Which Nikon DSLR will I be the most pleased with?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by deb_z, May 16, 2009.

  1. Hi Everyone,
    I'm looking at buying my first DSLR camera and I'm hoping you can help me decide on which one to get.
    I'm a beginner and my goal is to teach myself all about photography while using the camera I will buy.
    I have saved around $1000 for my camera/lens and will need to buy the camera bag and maybe a tripod and some filters and maybe a polarizer.
    I've been reading many different forums and websites and looking at many different online stores to price them.
    No matter what I do, I keep coming back to wanting a Nikon.
    At least I narrowed it down that far. Which is a big step for me.
    Now I can't decide on which Nikon to buy.
    I almost purchased a D40 just on price alone but for some reason couldn't force myself to click submit on the order page. I dont know why, think I was getting hung up on it only have 6 megapixels. I had read Ken Rockwells website and it convinced me that it didn't matter that it only has 6 megapixels.
    But who knows, if I am really good I may want to enlarge my photos for my walls in my apartment.
    Plus I am not the type of person that likes to spend money on myself, I've been wanting to buy a DSLR for a while and finally decided that I was going to buy one in December 2008 and have been wanting and longing for one all this time. So for me, I better get a good one, and be happy with it, because who knows how long it will be before I save up enough money to buy another one.
    Originally I had my heart set on the D90, but didn't have the $1500 to buy the camera/warranty/bag/tripod and extra lens for it.
    So then I found the D200 on best buy, the body only is $600.00 and then I started considering that one. Except from what I have read this one doesn't have an automatic mode? I dont' know if that is a good thing or not, since I am a beginner and would like to be able to use the camera right out of the box. I did take 1 photography class and learned about shutter speeds and f stops, but that was 4 years ago, so I have alot to refresh myself on.
    Then the D5000 came out. So now I'm just all confused on what one to buy.
    So really I'm not sure if I should be looking at the following:
    D60, D80, D5000 and D200.
    I have to accept the fact that I just cannot afford the D90.
    Here are my photography goals other then learning all there is about photography:
    Low Light scenes (like city skylines)
    still life
    and of course taking pictures of my niece when I visit.
    And HDR is fascinating to me as well...
    I almost feel like I want it all in for around $1000, is that possible?
    I do like the idea of a video mode, because right now I have a point and shoot digital Samsung and it has a video mode, and I use it ALL the time with my niece.
    At the same time I do not want too heavy of a camera as I want to want to carry it around. If a camera is too clunky and heavy then I may not want to bring it.
    I hope I explained enough of my situation to you all.
    Thanks so much in advance. :O) This is a big leap for me and I just want to make the best possible choice for my goals.
  2. If you don't own lenses, I'd get the D5000 from what you list.
    The others are older cameras with much worse low-light (high ISO) capabilities than the D5000. However, I think you should really try and stretch for the D90. There are too many things that are so much cooler on the D90: CLS control for remote flashes, old AF lens compatibility, two control dials, better display.
  3. A d40 is a very capable camera. The main problem with D40/60/5000 series is they will not meter with nonchipped lenses and they will not autofocus with anything but the lastest line of expensive AFS auto focus lenses. This cuts you out from a whole host of really nice older Nikon glass that will mount and operate, but perform no auto functions. It becomes a meterless manual focus camera. I work mine this way without a hitch, but I don`t recommend for beginners.
    For the price of one new AFS lens you could have had a D90. So pay more now, save later big time if you buy more lenses.
    A D200 takes credable pics up to 400/800 ISO. That is as fast as film ever was. It is made twice as well as a D40/60. It is close to a pro grade body and all weather sealed.
    A fast 35mm lens will make up for any loss of ISO speed. They can be had cheaply. Or you can buy a consumer grade plastic 18/55 zoom that is remarkable optically for the price , but not well made.
  4. I love my D200 but for a beginner an automatic mode would be nice until you get then hang of it. Really though with some basic knowledge you can use the D200 in aperture mode or shutter priority mode and it is pretty easy. The D90 would probably be better as a begginner camera not to mention newer features. The advantage to the D200 would be the weather sealed metal body and you could spend the additional money on a better lens. Good glass has a much larger impact on image quality than the body, IMO.
  5. hi deb,
    actually, the d40 is an excellent beginner's camera and it's small and light = easy to carry. you can always upgrade the body down the line.
    i dont think the megapixels are that big of a deal, actually. and video on a DSLR is a bit overrated IMO, at least the current generation. the d200 is a good deal right now, but if you dont want a heavy camera that's not the one.
    and at the price the d40 is currently going for ($550 at ritz with 18-55/55-200) you would be able to get a tripod, flash, camera bag-- and a nikon 35/1.8 --and still be under $1000.
    fyi, low-light skylines are usually shot on a tripod at base ISO with long exposure times, so high-ISO capabilities doesnt matter that much for this type of shooting. a fast prime is a good idea for handheld low-light stuff, since the kit lenses have slowish variable apertures. everything else you should be able to do with kit lenses, at least on a basic level--high-performance/specialty lenses cost a lot, but why worry about that now when you're just starting out?
    if you look at the nikon WeDnEsDaY pic thread, you will see fantastic shots with all kinds of nikon cameras. my favorite from last week was taken with a d40, so that should tell you something. at this stage it's more important to learn technique and composition than to have the absolute best equipment possible.
    good luck!
  6. Deb, for your $1000 you can have this...
    I think that would be a great starting point for you and would give you a lot of room for growth with your camera. Other lenses will follow as you find out what you really enjoy shooting.
    Good luck!
  7. Deb -
    You'll get all sorts of response from folks with opinions, myself included. One thing I would encourage is to go to a store where you can hold and fuss with each model. You would be amazed how different each one fits and feels. Don't get too intimidated with models, just try a couple at your price point and see which works best for ya.
    1. Slight bias here; the D200 is my main camera. It of course won't do video, but it is a rugged beast. With a 50mm AFD, F1.8 lens for $110 it can't be beat as a very capable, super-image-quality camera with which to start. It has all the bells and whistles you would grow into. Including the CLS flash stuff which works great for me with my grand daughter. (But, that's more $$$ too)
    2. Brian, the P mode is 'automatic', per se ... basically it's point and shoot in that mode.
    3. You will find that it has more than enough Mpxls to do decent 16 x20's in my opinion. I use a tripod a lot, as I'm an old, shaky geezer.
