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Can anyone recommend a good cheap second-hand DSLR, please?
May 24, 2010 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I've offered to take some photos for a friend's website, and I need a good cheap DSLR. I know what I'm doing with a camera, but have never bought a digital SLR. I'm on a budget (say $200), so I'm going to look at the second-hand market (mainly eBay). I don’t need masses of megapixels or fancy extras, but I do need high-ISO capacity for indoor shots (hence a high-end P&S won't do). Does anyone have any recommendations, please? Perhaps something that was hot two or three years ago? (I'm in Greece so US-only offers are no good to me.) Thanks in advance.
posted by kitfreeman to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you just need the camera for a short-term project, have you considered borrowing?
posted by litnerd at 12:44 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you end up buying, a nikon D40 has about all you would need and is a pretty fantastic beginner dslr. A cursory scan of ebay shows plenty of used for between 200 and 300.
posted by TheBones at 12:47 PM on May 24, 2010


but I do need high-ISO capacity for indoor shots

What you really need is a nice fat aperture so you can shoot at a lower ISO and reap the benefits of better image quality that comes along with that. Nikon and Canon both make good, cheap 50mm lenses with wide apertures (ƒ1.8 or so). No kit lens is going to get close to that.
posted by The Michael The at 1:19 PM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nikon D40s and Rebel XTs are go-to semi-cheap older cameras. And you should think about really fast lenses, like a 1.4 prime, instead of grainy high-iso'ness.
posted by tmcw at 1:19 PM on May 24, 2010


The cheapest DSLR (while still being worth the effort) is either the Canon Rebel XT (aka 350D) or the Nikon D40, as TheBones mentioned. My heart lies with the Canon, though--the Nikon AF motor *isn't in the camera* on that model, which means you'll have to rely on finding a lens with an independent AF system. I also use one as my own primary camera!

You can get a 350D+kit lens (new) for probably $300, which I know is over your budget, so the secondhand market should probably be markedly cheaper. Just be wary of eBaying camera parts, the market always seems to be sketchier than I would hope.

For light-sensitive indoor shots, I'd personally recommend a 350D body-only, and the $80 (new, again look secondhand) Canon f/1.8 II lens, which gives you superior speed on a budget price!
posted by a sourceless light at 1:20 PM on May 24, 2010


D40 is a good choice.

but I do need high-ISO capacity for indoor shots (hence a high-end P&S won't do)
You do know that the quality of the shots (especially in low light conditions) is almost entirely dependent on the lens, right? If you do get a Nikon, and want to take pictures of people indoors in low light, get the "Nifty Fifty" 50mm lens.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:20 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


"If you just need the camera for a short-term project, have you considered borrowing?"

I call it renting when you have to pay, plus I dont know of any rental places that let you take the camera out of the US, let alone ship it overseas...

What kind of pictures do you plan to take? Any camera comparable to the D40 mentioned above will probably suffice. Most Canon/Nikon cameras from the same generation (same price more or less on ebay?) will perform similarly for general use. Really good high ISO performance though is much better with newer cameras, so maybe borrow a tripod and dont't rely on handholding + higher ISO for indoors if possible....
posted by kenbennedy at 1:22 PM on May 24, 2010


Many lower-priced DSLRs have poor performance at high ISOs. This may or may not be an issue for you. Just because a camera can go to 1600 does not necessarily mean the pictures will look awesome at 1600.

If this is not an issue, the Nikon D40 is a good choice. Canon's Xn (XT, XS, XSi ... all 3-4 years old) line would be another option and can be found on ebay for similar prices. I own an XT - low light performance is passably good.
posted by kellygrape at 1:25 PM on May 24, 2010


I call it renting when you have to pay, plus I dont know of any rental places that let you take the camera out of the US, let alone ship it overseas...

The website I linked to does allow the cameras to be taken outside the US. As for shipping overseas, it wasn't explicitly stated that they don't do it--which is a good sign. I wouldn't discount the solution until it's been determined not to be feasible.

posted by litnerd at 1:30 PM on May 24, 2010


If you are taking photos of static subjects, why not use a tripod? You can then take advantage of the lowest ISO setting on the camera, and middling (i.e. sharpest) apertures, and hang the shutter speed.

