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For it's rugged construction, "professional-in-mind" design, superior lens quality, comprehensive accessories and most importantly, the interchangeability between the manual and auto focus lens, this one alone saves me a fortune. (OK, to be qualify a "serious" photographer, I got to have at least one manual system as backup, in case I'm running out of battery, or my electronic camera malfunction under extreme hot or cold weather etc, that’s really happens. For other brand this means I need two set of identical lens)
Lets talk about lens. Actually Pentax doesn't hold much ground when compared with Nikon. I've tracking the lens analysis report from different institution for years and my impression is that Nikon constantly hold a upper hand, especially in big aperture class, Like 80-200/2.8, 20-35/2.8, Nikon beat the Pentax dead down to the water. At 4.5-5.6 class small aperture lens they are equally poor. It was famous Nikkor lens that changed whole impression about Japanese camera when American journalist discovered that their cheap Nikkor lenses some how managed to produce better image than the million dollar Carl Zeise during the Korean war. Canon has some very good opticals, especially UMS serious has very good reputation among sports shooters. The draw back is that they use plastic lens mount on some of its cameras and lenses, those who got a Rebel can confirm this. Whatever Canon claim it is (they say it's an enforced carbon fiber or some thing) I just call it “plastic” and I can't put my trust on that. Beside, Canon doesn't appear to me has a full manual camera as yet.
What lens to chose then? Many people like to start with 28-80/ 4.5-5.6 zoom, I say it's not wide enough, not long enough and not fast enough… and usually they are cheaply made. Given a limited budget I would start build up my system with at least 24mm, it gives you reasonably wide angle and well-controlled distortion and vingeting. I prefer 24-50 rang over 24-80 because longer the zoom range the softer on tele end.
A lot of people ignore 50mm standard lens and went strait up to 80-210 range. Hold on my friend, what if you come to a situation that you need to take a indoor shoot with natural night (yes we all hate the flash light that just kills the atmosphere that we really like)? With you 4.5 lens it just doesn't cut, you can use the faster film but will suffer too much grain, what you need is a faster lens. What is the fastest lens you can get for around $100? 50mm/1.8 my friend, other wise you will spend thousands.
If you still have money left to burn, you would go for 135mm fixed focus portrait lens. Excellent for portraiture and perfect for medium-range candids or actions shots, such as capturing people across a room or across the street. The portraits have a quality that is difficult to describe but it is something that makes them look almost alive. Pros say it is because this lens is right on the boundary for flatness in a tele lens. I don't know.
You can settle with that for a while, When you get more money and really really really serious about the thing, It's time for a big gun, NikonAF80-200mm f/2.8D ED-IF. A fabulous toy, the world's fastest telephoto zoom lens, ideal for indoor sports photography and photojournalism in dim light. Pictures quality is fantastic, really sharp and crisp, and color reproduction is first class. Hey, just add a 2x tele-converter you have a 400mm/5.6 lens now, WOW, it's enough to shoot a lion on you next safari trip to Sarengattie.
Flash! Flash! I hate flash, you know that flat white face against dark background? But Nikon claimed that it has already been taking cared of. Their answer to the problem is an exposure control system called 3D Matrix Metering. That is when camera calculate the amount of light that needed for a subject using TTL, it's not only calculate the side that direct face the camera, it also calculate top and bottom, left and right. Coupled with same futured external flash unit, camera will send the control signal to the flash to sparkling the right amount of light. Thatss what I heard few years back and to be honest I never use flash.
What do I say about cameras in your list? They are too amateur, if you don't have a big budget right now (which I don't think so) just go for Nikon FM2 full manual system, You will gain tremendous from this one than those cheap toys, and like I said it's a good start point to build up your system. In the worst case if someday you feed up with these crap and decide to get ride of them, I tell you Nikon is a good name to invest, Nikon F2E my father bought 12 years ago now worth more than $500US, it was cost him $150US brand new. Just visit any used camera store old nikkor lens are still traded actively
Happy shooting my friend.
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