    4. If I'm not mistaken, the video mode on these new Nikons is manual focus only, not auto focus. I'd bet you would come to hate that and find it less than a desirable advantage. Anyone chime in if I'm incorrect on this.
    5. The only great advances in the new bodies that would appeal to me would be the better noise performance under low light and the live view.
    I think, you will find whatever you get will work fantastically. And, as with all things, you will eventually want to upgrade, upgrade upgrade ... just don't be a 'guy' about it. It's you taking the photo, the right tool just makes it easier. Good luck!
    Your mileage may vary,
    Jim M
  8. D90 - it's a great camera, with good low-light performance, enough resolution hat you'll not need to think about it, and Video to play with. Plus, while it can be used as a point and shoot, it has a lot more options for learning than a D40, 50, 5000, etc.
    I have a D80, and as much as I want a D200 at the current prices, the D90 has a better sensor.
  9. jim, you make a compelling argument for the d200+50/1.8.
    however, i don't think you read the OP's post closely, particularly this part: "At the same time I do not want too heavy of a camera as I want to want to carry it around. If a camera is too clunky and heavy then I may not want to bring it."
    the d200 is a LOT heavier than a d40.
    sounds like deb is an absolute beginner, and if i were in her shoes, a d40+2-lens kit+35/1.8 would have a gentle learning curve, and bring satisfaction for years to come. plus she'd be able to afford a tripod and flash from the jump. not everone who is just starting out needs a 'rugged beast'; and just having one fixed-focal length lens on that beast might be quite limiting in practice.
    for instance with a 75mm equiv. focal length, family group shots would be challenging to say the least, which wouldnt be the case with the 18-55. also IMO 75mm is just a bit short for portraits, whereas the 55-200 covers the entire portrait range and gives you a bit of reach for far-away shots. and, were deb to get the 35/1.8, she'd also have a sharp lens for low-light at a much more usable focal length on DX. honestly, i think those three lenses and a d40 would be enough for the type of photography deb says she wants to do, at least until she decides she also needs a more specialized lens or two.
  10. Deb.... My suggestion is a used D40 and 18-55mm lens kit from a reputable eBay Seller or locally via Craig$li$t. Should easily find camera and lens for $350. Adorama has Nikon-refurbished kits for $375 with free shipping (my friend just ordered one yesterday). Down the road it will be a great second body. But for now you will be able to learn learn learn with the D40/18-55 kit. Then with some experience under your belt, you will have a better idea of what YOU need moving forward. Absolutely no need to spend your whole bankroll now.
    Look for a used Bogen 3001 tripod to get started. You'll probably upgrade it later, but it will be a nice second/travel tripod then. Should find one with a basic head for $60 or $70, and it will be just fine for your D40 and 18-55. As well as the next lens you should get, the back-ordered 35mm f/1.8 AF-S DX lens. If you want some more reach, add the 55-200mm lens.
    Starting out you'll also need a 4GB card ($15-20 from Adorama with the camera/lens), and Photoshop Elements. Download the free Nikon ViewNX from Nikon. And start learning! Keep it basic until you start to discover what you like and need.
  11. Hi Deb,
    I agree with Jim on going to a store and holing the camera in your hands. It doesn't even have to be a camera store, most electronics stores sell SLRs.
    As confused as you are about choosing the camera and reading everyone's advice, another great source would be calling stores like Adorama, BH, FocusCamera and speaking with their camera salesmen. I've done that in the past with previous purchases, my students have done that and it makes no difference on the brand that you prefer, the staff is knowledgeable and will answer your questions.
    Good Luck and welcome to wonderful world of SLRs :)
  12. The D40 is a fine camera, I am still using my D70 and I got a 2nd one late last year second hand. I do low light work so high ISO and action has never been an issue.
    I think a D40 and a kit lens is a good way to go. With what you wanna do later on .. a tripod, a macro lens - Tamron 90mm is v good by the way and cheaper than the Nikon, a 85mm f/1.8 can be v good for portraiture too, or likewise the macro lens too I heard. External flash or even studio lights, they are not that expensive either, if you are in the USA you may have Alien Bees which are affordable, we from outside, will have to shell more for others.
    A ultra wide angle may be useful, but I think the kit lens may be wide enof to begin. I say D40 + kit lens + in future tripod like a Manfrotto / Bogen and maybe a real macro lens which can be used for portraiture, was told that they are v v sharp. Add a flash or a studio light setup.
    Try not to get carried away with equipment. Where I am, we get bi monthly newsletters (free) and there was this person who was self taught who belong to a camera club and now some professional work for weddings. She shoots with a N/F80, Fuji Reala neg film and Velvia slide film, her lenses are a 24-120VR, 50mm and a 70-300, which I can say if that question was raised in this forum the 2 zooms would immediately get trashed. Many would think weddings and pro work may require professional f/2.8 lenses which each goes for ~$1,500US. Doing cityscapes and landscapes myself more than most, I find myself taking the 18-70 than the 18-200 jsut because it is long enof and the quality I think is fantastic. I have a international trip coming up I think I will do with it. I have also seen pictures put to exhbition via our camera club and towards competitions against other clubs and they are really a cheaper dSLR with a kit lens. In our country we only have one distributor of Gitzo tripods which some people can crave about, I enquired about it and they said they don't have that model in, if I order it may take 6 months to get because the distributors needs to import them and in our country they are just not enough demand to keep a supply. I have seen more Manfrotto / Bogen tripods more than even in the professional fields. I think in my 5years as a hobbyist here, I have seen no more than 3 Gitzo's.
  13. Hi,
    D200 does have "auto mode" P mode it's almost like auto green but it will let you choose ISO and WB I suppose. and it is a very good camera for what your going to be doing. You might also want to consider a D80 I had it for almost a year and it was a wonderful camera took great photos.
    Note that D5000 and D40 as well as D40x will not autofocus older lenses without the build in motor.
    as to what lens you may want to go with standard kit 18-55 but if you have enough money look at Tamron 17-50 f2.8 it's my walk around lens and I use it for casual shooting as well as landscape.
    but whatever you do don't forget about a good tripod it will help you with those night cityscapes.
