DSLR Recommendations Please

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by mattwe, Nov 11, 2007.

  1. mattwe macrumors member

    Nov 9, 2007
    First, I know there are a million threads like this and I have read a bunch of them, but would love personal recommendations from experienced users.

    Background: I used to have an SLR that I shot maybe 30 rolls of film with. Was enjoying it when life got in the way and I sold it to pay for some other bills and started back to school to work on my 3rd career. Now, I want to get back into taking pictures and would like the 'instant feedback' of having a DSLR.

    What I want to do with it: I would like to have one fixed 50mm or so lens for taking the 'artsy' photographs with (I have to relearn a lot of the stuff I used to know about taking pictures) and one zoom lens for taking pictures of things in the outdoors. My wife and I do a lot of hiking, skiing, kayaking, climbing, etc. and I want a lens that I can snap pictures of that with. (I know that nice zoom lenses are really expensive - the 50mm would hopefully be a much sharper/nicer lens than the zoom because the zoom would just be for snapping shots to relive our experiences)

    What I am looking at: I had a Nikon SLR, and really like the way they feel, but held a Canon 30D and the 'fit' was nice, except for having the shutter button more towards the front of the camera (which I am sure I would get used to). Thus, I don't think I will rule either out purely on the ergonomics of it.

    My thoughts were Canon EOS-20D or Nikon D40. But, then I read about the Pentax K10D which sounded nice especially considering the 'sealed' body (right term?) for all of the outdoorsy-type stuff the wife and I do. I am planning on stopping by Wolf Camera (the only camera store in my city) to check out the K10D, if they have it.

    Considering the lens choices I want and where I am price-wise with the bodies, what do you more knowledgeable people think would be the best 'bang for my buck'? Assume that I will be buying the 50mm (or so) lens first, with the zoom lens coming later and I would like to keep my total under $1k for the body + best 50mm I can buy for that. (If I could get a package with the 50mm, that would be great, but would rather stay away from a kit lens otherwise).

    I know that ultimately it typically comes down to personal preference because all the DSLR's in that range are capable (I assume that is true of the Pentax as well, although I know little - nothing about the brand), so assume I have no brand loyalty or ergonomic preference and am looking for the best Body + 50mm lens for the price (I have heard good things about the Canon 50mm f/1.8, but haven't read any comparison between it and similarly priced lenses for other bodies).

    Thanks for listening to my ramble and any advice people may have.
  2. Lord Blackadder macrumors G5

    Lord Blackadder

    May 7, 2004
    Sod off
    Buy any body, I don't think it really matters that much - Pentax. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus....Nikon, Canon and Pentax lenses are the most common, but with the internet being what it is local availability isn't necessarily a problem...

    I have a Rebel XT with the kit lens and the 50mm f/1.8. I love the 50 (it's just $80) and the body works great for me. I went with the Canon because I was more familiar with Canon, but when I cross-shopped the Rebel XT, Nikon D40X and Pentax K100D I was pretty happy with all of them.

    I'm still a beginner myself, but after tons of research I was unable to find a clear winner between the Nikon, Canon and Pentax offerings, so if I were you I'd handle them all and see which you like. It all comes down to the little things IMO - what particular lenses are offered, what the user interface is like, or even which is on sale.
  3. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Looks like you've been away from SLRs for a while. Things have changes a little

    Buy the "kit" lens zoon that is sold with the body. The Nikon Kit lenses are the 18-55, 18-70 and 18-135. These are great deals and the quality is pretty good. Ages ago zooms were not so good. They have improved.

    The Nikon D40 is not the camera to buy if you want a prime. It lacks the in-body motor needed to drive the autofocus of the Nikon primes

    Back in the old days of film. You bought a Nikon SLR body and kept it for years ad it held it's value. Not so any more. Think of a DSLR body as a pack of film that you use up and replace. No one wants a 10 year old DSLR body
    Good quality lenses do hold value
  4. Hmac macrumors 68020

    May 30, 2007
    Midwest USA
    Canon and Nikon are the ones who are going to be in it for the long haul, and the ones where you will be assured of the widest range of high quality lenses. I wouldn't bet that Pentax is going to stay around. And Olympus, well, they already abandoned me once when they got out of SLR film cameras. Konica - dead. Minolta - dead. Konica-Minolta...dead. Sigma..dead. Kodak - dead.

