Saturday, January 5, 2008

Best bang for the buck DSLRs (one per manufacturer)

There are many ways to look at the existing DSLRs in the marketplace. In this post, we are attempting to pick the "best bang for the buck" DSLR from each manufacturer. The manufacturers that have only 1-2 current DSLRs are grouped together, and we pick one from that group as well. The results below are only our opinion. For reviews of some of these be sure to check the DSLR Review Matrix. Eventually they will all be included in the Matrix, we are adding them in reverse chronological order.

The Nikon D80 was the easiest one to pick, thanks to the limitations of the D40/D40x with regards to older lenses. With the D200 at $1400 and the D300 at $1800, the D80 at under $800 is clearly the best bang for the buck among Nikon dSLRs. The rumor mill has a replacement for it in the cards, which could make its price drop further down and make it an even better deal.
Picking one from Nikon's archrival was the opposite, it wasn't easy! One could make arguments for the 400D (D-Rebel XTi) or 350D (D-Rebel XT) or even the brand new 40D, but ultimately we think the Canon 30D is the biggest bang for the buck among Canon DSLRs. Priced at about $350 below the 40D and $250 above the 400D (D-Rebel XTi) it provides a compromise between the two.
Although they only have two current DSLRs, the Sony A100 has earned a pick because of its droping price, currently at $600 or less. With sensor shift stabilization, and the legacy of Minolta lenses along with the newer lenses (Zeiss included), it is the best bang for the buck for the Minolta mount buyer.
This was clearly the closest call we had to make, and if it wasn't for our limitation of only one per manufacturer, we would have picked the K10D alongside. But ultimately the lower price, $100 Pentax mail-in rebate, sensor shift stabilization, and its compatibility with millions of K-mount lenses got the Pentax K100D Super the win. The irony of this is that if we were picking the biggest bang for the buck dSLR among all DSLRs regardless of brand, we would have picked the Pentax K10D!
The Olympus pick was not easy either. With the E330 and the E500 lingering around at tempting prices, and the E510 offering sensor-shift stabilization we had a hard time choosing. But ultimately we gave the Olympus E410 the nod because its size delivers the promise and premise of Four Thirds. As with all Olympus 4/3rds DSLRs, the two-lens kit is the biggest bang for the buck among the kits.
If we were writing this when the Sigma SD14 was on sale for $650, we would have picked it! But now it's back to its "regular" price. Given their prices, the Fuji S5, Leica M8 (yes, it's not a DSLR, but there's no other place to put it), Leica Digilux 3, and the Panasonic L10 are ruled out. This leaves the Panasonic L1 as the default winner. The price of the kit is just barely higher than the perceived price of the Leica(sonic) MegaOISonic 14-50 lens bundled with it. This was obviously a better deal at $800 around XMas, but even at the current price of $970, it is a clear winner among this group.

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