  14. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If you are serious about photography, I would avoid the cheapest Nikon DSLRs intended for consumers, i.e. D40, D40x and D60. The D5000 is kind of borderline. I would rather opt for something older but has more advanced features such as the D80 or D200, which are excellent deals now.
    I'd say spend 50% of your budget on the camera and the rest on lenses. You can gradually accumulate more lenses over time. I am strongly against getting a 50mm/f1.8 to start with. That is a short tele on DX DSLRs and can be a good portrait lens. Otherwise, having one short tele is extremely limiting. Start with a decdent mid range zoom from 18mm to 70/80/100mm and then add more lenses as you see fit.
    The main problem with D40/60/5000 series is they will not meter with nonchipped lenses and they will not autofocus with anything but the lastest line of expensive AFS auto focus lenses.​
    The above comment of quite off the mark. Today, there are plenty of affordable and down right cheap AF-S lenses from Nikon and other parties.
    Bottomline: only you can tell which camera you will be most please with. Anybody else, including me, can only give you some general guidelines and suggestions. DSLRs are not long-term investments. Most likely, in 2, 3 years you'll upgrade anyway. What you probably don't want is to get something and then you need to upgrade in 3 months.
  15. A D200 for a beginner who doesn't want a heavy camera? You guys aren't exactly in touch with the consumer market here - a Dx00 is great for an advanced user but totally wrong in a case like this.
    What you want is one of the smaller Nikons - I used to own a D60 and it's excellent for what you're talking about. The image quality is slightly better than a D80 but the build quality isn't as good - the upside being that it's smaller and lighter. When we refer to the build quality, understand that all of these Nikons are built more robustly than other electronics you own, and if you're reasonably careful with your stuff build quality is not an issue. The only consumer electronics more robust than Nikon DSLRs are the remote controls for car door locks, Kitchen Aid mixers and video game controllers.
    A D40 is also great. Ken Rockwell is right about some things, and one of them is that you don't need a heck of a lot of megapixels unless you want really, really big prints. A 10x15 from a D40 is 200DPI which is plenty. It's very light and small and the interface is simple and quick for a beginner to get used to.
    I've tried a D5000 in a store and not been impressed. For the money, it just doesn't seem like enough - if that's what you've got your eye one, save a while longer and go to the D90. The D5000 seems like a slightly less robust build than a D60 - they had to make compromises the get the flippy screen, which is a bit too gimmicky for my taste. Meanwhile it's not that much less money than a D90, but it's a lot more money than a D40/D60 while doing a somewhat, but not spectacularly, better job at the core function of a camera, which is to help you take photos. It also has the same lens compatibility profile as the D40/60 and ships with the same kit lens. My feeling about it is: feature bloated like they got help from Microsoft. So they'll sell a ton of them.
    For the video, keep the Samsung camera. The issue is that DSLRs that shoot video can't use autofocus while in video mode, so you have to manually focus the lens constantly as you shoot. I've tried shooting video of kids with a D90 and ended up pulling out my Canon SD500 pocket camera for it.
    For what you want to do, and $1000, here's what I'd recommend:
    D60 kit Adorama combo with 18-55VR, 4GB card, extra battery, case, $600
    OR the same thing with a D40, $500
    (Note than a kit like this with a D5000 is $910 - not worth it when your budget is $1000. Note also that the $600 for the D60 option would buy you a D200 body only, and it wouldn't take better pictures.)
    Some respectable but not pro level tripod with head, $150-200
    Keep the extra $200-350 and decide what the next thing to buy is after having the camera for a month. One possibility would be a flash (so you can use bounced or diffused flash to shoot the family indoors). Between the flash and the tripod you'd do fine in low light. Another possibility would be a 35mm f/1.8 lens (wait for them to go back in stock at $200, don't pay scarcity pricing).
    Don't buy a Mack extended warranty - more often than not they tell you that whatever's wrong with your camera is damage that's not covered, and normal use wear-and-tear is not covered, so basically the only things covered are things that were wrong with the camera when you bought it but you didn't notice until after the 1 year warranty ran out.
  16. "If you are serious about photography, I would avoid the cheapest Nikon DSLRs intended for consumers, i.e. D40, D40x and D60. The D5000 is kind of borderline."
    shun, why is a d5000 borderline in your opinion? it shares the same liability as the d40/60/d40x--no internal motor. i'd venture to say that 1/500th flash sync speed is a more "pro" feature than live view or a tilting LCD. although the d5000 does have 11-pt AF, it's clearly a consumer camera.
    but for a beginner who's just starting out, why wouldn't a d40 be something deb will be able to use for many years? as i noted earlier, the WeNeSdAy thread indicate fine art-worthy prints can be made from just about ANY nikon camera,including the d40.
    since budget is definitely a factor, IMO the "bang for the buck" route is the way to go. a pro body and a short tele prime = less bang for the buck than a d40, two zooms, a fast normal prime, flash and tripod.
    two years ago i would have agreed with a d80 over a d40, but there are more AF-S and BiM lenses these days, plus the d80 has been obsoleted as well. it's really only a better choice if you plan on using older lenses, which would be quite premature at this stage of the learning curve for someone just jumping into the DSLR world. the d40 is also smaller than both the d80 and d90, and you can't improve your photography if you're not carrying your camera because it's too bulky.
    "A D200 for a beginner who doesn't want a heavy camera? You guys aren't exactly in touch with the consumer market here - a Dx00 is great for an advanced user but totally wrong in a case like this."
    yeah, i had to roll my eyes at this suggestion too. "forget what you want. i'll recommend what i use."
    "D60 kit Adorama combo with 18-55VR, 4GB card, extra battery, case, $600"
    the d40 with 2 lense deal for $550 is a better one IMO. 55mm just touches the short end of the portrait range. 55-200 covers that and then some. 4gb cards are so cheap nowadays online, why get a prepackaged one (which might be slower and more expensive than one purchased separately)? similarly, why get a kit with a camera bag which might be different from one you'd pick for yourself? but most importantly, a d60 isnt significantly "better" than a d40--it has more mp and active d-lighting but slower sync speed and worse high-ISO noise. the d5000 is better spec-wise than a d40 but i'd still rather have two lenses covering 18-200 (and a 35 prime and a tripod and a flash) vs. one body with a tilt-screen lcd and video with one zoom covering 18-55.
