor, in our opinion, is to provide the experience many photographers had with their older film cameras. If you are that enamored with using the LCD monitor for framing your image, you likely do not require the use of an SLR camera. That said, we would give the edge to both the Nikon and the Olympus for this feature.

For our View & Control rating, we would rate each camera at score of 4 out of 5. 

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  • mitzz
    The image links are not working for me on all of the pages.
  • mitzz
    mitzzThe image links are not working for me on all of the pages.

    Never mind they are now.
  • starryman
    I have the 18-55 lens for the Canon DSLR. It's pretty good but man the range is too limited. I have the 50MM 1.4 lens and a 75-300 lens as well but too much to monkey with. Hmmmm... only if someone can build a kit lens that is 17-85mm with reasonable brightness (3.5-5.6).
  • starryman
    Yes I know that Canon has a 17-85 but I don't want to shell $375 for it. Make it a kit lens!!!
  • johanncoet
    I find it very disappointing that Rick Oldano did not even mention once in this review that the Canon T1i has a HD Video function. It can shoot Full HD video at 1080p (only at 20fps which is kind useless thought) and 720p at full 30fps with amazing quality. It is one of only a few DSLR cameras that can shoot video. And it equals or even beat other models like the Nikon D90. This is one of it main selling point and makes it a much better competitor. I would like to know why it was not mentioned as this was a review of the overall functionality of the three cameras and this is a pretty big function. Just thought I would let you guys know because I would think it important in deciding between the three.
  • alexei1
    I very appreciate Tom's computer-related hardware reviews and read them constantly. I would reccomend to do what You do best and restrain from reviews like this one... Way non professional and too shallow! Have You mentioned high ISO performance? Real life resolution? Autofocus performance?
  • haplo602
    So many things wrong in this article, I don't know where to start ...

    Quote:
    For example, with any of the cameras set to the macro scene mode, you can get significantly closer to your subject matter than with the normal modes. We found that you could easily focus in as close as one foot from your subject. The benefit to this feature is the cost savings involved. Rather than spend a significant amount of money on a macro lens, using this feature solves some of your problem.


    Forget the macro modes on P&S cameras, they are all about the closest focusing distance. True macro is about image size vs subject size. Means 1:1 is macro, everything less is not macro. Special macro lenses are constructed to achieve this image ratio and to specialy work at close focus distances. No camera macro scene mode can deliver that.

    Quote:
    "Nikon D5000 having the best grip"


    This is quite an unusual result. While it is true, you forgot to mention that Nikon is the largest of the bunch and the Olympus is the smallest. Camera size is one of the factors in picking a specific model.

    Quote:
    Then, using the arrow keys on the back of the camera body, you can select a focus point that will ensure the image has sufficient depth-of-field for your picture.


    Depth of field has nothing to do with focus points. It's a property of the lens.

    Quote:
    We understand that this feature isn’t just a gimmick, but we wonder whether it is worth including. The purpose of the SLR form factor, in our opinion, is to provide the experience many photographers had with their older film cameras. If you are that enamored with using the LCD monitor for framing your image, you likely do not require the use of an SLR camera. That said, we would give the edge to both the Nikon and the Olympus for this feature.


    Framing in Live View ? I mean you completely left out any comment about Live View. Also you completely left out the screen resolution. Canon has a VGA screen while Nikon/Olympus have a QVGA screen.

    Quote:
    The important feature of these lenses is that they are designed and scaled to the size of the imager in this camera. In other words, there will be no multiplier effect as with the EF lenses from Canon.


    And again wrong. Yes, the lenses have a reduced image circle to match the smaller imager, NO, you still have to multiply the focal lenght with 1.6 (Canon), 1.5 (Nikon) or 2.0 (Olympus) to get to the true (and only comparable) focal lenght.

