Which DSLR would you pick?
June 2, 2009 12:59 PM   Subscribe

I need to choose between buying a used Nikon D50 and a used Canon Rebel XT. I would like to hear about your experience with any of these fine cameras.

Both cameras pretty much have the same specs, and I can get them at the same price ( about $400 CAD), both come with the 18-55 kit lense, the Nikon also have a dx nikor 55-200 F4,5-5,6 and the canon comes with a sigma 70-300 F4,0-5,6. I will use this camera both inside and outside, and I don't plan to print huge posters. I'm not doing sport photography, mostly landscape and people. I was also looking at new Nikon D60, but they are still over $500 and I can't afford that right now.

I'd like to hear about your experience with these cameras. I'm leaning towards the D50 for its larger lcd, but I heard the XT does a better job for inside shots. I don't own lenses, so I'm not sold to any brand. Anything I should be aware of to help my choice? I've done lots of photography before, using manual settings and all, but always with point-and-shoot cameras.
posted by ddaavviidd to Technology (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've had the D50 for almost three years. I purchased the Nikon 50mm AF f/1.8 prime lens for just under a $100 and it works great for low light. I can't speak for the Canon since I don't use it. I do love my 50 and haven't felt a need for another camera since getting this.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:04 PM on June 2, 2009

You'll be happy with either of these cameras. Flip a coin or something.
posted by aubilenon at 1:13 PM on June 2, 2009

Speaking as an XTi owner, seriously, this is a coin-flip. Either will be great.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:21 PM on June 2, 2009

The Nikon D50 uses a CCD-based sensor, which compared to CMOS of the newer Nikons and Canon cameras, falls a little behind at high ISO settings which may be required in indoor/low light photography, depending on aperture/flash/situation.

Have you considered a Nikon D40? Given it's price, it is a really good camera. It's lighter than the D50 (because it lacks the autofocusing motor required for non AF-S lenses which is less important if you don't have old Nikon glass). One of the main pulls for me is the 1/500 flash sync for flash filling when you need that high of a shutter which isn't available on the even higher end cameras.
posted by liquoredonlife at 1:36 PM on June 2, 2009

I have the XTi and LOVE it, but agree that either would be great. RE: the LCD display, I don't imagine that I would ever notice a difference in slightly larger/smaller, as I typically only use it to eyeball a shot or two for light/white balance. I shoot RAW with a huge CF card (or two or three), and I never really look at individual shots to cull things out until I dump them on my computer at home.
posted by ersatzkat at 1:38 PM on June 2, 2009

I love my D50 to bits - I've toyed with Canons at my local camera club and found the controls and interface less intuitive than the Nikon, but that's down to personal preference. It really is a coin toss, but either way have a great time with whichever you end up with!
posted by caffeinebomb at 1:39 PM on June 2, 2009

I have an XT and it's awesome. Honestly, both the Nikon and Canon offerings are quite good, and you should just buy the one that feels best in your hands. I think picking between the two is pretty arbitrary.
posted by chunking express at 1:40 PM on June 2, 2009

You're buying into a lens line more than a single camera body, so look at what lenses you are considering in both Nikon and Canon. Personally I prefer Canon but Nikon makes good stuff too.
posted by bradbane at 1:41 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another satisfied XTi owner chiming in - it's a very good camera, but I don't see how you could go wrong with either.
posted by iconomy at 1:43 PM on June 2, 2009

Some Nikon Advice:

Skip the D60, your better off with a D40 or a D40x if you go that route. The D60 isn't worth it over a D40. The only thing the D50 (which is older than the D40) brings is some added lens compatibility (AF on the D50 vs AF-S on the D40's/60's), but you should be able to get a D40 for roughly the same price. Ignore the Nikon D numbering system because it's not linear in terms of features and release dates and the camera you get for the buck. Drawback to the D40, D40x and the D60 is you lose access to the phenomenal and cheap 50mm 1.8 lens, those cameras simply can't handle AF on it, but there are other lenses out there that are slightly different (35mm 1.8 AF-S vs 50mm 1.8 SF) but offer similar performance.

You'll be really happy with either a Canon or a Nikon at the end of the day.
posted by iamabot at 1:45 PM on June 2, 2009

I can't really imagine you being unhappy with either one. Although, some people complain about ergonomics on canons. Remember, you're buying into the system, not the body. So, if you happen to have random nikon lenses laying around, get the nikon.
posted by majikstreet at 1:53 PM on June 2, 2009

I use the XTi at home and the D50 for work. It's a coin flip. The one thing you will want to do is try out the menu system. I found the Canon one more intuitive, so I bought that one. It's not like the Nikon one is bad either, but it is different.
posted by sanka at 2:16 PM on June 2, 2009

Both the Nikon and the Canon are superb. I was making this exact decision a few years ago. I intended to buy the Canon but was still on the fence about it. I ended up buying a Nikon D50 because it felt better in my hand.

Seriously - both of the cameras you're considering are so good that the decision can come down to something as simple as how it feels in your hand. The D50 felt more comfortable to hold and shoot with. I bought it and haven't regretted the decision even once.

I love my Nikon.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:27 PM on June 2, 2009

if you have friends with lenses, find out which system the friends most likely to lend you lenses use. then buy that system. it's really that simple.

(caveat: if you have smaller hands, the canon rebels fit better and are thus more pleasant to shoot with. this + my years of love for the canon ui is what made me get my rebel xti.)
posted by lia at 2:57 PM on June 2, 2009

There may well be a comparable deal on the Canon side, and if so that's great. But as a Nikon guy I'd urge you to dig deep enough to find another $50.00 and buy a new Nikon D40 with the kit lens.