  17. BestBuy is offering the excellent D-200 for US$599:
    B&H for used glass:
  18. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The 1/500 sec sync speed is a huge negative because that is achieved with an electronic shutter, which leads to blooming issues. That is why none of the higher-end DSLRs uses an electronic shutter and therefore none of them has flash sync faster than 1/320 sec (unless you get into FP sync).
    I wouldn't get a D40/D60 because of the poor viewfinder, no on-demand gridline in the viewfinder, no depth of field preview, no live view, and no commander mode on the flash. In these days you can get a D80/D200 for $500 to $600, it doesn't make sense to compromise on so many of those features any more unless you are a very casual photographer and have no plan to move up. The D5000 has the swivel LCD with live view that solves some of those issues but still shares some of the low-end limitations.
  19. Eric- You're right, the D40 2 lens kit at that price makes a compelling argument for itself. I didn't see that deal. My only concern would be, is it a non-VR 55-200? That's pretty slow for a non-VR tele.
  20. I think the D200 is a great buy currently. I own one and can promise you it is a heavy camera. It really comes down to the D60 or D5000 if you want a current Nikon camera at that price, and is not real heavy. The D60 does not have vidio. I wonder about the vidio thing anyway since it is a manual focus feature. A friend of mine has a Sony A350 DSLR (14mp) and it is real nice. It has no problems about what lens it will take. Basically it will accept any Minolta or Sony auto focus lens ever made (A mount). I think at BHPhoto you can get one for $699.00 with a kit lens and that would leave you money for a tripod, camera bag and a memory card. A good kit capable of quality photos. It will have program mode and all the other modes as well. No vidio.
    I would avoid the refurbished D90. It is a used camera with a 90 day warranty. New camera's have a 1 year warranty.
  21. andrew, that's the 55-200 non VR. 5.6 certainly isnt fast at the long end by any stretch. but for low-light landscapes and portraits on a tripod, VR wouldn't matter anyway. and in bright lighting, 5.6 isnt really an issue. i could certainly live with that for $550.
    the main thing is that the IQ of the 55-200 is pretty good stopped down and you could do portraits with it. since you're talking about a slow lens no matter what, if i was considering that and on a budget, i'd probably rather spend that extra $100 the VR version would cost on an Sb-400, which wouldnt add much bulk and would allow me to do bounce flash. it would also allow the option of adding a sync cord and moving off-camera, which the built-in flash can't do. VR isnt going to help with moving subjects, and for sharp landscapes, you want to be on a tripod anyway. plus the 55-200 is pretty compact, so you can probably get away with 1/200 handheld at 200mm in good light.
    shun makes some excellent points, however, i dont think he is quite looking at this from a beginner's perspective. a d80 for $500 is certainly a better deal than when they cost $1000 body only, and the two control wheels, better AF and wider lens compatibility are certainly desirable features for intermediate photographers, and lessen the time before one would conceivably outgrow that camera.
    still, when you're on a budget and looking at $500 for just a body vs. $550 for a 2-lens kit, the bang for the buck options might make more sense now, rather than planning for a couple years down the line. in two years, you'll be able to get a d90 for $500, so i dont know if planning to nurture a d80 for that amount of time makes sense.
    i think it comes down to two schools of thought:
    1) buying an incomplete kit with an intermediate-to-advanced body (d80, d200) with a steeper initial learning curve. plus you still have to buy lenses and accessories for it.
    2) getting a complete beginners kit (d40/18-55/55-200/35/sb-400) with a gentle learning curve.
    since there will be newer bodies and better prices on old bodies by the time one is ready to move up, i don't think the low-end limitations will be as limiting, at least not initially. even if one moves up to pro-caliber, exotics and specialty lenses, the kit lenses are nice when you want to go light and compact. if that's a factor in even getting out there and taking pics in the first place, that has to be weighed accordingly. and if a casual photographer wants to turn serious, they may want to upgrade to a prosumer body like the d90/d300 anyway when that time comes. i dont see anything wrong with recommending a d40 to a beginner who's used to a P&S. in many ways, it's the perfect camera for the OP's stated criteria at this time.
  22. I went from film to a D300. In retrospect I should have got a D90 because most of the variables are covered in the scene settings. Now that these are in a cheaper body with the same sensor as the D90....ie the D5000, get that. Once you find the presets are insufficient and you have grasped enough digital expertise, then maybe buy a nice used D300.
  23. The camera is the least important thing. The lenses are the most important. The Nikons 18-55mm VR & 55--200mm VR are decent for the money. I bought the 18-55mm VR for $113 and the 55-200mm VR for $150 on E Bay recently, by being patient. That would leave you $$ to buy a polarizer, decent tripod, camera bag, and a decent flash (such as SB-600.) I do agree with Shun about buying a used D80 though. I have one, and its viewfinder is very good, and much easier to use than the one on the D40. It's easier to photo something when you can actually see it. D80 will also give you more lens options. I'm not sure the D40 has a DOF preview button which the D80 does. That too is a big help. So, another vote with Shun for the D80. A used one will maintain your budget.
    Kent in SD
  24. bmm


    This question was always bound to ignite some controversy!
    So Deb, first thing to say is that there isn't a bad choice - each person has their own preference and each model is good within the feature and price point that it is designed for.
    My only input is as follows - there is a point in the model line-up where 2 important features arise (which incidentally have nothing to do with fine details about image /sensor quality etc).
    The first of these features is that the camera body you buy has an AF motor in it, which means you are not limited to what lenses you can use on it. More specifically, this means that the body will allow you to learn with many prime lenses (including the cheap but excellent 50/1.8) rather than just the couple that have been recently released as AF-S (which means they have their own focus motor in the lens).
    The second of these features is even simpler again which is the existence of 2 control wheels on the camera rather than one - which means that IF your intention is to learn photography properly, and to potentially move on to more advanced models, you will have an initial camera that gives you the same style of manual control over aperture and shutter speed. I'm not saying the 'lower' models don't give you this control, its just that they are set up more to preference the auto modes of shooting so the control isn't as immediate and is more buried in menus etc rather than right at your fingertips.
