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View Full Version : New DSLR - What would you do? Nikon D5100 v. Sony A55


Disney Dreams
05-11-2011, 04:36 PM
We (DH and I) currently have a Sony Cybershot (non-DSLR) that we like, but realize it was not the best purchase because of the lack to flexibility with no interchangeable lenses. So, we have decided to purchase a DSLR.

We are leaving on a DCL Alaskan cruise next week and are VERY excited. A new camera will be going with us, but which one?

We have narrowed it down to two: Nikon D5100 or Sony A55.

I really like the Nikon (probably in part because my dad who I get my shutterbugness from is a Nikon loyalist). It just seems like the best choice for overall quality of pictures.

The Sony has some fun features (endless panoramic, for example) and seems more instinctive when it comes to learning to use it. However, we are not sure how Sony is as a camera manufacturer (i.e. quality of the pictures).

Here's the kicker: We have 3 lens from an old (read: film) Minolta camera.

1. AF 70mm-210mm
2. AF 28mm
3. AF 35mm-70mm
We found out that those lens work with the Sony A55. This is about $1,000 (???) worth of lenses. It is making it very difficult to purchase the Nikon.

So... what would you do? If you have either camera, would LOVE your comments. We are both what you would probably categorize as beginning to intermediate photographers. (DH is new to DSLR cameras, I have some experience, but MANY years ago.)

Thanks for your comments. We appreciate it!

- Dreams and DH

WilsonFlyer
05-11-2011, 05:45 PM
I have to run but wanted to make SURE you saw this as it is very relavent to the decision you are making.

http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?t=2712678&highlight=sony+minolta+lenses

Minolta made some very good lenses and Sony (old Minolta) cameras are consistently rated right up there with Canon and Nikon. I had a Maxxum 7000 "back in the day" and I'm still not sure it wasn't the best camera I ever owned and I'm a Canon loyalist now (own a 60D and a T3i).

It's a shame you can't wait on the A77. Supposedly, it's right around the corner.

You can't go wrong with either camera, but if you have some GOOD "Maxxum" lenses, the A55 might be right up your alley.

disneyfaninaz
05-11-2011, 05:49 PM
As a current Nikon D5000 user, I can highly recommend the 5100.

Disney Dreams
05-11-2011, 06:03 PM
I have to run but wanted to make SURE you saw this as it is very relavent to the decision you are making....
Saw it and read it. Thank you for making sure I had seen it, though. I appreciate it. If you have any further thoughts or input when you have more time, it would be appreciated.

As a current Nikon D5000 user, I can highly recommend the 5100.
Do you find that it is a relatively easy learning curve. The Sony seems to have a more intuitive user-interface over the Nikon. Do you find it easy to learn "where" everything is?

Thanks for your input!

Anyone else?

- Dreams

ukcatfan
05-11-2011, 06:35 PM
For me, that would be a non question. Go Sony because of the lenses. The quality of camera and images is pretty much equal anymore from Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Pentax as long as you are comparing the same generation of camera (which you are). The A55 is a little different type of camera though. It is mirrorless. Have you looked at the Sony A580? It is a traditional DSLR. Also, I believe that the D5100, A55, and A580 all use the same sensor, which is made by Sony.

zackiedawg
05-11-2011, 11:39 PM
UKcatfan's point is good - it might be worth checking out and considering both the A55 and the A580 - they both use the same sensor, but the A55 goes for a new, small, light design with a fixed translucent mirror (it's not mirrorless, btw!), electronic viewfinder, and some interesting technology...if for any reason you don't like the smaller build or body, don't adapt well to the electronic viewfinder, or don't feel the controls or ergonomics will suit, the A580 will give you a more traditional DSLR build, shape, and even better overall quality than the A55 (it's not a drastic difference, but especially at higher ISOs, the sensor will deliver about 1/2 stop better performance due to the lack of translucent mirror in the path).

The D5100 is an excellent, highly recommendable camera, as is the A55 and A580 - you're not going to go wrong with any of them. As for whether Sony's cameras are any good or comparable to Nikon - yes they are - you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference of a photo taken by a good photographer with a good lens using a Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, or Olympus. The brand is about the least important factor in image quality. Sony has been doing their own DSLRs for 5 years, and they bought out and took over Minolta who had been in the DSLR game from the beginning...they are every bit as good as any other. Moreover, Sony is the biggest player in DSLR sensors, being the primary sensor provider for their own cameras, as well as those of Nikon and Pentax...the excellent sensor in the D5100 and D7000 is the same one in the A55 and A580.