    Also, there are 3rd party lens makers (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina to name a few). There are also a few key decisions for lens selection:

    1. Canon has lens build in motors, so the 500D can use all the EF and EF-S lenses.

    2. Nikon has transitioned from in-camera lens motor to lens build in motors for their budget DSLRs (D40, D40x, D60, D5000) not so long ago, so while you can mount ANY Nikoor lens made since about 1960 on the D5000, only AF-S and AF-I lenses will autofocus on it.

    3. Olympus has the smallest lens selection (3rd party lens makers are making up for this shortage a bit).

    I could write another article just comenting what you got wrong :-) I hope you improve on your articles :)
  • theuerkorn
    haplo602So many things wrong in this article, I don't know where to start ...

    +1
  • joebob2000
    starrymanYes I know that Canon has a 17-85 but I don't want to shell $375 for it. Make it a kit lens!!!


    Then skip the kit altogether! Saying you won't spend another $375 for the right lens is like buying a Porsche and putting cheap tires on it. You are going to get the performance you pay for! The #1 misconception about DSLR cameras is that you can spend a bunch on a body and then scrape up cheap lenses and expect to take decent pictures. You are wasting ALL your money if you think a sub $200 wide/zoom kit lens is going to shoot ANYTHING worthwhile.

    The opening line for any "beginner DSLR" review should be the following (where x is the MSRP):

    ***DO NOT SPEND $x ON THIS CAMERA IF YOU ARE NOT WILLING TO SPEND $x ON GOOD LENSES***
  • samihaha
    I would be hesitant to apply the same type of methodology in reviewing computer equipments on cameras, and I recommend Toms Hardware (and CNET for that matter) to refrain from doing so. Sony just released 3 dslr cameras designed specifically with beginners in mind, and they should be included in the review. Software, LCD interface are also neglected in this review. Dslrs are so differentiated, you can't just read the spec sheets and do a comparative analysis that way. I commend Toms effort in trying to expand its expertise into non-computer areas, but please do a focus group first. Your opinions are highly regarded, and mistakes like this will dillute your credibility and undermine readers' trust.
  • johanncoet
    Just to correct myself, it seems that the Nikon D5000 also has a HD Video function. It Can record at 720p at 24fps and a SD en QVGA resolution. Its not quite on par with the Canon T1i / 500D. It can only take 5min clips in 720p and at a maximum of 24fps. If its the same as the D90 (and i suspect it is)then the quality will not be great either.
    I know I am going on about this video function and tat professionals wouldn't have a real use for this, but these are "entry-level" dslr cameras and when you are used to a normal digital camera with video feature, then it can be frustrating ot having the ability on your new and relatively expensive dslr. It's quite a useful and fun feature and it's important to note. Anyone else have a view on this?
  • Tomsguiderachel
    alexei1I very appreciate Tom's computer-related hardware reviews and read them constantly. I would reccomend to do what You do best and restrain from reviews like this one... Way non professional and too shallow! Have You mentioned high ISO performance? Real life resolution? Autofocus performance?

    Hi there,
    Did you know that there are two Tom's sites? One is called Tom's Hardware--that's where you'll find the in-depth hardware reviews for enthusiasts. The other--the one you are reading *right now*--is called Tom's Guide--this is the site for people curious about consumer electronics (aka novices). We will never write hardcore indepth camera reviews on Tom's Guide, but now that you know who this site is intended for, perhaps you'll have a better idea of where we're coming from with these reviews. We consider the performance issues you've mentioned in your post to be advanced features, and even though many of these cameras do offer these features, we're not going to discuss them at length. Perhaps this makes the review useless to you, but it doesn't make it useless to everyone. However--to the people who asked about HD Video--I agree that this is an oversight and should have been included/described in the review! Thanks, everyone, for your comments.

