Nikon DSLR on a Budget

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by mike_vine, Nov 22, 2010.

  1. Hi - my son is showing an interest in photography of late - specifically people & portraits. Given his limited budget (about £250) I am suggesting a Nikon D50 with a 50mm F1.8 AFD rather than a higher spec compact on the same budget. I never had/used a D50 so would appreciate any thoughts/gotcha's on this combination that anybody can spot.... P.S. to date he has been used to very basic 'point and shoot'. Thanks !
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The D50 is ok; along with the D70/D70S, it has by far the worst viewfinder among all Nikon SLRs, but I recall back when those were current DSLRs, at least I thought it was acceptable. Recently, I looked thru those viewfinders again and found them quite annoying.
    I would get your son a starter zoom, though, even something as simple as a 18-55mm AF-S. The 50mm/f1.8 AF-D is a fine lens, but it is a short tele on any DX body. When that is the only lens you have, I think that is very restrictive.
  3. Hi Shun - thanks for such a prompt response - given your comments I clearly need to have quick look at a D50. Regarding the lens - given his focus on photographing people I am suggesting the 50 F1.8 because of its quality as a low cost portrait lens - need to check out with him again before buying. Thanks again.
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The 50mm/f1.8 should be a good lens for portrait on any DX DSLR, but if that is the only lens you son has, I don't think that is a good idea. Recently a friend bought a used 18-70mm AF-S DX for some $150 or so in the US. Perhaps your son can add something like that in the near future. The 18-55 should be even more affordable.
    The viewfinder issue is very personal. If you haven't paid attention to that, both you and especially you son should find a D50 and look through it. He is the one who will be stuck with that viewfinder for a while. He could be happy with it; it is totally up to him to decide.
  5. You might consider a used D80 - better viewfinder, better LCD.
  6. I'm with Charles - a used D80, with a kit 18-55. Judicious shopping may net you one for around $350 or so (US dollars).
  7. I recently acquired a D50 for an extra body. I also have a D40 and FX body. My issue with the D50 is not so much with the viewfinder as it is the monitor (the D40's [and newer models] are far superior. Keep in mind that mage quality at lower ISOs is pretty much the same for all of these cameras and if shooting RAW, you can get very good prints at ISO 1600 from the D50 with proper post processing. The thing I really like about the D50 is its size as it is a bit bigger and easier to handle [for me] than the D40 and similarly sized bodies. The D50 also has the advantage of having a motor to operate the inexpensivef50mm f1.8. Newer models in the same class would require the much more expensive 50mm f1.4 AF-S lens to enable auto focus.
    For the body/lens/budet combination you list, the D50 is a good way to go.
  8. D50 are for shooting in auto-exposure modes. I suggest one of the DSLRs with two control wheels, which would be D70 and above.
    And if he will just shoot jpegs, a D80 or newer.
  9. I suggest you avoid the D80 because if its inconsistent metering. This issue is well documented on although not everyone has the problem. I did with mine. The metering on the D50 is excellent.
  10. @ Pete "D50 are for shooting in auto-exposure modes" Why do you say that?
  11. 250 pounds should buy you a used D80. It's a decent camera to start with, and a lot better than the D50, I believe. It has a built in motor, so you can give him the cheap but excellent 50mm F1.8. There is no specifcic need for the AFD. You could get the regular AF. AFD is only of value for flash photography, the non D version cheaper.
    I haven't heard of the metering issues Elliot mentioned - frankly I did not look it up, but I am confident that his warning is evidence based.
    I used a D80 for a short period of time, and was very pleased with the results. Now I moved on to the D700, but that is a different story and price.
  12. @ Arthur Richardson - The D50 has a built in screw drive motor. I believe you are confusing the AF-D and AF-S versions of the lens.
    @ the OP - The D50 is a fine camera, although I would concur that a newer body will give you both a superior viewfinder and superior rear LCD. Another lens to consider is the fairly inexpensive AF-S 35mm f/1.8. It is as close to "normal" as you can get on a DX format camera. The 50mm is a fine lens and I think everyone should have one, but the 35mm seem a much more usable focal length for most users.
    I would also consider an inexpensive zoom like the 18-55mm as Shun suggests prior to purchasing a prime lens so that your son can figure out which focal lengths he will be using most often.
    Good luck on your purchase
  13. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The D80's metering issue is well documented, but for any DSLR, metering cannot be that seriously a problem as you can always verify it with the histogram review. (Unless you shoot sports or news such that you have no second chance.) Also if you switch to center weighted, there should be no problem.
    If the D80 fits your budget, I would consider that over the D50, but typically I think lenses are a higher priority than bodies. In other words, I would have some other lens in additional to a fixed 50mm before spending money on a higher-end body, since apparently the overall budget is a concern here.
  14. The D80 can do some pretty good stuff. IMO much preferable to the D50 (I owned both.) The metering can get in the way, but depends on what you are shooting.
    With outdoor... say landscape/street, with a wide spectrum of bright and dark, it generally will expose towards the dark and blow out the highlights.