    So I guess while I respect what people like Eric says, I don't totally agree. But bottom line is your own reason for buying the camera. If you want just good images, but to operate it primarily automatically with perhaps a little ability to do manual stuff then the D40, D60 or D5000 would be excellent. However if you want a camera that will start you thinking and learning on the track towards more advanced photographic techniques and tools, then D80 or D90 should be your starting point.
    Oh and one final totally subjective thing - I started with D80 and it was not too much of a jump nor a steep learning curve. Nor is it a massive camera.
  25. Deb:
    Here's an old photographer's story:
    A photographer attended a dinner party where he presented his portfolio. After reviewing his work the hostess remarked, "These are wonderful pictures, you must have an expensive camera." The photographer just smiled.
    After dinner, the photographer remarked, "That was a delicious meal. You must have expensive pots."
    Too many of us (myself included) get hooked on the latest technology. There are thousands of terrific images taken with simple point and shoot cameras. There are even more really poor images taken with top end Nikons and Canons. At the end of the day, the best camera in the world is the one that you have with you.
    I have an old Nikon D100 that you can have for free. The LCD has a small crack, but it displays the pictures just fine. The D100 was a cutting edge prosumer body in its day, but now it is probably on par with the D40! I'll also throw in a cheapo Nikkor 70mm - 200mm zoom. Learn on that. Stay away from the equipment forums for a bit and study the pictures from the top rated photogrpahers on this site. Develop your eye and technique first. Post your pictures and ask for critiques.
    If you really get into it, there will be lots of time to spends thousands of dollars in the future.
    Shoot me an email if you are interested. Good luck.
  26. For $779.00 Cameta has a nikon factory demo D-80 with a one year warranty. The kit includes the 18-55 vr and the 55-200 vr lenses and some other goodies. That leaves you about $200.00 left over for the one accessory that will make you a FAR better photographer and that is often overlooked. I will join Ken in asking you to PLEASE buy a SB-600 flash for $239.00.. If you cant swing the extra 40 bucks get an SB400 flash but the 600 is much better.
    Photography is the mastering of light. No single skill so defines the professional as the ability to use artificial as well as natural light. The on-camera flash is fine for the occasional fill shot outdoors or to blast the four grinning party goers in your living room but a good flash will allow you to take your photography to a whole new level. And really learn how to use it. Read ALL the books. Ask your professional friends. Learn to use commander mode and experiment with remote flash. It is great fun and will really open up new possibilities for you.
    While it is true that the D80 will work with old nikkors you don't have any so that is of little consequence. Those of us who have a stable full of the excellent old Nikon glass appreciate that feature but it would not be very smart to start buying obsolete glass at this point. However. Some excellent third party lenses require the motor so it is best to have it.
    The 10 MP of the D80 is for all intent and purpose indistinguishable from the 12 on the D90/300. The difference you will see is negligable. As for the low light capability of the newer cameras that is an issue. It is not so big an issue as many would like you to believe. You will not find yourself shooting at 3200 ISO all that often.
    The main thing is for you to pull the trigger and get going on this. With this rig there is virtually nothing you can't shoot. Have fun and enjoy the trip.
  27. I'd say Raymond's generous offer is your best bet by a mile. Get a couple of decent lenses, a flash, and upgrade the body when you feel ready for it.
  28. I have a Nikon D70 that I'm pretty happy with, as MY first DSLR.
  29. Thank you to everyone for all your posts, I appreciate everyone taking the time and energy to reply.
    Raymond, that is very generous, I sent you an email.
    I'm so excited and can't wait to get started. I go to work every day (in an office) and photography is all I can think about and I will finally be able to get started on this journey and I am so excited.
  30. Too many very good and almost excellent photographers use old models like D70, D70s and D100 shooting little masterpieces. So get a low budget camera/lens and many books about photography and digital photos. Then go on shooting as most as possible.

  31. Raymond. Your offer is very kind and generous. I hope she takes you up on it. I had a D100 until recently which is now being used by a new photographer to take wonderful pictures. I published thousands of photos from the camera and many remain some of my favorites. She is fortunate to have a mentor like you. You are a good man.
    There is an old Irish saying...May God plant a flower on your head.
  32. D90+35mm f/1.8. Eat hot dogs to save the extra $200.
  33. Some very good advice here. I'd like to remind you that the money you save on the camera should be spent on making prints. There is no online substitute for holding your own photograph in your hands, and tacking it on the wall. Too many photographers start out today getting a high end camera, and then never learn what it takes to make a good print you can share with other people. You don't need an expensive printer. Find a good lab and do uploads or take the photos in on a flash drive. Print your favourites at least 8.5 X11. Put them up someplace you can see them, and you'll begin to figure out what works for you in a photograph.
  34. Dpreview.com has a buyers guide. it is very helpful.
  35. Agree with Ron; D90 + 35mm f1.8 would be my personal best bet. Reasoning:
    1- You will save on a flash due to the fast f1.8 + excellent ISO performance.
    2- SIZE; a most important aspect is being able to take the camera everywhere. D90 is reasonably small.
    3- Kit lenses end up being shelveware, and with virtually no resale value. The 35 mm will probably be on your camera most of the time, even after you get more lenses.
    Please remember, a D90 is really a D300 in a lighter, more feature rich body; without all the weather proofing.
    Get a nice small carry bag to keep it with you all the time; take lots of pics, share them with us, and be prepared to hear a lot of advice!
    In my case, I have the D300 + 24-70 f2.8 + 70-200 f2.8 + 24 f2.8 + 50 f1.4 + 85 f1.8 + SB-900 main flash and SB-600 as Back-up Flash.
    Believe it or not, when I am out and about with my kids on our pass time, the 24 is mounted on the D300, and the 50 f1.4 is always in the bag. The rest of my expensive glass gets deployed only in professional gigs!
    In retrospect, I wish I had recieved such sound advice and generous offers like Raymond's; it took me quite a wile and lots of $$$ until I got to know what I really wanted. So, take Raymond up on his offer, I am sure 6 months down the road, you will probably re-donate the same kit to a new comer, when you have had your experience and decided what you really wanted.
    Good Luck
  36. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Unfotunately, one of the most misleading comments in forums such as this one is "cameras don't matter" and that is repeated over and over.