    Canon or Nikon. They're the ones who will always be leading the dSLR pack, and their product line is broad enough that you won't have to wonder how to upgrade when you need a body or lens that's more advanced than your Olympus or Pentax can provide for you.
  5. Grimace macrumors 68040


    Feb 17, 2003
    with Hamburglar.
    Canon has some fantastic glass, but I don't think the Canon kit lenses are worth your time. There are better zooms for not too much more money. You can also learn a LOT from a 50mm f/1.8 - available in Nikon and Canon flavors.
  6. mattwe thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 9, 2007
    All right, I stopped by Wolf Camera and really think that Nikons feel better in my hands (I am a big guy - 6'3" - and the Canon's seemed too small). After talking with the guy there, and the comments here, I am dropping the idea of the Pentax.

    Is the 50mm f/1.8 Nikon lens solid/a good buy?

    I think, ideally, I would buy a used D80, the fixed lens, and a cheap(ish) zoom lens for being outdoors. The hardest thing has been finding used equipment - sorting through the illegitimate businesses on ebay is difficult.

    And yes, I have been out of the camera technology loop for WAY too long.

    I will keep everyone in the loop of what I end up doing.
  7. Hmac macrumors 68020

    May 30, 2007
    Midwest USA
    The Nikon 50 mm f/1.8 is a legendary lens, and one of the most cost-efficient lenses around in terms of sharpness per dollar. The D80 is a great camera.

    While I acknowledge that Canon and Nikon are equivalent in terms of photographic capability and lens lineup/quality, I agree about the ergonomics as well as menu accessibility and on that basis, vastly prefer Nikon.
  8. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    DSLR recommendation? Yeah, I can recommend you get a DSLR. :D

    Since you have SLR experience - it might affect your decision to know that most current dSLRs have a 1.5 or 1.6 "crop" because their sensor is smaller. From a practical point of view, this means a 50mm lens on a film camera has the equivalent field of view as a 35mm lens on a dSLR, more or less. So if, in film days, you really liked your 50mm lens - you may find using a 50mm on your dSLR is not the field of view you really are after.

    However the 50mm f/1.8 is cheap (roughly $100), and since you stated you wanted a prime that's probably the way to go. But don't be surprised if you find the Nikkor 35mm f/2 more to your liking (that's the prime I bought, for this very reason). The 35mm is a bit over $300 though.

    The kit 18-55 is the "cheap" zoom alternative - it's not bad, but you do get what you pay for.

    Edit: fixed reversed reference. Digital 50mm = Film 75mm, Digital 35mm = Film 50mm
  9. asiparks macrumors newbie

    Jun 2, 2003
    west side guy made an important point, the old 50mm standard of film cameras is about the equivelant of 75mm mild telephoto. Unless you're going for a full frame sensor camera such as the Canon 5D, but those run $2200 or so....
    Konica/Minolta- they became part of Sony's empire, the "alpha" series is the offshoot of this.
    The next gen of DSLRs are just hitting the stores , Canon's d40 is already out, it runs about $1499 with lens kit, Nikons D300 will be out soon as will Olympus's E3 and Sony's A700 so older models such as the canon d30 may shortly be discounted....
    Some DSLRs are backwards compatible with a greater range of lenses and have the focus motor built into the body, some do not, Some clean the sensor of dust. Some have image stabilisation built into the bodies, some have it built into the lens...

    Check out www.dcresource.com www.dpreview.com www.dcviews.com and www.cameralabs.com

    This may or may not be important to you, "Live view" is becoming more prevalent on DSLRs, basically it's the ability to frame your picture on the LCD screen on the back, in addition to being able to use the viewfinder. Nice to have though...

    Check out LOCAL craiglist ads too, as long as it's a local seller and you can check the goods, you should be good to go. Did I mention "Local"....
  10. jlcharles macrumors 6502

    Mar 30, 2006
    Wenonah, NJ
    For used lenses, you can't go wrong shopping at keh.com Also, they rate very conservatively. I've bought many items in bargain condition and am more than happy with everything.
  11. CMD is me macrumors 6502

    Dec 7, 2006
    Canon is hard to beat. Harder still is a good photographer ; )
  12. Mac-Addict macrumors 65816


    Aug 30, 2006
    Just bought a D40 and all I can say is WOW! I just love it, the way it feels in my hands, the quality of the photos are amazing. The first time I got it out of the box, I easily clicked in the lens put the battery and SD card in set it to auto and took these photos in a matter of a few minutes of me taking it out of the box.
    She's usually shy but she was so interested in my huge new camera she couldn't look away.
  13. mattwe thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 9, 2007
    Any thoughts on my new plan:

    I think it may be smarter for me to get a D70 than a D80. I won't be doing severe cropping or anything like that (like I said, its been a while since I took photo's - I want to relearn the 'craft' and hopefully won't be doing a lot of cropping or post-processing) so I don't think the extra MP will be that much of a benefit. The big advantages, from what I have read, to the D80 are the viewfinder and big screen and some programming additions. My thought on the screen/viewfinder is that if I never had it, I won't miss it and, like I said, I don't think the programming is what I am looking for.