    For fairly even lighting or with flash, it exposes fine. To play it safe, (or without thought,) dial -0.3 to -0.7 in exposure comp (Matrix) or go center weighted. If needed, fine tune in pp.
  15. @ Eilliot "D50 are for shooting in auto-exposure modes" Why do you say that?
    Because you don't have dedicated access to both shutter speed and aperture at the same time - the two fundamental parameters of manual shooting.
    In the auto exposure modes (the point-and-shoot modes, program, aperture priority and shutter priority) it doesn't matter much but if you're a manual shooter working with anything fast paced it's just too limiting.
    PS. I think the D70S goes for more or less the same price as a D50 so I think that is a better choice.
  16. The D50 with an 18-55 zoom is a good starter kit. My first DSLR was a D50 and I loved it. At low ISO's it has very good image quality. As has been said, the 50mm f/1.8 is a good low cost portrait lens, but it is not a good choice as a general use lens. With the 1.5x crop factor it's too long to use as an only lens.
  17. I've never used a D80, but I'm currently using a d50. While the D50 is getting pretty old for DSLR's it's still a fine camera in my opinion. Yes the viewfinder is a bit dim compared to some other's, but coming from a P&S, your son will never notice. It's not dim enough to be prohibitive. I even use some slow manual focus lenses, and don't really have a problem (although I do sometimes have to rely on the focus assist dot for critical focusing.) If you can find a D80 for close to the same price as the d50 you're looking at, then go for that. If for no other reason that it's newer and has more MP's. If there's a big difference in price betwen the two, I think the D50 would be a fine choice.
  18. Owned the D50 and the D80; with the notion that the D80 in my opinion is a seriously better digital camera (viewfinder, LCD screen, external controls and slightly better ISO800 performance), I'd have to concur with what Shun said.
    Lenses to me would be a bigger point. I'd rather have a D50 with the 18-70mm (2nd hand relatively easy to find and good value for money) than a D80 with only 50mm.
  19. for a beginner, there's a almost no advantage in choosing a d80 over a d50, especailly if the price differential means being able to get both a zoom like the 18-55 or 18-70 and a prime like the 50/1.8 or 35/1.8.
    a prime will be somewhat limiting, but there is a plus side to limiting yourself, namely that it will help to develop a sense of composition. also, with both the d50 and d80, high-ISO performance isnt as good as in newer bodies. therefore, the 50 or another fast prime is a must for shooting in low-light. so i would get that first, then add more lenses as budget allows.
  20. I agree w/Shun about looking to see if you can fit in the 18-70 lens. It used to be the kit lens for the D70 and was the included lens when I bought a D200. I think it's a really decent, sharp lens that is light in weight yet fairly well built for walking around, and particularly, in your sons case, has a very useful range. Personally, I think it's one of the best if not the best, value lens Nikon makes.
  21. Many thanks for all the contributions - all much appreciated. Great input (as always) ! Understanding the guidance about the 18-55 as an option I think I will suggest a 50 mm as he seems focusssed on portraits - even seems to understand bokeh. He has already decided his first project is a series on the the stall holders in his local London street market. Also the 1.8 will help keep the ISO level down. If he get's hooked then he will have to buy his own 18-55 and 55-200 combo at later date, then a new body then a 16-85, then a new body, then a 70-200 etc. etc......
    Thanks again !
  22. Grays Of Westminster have a D70 body for £175 and a 50 1.8 for £79 on their used equipment list on their website if you're in the London area?
  23. """it has by far the worst viewfinder among all Nikon SLRs"""
    Boy is that an understatement! I went digital when the D50's were new c 2006. And I switched from the F100 to the D50. The F100's HP VF is the greatest thing since sliced bread. The D50's VF is like my Instamatic 104, come back to Earth as an SLR!
  24. My money would be spent on a good used D40 with a 35mm manual lens, (52mm on DX). Let him experiment and make sure he runs ther camera on manual so he learns all about light and focus changes like dof etc.
  25. I too would recommend a D40 over a D80 for your son. The image quality is better in my opinion, and the body has a nice readout on the rear LCD that could help your son learn the relationship between shutter speed and aperture.
  26. Good points on the D40, but I'd argue about the manual lenses. I've been using the same 50mm f/1.4 AIS for over twenty years, and I find myself having just as much trouble focusing it at f/16 on the D40/50/other inexpensive camera as I do at f/2 on the D700.
    I strongly recommend the 35mm f/1.8 DX that was mentioned earlier. That and the 18-70 DX (also mentioned before) are, in my mind, two of the best inexpensive AF lenses ever made. If you can get an old Japanese 50 f/1.8 AF, that's the third.
    I definitely think you're on the right track having him start with a prime though. Not only for the extra light and sharpness, but I find that starting off with a prime forces students to think about composition and angle of view much more than a zoom. When he does finally get a zoom lens, he'll understand things like compression and field of view much better than if he had that lens all along.
  27. Zac...the 50mm f1.4 is notoriously difficult to focus wide open.
    My recommendation is the 35mm f2 Ai. They are peanuts on ebay and as they were the PJ's staple lens in the 80s, they were well made and the focus ring is large with a smooth, low geared action, so you can watch the DOF happening in the viewfinder if you stop down.
