I recently had a conversation with my neighbor who, together with his wife, are planning a trip to Europe. They are planning to buy a DSLR and asked for my recommendation. Being a Nikon shooter, and one who likes to keep up with the latest and greatest Nikon has to offer, I can only give an honest recommendation for Nikon products.
With a $1000.00 budget, here is what I recommend…
Camera: Nikon D90. Without getting too technical here, it has quite a few options and several capabilities that novice photographers can understand and more seasoned photographers would want. It has a 12.3 megapixel DX sensor which migrated from the D300 which still sells for twice as much as the D90. The D90 handles low light situations fairly well and it’s images are just as sharp as those cameras that cost 6 or 7 times its price. It also has a large 3″ LCD and the ability to record HD video at 24 fps (although I’ve never been impressed by it’s video quality). If you want to read a full review, I suggest you see what Ken Rockwell has to say (take what he says with a grain of salt). For most readers, what I’ve written so far is probably more than enough! Don’t be fooled by Nikon’s newest releases of the D5000 and D3000, both have had poor reviews. The price of the D90 has dropped considerably and is currently $788.00. The Canon equivalent is the Canon 50D, which is slightly higher in price. If this is your first DLSR, don’t let someone talk you into “their” favorite brand, instead, head to the local camera shop and handle them for yourself because both platforms are going to give you excellent images. I should also mention that the D90 (and the 50D) are both DX (as compared to FX). This means that the focal length of the lens attached will be multiplied by 1.5 (1.6 for Canon). A 50mm lens will act as a 75mm lens, a 200mm lens will act as a 300mm lens, and so on.
As if buying your first DSLR wasn’t confusing enough, wait until your faced with a couple hundred lens choices! There are two types of lenses. Primes and zooms. Without getting too technical, your prime lenses are going to be sharper, lighter and cheaper than their zoom counterparts. However, if using primes, you loose the ability to zoom in or out. Of course that makes you actually think about your shot before you just start clicking away, not necessarily a bad thing if you want to become a better photographer. Another thing to consider when buying a lens is it’s speed, often determined by the f/stop. A 50mm f/1.4 is going to be 2/3 faster than a 50mm f/1.8. Still confused? The reason it’s faster is because f/1.4 allows 2/3 more light through the lens which allows for a faster shutter speed. Photographers pay big bucks for fast lenses which are needed when doing professional level work.
Lens: Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G -or- 50mm f/1.8D. I’d want a lens that is compact, light, solid build, capable of being wide enough for vast landscapes but suitable for walking around town. For those reasons I’d recommend either the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D which sells for $123.95 or the Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G which sells for $199.95. Of the two I’d rather take the 50mm f/1.8 because it offers a metal mount, vs. the plastic mount of the 35mm. The 35mm is just going have a little wider angle of view. Just remember, a bad piece of glass can make your whole camera seem bad, be sure you know exactly what you are getting.
We’re just below our budget but we still need a couple of accessories. You will need to get at least one 8GB SD Memory Card and an extra battery. I suggest a SanDisk 8GB Extreme III SDHC, for $54.95 and the Nikon brand EN-EL3e battery for $39.95. You will see knock-off brand batteries for sale all over the web….I’ve tried them…they fail! Maybe I just have bad luck but I suggest you spend the extra $20 for good peace of mind.
Grand total: $1007.85