Please help me pick my first DSLR!

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by makismagoo99, Dec 2, 2009.

  1. makismagoo99 macrumors regular


    Aug 17, 2006
    I don’t have a lot of cash to spend (the less the better), but I’m looking to expand on my interest in photography. I’m not a 100% novice photographer…I’ve taken a few photo classes and currently own a Canon Rebel film SLR, but I’m not a pro by any means.

    The #1 thing that's held me back thus far is that I'm not sure how much I'll use the camera. On one hand, I'd hate to blow a bunch of money on something too expensive that will just collect dust. On the other, if I get into photography more, it'd be nice to have a camera I can grow into a little bit. I've played around with both Canon and Nikons at camera stores and have no real preference to either brand in terms of usability/ergonomics.

    Assuming I want to go with a new Canon or Nikon (no offense Pentax/Olympus/Sony supporters…I simply trust the two companies with the longest history in the industry more than the others), would I be better off going with:

    Option 1: The cheaper body (i.e. Nikon D40/D3000 or Canon XS/XSi) knowing I could upgrade that more cheaply down the road and spend any leftover money on an extra lens?

    Option 2: Middle of the line body (i.e. Canon T1i or Nikon D5000/D60/D90) knowing I can grow into it a little more?

    It seems to me that I get a little more "bang for my buck" in terms of specs with the Canon cameras, but my only experience is with film SLRs, so I’m not quite up on the end effect of all the bells and whistles.

    Lastly, I visited a local camera store today and the salesman recommended the Canon brand for their customer service. He unfortunately didn’t offer much help in terms of my other above questions. Can anyone else attest to Canon's customer service outdoing Nikon's?
  2. dubels macrumors 6502

    Aug 9, 2006
    How much do you have invested in Canon glass?
    Since you have a Canon Rebel already I would suggest staying with Canon if you have the glass already. The T1i was going for $699 (I think they had some kind of rebate going too) last week with the IS kit lens. At that price I would go with that over the D60/D5000. The D90 is nice but you said you wanted to spend less money. The only reason I don't like the lower price range XSi and D40/60/3000/5000 is that they have no built in AF motor in the body. Older lenses without AF motors in the lens will not be able to AF on those camera bodies. I believe the T1i does have an AF servo to focus Canon lenses, but it cannot meter with the really old ones. I am not too sure I am a Nikon shooter myself.

    If you go with Option#1 I would avoid the D40 and D60 and just go for the newer 3000 & 5000. The XSi Kit seems a bit pricey at $569.99 (Amazon). If your only $130 away I would suggest going with a body that has a built in AF motor.

    Costco had T1is for a decent price too
  3. makismagoo99 thread starter macrumors regular


    Aug 17, 2006
    Not too much, really. I just have the 28-90mm kit lens that came with the Rebel and a Sigma 20-300mm zoom that I bought with it. I'm not sure how to tell whether or not the lenses have auto-focus built in or not.

    I have thought about this option, but had more or less decided that I would probably just end up selling that gear to help pay for the new digital option...I doubt I'd shoot film often enough to warrant keeping the camera.
  4. maeman macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2009
    Canon doesn't have the lack-of-AF-motor lens compatibility issue. The only divide in compatibility is between full-frame and crop-frame bodies, with full-frame bodies being unable to mount EF-S lenses. There are really only 2 EF-S lenses with high enough quality for people to miss when going full-frame (10-22 and 17-55).

    AI Servo is Canon's term for continuous focusing and it has nothing to do with lens compatibility. Today's EOS models cannot mount (and thus cannot autofocus or meter with) FD lenses (the last FD-compatible model was released in 1990).
  5. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    Buy used. You can pick up a 20D for ~300 and 18-55 IS for ~100. The 20D is a big step up from the Rebels, it gives you a second LCD that shows you settings at a glance and a second control dial so you aren't always in the menus. The 20D is good enough to keep you happy until you go full frame. You may decide newer bodies offer something you really want (like video or live view), but for learning about DLSR photography you don't need any better.

    If you have more money, buy better glass. If you have less money, buy a used rebel or D40, bodies drop like a rock, used is definitely better value.