Most important thing is to make sure you're comfortable holding the cameras - try out the A55 mostly because it is different - different isn't bad, but it's worth checking out to make sure. If it isn't working for you, check out the A580. While the Nikon is every bit as good, you've got lenses already that will work with the Sony, so that's a good reason to prioritize those models if they suit you.

KAT4DISNEY
05-12-2011, 12:53 AM
I have the Sony A55 (and have had other Sony dslr's) and would recommend it. You've hit one of the main points that has stood out for me as I find them to be very intuitive. With the lenses you already have it makes sense to go with the A55. Image quality is similar amongst all brands so not much to say about it that Justin hasn't said. And the A55 is very loaded on features - a lot of bang for the buck.

Really won't be wrong either way though. After all the best camera is one you like to use!

Enjoy the cruise! I think we'll be doing one next year and I can't wait to shoot some pictures. With my Sony.;)

coloneldebugger
05-12-2011, 10:44 AM
UKcatfan's point is good - it might be worth checking out and considering both the A55 and the A580 - they both use the same sensor, but the A55 goes for a new, small, light design with a fixed translucent mirror (it's not mirrorless, btw!), electronic viewfinder, and some interesting technology...if for any reason you don't like the smaller build or body, don't adapt well to the electronic viewfinder, or don't feel the controls or ergonomics will suit, the A580 will give you a more traditional DSLR build, shape, and even better overall quality than the A55 (it's not a drastic difference, but especially at higher ISOs, the sensor will deliver about 1/2 stop better performance due to the lack of translucent mirror in the path).

The D5100 is an excellent, highly recommendable camera, as is the A55 and A580 - you're not going to go wrong with any of them. As for whether Sony's cameras are any good or comparable to Nikon - yes they are - you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference of a photo taken by a good photographer with a good lens using a Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, or Olympus. The brand is about the least important factor in image quality. Sony has been doing their own DSLRs for 5 years, and they bought out and took over Minolta who had been in the DSLR game from the beginning...they are every bit as good as any other. Moreover, Sony is the biggest player in DSLR sensors, being the primary sensor provider for their own cameras, as well as those of Nikon and Pentax...the excellent sensor in the D5100 and D7000 is the same one in the A55 and A580.

Most important thing is to make sure you're comfortable holding the cameras - try out the A55 mostly because it is different - different isn't bad, but it's worth checking out to make sure. If it isn't working for you, check out the A580. While the Nikon is every bit as good, you've got lenses already that will work with the Sony, so that's a good reason to prioritize those models if they suit you.


my 2 cents as someone who recently when through this very debate on these same cameras....

I (actually my neighbor with my input) passed on the sony 580 because of no autofocus on videos. from there it basically boiled down to the a55 being cheaper than the nikon so it freed up a hundred bucks or so for extras like a remote and batteries.

my neighbor and I did find both cameras at the local best buy which gave the chance to hold them both just to get that feel of them. The nikon didn't have any power to be able to play with it further. the nikon felt like an slr while i thought the a55 felt a little more like a super zoom type camera.

just to muddle the picture a little more.... you might even consider the a33 to save even a bit more money (thinking another lens, along with an extra battery and the remote). i know you already have extra lenses so maybe not that big an issue, so maybe some new memory cards. it is very similar to the a55, only losing gps, a little burst speed and a couple mega-pixels.


my only caution on this is the learning time could be short only having a week or so to get familiar with all the fun stuff a dslr can bring.

Overall my feeling is you won't go wrong either way.

ssanders79
05-12-2011, 11:17 AM
I really like the Nikon (probably in part because my dad who I get my shutterbugness from is a Nikon loyalist). It just seems like the best choice for overall quality of pictures.

So... what would you do?

I am not speaking on either brand or model, but if your Dad is a big Nikon guy would he be willing to share his glass? A close family member would be a big influence if they are willing to share gear with you.

Disney Dreams
05-12-2011, 12:58 PM
Wow, everyone! Thank you all so much for all the thoughtful and thorough replies. Both my husband and I have read them (several times) and are appreciative of the insight you have all offered on different fronts.