    First of all, certainly no camera is going to automatically make you a great photographer. Regardless of which camera you get, you'll still have to learn all the basics and get critique on your images; that is all good advice. However, digital technology is changing rapidly and each new generation is providing new capabilities that make new frontiers possible. For example, live view is now an integral part for me shooting landscape and macro; it lets you magnify each section of the frame to fine tune the depth of field in a way we could never do as recently as 2 years ago. That feature requires a large, high-quality LCD on the back of the camera, and that is common nowadays.
    The D100 happens to be a camera that I am very familiar with. Before I bought mine 7 years ago, I was already very aware of its various limitations. I bought it mainly for learning digital photography and at that time it was the only option that was within $2000. For the 3 years I used the D100, all of its limitations were quite annoying and I switched back to film whenever I had something serious to shoot.
    Today, I wouldn't pay money for a D100 any more. However, as a beginner, if someone generously offers one for free, I would certainly take that up and use it to learn the basics. Hopefully in a few months you'll make enough progress and will be back to the market for a better camera again, and perhaps your budget will be a bit higher by then. The good news about digital is that they get cheaper all the time. Even the same budget will go a longer way 6 months to a year from now.
  37. Hi Deb,
    Congratulations on this huge step! A DSLR will change how you view the whole world. :) I admit, I skimmed the posted responses, so forgive any repetition.
    My two cents: A D80 and the 50mm 1.4 prime lens. From what I understand, you can get the D80 pretty cheap these days, and I say in additon to the 50mm prime lens, go with the 18-135mm zoom kit lens as well.
    It seems the D80 is overlooked a lot, because it doesn't perform as well as the D90 in low light if you use high ISO. If you keep the ISO lower, and use a tripod, you can get great low light shots. I have taken some really fab night shots with my D80. I set the ISO to 100 or 200 and keep it there. I consistently have crisp, clear shots. So, really, the noise issue isn't an issue, at first anyways. Maybe if you were shooting concerts or weddings where you couldn't use flash you'd have to get a camera with better noise control at high ISOs, and while I'm at it, may I recommend you get an external flash too? Onboard flashes are good for emergencies, but you will want an external one for sure. Maybe get that later though...
    The D80 does have noise at high ISO's - BUT you can use practically any nikon lens with it (I got a 1989 produced 75-300mm zoom that works beautifully with my D80) - and lenses are intregal to the good photography and there are SO many functions your head will spin. (I just discovered that you can hook it up to your TV and it will play an HD slideshow of your photos on the memory card to music - you can do all this in camera!)
    Plus it has an auto setting, so you can use it right out of the box, and it is not too heavy or clunky. It is fast - the only time I miss shots is when I am too slow. I love this camera, and I am learning more and more and more with it every day. Especially with 50mm lens attached.
    I really really really think you would be very pleased with a D80. I really do; I love mine, and highly recommend it.
    Having said that, go to a store and handle all the cameras you are interested in, and that will help too. One camera will definitely "fit".
    Good luck, and congrats again - DSLR's rock! Especially Nikons!
  38. The other two things I like about the D80 is it has the built in electronice viewfinder grid lines. This is a great help in getting shots level. The second thing is it has off camera flash capability built in. Combined with an SB-600 you tremendously expand your ability to control light. Flash isn't something many beginners think about, but once you get rolling you come to understand just how useful it is. Off-camera flash will give an ordinary photo the "pro" look.
    Kent in SD
  39. For example, live view is now an integral part for me shooting landscape and macro; it lets you magnify each section of the frame to fine tune the depth of field in a way we could never do as recently as 2 years ago.​
    Oh! You mean like I can do with the big, bright viewfinder on my 35mm Nikon FM2? About the only thing I see that is better on current DSLRs than my Nikon D70 is better noise reduction at higher ISO. That's it! I'm not a pro shooter by any means but I just can't justify why I would spend $2000 to upgrade. It's the lens, it's the technique, it's the idea behind the camera. Best advice is to get the best one you can afford and Use It!
    Ken Rockwell is often hated on this forum, and I'll admit sometimes he has a real screw loose. But his advice on cameras is pretty sound. Few who have spent a small fortune on gear will care to agree. But his point is worth considering.
  40. Well, the Ken Rockwell site isn't exactly full of information that's going to help experts or pro photographers and fortunately those people usually already know not to follow that advice (because, let's face it, a pro photographer who goes to a job with a D40 kit, SB400 and maybe an Olympus 35RC is going to run into some limitations).
    But on the other hand, every day there's a beginner who wants a small camera for taking shots of family and is on a budget, asking which camera to buy on this forum, who ends up with a bunch of people talking about how great a D200 is, though they might be talked down to debating the finer points of a D90 versus a D300. Sure, a D200 is great, if that's what you're looking for. So is a D300 and I've got a D90 and it's damn near perfect, but the beginners who want to take pictures of their family and do some casual hobby shooting don't need all that, and that's what the consumer level cameras are for. The feature set is different because if it weren't people would have to pay too much for heavy cameras they don't need.
  41. Hi Deb
    I bought my first DSLR last year. It was a difficult decision. I came from 30 years experience with film, though; when you say you are a beginner, I assume you are not coming with film SLR experience?
    Most DSLR's are very good, and each has different strengths. You can only pick based on specific goals. I had a very strong interest in macro photography in tropical, field situations, and choosing to buy a specific lens (Nikkor 105/2.8 VR) brought me to Nikon and then to a specific camera (D300).
    DSLR's are changing very quickly, and each year's models are soon 'out-dated'. I would not buy the same camera now that I bought last year. This is less true of lenses and other equipment, which change less rapidly.
    All this change means you can get deals on older cameras, eg D200. Be aware, though, that there is a reason for these lower prices. Since introducing the D3, Nikon has transitioned to a new sensor technology (in D3, D3x, D300, D90, D5000) which has transformed Nikon's standing among serious photographers. I would not now buy a D200 myself.
    If you know enough about what you want from lenses, flashes etc, or whether you want to take any particularly challenging photos (eg fast moving sports, indoor subjects without flash, etc) then you should be asking which camera will best suit this specific goal and the equipment you will need. The main reason to use an SLR is to access the interchangeable lenses and other ancillary equipment, not just for the camera itself. If you are just interested in photography generally, and want to get experience with a DSLR, I think you should buy a D40 and get on with it. If you can justify spending more, look at D90/D5000, not one of the older cameras.
