[quote name='markpsf' timestamp='1305999739' post='8737']
For my daughter.
Years of experience with a Minolta 35mm.
Wants a camera good for (in order of importance): landscapes, candid shooting (street and indoor), wildlife.
Wants easy portability (not too huge or heavy)
Wants a large bright viewfinder
Wants fast accurate auto focus
Occasional large prints (18 x24) but rarely.
Some video but also not a priority
Has narrowed it down to these cameras:
Any advice appreciated.
All cameras are good. One I think is missing: The Canon EOS 60D.
None will have a view finder that is as big as your daughter is used to, as far As I know film viewfinders were bigger even on cheap Minolta SLRs. All of the above view finders are more or less comparable, just the EOS 60D's is not 100% (misses a small part at the edges).
Depends a lot on the lenses, less on the body (since you mention wild life)...
The Pentax body is most compact.
Wild life is the tricky one... Wildlife with small apertures, the E5 will win in portability, since it has the smallest sensor and can get away with smaller focal lengths. But when you want wider apertures for more subject separation, the E5 becomes less attractive, because then its lenses become more expensive, heavier than with the others.
All 4(5) offer fast and accurate autofocus, depending on which lens is used of course. Pentax and Olympus used to be so-so in this area, but with the E5 and K5 they have made big strides, closing the gap with Canon and Nikon quite a bit.
All of the cameras offer enough pixel resolution for 18x24 prints. 18x24 is a 3:4 format though, only the E5 offers the (in my view) less attractive 4:3 format, the others have the regular (from 35mm film) 3:2 format.
Video with DSLRs is not for home video stuff. The reason: The shallow DOF. Shallow DOF means that auto focus is always a nightmare to sit through in viewings, because you see it happen. You either see the focus move and search for the subject, making the focus shift through the scene, or you see the focus try to keep up with the subject, making for the same effect of scene focus shifting... just a not so lovely effect. For home video with AF, any simple compact video cam will be a better choice, since it will offer AF and a big DOF.
If you/one is aware of that limitation, shallow DOF video with DSLRs can give very cinematic and impressive results. But it will require a more cinematic planning of shooting subjects/scenes in "takes".
All cameras offer ok video, the Canons having the best implementations features/settings wise.
Seems easy to advice, but is not that simple to interpret... Different people have different styles, some want ultra wide angle for landscapes, some use more moderate wide angle, some for instance portrait teles... Some swear by primes, some use flexible zooms. All of the cameras above should offer plenty of lens choices to accommodate whatever lens wish your daughter would have.
Also a bit tricky... some love to use the 35mm field of view for street photography, others feel that with longer lenses they can capture more candid shots... For the Canon/Nikon/Pentax the 35mm equivalent would be lenses with 20 to 24mm focal length.
Any kit lens will offer that focal length, any 17/18-50-55mm f2.8 lens offers that focal length.
Prime lenses can offer more DOF choice, which some do need/require. Or they are smaller/less conspicuous than the f2.8 zooms.
Canon has the quite impressive still, optically, 24mm f2.8.
Nikon has also a 24mm f2.8, a tad less impressive for today's standards (but i'm sure can still be a pleasure to use, with proper CA treatment).
Pentax has the super compact 21mm f3.2, which performs well, and probably another one in this class.
Nikon and Canon both offer an impressive 24mm f1.4, but they are quite heavy and very expensive.
And for Canon and Nikon there is the lovely (build wise) Voigtlander 20mm f3.5 SL II, a manual focus lens which is also very compact.
Longer candids... I would choose a 85mm f1.8, the field of view those give just make for beautiful candid shots. Both Nikon and Canon offer one, the Canon focussing faster and having a bit smoother bokeh, both lenses being sharp and very affordable.
Olympus: The 17-18mm focal length makes the kit lenses and standard zoom lenses the lenses to choose. No prime options, really. Also the longer focal length candids, no equivalent really for what the Canon and Nikon offer.
The Nikon seems a bit less well liked concerning grip/feel/control layout/design than the other 3(4), and than other Nikon bodies.
The Pentax seems very well liked in this respect.
The Canon's offer a great live view implementation, a lesser implementation with big usability issues. Not sure how well the K5's live view is implemented, but probably quite good.
All in all, a tricky choice.. all cameras are good, lens choices will have different winners in different categories.
I would avoid stepping into the 4/3rds platform, as its future seems the least sure. And the lenses in certain areas are more restricted.
The Canon has a slight advantage wild life wise, if for instance the 100-400 L lens would be what would be needed for what your daughter looks for. If 300mm is the limit, portability wise and price wise, both Canon and Nikon offer several options including the Tamron 70-300 VC.
Olympus offers the 70-300 (smaller aperture though) too, with more reach due to the smaller sensor.
Don't think you have gotten things more clear now, it is just too multifaceted a query to get a definitive choice/answer.