    Your canon glass will fit on any Canon DSLR (but the focal lengths may be awkward and a lot of the film Rebel kit lenses were crap).
  6. powerhouse7 macrumors regular

    Oct 21, 2009
    Canberra, Australia
    as a general rule, it is better to spend less on a camera body and more on the lens (or lenses). I would personally suggest the Nikon D90 with a really good, multi-purpose lens (ie. a standard zoom).
  7. makismagoo99 thread starter macrumors regular


    Aug 17, 2006
    Thanks, that's what I'm leaning towards (less on the body, probably not the D90 just yet) until I'm sure this is something I want to pursue.
  8. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    Do you have friends with SLRs? If so, what do they have? Borrowing lenses (and/or planned synchronization of lens purchases) can be very beneficial, if most of your friends shoot one brand or the other.
  9. Acsom macrumors regular

    Jul 10, 2009
    If you're not sure how much you are going to use it, take the advice to buy used, and go with Canon or Nikon.

    The issue here is twofold; bank for the buck and ability to recoup as much of that buck as you can should you decide it isn't for you.

    You can get a used D40 or D60, or 20D, for about as much as a high quality P&S, ie around $400. If you don't like it, you can sell it for around $400.

    If you were sure you were going to use the camera a lot and seemed really smitten with photography I would give you different advice, but based on what you've written I think that used is your best choice.
  10. makismagoo99 thread starter macrumors regular


    Aug 17, 2006
    That's also a good point...I have a few friends that shoot Nikons. That might just be the factor that pushes me to that side.

    What advice would you give if I were indeed smitten with photography? I think you're right that a cheaper body is right for me currently, but I'm curious to know.
  11. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    If you think you might be shooting in low light on a somewhat regular basis, I'd personally (for what little that's worth :D) recommend against an older body. Sensor technology has improved significantly since the days of the D40 and D60.

    I have a Nikon D700 - admittedly that's not low end - and comparing what I can get out of it with at higher ISO what I got from my D70 (the D40 has pretty much the same sensor as the D70) is like night and day, and those are two sensors with similarly-sized photosites.

    I'm not saying you can't get excellent pictures with an older camera; I'm just arguing that there are definite technological advantages to the newer ones when it comes to photography in less-than-optimal conditions.
  12. dave92029 macrumors member

    Dec 8, 2008
    Wait till you can buy Good Glass

    All of the current Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc. bodies are Very good. The Most Import part of the SLR is the Glass - lens. I have mostly Canon "L" lens. Very expensive, but the bodies come and go while you keep the glass.

    There is a difference between the premium lens and Kit lens. Don't bother getting a kit lens.;)

    A good starter lens is a Canon/ Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens. Not a "L" lens but very high quality. A zoom is nice but a quality zoom is probably much more than you can spend on your whole kit - $1,000+/- . :eek:

    The 50mm is a sharp lens that you can learn depth of field (f stops) and , composition , and how to crop.

    If I were you I would NOT buy a SLR but rather a premium P&S such as the Canon S90. You can practice your photographic skills at an affordable price. The camera offers similar controls as a SLR and it comes with a f2.0 lens!!:cool:

    Happy shooting. :D
  13. jampat macrumors 6502a

    Mar 17, 2008
    While this maybe applicable to Nikon, in the reasonably priced models this doesn't apply to Canon. I shoot with a 20D and 50D and both are happy to about ISO 800, after that noise becomes a big issue. Canon packed in megapixels and didn't improve high ISO very much. The 40D is supposedly better, but only by a stop or so. Full-frame is a lot happier at high ISO with Canon, but will be way above what the OP wants to spend.

    I still say for learning, buy old and it will depreciate very little. The suggestion above to borrow glass from friends is also a great one (assuming they have glass worth borrowing, if they all only have the kit lens there is no benefit).

    As for the OP's "smitten with photography" comment, I would still buy an old cheap body to start, find out what you like/don't like, need/don't need, then invest in the 2nd body to buy something that works for you. You don't know before you play whether liveview/high fps/high mp/high ISO/video is required or even helpful for what you like to shoot. Each one of these options is a tradeoff (normally more money for more options, but high FPS normally comes at the expense of ISO and MP (and vice-versa)). If you like shooting telephoto shots, a crop body is probably better for you, if you like wide-angle, a full-frame is probably a better idea etc.

    Most photography problems are solved with glass, but a few are solved with bodies, glass is almost always a better investment (put a 24-70 on an old rebel and an 18-55 on a 5DII and most pictures out of the rebel will destroy the 5DII).
  14. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    my StepDad has the Ti and it is a sweet camera. Tons of options, HD video...great camera.

