Help me choose a DSLR.
July 20, 2009 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone recommend a good action, landscaping, and travel DSLR in the $~1000 range? I tend to travel around and take pictures of nature, which include landscape as well as fast-moving animals. (Low light would be nice too, but I won't hold my breath.) I have read this, but it's from '07. I'd like updated recommendations.
posted by biochemist to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you're Nikon, then the new D90 will do nicely (assuming you have Nikon lenses already). Good lowlight performance, and the DX form factor will give your telephotos some extra reach for close up shots.
posted by jcmilton at 9:47 AM on July 20, 2009

Yep, D90 or whatever the Canon equivalent is. If you don't have lenses you may want to go for a D40 or a D80 and then buy some nice lenses (or Canon equivalent).

Make sure you get the 50mm 1.8 no matter what on each platform, and the 18-200VR lens on the Nikon body is still some of the best money I've ever spent.
posted by iamabot at 9:51 AM on July 20, 2009

I have a D90 and love it. I also have a modular system that is like a fanny pack for lenses and is the dorkiest thing anyone could possibly wear.

Seriously, though, one great thing about the D90 is that it has a focus motor so you can use almost any Nikon lens with autofocus and it will work (versus needing to have lenses with a focus motor inside the lens). Of course, pretty much any Nikon lens will work with the D90 going back to the 70s or before, but you will probably be manually focusing & metering.
posted by snofoam at 9:56 AM on July 20, 2009

Best answer: If you're talking under $1000 for a body and lenses, pretty much any body will be fine for you. As far as lenses:

1) You'll want something fairly wide (18-28mm range) for landscapes. Lens speed is less important here because you'll be photographing something static and can use a tripod for longer exposures if necessary. Something like a Nikkor 20mm, 24mm, or 28mm, all of which are f/2.8 lenses. Those can be had in the $250+ range.

2) You'll want something long and fast for fast-moving animals. Faster lens = shorter exposures = capturing motion. Conveniently, the same fast lens that can capture motion can also take shorter exposures in lower-light conditions. Nikkor has 200mm and 300mm lenses with apertures in the 2's, but these cost ~$5000 each.

So, what can you do for $1000? B&H has a D5000 kit with an 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 and a 70-300VR f/4-5.6 for ~$1100. It covers both the long and short ends, and the longer lens has VR, which will compensate a little for the relative slowness of the lens. But, that's probably a decent return in your price range. You can get the same body with the 18-200VR (a really well-reviewed lens) for $1400. A D60 body and the 18-200VR will run you just about $1200.

Of course, you'd do just as well with Canon, Sony, or Olympus (Four-Thirds cameras); just make sure the lenses you need exist for the respective system.
posted by The Michael The at 10:15 AM on July 20, 2009

Short answer: The Nikon D90 kit with the 18-55 lens should be under $1000 and do what you need.

If you want more lenses for your $1000, the Nikon D40 with kit lens, plus a 70-200 zoom with vibration reduction, and a prime lens (maybe a 35 mm or 50 mm) would do everything you need and more, and should come in around $1000. (I'm thinking a used manual-focus prime lens.)
posted by The Deej at 10:46 AM on July 20, 2009

I'm still waiting for some more reviews before I take the plunge, but Olympus is releasing the EP-1 sometime this month.

It's not exactly a DSLR (no mirror box, which is pretty unnecessary with digital photography) but has all of the manual controls you're likely to need. Best of all, with the prime lens, it will be very compact for traveling and hitting the street.

Should run you about $900 with the prime and no additional accessories. $1,000 with the additional flash if you need it.
posted by yamel at 10:51 AM on July 20, 2009

Best answer: At this point in time, any DSLR outfit you see that retails at less than your upper price point will be a good camera with, a worst, a decent kit lens.

I advise people in the market for something like this to stay with Canon or Nikon unless there is some compelling feature of a camera from another company which drives you in that direction. The big two are simply way more supported, will likely be in the camera business five years from now, and there's a healthy second hand market for lenses and accessories whether you're buying or selling.

Through the end of the month, Costco is selling a bundle with the recently introduced Nikon D5000 body, two lenses (18-55 VR and 55-200 VR), carrying bag, and a 4 gig memory card at $999.00. Several tutorial DvD disks are also included in the package.

While there's room for improvement in any given component of this outfit, your $1K is buying you an awful lot of picture making capability with this.
posted by imjustsaying at 1:56 PM on July 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

The bases have essentially been covered. I'd note that both Canon and Nikon make inexpensive 50mm 1.8 lenses, and relatively inexpensive 35mm lenses. It's definitely worth picking up a 50mm 1.8, as it'll give you far greater flexibility in low-light, because it lets a lot more light in. A prime between 28mm and 35mm (I used the Canon 28mm f/1.8) will give you a more flexible lens length, but it may be beyond your current budget.

As far as bodies go, the Nikon D90 is the sweet spot. The Canon 40D is very nice too, and should have come down in price quite a bit now.
posted by Magnakai at 2:34 PM on July 20, 2009

Nikon D90.
posted by tra at 4:40 PM on July 20, 2009

Love my Pentax K10D. they have a newer model out now. It can use any K-mount lens ever made, so I scour pawn shops from time to time.
posted by yesster at 6:01 PM on July 20, 2009

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