We have held and played with both cameras (go Best Buy!). We even got them to switch around whatever necessary to get power to each camera. Additionally, we brought one of our Minolta lenses in and placed it on their Sony A55 (just to be sure :goodvibes).

I think that I have it so ingrained in my mind that Nikon is king when it comes to photography that I am hesitant to NOT get the Nikon (but then there's those lenses.....). Your comments here have helped.

KAT4DISNEY, "After all the best camera is one you like to use!" - Sooo true!

ssanders79, Dad may be willing to share when the day comes that he leaves this Earth! :rotfl: He does not live near us and uses his Nikon (and all that goes with it) constantly! Of course, if we asked his opinion, Nikon would be the answer for sure. He has used Nikon from as early as I can remember.

...but the A55 goes for a new, small, light design with a fixed translucent mirror (it's not mirrorless, btw!), electronic viewfinder, and some interesting technology...

Thank you for your detailed, technical reply. Can you explain a bit more about the difference of the translucent mirror and the mirror in a traditional DSLR? Thanks!

Still welcoming additional comments anyone may have. Thank you all for your comments.

- Dreams (and husband) :wizard:

zackiedawg
05-12-2011, 01:58 PM
Absolutely - the big difference between the translucent fixed mirror design, and a 'traditional' DSLR design, is that both cameras use a mirror for some purpose or another. A traditional DSLR has a mirror that sits inside the camera which reflects the image from the lens up to the viewfinder so you can see what you're shooting. The mirror is also partially transparent in the middle so it can send some light down to the autofocus sensors. The main sensor for imaging is straight ahead, and doesn't receive any light from the image. When you take a picture, that mirror flips up out of the way to expose the sensor for the shot. With the SLT system Sony pioneered, the mirror is partially transparent but relocates the autofocus sensors up where the viewfinder path normally would be - the rest of the light goes straight through to the main sensor. In this case, the main sensor is providing the live view for the electronic viewfinder or LCD, as well as capturing the image. Because the autofocus sensors are constantly receiving light, and the main sensor receives a constant signal of light and delivers the view too, the mirror doesn't need to flip out of the way - it stays fixed. The key advantage was allowing phase-detection autofocus to function at all times, including during video or fast burst frames (at up to 10 frames per second)...something other DSLRs cannot do. The key downside is that the partially transparent mirror steals about 30% of the light that would normally go to the sensor. Many folks mistakenly believe this means the camera is 30% darker, or won't properly expose - this is not anything the user will notice, because Sony has simply 'turned up the gain' on the sensor to compensate. For normal shooting this will likely never be noticed - the only area that suffers a bit is at the higher ISO levels, where noise starts to get heavy and covers up detail. It's still one of the better performing cameras at high ISO, but you can see where the very same sensor in the A580 has more detail and less noise, because the SLT model with the fixed mirror is 'turned up' for want of a better word, to make up for the light loss.

Hope that helps explain it! I can only emphasize one more time that the camera brands are far more equal than you can ever imagine - Canon and Nikon are well known camera names and often the first two that pop to mind, but Minolta/Sony, Pentax, and Olympus have been around as long, have pioneered many technologies used today, have excellent backlogs of lenses, and are equally adept. And there are even semi-pros and pros using every system. And don't forget that Nikon relies on Sony, as does Pentax, to make the excellent sensors that these cameras use to produce such lovely results...it's the sensor technology that drives digital SLRs, more than the mechanical technology, and Sony was the pioneer of digital imaging (along with Kodak) so they've got the longest history in digital imaging of any of the DSLR companies.

I've been a Sony DSLR shooter for 3-4 years, and have a good collection of lenses from Sony, Tamron, Sigma, and Minolta - I have never been a brand fanatic and have shot with Pentax, Canon, Fuji, Minolta, and Sony gear in the past. As an avid photographer, I choose based on which system delivers the most of what I want in a body that I find most comfortable for me within my budget. Sony has fit that bill lately, so that's what got me into their DSLRs these past years.

WilsonFlyer
05-12-2011, 04:04 PM
Buy the A55. Take it on your cruise and see if you like it along with your Minolta glass. They have a 14 day return policy anyway; 45 days if you're a Silver Club member.