    If he starts right off with AF he will never learn about depth of field and zones of sharpness, lens diffraction and how light and the f stop affect them.
  28. If money is an option I would go with D50/D70s. The built in motor drive allow use of a whole range of old AF nikkors. Personaly I don't get much fun out of manual focusing my D80 and my D70 was even worse. If there is a bit more money available the D80 viewfinder is much better than the D50/D70s in so much that it is bigger and brigher. The newer Nikon 35mm 1.8 is a good option for DX bodies.
  29. @ Arthur Richardson - The D50 has a built in screw drive motor. I believe you are confusing the AF-D and AF-S versions of the lens.​
    I was not confusing the AF-D and AF-S lenses. I know the D50 has a motor too.I just said the D80 has a built in motor.
    I was stating that there is little added value of D over non-D if you don't use flash often. If the body had no motor, the AF-S would be the only way to go if you wanted AF working for you.
  30. I've owned a D40, D50, and D300 and never noticed any difference in the viewfinders, but never thought to compare them side by side. I did however shoot them side by side, and I simply never noticed a difference. What is amazing is an FX viewfinder, the difference is clear. One thing that is not obvious is the the D40 is much faster at reviewing images and zooming to check focus. That was what really annoyed me about the D50 after shooting the D40 for a while. Personally I liked the D40 better, the bigger screen is nice. I don't have the D40 any more, but I still think about buying one to replace it. If your son should shoot often with off camera flash the sync speed of the D40/50/70 trumps all other features of the other cameras you're thinking about IMO.
  31. Hi Mike
    I had both a D50 & a D80. The D50 has more accurate matrix metering, but the viewfinder is poor. The D80 has the benefit of being able to use the flash in commander mode to control off camera flash. CW metering is OK on the D80. Manual focusing is likely to be easier on the D80 too. The D80 also has built in grid lines to aid composition. So the D80 is probably the better bet, but it leaves it tight on lenses. I just sold a D50 with 18-70mm lens for £220. I have another D50 with <1000 shutter actuations. If you are interested, drop me an email!
  32. I have a D50 and a D300 and use the D50 more for day-to-day shooting. The D50 can use my older AF lenses while most of the new DSLRs won't. Everyone talks about how bad the D50 viewfinder is. Frankly, I don't have a problem and although the D300 finder is brighter I really don't notice the difference that much. I wouldn't part with my D50.
  33. My camera dealer says used D40s are much sought after.
  34. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Steve Levine: "'it has by far the worst viewfinder among all Nikon SLRs' Boy is that an understatement!"
    Rob Piontek: "I've owned a D40, D50, and D300 and never noticed any difference in the viewfinders"
    Wayne Cornell: "Everyone talks about how bad the D50 viewfinder is. Frankly, I don't have a problem and although the D300 finder is brighter I really don't notice the difference that much."​
    As usual, different people have very different reactions on the viewfinder quality issue. That is exactly why if you are interested in those cameras, you should take a look through the viewfinder yourself to see whether you have any problem or not.
    For a beginner, I think it is easier to learn photography with the D80 because of the better manual controls, including the dual command dials. But again, with a limited budget, lenses should come first.
  35. Thanks all - your input is much appreciated ! Looks like Dad is going to have to dig deeper in his pocket than originally intended !
  36. In the "Amateur Photographer" issue of 27th November new Nikon D40's with the 18-55mm VR lens are being advertised by Cartex at £269.95 -
    I have used my own D40 with a wide variety of F mount manual focus legacy lenses. No auto exposure but quite usable with a little practice.
    The same advertiser has the D60 18-55mm kit at £299.95.
  37. I suggest you avoid the D80 because if its inconsistent metering.​
    Interesting, I did not knew about this. Owned a D80 for some time, went through tens of thousands of pictures with it, never had a camera-related problem with exposure (not the greatest but at least it was not inconsistent in my view). Now if we talk about D80 and auto focus... totally different story.
    Still I guess I would recommend it too, highly reliable and very well built for its price.
  38. I have to agree with Shun. This is his first camera. Most of us (long in the tooth old-timers) started out with 35 mm manual cameras and 50mm lenses. I was looking at some of my old slides (they are the square thingies with film in them) from the late 60's and was struck by how limited I was in my composition. Once I got the wider lens (24mm) in 73 things changed a whole bunch and for the better.
    Think about his project. You said he wanted to shoot the people in a street market. With the 50mm (75mm) lens he will in fact take some nice portraits and if he uses the wide apature they will have nice fuzzy bookeh. But. It will be very hard for him to photograph them "in the street market". At 18mm he will be able to show them actually among their surroundings. See what I mean?
    Another lesson your son needs to learn is to check his backgrounds. When I look at the critique forum (and my own shots sadly) this is often a problem. Sure you can fuzz it out at F1.8 in the right circumstances but not all of the time. A quick look through the last few hundred shots I took for the paper shows that I did not shoot wide open very often.
    So my vote is the D80 and the 18-55. If he decides to concentrate on portraits then he can buy the inexpensive plastic fantastic himself. My guess is that he will want a telephoto first.
  39. "given his focus on photographing people"