    Rachel Rosmarin
    Editor, Tom's Guide
  • Tomsguiderachel
    haplo602So many things wrong in this article, I don't know where to start ...Forget the macro modes on P&S cameras, they are all about the closest focusing distance. True macro is about image size vs subject size. Means 1:1 is macro, everything less is not macro. Special macro lenses are constructed to achieve this image ratio and to specialy work at close focus distances. No camera macro scene mode can deliver that.This is quite an unusual result. While it is true, you forgot to mention that Nikon is the largest of the bunch and the Olympus is the smallest. Camera size is one of the factors in picking a specific model.Depth of field has nothing to do with focus points. It's a property of the lens. Framing in Live View ? I mean you completely left out any comment about Live View. Also you completely left out the screen resolution. Canon has a VGA screen while Nikon/Olympus have a QVGA screen.And again wrong. Yes, the lenses have a reduced image circle to match the smaller imager, NO, you still have to multiply the focal lenght with 1.6 (Canon), 1.5 (Nikon) or 2.0 (Olympus) to get to the true (and only comparable) focal lenght.Also, there are 3rd party lens makers (Sigma, Tamron, Tokina to name a few). There are also a few key decisions for lens selection:1. Canon has lens build in motors, so the 500D can use all the EF and EF-S lenses.2. Nikon has transitioned from in-camera lens motor to lens build in motors for their budget DSLRs (D40, D40x, D60, D5000) not so long ago, so while you can mount ANY Nikoor lens made since about 1960 on the D5000, only AF-S and AF-I lenses will autofocus on it.3. Olympus has the smallest lens selection (3rd party lens makers are making up for this shortage a bit).I could write another article just comenting what you got wrong :-) I hope you improve on your articles

    Hi Haplo,

    Thanks, once again, for your comment. I will bring this to the writer's attention, and perhaps if we are lucky he will address your comment. However, it seems to me like much of what you mention are not inaccuracies, but omissions. Would you agree? Of course, omitting information can sometimes lead to misinformation, but in other cases, the info you are requesting could be beyond the scope of the article (which is for true beginners). For example, this article did not begin to tackle the issue of lens selection, so it would be hard to say that we got that "wrong" since we didn't intend to cover it in this article.

    Thanks again,

    Rachel Rosmarin
    Editor, Tom's Guide
  • Tomsguiderachel
    samihahaI would be hesitant to apply the same type of methodology in reviewing computer equipments on cameras, and I recommend Toms Hardware (and CNET for that matter) to refrain from doing so. Sony just released 3 dslr cameras designed specifically with beginners in mind, and they should be included in the review. Software, LCD interface are also neglected in this review. Dslrs are so differentiated, you can't just read the spec sheets and do a comparative analysis that way. I commend Toms effort in trying to expand its expertise into non-computer areas, but please do a focus group first. Your opinions are highly regarded, and mistakes like this will dillute your credibility and undermine readers' trust.

    Again, when you see mistakes, please point them out. I think what you have pointed out are omissions. This is not an in-depth comparative analysis of the entry level DSLR product category. I know that might be what you want, but it isn't what we've given you. This is simply an overview of 3 models. You mention the Sony beginner DSLRs and say that they should be included here, however, you might not be aware that Sony is not distributing review units of these models yet. Perhaps you would like to see a list of all announced/Press released comparable models to go along with every review we do here? That is something to consider. Let me know if you think that's a helpful idea. However, it sounds like you are the kind of reader who would like all the information that exists about a camera to be included in the review, and if that's the case, I'm pretty sure Tom's Guide is not the place for you to read camera reviews.

    Thanks for your comment,
    Rachel Rosmarin
    Editor, Tom's Guide
  • haplo602
    TomsguiderachelHi Haplo,Thanks, once again, for your comment. I will bring this to the writer's attention, and perhaps if we are lucky he will address your comment. However, it seems to me like much of what you mention are not inaccuracies, but omissions. Would you agree? Of course, omitting information can sometimes lead to misinformation, but in other cases, the info you are requesting could be beyond the scope of the article (which is for true beginners). For example, this article did not begin to tackle the issue of lens selection, so it would be hard to say that we got that "wrong" since we didn't intend to cover it in this article.Thanks again,Rachel RosmarinEditor, Tom's Guide