When you get back, if you've decided you'd still rather have the Nikon, return the Sony and get the Nikon (I doubt you'll do this, BTW). You're still in your 14 day return window. "Easy peezie, lemon squeezy." as my 6YO DD would say. :rotfl2:

I hate to advise this in a way, but it's not like you are just buying the camera for your cruise and returning it intending on not buying anything when you do. With your trip creeping up on you quickly, why not take the one with you that you already have some good glass for?

If you do get back and decide to get the Nikon anyway, your old Minolta glass should bring a pretty good return on eBay and you can put the proceeds towards new glass for the Nikon.

See? Wasn't that easy! :cool1:

BigGreen73
05-13-2011, 05:55 PM
Great thread as I am in the same situation. I have been thinking about getting a DSLT and I am looking at the T3i, N5100, and A55. Read all the reviews etc & checked the threads here as well. None of the three really stick out as teh better...Most reviews give them the same score and and pretty much everyone says they are all good..Tough choosing the right one...:confused3

ukcatfan
05-13-2011, 06:43 PM
Great thread as I am in the same situation. I have been thinking about getting a DSLT and I am looking at the T3i, N5100, and A55. Read all the reviews etc & checked the threads here as well. None of the three really stick out as teh better...Most reviews give them the same score and and pretty much everyone says they are all good..Tough choosing the right one...:confused3

Not to confuse you more, but you should include the Pentax K-r and Sony A580 in that list.

Disney Dreams
05-14-2011, 02:03 PM
zackiedawg, wow, what an amazing answer above. Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful reply. We really appreciate it - and read it a few times!

WilsonFlyer, thank you as well.

We are the proud new owners of a Sony A55. We went back (once again) to Best Buy last night and "played" with the cameras and realized, "This isn't going to help. Let's just pick one!" So... we picked the one that we have the lenses for because it's very difficult to leave a zoom, telephoto, and wide angle lens rendered useless when most people seem to feel the Nikon is not EXTREMELY better than the Sony. Ya know?

So, that's that. Thank you all for your input. You were very helpful.

Now of course the big decision is: RAW or JPEG. :rotfl:

- Dreams

WilsonFlyer
05-14-2011, 02:07 PM
Now of course the big decision is: RAW or JPEG. :rotfl:

- Dreams

Yes. :rotfl2::rotfl2::rotfl2::rotfl2::rotfl2:

BigGreen73
05-14-2011, 04:30 PM
Did some hands on w/ the T3i, N5100, and A55 today. The A55 had a bunch of features, but was too small IMO and the lenses felt too plastic for my taste. Actually liked the feel of the Nikon and Canon a little better. Felt like more solid cameras and lenses....the saga continues....:confused3

ukcatfan
05-14-2011, 06:54 PM
Did some hands on w/ the T3i, N5100, and A55 today. The A55 had a bunch of features, but was too small IMO and the lenses felt too plastic for my taste. Actually liked the feel of the Nikon and Canon a little better. Felt like more solid cameras and lenses....the saga continues....:confused3

First a question. Do you plan on using the kit lenses for a while or upgrading fairy soon? If you plan on keeping them for a while, then that would be a big plus for both Pentax and Olympus. The build quality of the Canon and Nikon kit lenses just is not as good. It is nothing against the companies, they do it on purpose.

zackiedawg
05-14-2011, 07:07 PM
Did some hands on w/ the T3i, N5100, and A55 today. The A55 had a bunch of features, but was too small IMO and the lenses felt too plastic for my taste. Actually liked the feel of the Nikon and Canon a little better. Felt like more solid cameras and lenses....the saga continues....:confused3

That would also be a very good reason to add the Sony A580 to your list of cameras to check out and handle - if the features of the A55 were interesting, but the body was too small, the A580 solves that problem with a much larger, heavier, thicker, traditional DSLR body, the best APS-C sensor out there (the 16MP that it shares with the D5100, D7000, A55, and K5), most of the same features and abilities of the A55. As for the 'plastic' lenses - Sony takes the same tack as Canon and Nikon in that regard, with el-cheapo plastic kit lenses sold with the camera. As soon as you step up to almost any other lens, and especially as you get into the nicer lenses, or if you dig through the used sites and grab some excellent Minolta lenses, you'll see night-and-day build quality differences. Many of us actually buy the cameras body-only and immediately pick up a nicer lens as our 'kit' lens.