Hi all, I am taking up photography as a new hobby this year in 2014 partly to spend more time with my wife (she's always been interested in photography, but as she has a chronic illness resulting in difficulty moving around, she needs someone to bring her to various locations to shoot - instead of just being the chauffeur, I figured I could use this as a common hobby to spend more time together), and partly because I discovered my previous "shaky hands" condition has improved and I am now able to handle a camera without my hands shaking (probably due to my reduced coffee intake now).
My wife is interested in nature photography and macros (birds, butterflies and to a smaller extent scenic shots), and by preference uses a Sony HX300 Superzoom bridge camera. For myself, aside from accompanying her to shoot nature, I am also interested in documenting my other hobby via photography - the other hobby is aquariums. My requirements in this aspect of the hobby require both wide angle (to capture shots of my entire fish tanks) and zoom/macro (to capture shots of my fish). My preference is for an interchangeable lens camera. The camera/lenses I purchase will require the breadth to be able to take all of the above mentioned shots.
Based on the above requirements, I intend to start off with the following 2 lenses:
1. Versatile lens such as the Canon 18-135mm or Nikon 18-140mm; and
2. Macro lens such as the Canon 100mm or Tamron 90mm (these are the recommended lenses for fish macro photography on an aquarium forum I read)
After much reading, I have narrowed my choices down to the following few, and I would like to seek your advice on which would be the best choice for me to purchase. I will try to add a short paragraph for each choice to explain my thought process as to the pros and cons for each selection so that you will be able to understand my requirements and thought process better.
1. 2nd hand Canon 600d with 18-55 kit lens + New Canon 18-135 lens: This is a unique selection because my sister wants to switch to a mirrorless camera (DSLRs are too large and heavy for her) and it would kind of be a favour to her if I were to take this option as she's too lazy to find a buyer to sell it. At the price she's letting go, the camera + lens would cost only $200 less than buying option 2 (Canon 700d with Kit 2), as I wouldn't need the 18-55 kit lens with the 18-135mm purchase. Concern I have is that being a newbie, I do not know how to inspect the body and lens properly. She bought the 600d in 2011 when it just launched and has kept it out in the open for the past 2+ years. The lens has been sitting in a tupperware box without silica gel. However, the good thing about this is that shutter count is low - she's probably taken less than 500 shots (and that is a generous estimate). Benefit of this option and option 2 is that they come with inbuilt wireless flash controllers, which would save me the cost of buying ST-E2/ST-E3 or equivalent flash controllers. Based on sharing by other fish photographers I know, it is hugely beneficial to use top-down wireless flashes when taking macro shots to bring out the colour of the fish, plus front on flash will reflect off the fish tank glass.
2. Brand new Canon 700d with Kit 2 (18-135mm) lens: As mentioned above, this is only $200 more than the above option, and everything is brand new with some improvements in the body. Based on dpreview's review, it seems that the improvements in the body are not very significant. The ones to take note of are touch screen (probably not much use to me), WiFi (can be overcome using Eye-Fi or FlashAir SDcards), Digic 5 and more AF points using crosses. Are the improvements of the 700d (plus benefit of brand new and not having to check for fungus) worth the $200 (and my sister's goodwill haha)? Additional benefit as mentioned above is the inbuilt flash controller.
3. Brand new Nikon d5300 with Kit 2 (18-140) lens: This is also only $200 more than option 1. Dpreview recommended this camera over the Canon 700d, plus I like the red body (looks like iron man!) haha. Other than that, not really sure what else this option brings over option 2 above. Downside would be the lack of inbuilt flash controller which would require me to buy the Speedlite Commander.
4. Brand new Sony SLT A65 with SAL18135 lens: Benefit of Sony is that IS is built within the body, which means I don't need to look for it in a lens. As mentioned above, I do have slight hand shake problem, but I don't know the extent it may affect my phototaking now that it has improved. The EVF is also quite useful for continuous macro shots. However, I have heard that Sony A mount may not have as much support as E mount, which doesn't affect me much now, but may in the future. As with the Nikon, I will need to buy a flash controller of some sort (I can't find a Sony brand flash controller on Sony website).
5. Brand new Sony Nex-5T or Nex-6 with SEL1650 and SEL55210 lenses: Portability portability portability. Plus, mirrorless is supposed to be the future, so starting to collect lenses for mirrorless mount (i.e. Nex mount in this case) isn't a bad thing. Problem is the inconvenience of switching between lenses for wide angle and zoom (unlike the 18-135/140mm lenses that the others have). Also lacking a good macro lens, as Sony only has a 30mm one available for the E mount. Concern also with autofocusing on fast moving fish, as aquarium shooting will likely be in low light, thus making the hybrid AF less reliable. I will also need to buy some form of flash controller.
Which of the above do you think would be best for me?
I understand that I can buy 2nd hand for any of the other options, but unless it's helping my sis out I do not like purchasing 2nd hand goods as a rule, especially since (as mentioned above) I don't know how to check properly. I also understand that there may be many other mirrorless options, but personal preference - I would like an APS-C sensor.
Appreciate your recommendations on the 5 choices above!