    :-)) partly ... the article mentions macro scene mode without actualy noting that it is quite a waste. simply set the camera to manual focus, focus to the closest distance the lens is capable off. no need for a macro scene mode. thus it looks like the camera is incapable of macro shots without a specific macro mode ... this will lead people into false assumtpions.

    focus point and depth of field connection ? it looks as if the Nikon has the best depth of field options since it has the most focus points. however depth of field is never a property of the camera.

    and finaly the lens multiplier metioned in the Canon lens part. these cameras have different imager sizes, the only way to compare lenses is to use a common format (in this case 35mm size). thus the true focal lenght is 17mm for the lens, but the field of view will be equivalent to 27.2mm (canon) or 25.5 (nikon) which makes a difference. if you look through the viewfinder, you will definitely notice. and finaly a 17mm EF lens has same FoV as 17mm EF-S lens however the article seems to suggest that the EF lens focal lenght is multiplied by 1.6 while the EF-S is not, so the EF-S should be a wider lens. this is not true.
  • haplo602
    ok seems I did write more than I intended to :-) got carried away a bit. just improve bit by bit and you'll get to usable articles on DSLRs :-)

    make one big article explaining all the tech (lenses, sensors, live view, autofocus system etc.) and then link to it in each camera review, so people can read up on things they are not that familiar with. also select a target audience and review procedure that you stick to :-) there are too many camera review sites on the web and most do it the same way, however there's nothing special you can come up with anyway ;-)
  • Tomsguiderachel
    haplo602ok seems I did write more than I intended to :-) got carried away a bit. just improve bit by bit and you'll get to usable articles on DSLRs :-)make one big article explaining all the tech (lenses, sensors, live view, autofocus system etc.) and then link to it in each camera review, so people can read up on things they are not that familiar with. also select a target audience and review procedure that you stick to :-) there are too many camera review sites on the web and most do it the same way, however there's nothing special you can come up with anyway ;-)

    The idea of a linkable glossary is a good one, we will definitely consider that!
  • samihaha
    TomsguiderachelAgain, when you see mistakes, please point them out. I think what you have pointed out are omissions. This is not an in-depth comparative analysis of the entry level DSLR product category. I know that might be what you want, but it isn't what we've given you. This is simply an overview of 3 models. You mention the Sony beginner DSLRs and say that they should be included here, however, you might not be aware that Sony is not distributing review units of these models yet. Perhaps you would like to see a list of all announced/Press released comparable models to go along with every review we do here? That is something to consider. Let me know if you think that's a helpful idea. However, it sounds like you are the kind of reader who would like all the information that exists about a camera to be included in the review, and if that's the case, I'm pretty sure Tom's Guide is not the place for you to read camera reviews.Thanks for your comment,Rachel RosmarinEditor, Tom's Guide


    I guess I will have to apologize. I am not aware of the distinction between Tom's hardware and Tom's guide. I was directed to this article from the homepage of toms hardware and assumed the articles are written by the same people following the same standard. Misconception might be that I considered articles published under "Tom's" brand are substitutes for professional publications. Sounds like not all "Tom's" are created equal. Thanks for pointing that out.
  • dwu1020
    TomsguiderachelHi Haplo,Thanks, once again, for your comment. I will bring this to the writer's attention, and perhaps if we are lucky he will address your comment. However, it seems to me like much of what you mention are not inaccuracies, but omissions. Would you agree? Of course, omitting information can sometimes lead to misinformation, but in other cases, the info you are requesting could be beyond the scope of the article (which is for true beginners). For example, this article did not begin to tackle the issue of lens selection, so it would be hard to say that we got that "wrong" since we didn't intend to cover it in this article.Thanks again,Rachel RosmarinEditor, Tom's Guide


    Based on the premise that this article is intended as an overview of entry-level DSLRs for novices, basic concepts discussed by the article absolutely need to be accurate. Tying "depth of field" to "autofocus points" is completely inaccurate. The point of multiple autofocus points is for the camera (or the user, manually) to correctly select the subject they would like to keep in focus. It does not enable the camera to manipulate depth of field, since that is entirely the function of the lens and its aperture.