You'll have a really nice brand new camera with a warranty, and no fear of the misuse that may have happened while in possession of the original owner Repairs to DSLR products are not cheap, and that's why I always advocate buying a brand new one.

I continue to believe that a brand new low end DSLR is a supreme bargain these days, no matter who makes it.
posted by imjustsaying at 3:43 PM on June 2, 2009

Sorry for missing the "CAD" in the prices you quote in your original post.

However, I still think you should get a new camera if you can afford it.
posted by imjustsaying at 3:46 PM on June 2, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all for your feedback. I already read quite a few reviews and comparisons online, and I wanted to complement this with people's hands on experiences. It seems like the picture quality and functions are close enough for me to choose based on ergonomics... I'll try both and keep you posted; until then, keep the comments coming!
posted by ddaavviidd at 4:06 PM on June 2, 2009

Just to point out: if you're interests are, as you say, landscape & people, both of those lenses are too long. The 55-200 with the Nikon may be just wide enough at the short end for some of that style of photography, but most likely not. You'll need to factor in the price of a new lens, either a fixed-length e.g. 24mm or 35mm, or a short zoom like a 18-55.

Agree with others; those 2 cameras are so close together that how it feels in your hand - and not just size, but control placement, menu layout, etc - is going to be the real decider. I think the Canon is slightly smaller than the D50 (and the D40 is smaller than both), but there's a lot more to it than that. Hold them both, side by side if possible, and have a quick play.

Also agree with those suggesting a new D40/D40x (or even a D60) over a used D50 - newer & smaller, better sensor, still available in places (although they're both discontinued), and often in a kit with the Nikon 18-55 (for a cheap kit zoom lens, truly outstanding) & a Nikon or Sigma 55-200. Both are missing an in-body focus motor, but that's less of an issue than it might seem - all recent Nikon lenses have the motor built-in, most 3rd party lenses do now too, and manual focusing on older lenses (particularly the shorter lengths) isn't really a problem.

Personal list of other pros & cons:
  • Autofocus points: The D40 has 3, IIRC the D50 has 5, but the Canon has 9 or 12? Arguably only an issue if you're spending most of your time in full auto/idiot/P&S mode. If you lean towards the program or aperture / shutter priority modes it's less of an issue, as it's easy enough to focus & recompose anyway.
  • Viewscreen: The D40 viewscreen is quite good; larger, sharper, & clearer than the equivalent Canons. The D50 screen is not as good as the D40, but still better than the Canons.

posted by Pinback at 4:43 PM on June 2, 2009

(On lack of preview: oops, sorry - despite reading it several times, I still managed to skim over the fact that both the ones you're looking at include an 18-55 lens. My bad...)
posted by Pinback at 4:45 PM on June 2, 2009

One fairly significant pro to the Canon--you can get a lens adapter to use Nikon lenses (which are often superior to Canon lenses) with your Canon camera, but from what I understand the opposite is not possible. The only downside to this is you won't have access to the Nikon lenses' autofocus, and the smaller view in the XTi's cropped frame will make it very difficult to focus manually.

One clear advantage that the D40 offers over the XTi is spot metering. The XTi simply doesn't have it, and this was a deliberate crippling of the camera that makes me pretty annoyed with Canon.

All said, I'd go with the Canon for the reason mentioned above. In general, when choosing a camera you should shop for lenses first, and pick the back which has the best options in terms of optics. Backs will come and go, but the glass will last you for many years.
posted by mullingitover at 6:33 PM on June 2, 2009

I love my D50 (had it since it came out) and it's still great. Also used various digital rebels (I can't remember all the model numbers) and they have been great too! :D Both have a selection of 'low end' lenses that still perform admirably (the 50mm f1.8 being a big winner for both). The only thing I would check, is the canon more 'backwards compatible' with older, non-af canon lenses? the D50 will accept a non CPU contact lens, but metering is disabled. (This is applicable to old lenses only, any new lens will have the contacts). I only mention this because you might be able to get some very nice lenses for cheap because they are 'old', and they may be compatible with the Canon..?
posted by defcom1 at 8:41 PM on June 2, 2009

I'd go with the Canon, though I'd look for an XTi (400D in the EU) if you can, and an XSi would be even better.

Main reason for me would be the lack of auto-focus on prime lenses on the smaller Nikon bodies, and the better low-light capability.

Check the reviews on http://www.dpreview.com/, they're very thorough.

The higher-end Nikons are very nice, but the entry level ones lag a bit behind Canon's equivalent. They're still great cameras though.
posted by Magnakai at 6:52 AM on June 3, 2009

They are both great cameras and with great lens lines. I own an XTi and I love it but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the 18-55mm kit lens that canon sells is garbage. I think it may be the only crappy lens canon sells but there it is. You can factor in a need to replace it immediately. Or just buy the body only.
posted by chairface at 10:04 AM on June 3, 2009

Let me put it this way: I work at the agency that advertises Nikon cameras, and I swear by my Canon Rebel. I will never switch to Nikon.
posted by kmccormi at 6:44 AM on June 5, 2009

Response by poster: I ended up getting a new Rebel XS for about the same price... A nice camera, perhaps not the most ergonomic but it fits my hands and I'll eventually get a better lense. Thanks all!
posted by ddaavviidd at 8:27 PM on June 5, 2009

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