some one suggested; Unless you're really committed to Nikon for some reason, you may want to look at the Canon Rebel T2i as well. Its 18 megapixels vs. 12 for the Nikons will come in handy if you plan on making larger prints from your images.
Anybody that makes quality decisions based on megapixels should be completely ignored. Their ideas of photography are incomplete, and their advice tends to be asinine because of it.
There is some truth to megapixel counts, but it's nowhere near the extent that knowledge-lacking amateurs want to insist. I like to compare it to car tires.
For example, there is some limited truth that having larger tires on your car allows for better gas mileage. But to what end? A car with tiny wheelbarrow-sized tires would burn up a ton of fuel compared to a car with the larger 14" stock tires, yes. But putting Bigfoot's tires on the car is equally problematic. It's not a simple matter of "more is better." That's just not how things work.
More realistic is the difference between standard 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17" car tires (and assuming the rubber radius increases, too, and not just rim size). Now you could look at the difference between 12 and 17 inches, and think to yourself, "Wow, that's 30% larger! It must be better!" -- but that's highly misleading. It's not a simple matter of being 1" larger. Remember that the rim measurement is just a partial measurement of your wheels/tires.
Now don't lose me just yet, as I talk about cars. It'll become evident real quick how all this shop talk relates to DSLR megapixels...
On a highway, over longer distances, the engine output being the same, slightly larger tires will cover more ground for equal fuel consumption. Therefore your miles per gallon ratio will increase in your favor on the larger tire. You'll go farther on the same tank of gas, assuming constant velocity for hours at a time.
That sounds great, right? Too bad it's an incomplete picture of how the entire car works, for the total duration of your trip. You also have to remember the affect it has on take-off speeds, as the heavier tires require more engine torque to get the car moving. In other words, for city driving, bigger tires are worse. Your engine will drink more gas at every stop sign, stop light and low-speed street.
Now let's go back to the DSLR and megapixels...
Consider these facts:
1. Large Sensor vs Small Sensor - Pixel Noise.
Smaller pixel density creates more noise on the sensor. More noise limits your ISO range. So the camera can only be used in certain situations. A Nikon D3s, for example, has "only" 12MP, but the full-frame (FX) sensor is huge compared to the noisier 12MP "crop" sensors found in the APS-C sensor sized cameras (DX bodies). The D3s can shoot comfortably at ISO 12800 with relatively no noise, while the DX body has issues even at 3200 ISO. Increase that DX (or even the FX) pixel count to 18MP, and you'll suffer ISO performance fall-off. This is currently one of the biggest areas where improvements are being made in photography -- noise reduction. (Glass is the other one.) The push for more megapixels has largely quelled itself for now, mostly due to glass, as well as better grasp of megapixel myths.
2. Sensor Types - CCD vs CMOS
. CCD and CMOS sensors do not necessarily take equal quality images, all other things being equal. Same for Bayer vs Foveon types. And then because of variability between the methods of creating sensors, CCD cs CMOS and Bayer vs Foveon has to be done on a case by case basis. This affects image clarity at least as much as megapixel size does.
3. The Megapixel Myth.
Megapixels are a calculation of the square area of pixels, or length times width, of the two dimensional image area. So when you compare 12MP to 18MP, the 18MP sensor is not 33% larger or better. In reality, it's maybe 15% larger resolution at best, which is not going to make any realistic difference in the image quality. Even a 24MP camera would only be about 40% larger than a 12MP camera. To get a camera that is truly "twice as big" you must get a megapixel count that is FOUR times higher! The Nikon D200 (a.k.a. "the mini D2x" at 10.2MP), for example, is only really twice the image size of the original Nikon D1 (2.74MP), and is why I never wasted thousands of dollars investing in the partially-improved bodies that came between them (4MP, 6MP, etc). For the amount of money needed to upgrade, I insisted it be at least twice as good as what I already had (and only all fronts, such as ISO performance, and not just MP size).
4. Print Size vs Megapixels.
The pixel count on the camera has almost zero correlation to the print size (DPI). Those ridiculous charts out there which make claims as to the "up to" sizes (up to 4x6, up to 8x10, etc) are misleading dribble. The ink, laser, offset, papers, etc -- those determine the print quality. The image simply needs to be sized at the proper print size in the software.
This aspect is one where there is a heavy relationship of megapixels to car tires.
If your image is 0.5MP, then it's not going to look very good. But anything in the 3MP to 8MP range is going to be perfectly fine -- it will look great. Anything above 8MP is a bonus. If you crop into the image (essentially removing a lot of the pixels), then you'll be using those bonus pixels, sure. The "bonus" here is that you can crop with no perceived loss in quality.
You don't need the 18MP or 24MP sensor (Bigfoot tires) to make a great image. If anything, that large sensor is a weakness, because it slows the camera down, makes the files huge, thereby slowing down card writes and computer transfer, as well as software image editing speed (more RAM and CPU now needed), and the sensor will have more noise, making you operate in lower ISOs or with your own flash/lighting. Don't get me wrong -- 18-24MP is nice if you're going to shoot in a photography studio with expensive lights. But it's not an ideal multi-situation camera.