    That's all i can provide.

    i'm a pentax guy with an older K100 and one day...hopefully, soon, I'm upgrading - not might be a Canon. I need to win a camera in a contest. Or, you know what would be sweet - if Canon had a Superbowl contest where you win gear and a spot in the endzone to snap for cnnsi or something.

    that would be fantastic :)
  15. Acsom macrumors regular

    Jul 10, 2009
    I shoot Canon, but I'm not a brand slave; I could have very easily picked Nikon. The hard part is fitting your budget. I'd recommend the cheapest Nikon that has in-body auto-focus, or the Canon 50D, assuming that you could spend $1000. And frankly, if it was me and I was smitten with photography, I would finance either a Canon 7D or 5D Mk2, and a killer zoom, either the 17-55 for the 7D or the 24-105 for the 5D Mk2. But my situation is different from yours. But that's what I did when I got my (then current) Canon 40D and 17-55. I put some down and paid it off in a year. Now I'm not so smitten with photography, but I'm glad I have some good gear, because guys love cool tech stuff.
  16. mtbdudex macrumors 68000


    Aug 28, 2007
    SE Michigan
    I'll chime in here, new owner of T1i + 2 kit lens w/IS, $850 total from Costco delivered to my doorstep.

    If you get it and become "smitten" then you can selectively buy good glass that suits what you want to shoot.
    People "dis" the kit lens, I can see the softness/lack of low light ability/manual focus over ride issues etc as I grow in my ability.

    But, chicken and egg, w/o having and doing you can't truly know where your passion will lie and your hidden talents are to grow and nurture.

    Thats my feeling. Ya gotta shot, look at what you've done, and challenge yourself to grow/improve.

    So, T1i Body = $650, T1i Body + 2 kit lens = $850. $200 for (2) lens to learn with seems reasonable to me.

    I've added the 50mm 1.4, slight step up from the nifty-fifty 1.8, plus a 580 speedlite. I'll stick with that for the next 3-5 months and see where this "hobby" takes me.

    I've toyed with taking the T1i kit back and getting just the T1i body, having the 50mm 1.4, and the "L" EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM as my "walk around lens", but decided to hold off and see where my passion moves into as I go thru the various noob DSLR things:
    -moon shots
    -flower shots
    -nature shots
    -sunrise/set shots
    -people shots
    -pet shots

    Ya gotta take them, and get them "behind" you so to speak and find where your talent(s) lie. Plus budget. I like the bird shots, but those glass $$$.

    So, fwiw, my advice/real world is newer body for its up to date image sensor and your basic kit lens. Maybe kit lens used could be choice, where someone else did what I did and bought $$$ glass and no longer had the need for their kit stuff.
    (yea, I might be selling my kit lens in 12 months, but it's the cost of learning)

    Good luck!
  17. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

    Dec 1, 2008
    Do you have a particular reason for wanting to buy new? I'd say that if you're going to go with a cheap body, buy used (I'd suggest a D50 or Rebel XT/XTi); it's not as if you're buying a broken camera. Otherwise, just buy a new D90/7D if you want to go full bore.

    Also, with regard to customer service, Nikon has a notoriously poor reputation, although I've never had to go to them for anything since I've never had an issue with their equipment.
  18. I'm a Mac macrumors 6502

    Nov 5, 2007
    As someone who has a D60, I can certainly vouch for Nikon- they do have great support and they make great lenses. HOWEVER, I made the mistake of going for the D60- which is a great starter camera BUT it's limited my its meager 3 autofocus points and incompatibility with older non-AF-S lenses. Remember, there are still some great older lenses that you can save $$ by not having to buy the newer ones- like the 50mm f/1.8 and others.

    Please, don't be fooled by marketing gimmicks like I was. The D3000 and the D60 are just the same camera as the D40 with a few "dazzle" features. The D90 on the other hand, is a solid camera, and is definitely worth the extra money- I'm kicking myself over my decision to get the D60- while I was a beginner, I outgrew the camera faster than I thought.

    If you're going to go stick with Canon, then I'd get the T1i- no problems with compatibility, and it's also supposed to be a great camera.
  19. mac mac mac macrumors regular

    Oct 8, 2008
    Bellevue, WA
    I also picked up the Canon Rebel T1i from Costco for $849. It comes with the body, 18-55 and 55-250 lenses, 4gb SD card, instructional DVD, gadget bag, and mini-HDMI cable. You can get it from Amazon for a similar price, but Costco gives you the peace of mind if anything happens. The price includes a $100 instant rebate, and I believe it runs until 1/16/2010.

    I'm extremely happy with the T1i after using it for about a month. It takes great pictures, and the HD video looks amazing. I am also looking into the D5000 and D90, but I prefer the Canon. The Nikon D5000 looks so dull after playing with the T1i since it's 920k vs. 230k on the D9000. You should go to the local store and play with the different models. You can't go wrong with either a Canon or Nikon. Good luck!
  20. makismagoo99 thread starter macrumors regular


    Aug 17, 2006
    In a perfect world, I'd be able to afford premium lenses and a really nice body, but, unfortunate as it may be, it's not a perfect world. What I'm really looking to do is expand my photographic skills as you say, but with an affordable DSLR. For the price of a S90 I can easily buy a DSLR. It seems to me that learning the nuances/features I really need in a DSLR is an important part of the experience.