    I'm not entirely sure of the author's comment "The purpose of the SLR form factor, in our opinion, is to provide the experience many photographers had with their older film cameras." Beginners to DSLRs are not likely to have experience with film SLRs, so using this point to downplay the desirability of a tilting LCD does not make any sense.

    "In our opinion, the primary reason for purchasing one of these three cameras is the availability of additional lenses." Then why are non-EF-S or non-Nikkor AF-S/AF-I lenses mentioned? As haplo602 mentioned, the fact that the N5000 cannot autofocus with non-Nikkor AF-S/AF-I lenses is a pretty important point, and inconveniences the use of many excellent lenses that Nikon offers. Canon and Nikon have made numerous excellent, and cost-effective, lenses prior to the DSLR revolution, but only the Canon in this review can autofocus with most of them... the Nikon here can only autofocus with Nikkor AF-S/AF-I labeled lenses, which greatly reduces the lens selection available.

    Beginners are best served with accurate, educational, comprehensive, yet concise articles. I don't feel this article encompasses all of that, and frankly, I feel that the readers of Tom's Guide would be better served if digital photography reviews were written by someone who actually is truly knowledgeable, yet able to present the information in a manner that best fits the target reader.
  • dwu1020
    "Then why are non-EF-S or non-Nikkor AF-S/AF-I lenses mentioned?"

    This should read "why aren't non-EF-S..."
  • I may be misunderstanding something, but on the Color & Quality page, you say that a higher Signal-to-Noise ratio is bad. Maybe I've missed your definition of the term, but higher SNR is usually better. Also, the Olympus, with by far the smallest sensor, got the lowest SNR. I looked at the images (histogram ones) and there isn't a noticeable difference between the Nikon and Canon, but there is noticable noise in the Olympus. Great review otherwise, I'm glad you guys are talking about Cameras.
  • After reading the article again, I have to retract the "Great review" bit of my comment. The sheer wrong-ness of tying Depth of Field to number of Autofocus points means whoever wrote this review is unqualified to do so. Whether this article is meant for beginners or not, this is inexcusable. People trust the Tom's brand and I don't think you guys should keep doing camera reviews until you have a qualified reviewer in-house.
  • zodiacfml
    haplo602 beat me to it, yeah, he's right about links and articles regarding each technical aspect and features. being a beginner, i don't know what depth of field, SNR, ISO, and f-stops are.
    regarding taking HD videos, i think, it's a useful feature for non-pros like me.
    i like to see a larger features comparison table.

    in my opinion, Scores should be placed at the bottom page, or better, at the end of article, not in between sentences.

    regarding image quality, it is difficult to trust and understand an author's opinion about it without a side by side comparison of the same cropped images of the said cameras. (no need for zoom link)

    lastly, there are a lot of redundant or not quite important parts such as advices like use of strap, bring two batteries, and etc.
  • haplo602
    andrewhoI may be misunderstanding something, but on the Color & Quality page, you say that a higher Signal-to-Noise ratio is bad. Maybe I've missed your definition of the term, but higher SNR is usually better. Also, the Olympus, with by far the smallest sensor, got the lowest SNR. I looked at the images (histogram ones) and there isn't a noticeable difference between the Nikon and Canon, but there is noticable noise in the Olympus. Great review otherwise, I'm glad you guys are talking about Cameras.


    ah that's a good point. I did not actualy noticed that they take higher SNR as worse. I was just puzzled why the Olympus is the best while the actual images are the worst from ISO 400 up.

    Actualy I'd like to know how they measure the SNR, might be interesting.

    One point for the color/image part. Nikon underexposing images is actualy a +. You can always make the image brighter, but if you overexpose, there's nothing you can do to salvage the image (not with digital).

    One more point, while all of them offer a RAW format, Nikon makes you pay for their raw processing software while Canon gives it for free (I have no clue about Olympus). Also Canon gives a free camere control utility that you can use to shoot/control the camera from you laptop/PC.