    The big plus for the D70 is that it can be had at D40 prices, while still being able to drive all the AF lenses. I figure I can save the $$ on the D70, buy both the prime and zoom lenses and upgrade to the successor of the D80.

    Is this a bad idea?
  14. tirerim macrumors regular

    Aug 4, 2006

    I have a K10D, and I'm very happy with it; it beat out the D80 for me. The sealed body is nice (I also like to carry it around hiking), though as the lenses are not sealed, it's not completely weatherproof. More useful, I think, is the fact that it has in-camera image stabilization, which lets you take pictures in substantially lower light without using a flash than you could otherwise. With the Nikon (and I think with the Canon, but I don't remember), you can only get image stabilization in the lenses, and those are very expensive -- upwards of $500. The 18-55 mm kit lens (equivalent to a 28-85 mm on a 35 mm film SLR) is not fantastic, but it's pretty decent, and a good value -- it's only an extra $100 on top of the camera body, and especially if you're primarily going to be using it for snapshots, you'll find it perfectly acceptable.

    I'm not sure what to think about the future, though. While Pentax is not as big as Canon and Nikon, they're still fairly venerable in the camera world, so I wouldn't imagine they're just going to disappear from the market (I would be more concerned about someone like Sony). It's also unclear to me what the future of dSLRs is: we're starting to get the point where sensor resolution is not that far from the limits of the lenses, so the megapixel race may not have much further to go; on the other hand, there may still be substantial advances in noise reduction that will make everyone want new bodies in 10 years, or full-size sensors may get cheap enough that they start appearing in consumer-level cameras.
  15. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    I don't know that the D80's "programming" is significantly better than the D70s. As far as functionality goes, the D70 will have pretty much everything the D80 has - effectively perpetual burst mode (jpeg), the advanced lighting control options, available wireless remote shutter, etc. The D80 has fast USB 2, so it you prefer to plug your camera in (instead of using a CF reader) it'll transfer your pictures faster. And, as you said, the D80 has a better viewfinder if you like to manually focus.

    People talk about more pixels giving you more to crop; but the real question there is - is your technique good enough where you're actually capturing 10 megapixels of information? For most people the honest answer to that will be no, at least for the first several years.

    One big thing the D80 would offer you is better noise reduction. The D70 doesn't show noticeable noise up through about ISO 640 (here's one I took at ISO 640); and ISO 800 is quite useable although you can see the noise if you look for it. But if you shoot a lot of low light stuff, the D80 will most certainly give you better ISO 1600 performance.

    I've been quite happy with my D70 for the past 3+ years, although I'm planning to get a D300 in the next year (or less). But I'll still be happily using the D70 as a backup.
  16. ScottFitz macrumors 6502a

    Nov 3, 2007
    I've had a Canon 20D for three years now. Nary a hiccup. I shoot a THOUSAND plus photos of each of my son's varsity football games these past three seasons, plus thousands of sub-varsity photos as well. This has been a real work-horse.

    I have the Canon kit lens, but ended up getting a Sigma small zoom (something like 35-70 or so). Big upgrade, but it cost money.

    I also use a Sigma 70-200 zoom with a constant 2.8 aperature all through the range. That lens cost about the same as the 20D body. 800-900 bucks three years ago.

    Keep in mind that my "work" is mostly done at night and it's sports, so I needed a good zoom for that. I ended up getting an external flash as well for the after game photos with the small zoom.

    The thing I really like about the 20D is that I can push the ISO up to 3200 by opening up a setting in the software. It does a fine job at that setting and doesn't get too grainy. My point is that this camera has been pulling EXTREME duty for the past three seasons. Another point, FWIW, all of the professional photographers that shoot these games are using Canon's as well. There must be a reason for that. Most seem to think that Canon's color processing chip is just flat out better than Nikons.

    Probably can't go wrong for what you are talking about. But, long term, if you're going to invest big money in lenses... long term, Canon in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

    Attached Files:

  17. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    Back around 1300, all the people thought the world was flat. There must've been a reason for that. :rolleyes:

    Word way back in the film days was that Canon was subsidizing that market because they knew it was good advertising to have the sidelines lined with Canon lenses.

    I can just as easily point out that most professional 35mm landscape photographers shoot Nikon. Is it because Nikon is intrinsically better for landscape photography? No, it's probably just because Galen Rowell shot Nikon.

