Here's the question: young photographer (~20), in college, wants/needs DSLR. Money is somewhere between tight and very tight. Will be doing photojournalism for college classes and action photography. Seeks: best balance of used but not too obsolete, inexpensive but not too shoddy, and as responsive as possible. Also wants to play around with fisheye lenses. (I thought this last might be a stumbling point, but then I don't really know.) Would like to keep the camera he gets for as long as possible.
Nate is a friend of my son's, and has actually done a pretty extensive apprenticeship with film, sort of surprising for someone his age.
Anyone have thoughts or advice for him?
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hannes: "As much as I like and use Micro 4/3 today, with sports in mind these are no viable option (on a budget at least). I would recommend a Canon 40D. Very cheap nowadays; as responsive as it gets in this class/budget, fast enough for sports; reliable autofocus (only nine points though); 10mp should be enough for his planned uses (with consequently better noise than 50d, 60d and maybe even 7D—on a per pixel level—even though the sensor tech is a few years behind); great battery life, and it is tough—very tough. Great selection of lenses (as has Nikon too, of course) with cheap third party fisheye option from Samyang/Rokinin/Bower/Walimex.I still love mine :-) .
"If sports is very important and budget not as tight, maybe a Nikon D7000. Great autofocus, but notably more expensive. As I prefer canon ergonomics, I probably would still choose the 40D over the Nikon."
Adam R: "I got into photography as a broke college student a few years ago. I had the same tight budget (nearly non-existent) and ended up going with a Nikon D40. What pushed me towards the Nikon was the ability to use manual focus F-mount lenses. I went into the venture knowing there was no way I'd be able to afford autofocus lenses (even used ones) for a long time. Being able to get things like a 50mm ƒ/1.8, 24mm ƒ/2.8, and 105mm ƒ/2.5 for under $150 each was a big selling point. If he's got experience with film, I'm assuming he would be comfortable with manual focus and using a handheld meter or guessing exposure (low end Nikon DSLRs won't meter with non-autofocus lenses).
"The other system I looked at was Pentax because you can use K-mount manual focus glass on the DLRS. At the time I couldn't find any used Pentax cameras in my price range so I ended up with the Nikon.
"If I were doing it today, I'd probably look more closely at some used Micro 4/3 cameras, even though they aren't SLRs. You can get a Panasonic G3 with kit lens for under $250 if you keep your eyes open. And then you have a whole host of inexpensive, high quality glass at your disposal via adapters."
Ranjit Grover: "The logic of choosing a digital camera is different from that of a film camera. In a film camera, both the sensor (that is, the film) and the lens are interchangeable. In a digital camera, the sensor-electronics complex is fixed for the life of the camera. Bottom-of-the-heap digital cameras can be thoroughly disappointing when it comes to the sensor part. Instead of spending on a fisheye lens, that much more money should go towards a better camera body. No one has made more than two good photographs with a fisheye lens in one lifetime. Practically no one needs anything wider that 28mm or longer than 100mm; in other words a kit lens is what most photographers need most of the time. Anything that cannot be shot within that range is not worth shooting!"
Dave: "As someone who buys used gear exclusively (who has the money for the newest?), the best advice I could give is look one to two generations behind the current new release model of prosumer DSLRs. I shoot on a Canon 50D I bought not long after the 60D came on the market. (I recommend prosumer lines, not entry levels—better reliability.) The same applies to Nikon, Pentax, Sony. Honestly, I recommend going Canon or Nikon because they are so popular; bodies and lenses are cheaper and widely available on the used market. Buy bodies on KEH, but Ebay often results in better deals on lenses, and lenses don't have a half life like the shutters on used bodies."
Kay-Chr. Heine: "My advice as a freelancing photojournalist: Nikon D200, D300 or Fujifilm S5 Pro and some nice, fast manual Nikkor AI-lenses like the 24mm ƒ/2 or 24mm ƒ/2.8, 35mm ƒ/2, 50mm ƒ/1.4 and 85mm ƒ/2, or, when it comes to responsive AF-lenses for action scenes, 18–70mm ƒ/3.5–4.5 AF-S G DX, 70–300mm ƒ/4.5–5.6 AF-S G VR + AF-S G, 35mm ƒ/1.8 and/or 28mm ƒ/1.8, 50mm ƒ/1.8, 85mm ƒ/1.8. I work with each of these cameras and lenses for many years now to my (and my clients') full satisfaction. It's reliable, capable and affordable gear."
christian kurmann: "I think he's already doing exactly the right thing. He's spreading word and will undoubtedly find someone who provides the required material. I like it when people should voice their wishes. I feel we live in an altruistic society and giving is usually easier then taking. I wish him all the best with finding a fisheye that matches the DSLR he gets."
UPDATE: You've got that right. As of 6 p.m. Sunday, Nate's been offered a Fuji FinePix S2 Pro, a Pentax K-5 with 16–50mm ƒ/4 lens, a Panasonic G3, a Nikon D200, a Canon Rebel XT with Sigma 18x-50 ƒ/2.8, and an Olympus E-420 with kit lens, as well as a Canon 1D for a low price. (And one more I can't find right now...my spologies.)
TOP readers being both kind and generous, I thought something like this might happen...Nate's going to catch up on reading tonight. I'll let you know what he ends up doing. —Mike