A used Nikon D50 is in the $200 and under range by now, and is an excellent camera.
posted by pjern at 2:25 PM on May 24, 2010


Thanks to all for your suggestions so far. To expand: I'm wanting to take photos of a hotel and restaurant, so some will be relatively low light. I don't have equipment tripod or flash, so I'm looking for a camera that will give good low-light results either hand held or using a makeshift tripod.
posted by kitfreeman at 2:26 PM on May 24, 2010


It sounds to me like almost any cheap camera with a wide-angle lens would do if you had a tripod. You would probably want to use a tripod even if you had high-end DSLR. So buy one.

Are you going to be taking a lot of close-up photographs, like of food? If so make certain your camera can focus up close. Many of them can't.
posted by 14580 at 2:38 PM on May 24, 2010


Yeah if you're taking pictures of stationary items, what you really need is a tripod. Get yourself a Joby. They are inexpensive and can be used for this purpose with even a point & shoot.

Even if you do go with a DSLR this will still come in handy, because using longer shutter speeds will free you from having to use big apertures (narrow depth of field which you may or may not want) and high ISOs. A downsized ISO 1600 image from a $200 used DSLR may be "usable," but that kind of money ain't getting you professional-grade low-light images of the caliber of a 5DM2 or D700. So get the Joby.
posted by drpynchon at 2:52 PM on May 24, 2010


to be honest, I don't think you will be able to get a DSLR + lens with good high ISO performance for under $200, so you will do better with a tripod. The one mentioned above me is good, most camera or electronic stores carry cheap tripods like this one too. The good thing is, you don't need high ISO performance if you are taking shots of stationary objects, you are better off with a tripod anyway because you will get bette image quality at a lower ISO.

i don't know of any companies that rent cameras in Greece, but often some camera shops will have a rental department, so that is worth checking out too.

If you are taking photos of an interior, think about a wide-angle lens too. the canon "thrifty fifty" is a great lens, but it may not be wide enough to photograph a whole room!
posted by inertia at 3:08 PM on May 24, 2010


Thanks for the tripod suggestion. Do you think with a Joby and perhaps a shutter release cable I could do what I need with a Canon Powershot G10?
posted by kitfreeman at 3:10 PM on May 24, 2010


Thanks for the tripod suggestion. Do you think with a Joby and perhaps a shutter release cable I could do what I need with a Canon Powershot G10?

ABSOLUTELY.

This combination or similar (last gen high-end P&S + Joby) is exactly what I would use in your case unless I really preferred to go the route of renting expensive glass and a high-end body. The upside of the former is that you get to actually keep the stuff. Renting photojunk is surprisingly expensive.
posted by drpynchon at 3:42 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


You might not even need the cable release -- I've taken lots of clear photos in very low light (candlelight, etc) with the equivalent of a Canon powershot and a tripod (or a convenient pint glass to balance the camera on). I just release the shutter carefully. I often do low-light shots at 400, but will also do them at 100 or 200 for better quality.

Obviously, at very low shutter speeds people and other moving things may blur -- but in contrast to a crisp background, that can look awesome, better than just everything being clear.
posted by jb at 8:49 PM on May 24, 2010


You can simply used the timed shutter release (2 seconds, 10 seconds before it goes off etc.) so you hit the button, camera steadies, then takes the shot.
I heartily recommend the D50, bought it when new, I still love it very much and it takes fantastic pictures. The nifty-fifty is great on it too, you can get the older one, since there is an AF motor on the D50!
Also the older rebels are great, I wouldn't say no to one of those either.
posted by defcom1 at 12:02 AM on May 25, 2010


Also, if you're photographing smaller 'stuff', build yourself a lightbox. That will make a huge difference.
posted by defcom1 at 12:16 AM on May 25, 2010


To add a little more info, borrowlenses.com will not ship to Canada due to customs, so I would assume overseas is out also. They do let you carry it overseas though, which is good to know.
posted by kenbennedy at 4:56 AM on May 25, 2010


I think you're about to do this wrong.


Wait until a cloudy/overcast day and shoot film. Spend your $ on film, a tripod, and getting the negatives scanned in as much detail as possible. You won't be able to get anywhere near the resolution if you use digital, and your ISO concerns fall away as you can just change the speed of the film you use. You are already proficient with a film camera. The building isn't going anywhere, and hopefully every day there will be people in the restaurant if you want to take pics with customers.


Sure you have to wait maybe a few days to get the images back, but it'll be worth it.
posted by pegstar at 6:47 AM on May 25, 2010


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