  42. i can generally agree with many points made here. i'll summarize: the d80 is a great camera. so is the d90. so is the d200. so is the d300. so is the d5000. etc.
    for a beginner, though, i'm not sure there's a better entry-level nikon out there than the d40. there's a reason why entry-level cameras are entry-level. they are aimed at the casual photographer who is just learning dslrs, usually coming from a point and shoot, who wants to be able to take better-quality pictures than what they were getting. if you look at the original post, that describes the OP to a T.
    while photo.net is generally a place where there is a lot of helpful advice from experienced photographers who can help folks with complicated technical questions, sometimes i think people get caught up in their own preferences rather than putting themselves in the shoes of someone whose needs are simpler and more basic.
    ask yourself: for someone who is planning to shoot in Auto mode for a while, who's not yet familiar with even the P/A/S/M modes, let alone a second control wheel, who would probably be happy with using kit lenses to begin with, do features like depth-of-field preview and compatibility with older lenses even matter at this time?
    the OP clearly states the d90 is out of their reach, budget-wise. so why even mention a d300? similarly, the OP mentions she doesnt want a heavy camera. so why bring up a d200 at all? i can see weighing the relative merits of a d40 vs. a d60 vs. a d80 vs. a d5000, but c'mon folks. for an entry-level user, an entry-level camera offers the most bang for the buck.
    a budget of $1000 isn't a lot when you consider the price of professional-quality gear. but it's enough to get a complete entry-level kit--a body, 2 zooms, a fast prime, basic flash and basic tripod--which can take that user from beginning stage to "i'm ready to upgrade." that might be 6 months down the line, a year, or two years.
    in the meantime, meeting the original criteria--something easy to use, not too bulky, which allows for a variety of basic photographic situations--is really the only thing relevant to this discussion. that's why i honestly dont think the OP can find a better deal out there than a d40+2lens kit for $550, with the exception of a free d100 and a zoom, perhaps.
  43. Only experience will tell you.
  44. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Eric, to learn photography, you need a camera with manual aperture, shutter speed, and ISO control. In that sense it is just as easy to learn with a D40, D80, D300 or D3X. However, I would control the camera manually and understand the effects of those controls. Setting the camera to auto and just shoot is not going to help you learn. In particular, the Depth of Field Preview button is critical for showing the effects of different apertures and so is the spot meter for learning exposure.
    The D40 and D60 are fine camera for casual photographers who just want to take pictures. There are too many missing features that any serious beginner is going to outgrow them in a matter of months (hopefully). In no time you'll need to upgrade and of course you'll end up spending more money.
  45. Hi Deb,
    My wife uses the D60 & 16-85. She's tiny and she likes the size of the camera in her hands and the range of this lens, which covers 98% of what she likes to shoot. She's great at composition and prefers to hand-hold-- she has a tripod but likes the freedom to move about without it. I bought her various "P" solid & grad NDs but she usually sticks with the Circ Pol & UV because she doesn't want to fuss about with more "distractions". She gets great pictures. Her success, I believe, is because she continues to experiment with what she feels she can control. Perhaps she will want to upgrade someday, but perhaps not. Regardless, her photos can sell.
    I recommend going to your local camera shop and finding what feels good in your hands. As you learn you will know what your "ultimate" camera should be-- and you'll likely never buy it! I'd love the D3x but it weighs too much for me. Besides, I'd need to replace the half dozen DX lenses that my wife & I can share. So, I'll stick with my D300 & D70s (for IR).
    Hope this helps,
  46. "to learn photography, you need a camera with manual aperture, shutter speed, and ISO control. In that sense it is just as easy to learn with a D40, D80, D300 or D3X."
    i agree with this line of reasoning, but i think a D3X would be serious overkill for anyone upgrading from a P&S who has no familiarity with the nikon system. in fact, i would venture to say a d40 has a much gentler learning curve than a D3x.
    " Setting the camera to auto and just shoot is not going to help you learn. In particular, the Depth of Field Preview button is critical for showing the effects of different apertures and so is the spot meter for learning exposure."
    well, i've never used the DoF button on either my d80 or d300, so it's perhaps not as critical as you think. IMO there are really two complimentary aspects to learning photography: technique and composition. the first deals with technical knowledge, the second with aesthetic knowledge. you can have all the technical know-how in the world, but if you don't have an eye for a good shot, it doesnt matter much, does it? OTOH, if you have an understanding of what makes a good composition, you can make a good shot with any piece of equipment. of course it helps to know what you're doing. but both technique and composition are essential to anyone's photographic learning curve, and are probably equally important.
    i've taken shots with an auto-everything P&S film camera which ended up on the front page of a newspaper's travel section. at that time, i had very little understanding of photographic technique and had never used an SLR. but i knew how to frame a shot correctly and get good results, despite being equipment-limited.
    "The D40 and D60 are fine camera for casual photographers who just want to take pictures. There are too many missing features that any serious beginner is going to outgrow them in a matter of months (hopefully). In no time you'll need to upgrade and of course you'll end up spending more money."
    the reality is the need to upgrade is going to happen with any sub-professional camera eventually for anyone who becomes "serious." and with the depreciation of digital bodies being what they are today, i'm not sure it makes sense for an absolute beginner who may one day become a serious enthusiast or even pro to get anything over an entry-level body when they're just starting out and don't know exactly what they want to do, except take pictures better than a P&S.
    as a music journalist by profession, i was getting photo pit and backstage access back when i had an old Fuji superzoom P&S. so i basically started at a semi-pro level. my learning curve might have been accelerated by the opportunities i was getting, which the average person probably wouldnt have. still, it didnt take long for me to see that, while the fuji was okay for casual use and travel shots, for the concert and event photography i wanted to do, it was inadequate.
    in my own experience with DSLRs, i started out with a d80 three years ago. at the time that camera was the top prosumer model, occupying the place a d90 does today. back then, there were a lot fewer AF-S, HSM, and BiM lenses, so lens compatibility was a bigger issue. back then, the d200 was $1600 and there was no d90, d300, or d5000.in retrospect, i'm glad i got the d80 and not a d40 or d200. it was the perfect camera for me at that time. nowadays, my thinking might be a bit different, especially if i was looking at it from an entry-level perspective.