    Ack. What's missing from this equation is what type of people photography he is interested in doing. You can do some interesting portraiture with any sort of lens. Without narrowing it down a bit more, it's hard to say that the 50/1.8 is a good or bad choice. Before you even consider a specific camera setup, take a look at his pictures and get a bit more specific about what he's shooting. Ask him what he wishes he could do with his point and shoot. Stop here until you've asked him. :)

    The beauty of a kit lens like the 18-55 or 18-70 is that it's cheap, pretty good and still lets the user get some idea of what qualities it's missing. The 18-70 is nicer optically, still small and light, but doesn't have image stabilization (VR) that the 18-55 does. A kit lens will give your son the chance to make the well needed analysis to determine what next steps to take. Doesn't work well enough in the dark, okay. Doesn't give me enough blur, okay. Doesn't let me get physically close enough to the subjects, okay. I've got to get too close, okay. Stuff like that is worth knowing before spending (more) money. That said, the 50/1.8 is cheap enough you can probably buy one on a lark. I paid $40 USD for my Series E (manual focus) version, a friend found one on that classified site that can't be mentioned by name here (auto focus) for $50 USD in great shape.

    The other (probably sacrilegious on this forum) thing to think about would be other camera systems. If your son is interested in doing a lot of low light photography, at that price point, Canon has some very competitive cameras. The difference in the current models is *much* smaller. Others will certainly disagree, but the Nikons of that era were not very unforgiving of wrong exposure at high ISO settings. Even at ISO 400 I get quite a bit of noise under some circumstances. From the D50 era, Canon had a distinct high ISO / low light edge. My D200 is about as good as my Fuji P&S. That said, the current Canon 50/1.8 won't even let you focus manually.

    If your son is fixated on prime lenses, Pentax has a killer selection of current prime lenses geared towards users of their current DSLRs. Being a bit less popular I'm not so sure that there will be as many used Pentax bodies at cheap prices, but it's something to consider. Nikon's selection of prime lenses aimed at DX body/non-pro users is much, much smaller.

    Likewise if your son is really into the idea of *old*, manual focus lenses there are some great bargains out there. They're not good starter lenses though. Nikon and Pentax let you use darn near any of their respective lenses on their digital cameras going back almost forty years. Canon and Pentax cameras are such that you can get adapters for lots of even older lenses. However, focusing manually on lower end DSLRs offers varying degrees of frustration.

    But the nifty thing about expensive lenses and bodies is that you can typically rent them for quite cheap. Even if you don't have any shops locally, there are reputable online companies that will let you do rentals via mail. In the end, it's your son who's got to use the camera. If he doesn't quite know what he wants, affording him the most flexibility possible is almost certainly a good thing. If it means a few afternoons in a local camera store or spending a few quid on a rental camera + lens combo, so be it. It's worth it in the long run.

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