    I don't necessarily have an issue going used, I was mainly trying to keep the focus of the conversation to whether it's better to get the cheapest body possible vs. one with more bang-for-your-buck. Also, I haven't done a lot of research on older models and with new ones being not that much more expensive, I figure it's nice to buy new so it will last a few years.

    That's exactly what I'm worried about... if I really get into shooting, the D40/D60/D3000 don't seem like they'll sustain me for as long as I probably need them to. I'd be kicking myself for not just forking over the extra $100-$200.

    I like this deal a lot. I think I want to go with one of the two-lens kits. Now if I could only decide which one I want! ;)

    Another question:
    I'm also leaning towards a model with a CMOS sensor because of the low-light performance I've read about with those sensors. Is it true that CMOS sensors do better in low light than CCDs?
  21. mac mac mac macrumors regular

    Oct 8, 2008
    Bellevue, WA
    I have heard that CMOS is better. The T1i is CMOS and it works really well in low light conditions.
  22. Pak^Man macrumors regular

    Jul 28, 2008
    Columbus, OH
    I got the same same Costco deal as mac mac mac..... I'm really excited to start palying with the kit over the weekend.

    I would strongly suggest getting a Costco membership and doing that ($45 for a year). In addition to a great deal you also get:
    + 90 Days return policy - no questions asked.... just in case you change your mind afterwards :D
    + 2 Years Concierge warranty from Costco (as opposed to 1 year from Canon).

    All in all, you cant beat that deal on a new kit.
  23. Acsom macrumors regular

    Jul 10, 2009
    Whether you get a camera with a CMOS sensor or a CCD sensor, the manufacturer has usually addressed whatever challenge presented by the design. Although I don't know from experience, many photographers believe that Nikon's low light/high ISO performance is superior to Canon's.

    What's the new word for hearsay gathered from looking at websites and forums? Whatever that word is, I just did it. Regardless, either manufacturer provides excellent performance and value, and you can't make a bad choice, just a better choice for your situation.
  24. makismagoo99 thread starter macrumors regular


    Aug 17, 2006
    Agreed. Costco's return policy alone makes it stand out. I didn't know that Costco extends the manufacturer's warranty. That's extremely valuable in and of itself. If I go for a new camera it will definitely be from Costco.

    I'm starting to realize this now. No matter what I pick, it will be a huge upgrade from where I'm at right now. Now if I could just stop this analysis paralysis I'd be out shooting already.:p
  25. jbg232 macrumors 65816


    Oct 15, 2007
    I was in your exact situation, I had the money for an upgraded body but didn't exactly know if I should spend all of it on the body and which body to get or who to go with. I do bird photography so for me it was easier because most bird photographers get canon because of the lens lineup. I went with a canon xsi for a few reasons:
    -TLi wasn't out yet
    -much better than XS for very little money
    -at a certain level without a very high end setup it will be very difficult to detect the difference of megapixels
    -much cheaper
    -more important than ANYTHING else in image quality is 1) experience and 2) lens. I didn't have either but knew that body was much less important. Now that I have both I completely agree

    Do I wish I had bough a 50D or TLi? Not at all, what I've realized is that the lenses are the key to good photographs after you have your technique. Some of the most amazing photographs are done on 10D/20D/30D/XS/XSi cameras that have great technique and good lenses. My recommendation would be to get the XSi and then (depending on budget) either the stock lens kit to practice your skills, the 50mm 1.8 or if you want to really go crazy get the 17-55 f/2.8 (but you need to learn how to use the DSLR first). The XSi is very intuitive and a very fun camera, but that's just my 2 cents. My father in law just bought the D90 and it is spectacular as well so I have no Nikon beef, but he did spend much more money than I and owns Nikon lenses. To each their own.

    One last point is that lenses are designed to last for years but bodies will always get better. Personally I wouldn't spend too much on a body because it will be outdated no matter what you get. Its much more practical to get a mid-range body (XSi or whatever) and better lenses (like all electronics you pay a VERY high price for premium stuff which never lasts premium for very long). You'll ultimately if you love it want to go all the way with a body and go for something out of your current budget in the end like a 7D or 5dII or whatever, just start slow and see if its really worth it to you, they will always be there and I promise the "lower end" DSLRs are more than you need.

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