First of all, I'm a newbie; so pardon my innocence.Emerson
Only the guilty need to be pardoned - you have no worries
This is going to be my first DSLR purchase. I'm a beginner enthusiast and am looking for a great camera to grow in. I would most be interested in taking the following pictures: land/sky- scapes, sports, wildlife, portraits, and macros.
That's a pretty broad palette!
Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I get this sense that Canon and Nikon users feel very 'critical' (to say the least) about each other's equipment.
I don't think the term "very critical" is called for here.. No, I think "maniacally malevolent" is more appropriate
Example: I am going to take my camera , and maniacally malevolent your head with it until you are dead".
I would like to get your opinion on the contrasting Pros & Cons of owning a Canon 30D or a Nikon D200. Also, I would like to get your thoughts on the lenses, performance, hardiness (weatherproof?) between the two.
OK - here goes. I would like to respectfully disagree with many of the opinions put forth by the previous good-willed posters. This will just show to go you that an informed, rational decision is impossible in these matters.
1) As a newbie, you can't walk up to a sales counter and try out different DSLR bodies, and make any kind of intelligent decisions about whether one "feels better" than the other one or not, or will one camera be easier to use. You don't yet know how to use one, so how would you know?
2) What you CAN feel is the relative solidity, size, bulk, and weight of these cameras. I will go out on a limb and predict that - at least if you are like me - you will come away with the conclusion that both the D200 and the 30D are built like Sherman tanks.
And this should give you insight into the validity of all the posts you will no doubt read claiming that one camera is built so much better then another. Both ergonomic designs have their advocates, and you will get used to whichever one you buy in short time, and will therefore despise the other camera forever, because it doesn't "feel" right. Just so you know.
3) While what we really spend money on, and what we keep in our bags forever are our lenses, tis true - digital camera bodies are not anymore just interchangeable boxes. The sensors and computers inside make a pretty big difference in how the pictures look, and to some extent, even what kinds of photographs you can take.
=> Fair disclosure - I have a Canon system. I am definately biased. The 20D I have was my first sophisticated camera, and I was torn between it and the D70. If deciding today versus the D200, my decision, however, would be the same - but that's just me. Here's why I went the way I did:
4) The Canon CMOS sensor and accompanying processor flat out produces less noise while still retaining fine detail at all ISO levels above 100 compared to the Nikon system, although both work identically well at ISO 100. The difference in noise/suppressed detail gets greater as ISO goes up. This is either a crises or a trivial matter, depending on which brand of camera you own
This was important to me , and judging from the genres of photography you listed, just might be important to you, ie landscapes, skyscapes; sports; wildlife.
Yes - even landscapes, as there will be times when you want to take a hand-held ISO 800 landscape, with fine detail, and print it at large size. (Also, Tilt-shift lenses, available from Canon, are a huge sophistication and advantage for your landscape photography.)
Skyscapes, and especially, long-exposure night-time and astrophotography, are a situation where the CMOS sensor is an absolute blessing, if not a necessity.
Low-light sports is another common situation where higher ISO performance is much appreciated, as is wildlife shooting.
Add to all of this the fact that the lens selection of the Canon system is quite a bit larger than the Nikon.
My conclusion was that these were all advantages for Canon, and that Nikon offered no counterbalance, as far as inherent image quality potential. All I heard was "FUD". Arguments spreading "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt" that the Canon advantages were actually advantages you really needed.
However, what the D200 does give you is a fair amount of electronic features that the 30D lacks. I especially like the exposure bracketing flexibilty, the built-in wireless flash controller. Those are REALLY useful features that require extra money or a work-around on the 30D.
The D200 gives you weathersealing as well, although to be fair, not all the camera is sealed and it is not promoted as fully sealed. Better than the 30D, though.
5) There is something to be said for buying into the camera company with the best R&D, supply line, and product breadth as well. Canon develops and manufactures their own sensors.
Nikon has them made out of house, by companies now about to compete with them head to head in the DSLR marketplace. While they claim to have settled on a single sensor size - eschewing the larger full-frame size with its inherent advantages (some drawbacks) and potentials - they still haven't even settled on a sensor technology, as they go back and forth between CCD and CMOS. This is a tad troubling to me.
I am about to move up to a 5D, while keeping my 20D as a backup. All my lenses will work on both cameras. The larger sensor on the 5D has a lot of advantages over the smaller sensor in the 20D. And, down the road, the potential for image quality upgrades is likely to come only with larger format sensors. One has to question whether 'tis wise to invest in APS-size only lenses, or a sensor size whose potential for image-quality improvement is limited by physics, not human imagination.
Man I can not tell if one of these cams is better than another! I read some professional reviewers say one thing, others the opposite, and the same goes for owners. The 30D seems a slightly better focuser than the 20D, and now has a spot meter. The D200 has a smaller spot meter, and some sportier metering modes. Time will tell, I guess.
All that said, the NikonD200 and Nikon system may be perfect for you. The D200 takes darn good pictures . Really good pictures.
What counts is how much you enjoy taking the photos you take, and how they come out. I hope my absolutely biased perspective at least offers something fresh for you to ponder. Good luck with your purchase!