5. Lens Quality vs Megapixels.
What's irked me the most in recent years is how these new high-count MP sensors now show more of the optical flaws, even in $1,000+ pro lenses that are barely a decade old. Many new consumer-grade lenses have the same issues. Your images can be fuzzy, have chromatic aberrations (CA), slight light fall-off in the edges that is suddenly noticeable in a major way, etc. So unless you're mounting a big $500 to $5,000 prime lens on the front of that camera, the extra megapixels won't be doing you any favors. I've had to spend more money that I want on new lenses in the past two years, because my older ones simply cannot perform up to the level of the camera. That $2,500 body investment I made in 2007 quickly became a $5,000+ investment, for this reason.
Again, that person is one that should just be ignored. He/she is clueless at best, a Canon fanboy/fangirl at worst.
and they said more to someone else on another forum who was suggesting I look at Nikon cameras;
I agree with most of your post, and for almost any use that she may have for her camera I'd agree that a 10-12 MP camera is adequate. If she's planning on making larger prints (say something approaching a full sheet of watercolor paper) then more resolution is needed. If the price is similar, and I think it is, I'd go for the greater resolution of the Canon. That said, to take advantage of that greater resolution, you don't want a cheap kit lens. Going with a prime lens, rather than a zoom, will give you the best combination of sharpness and lack of pincushion or barrel distortion (bowed lines at the edges of the frame). You do have to work a bit more in that you have to move the camera relative to the artwork in order to fill the frame.
This advice is mostly good, excluding the megapixels issue.
My issue with Canon is part preference, and part financial security. Since the 1990s, the low-end consumer grade Canon cameras have mostly been plastic crap. I've seen dozens of those cameras break in the past decade, because of how cheaply they are made. While Nikon also uses more plastic components on the low-end bodies, it's far more durable to routine use. The biggest reason I've encountered for Canon body upgrades is because the intro level Rebels were acting up -- not because the person wanted (or was necessarily ready for) the next level up.
Once you get into the mid-grade (high-end consumer, and low-end professional) bodies, you're fine with either company. With professional-level bodies, durability is a given.
Definitely look at having some prime lenses, and not simply using the cheap "kits" lens that may come with a body+lens kit. That's once reason I buy bodies and lenses separately anyway -- no need to pay $100+ extra for something I don't want long-term anyway. Of course, if finances do not allow for this, then the Nikon kit lens is fine. Those Canon kits lenses are crap. Much like the bodies, I've seen far too many of those turn defective in just 1-2 years of weekly use.
From a preference stance, the Nikon camera functions just seem more laid out for serious photo use, where you don't want to waste time with embedded menus on an LCD screen. Nikon puts more of the control onto dials and buttons, and not in LCD screens. Even the professional Canon bodies are terrible about this, such as the 5D and 5DMkII.
There are also concerns about the accuracy of Canon LCDs, for previewing your work on-site. The Nikon tends to be more accurate. This varies quite a bit, body to body (or rather model to model).
You can still take great images with a Canon -- thousands (millions?) of people do it every day. But I would not feel as good about my investment, and I would feel somewhat limited in my speed at an event. (I borrow a Canon 5D from time to time, and I get aggravated by the menus hiding what I feel should be button-ready controls. Meanwhile, I'm missing shots because I couldn't change the ISO fast enough.)
which would be better? canon or nikon? which has better glass in their lenses?
Nikon is a glass company that also makes cameras.
Canon is an electronics corporation that makes all kinds of gadgets, including cameras.
And this simplistic view of the company has historically been quite accurate when it comes to lens quality.
Ken Rockwell compares the two kit lenses, and my experiences mirror his:
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You'll notice the distortions talked about by your "second person" are isolated to that Canon kit lens. Nikon has no such problems of distortion on its 18-55 offering. That's a Canon optical flaw, for that lens.
But again, don't get me wrong -- Canon does make excellent lenses. However, much like the bodies, it tends to be in the mid-range and professional range gear. I doubt you'll be forking over $500+ for an L series Canon lens right away. While there is also a big different in quality between Nikon consumer and pro lenses, I do firmly believe the Nikon consumer gear is simply built better than the Canon equivalent.
Therefore, in all ethical good faith, I simply cannot recommend Canon for low-end ("Rebel"/kit) gear. I must defer to Nikon. (And before any Canon fanboy gets his panties in a wad, know that I recommend Canon P&S cameras over what Nikon offers. Of course, I also recommend Sony above the Canon, in many situations. I'm not brand loyal to anybody. I want what works, including what works for my hard-to-earn dollars. And Canon simply has not proven to me in the past 10+ years that their low-end gear isn't disposable schlock.)
What's your budget, again?
The D7000 just came out for $1,200: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...SIN=B0042X9LC4
Also don't overlook all these Nikon rebates: http://www.digitalfaq.com/forum/show...-slr-2480.html