    Canon fanboys think Canons are intrinsically better. Nikon fanboys think Nikons are intrinsically better. I've had Canon shooters tell me they wish Canon made something like my 18-200mm VR lens. Me, I wish Nikon would make a lower-cost full frame camera. But you won't find any objective evidence that one brand is point-for-point better than the other. Canon has historically had better high-ISO noise performance; but the gap has been narrowing (and Nikon seems to believe they've got Canon beat with the latest generation of cameras). Nikon's Creative Lighting System is considered the state of the art for camera-controlled lighting. But the only way your camera brand will directly impact your photos is if one or the other offers a lens that better covers the type of shooting you want to do.
  18. Hmac macrumors 68020

    May 30, 2007
    Midwest USA

    Had a buddy tried to tell me about the same thing about his Minolta.

    When I bought my Olympus OM-4, I was sure that the "venerable" Olympus company wouldn't just disappear from the market. Then announced that they were making no more SLRs and my Zuiko (lenses) were to be no more

    Pentax is on the bubble. I'd be leary. Nikon and Canon account for about 90+% pf the digital SLR market. The OP should go that way.

    Yes, Canon makes a good cameras and lenses, but no knowledgeable professional photographer, no matter which system he uses, would ever make the silly statement that Canon is better than Nikon, or vice versa.
  19. raxafarian macrumors regular

    Jun 8, 2007

    I sold my D70 and purchased a D80. After a month I sold the D80 and got a used D70s from B&H. I think the D70/D70s is at a great price point right now used and the only thing I missed from the D80 was the bigger and better lcd screen. I'll probably upgrade to a D300 after they are out for awhile.

    You will end up spending far more money on good glass. Get whatever body has the features you need and spend as much on glass as you can afford. You'll have the glass forever. You'll replace bodies every 3 years.
  20. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    With a 50 mm prime lens on the DSLRs you're probably looking at, you're going to notice that the lens is a LOT different than if you were using a film SLR. A 50 mm lens on a Nikon DSLR will "appear" to give you the same perspective of a 75 mm lens using a film SLR.
  21. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    That is one reason why I'd steer some beginners to Nikon. If they are beginners and not likely to buy any of the high end gear. Nikon's entry level stuff is much better than Canon's entry level stuff. This is not true as you move up the line

    On the other hand if some one is likely to become serious about photography you want to warn them about the nikon D40 which may push them to either Canon or the Nikon D80.

    The D50 is actually a better camera and maybe even cheaper. The D50 is newr then the D70 and has a bit better (less) noise but the D70 has a couple features for wireless multi flash. I'd never use that as I have a studio light setup. so I prefer the D50.

    another option is a used D100 or 200. these can meter with manual AIS lenses.
  22. sblasl macrumors 6502a


    Apr 25, 2004
    Heber Springs, AR
    With the imminent release of the Nikon D300, there is going to be numerous Nikon D200's available on the market. If you play your cards right you will most likely be able to pickup a D200 for around $1,000.00. There are people over on the Nikonian site talking about pre-ordering a D300 and they are planning on selling their D200. Many of these people are amateur photographers so the body will not have the wear & tear that a Pro body would have on it, nor would it have as many shutter actuations either. In the next 30 - 45 days, keep your eyes open, you could end up with an outstanding camera.

  23. mattwe thread starter macrumors member

    Nov 9, 2007
    I don't know if I am that patient. I am already working on borrowed computers right now because I am waiting for the possible updates of the Macbook Pro at Macworld.

    I am thinking it may be better for my situation to get a lower (D50/D70) end used and spend the extra on glass knowing that I will upgrade soon in the future.
  24. macgruder macrumors 6502

    Oct 29, 2007
    Personally I would go for the Nikon D40x in your case. It's a great light camera, and you can treat as a 'fun camera' when you do decide to upgrade to something bigger. You want be putting a huge investment into it anyway, and you'll learn what you really need. It's a bit like an earlier poster said, treat the body as something disposable, but in this case since the lens kit is so cheap (and is good) you get the whole kit.

    The prime issue is not so big because Sigma make a by all account very nice 30mm F1.4 that will autofocus on the D40x. (this is a equiv. 45mm lens on 35mm film).

    For D40x you're needing AF-S lenses.


    Regarding, the absurd Canon is better statement. That's because Canon's autofocus mechanism was better a while back, and pros don't tend to change their kit.
  25. peapody macrumors 68040


    Oct 7, 2007
    San Francisco, CA
    I have heard mixed reviews regarding the sigma 30mm...not to hijack this thread, but what to members here feel about the 50mm Nikkor AF-D in comparison to this lens? The price difference is about $200 so it might be a good idea to get some feedback regarding the AF-S requirement for autofocus lenses on the D40/D40x.

    I personally try to manual as much as I can....learning!

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