    the d80 was a great learning camera for me. i started on auto mode, quickly graduated to "P", then read Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Exposure" to learn about aperture and shutter speed in a practical, field-worthy sense. Peterson emphasized using aperture-priority and shutter modes, and using full manual. just looking at the examples in Peterson's book--and lurking on Nikonians and PN--helped me to understand the difference between different aperture settings. so i never had any need to use the DoF preview, though it was available. it took about a year to fully master the d80's learning curve--YMMV--and by then the d300 was out. i found myself wanting to do things which were equipment-limited with the d80, i.e. high-ISO, no-flash shots, so i upgraded.
    my point is, had i spent an extra $600 on the d200, i still would have had to upgrade to the d300 eventually. instead of spending that money on a pro body initially, i bought an ultrawide lens, and added several other non-kit 2.8 and prime lenses before upgrading my body. having that year of experience under my belt really made a difference--i might have been overwhelmed at first by a d200. good thing, since there was another learning curve waiting for me when i upgraded.
    make no mistake--the d90 is a bit more future-proof at this point than a d40, d60, or d80. but it's also out of the OP's budget, which is actually the biggest concern here. $1000 doesnt buy a lot in DSLR-land these days, but the good news is for that amount, it's possible to get a complete beginner's kit.
    sure, a d80 is still a more full-featured camera than a d40, and less limiting in many ways for intermediate/advanced users. but everyone's learning curve is different. essentially, you're assuming deb's learning curve with a d40 will be very short and that she'll soon grown tired of the body, thus necessitating an upgrade. what i'm saying is this could happen even if she goes for a higher-priced camera from jump, in which case she will be starting out with less equipment on which to learn, such as a second zoom lens, a prime, or a flash.
    checking prices online, a used d80 with no warranty is $500 at B&H; a refurbed d80 with 90-day warranty is $600 at adorama. (i would personally feel much more confident with a body with full manufacturer's warranty). both of those options are body-only, meaning you'd still have to buy lenses, not to mention memory cards, flash, etc. this is where it gets expensive and budgetary contraints come into play.
    getting a d80 for $500 is certainly better than spending $1000 on the same body. but, as i mentioned earlier, in two years time, a d90 will likely be $500--a refurb is currently $800. if that's the camera she'll eventually want--assuming she doesnt decide she does want a pro body like the d300--she can get it in two years for a song while developing technique and compositional skills. in the meantime, i'm not sure she'd be more limited by the d40's lack of a DoF preview and 3-pt AF than by only being able to afford one or two lenses.
    when you think about it, getting 2 lenses and a body for $550--leaving $450 in her budget, enough for a 35/1.8 and sb-400+filters, or sb-600--is a pretty darn good deal.
    the bottom line is that photography is an expensive hobby no matter what level you start at. anyone getting into it will end up spending more money eventually--that's just the way it goes.
  47. I tried to read this entire thread but my brain began to glaze over from the rambling. But forging on ahead this is what I learned:
    • Deb is a beginner and needs a dSLR.
    • Raymond Liguori offered a free dSLR and lens, an excellent starter kit for learning.
    • Deb accepted.
    I've already forgotten what the other 4,000+ words written since that point in the conversation were about, but they appeared to have been cut and pasted from dozens of other generic camera forum threads.
    Deb, best of luck to you and above all, have fun.
    Raymond, through the absolute lack of authority not vested in me, you are now semi-officially a photo.net hero, tho' we no longer have those Atlas-holding-globe hero icons.
  48. Great post Lex!
  49. Used D200, cant go wrong.
  50. d40 or d60 both have auto modes and other modes you can play with as a beginner.
    No to the d200, its not a starter camera and is heavy to carry around for fun.
    My suggestion: d40 or d60 with the 18-55 and 55-200vr. This is a great "starter" system and you will get very nice pictures and learn more about photography without breaking the bank
  51. Deb asks for low light capability in an entry level camera. That leaves her with either the D5000 or the D90. I don't know why so many people are recommending D40/60/200.
  52. lex- i agree with your reply. i couldnt read it all either. Raymond Rules!
  53. "Unfotunately, one of the most misleading comments in forums such as this one is "cameras don't matter" and that is repeated over and over."
    Well, Shun, you said a few days ago that the camera didn't matter:
    You stated:
    "The chance is that your teacher (or for that matter anybody else) creates great images because of their photographic skills, and that has little to do with the camera itself. . . If you want to take better pictures, focus on how to improve as a photographer. If you are into action/sports photography, some of the latest equipment can give you an advantage, . . ."
    So which do you believe? Here the camera matters, but a few days ago the camera didn't matter. FYI - I believe that the gear must be suitable for the application. I want a great AF system for shooting fast sports.
  54. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Robert, first of all, the other thread is from today, and I posted there this morning, not a few days ago. But I suggest you read my post there a couple more times because I explained everything thoroughly.
    I never said cameras didn't matter. In that other thread, the OP wrote "my teacher makes a amazing pictures with said Hasselblad camera" so that he wants a similar camera (but somehow from Nikon). And I pointed out that is faulty logic/reasoning. That is like saying Tiger Woods wins the Masters using so and so golf clubs so that I want to buy exactly the same clubs to play just like Tiger.
  55. Deb, Shun is spot on, the camera is just a tool, sorry fellas, I know some of us love our tools, but just a tool. In the hands of an artist, art results. In the hands of some hamburger, well, thats what you get. Learn the art of photography-once you know what inspired you or is your message, having learned to use the camera and its controls to affect the image, use them to maximize that inspired vision or message. You will want to get a basic understanding of composition and lighting. If you have read Rockwell, you know he places more emphasis on learning the skills than simply acquring better tools. Also, Kent pointed out getting and using that strobe. Dont keep it in the spot in your bag that Joe McNally says reads "open only in case of emergency." You will no longer be stuck with found light but instead, can tweak, manipulate, overpower it. Welcome aboard.
  56. Cameras absolutely matter. You can't get the tonality of larger formats with a minature format camera - digital or film. The right gear does not guarentee a great shot, but it's much harder, or even impossible, to get a great shot with the wrong gear.
    Did you ever look in a professional mechanic's shop? It's probably loaded with Snap On tools. Why spend all the extra $$$ if tools don't matter?
  57. The D5000 with the kit lens would be a great starting point for you at the amount of money that you have allotted. Next lens could be the 35/1.8 for even lower light use. It is a great camera for the money. Have fun with it!

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