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Sunday, 07 April 2013


OK, here's another slightly off-the-wall suggestion, but a good fit for the "photojournalist/action with little money" requirement: Nikon D1H.

Advantages: professional Nikon feature set; stupid-fast autofocus; 5fps for 40 shots before buffer has to clear; instant start-up; tank-like pro build; vertical control wheel and shutter button; excellent picture quality; usable ISO up to 6400; compatible with every Nikon lens made after 1977; can be had for around $200, or less for a beater (and it can take a beating); impresses photo newbies, who will want to touch it ;)

Disadvantages: 3 megapixels (but plenty good enough for college newspaper/website); a heavy handful; tiny 2-inch rear LCD; you'll need to budget $60-80 for a couple of replacement EN-4 batteries, because the originals are completely dead by now; most samples endured hard use by newspaper pros, so look carefully; may have to replace with more modern camera for paying work after graduation.

Finally (really this time!): whatever camera you decide on, see if you can get your hands on a working example of it before you plunk your money down; if you can't, make sure you get a "no questions" return/refund policy.

What's tight, exactly? Does he have usable lenses from his film cameras? Many capable used bodies out there. $500 makes it easy, $400 with a little effort. For used, rugged bodies and shutters trump features. But much depends on his lenses.

Fisheye: Rokinon/Bower/Samyang makes an excellent fisheye for most crop sensor SLR and mirrorless mounts (not full frame). $300 new, $200 ish used.

none of these are a problem for him
the problem here is that "tight" and "very tight" arent specific enough... the obsessive camera researcher in me wants to help, but from past experience, i know MY tight and very tight can be very diff than someone elses :)

and does he have any brand pref?
def dslr over csc?

Probably the conservative thing to do is to pick among the recent Canon's and Nikon's.
Because they are the roots of "systems" still widely used for journalism.
Because things like fisheyes and in genearl weird lenses of all sorts are available for them.
You can adapt Nikon lenses to Canon bodies, but not the other way round.

...........Hey Mike,

There are usually camera clubs in your area with folks who
have too much equipment and would like to get something for it. I have helped people find places like KEH in Atlanta to sell their gear, but often I suggest they give it to a school or neighborhood photo group for someone who needs to get started with a user camera.

Pentax K-30 with 18-135 WR Zoom (about $800 used) and a 10-17mm fisheye zoom (about $400 used.) A manual 50mm f1.4 is around $100 used.

The Nikon D7000 with 18-105 zoom would cost about $200 more, but the Nikon fisheye is $200 more and not a zoom. The 50mm f1.8 is a great deal at about $125

Both cameras use the same sensor, but the Nikon zoom has a plastic mount and is not WR.

If he thinks he will eventually go FF, maybe a D700, although his lens costs will more than double.

A Samyang fisheye is under $300.

I haven't been impressed with the build quality of the lower end Canons or Nikons, and they usually have a penta mirror, not a pentaprism.

Pentax K20D. Lots of lenses, all the way from dirt-cheap fully manual to lovely primes. Weather-resistant, not too huge, ergonomic.

Or if the budget is not quite there, I just saw 2 K200Ds on Craigslist for less than $200. Also weather-sealed, will take AA batteries. Not quite as versatile.

I'm a Nikon guy, so I can only speak to their cameras. I used (and still have) a D200 for quite a few years, skipping the upgrade to the D300. It's an excellent camera and will do all the things he needs for photo-j work (I was a newspaper photographer once upon a time). The sensor is getting a little dated. The main weaknesses are high ISO (though it's fine up to 1600 and a little beyond) and DR (which is also fine, especially if you learn the turn the contrast settings down when needed). But it will do the job and I suspect there are a bunch of them out there for little money at this point. I shot a lot of dance concerts with it and it could handle the high contrast, high ISO requirements and need to follow and stop action. Get a cheap D200 and start saving for a newer Nikon down the road.

I have a nice cheap fisheye. The Pro-Optic 8mm f/3.5 http://www.adorama.com/PRO835NK.html It's sharp enough and priced right for a lens with limited usefulness.

This seems simple to me. Get either a Canon or Nikon bottom of the line body (rebel t or Nikon 3000 series), and a couple of consumer grade zooms. The body should be, say, 2 iterations back.

This should be really inexpensive and just because they're out of date doesn't make them bad. Many of us, including me, are on the "I need the latest and greatest" treadmill.

My first DSLR was the original Canon digital rebel. I remember well how blown away I was by what it could do. I imagine he could do good work with one of those, but there's no need to go back so far-- thanks to that treadmill.

Sure, the sort of camera I'm suggesting won't be optimal for action but that just means he needs to learn to anticipate the action. Nor are the consumer zooms that high quality, but this is about his learning the basics of photography. As he grows (and his budget grows), he can get better glass.

As for the fisheye need-- he doesn't really know if he needs it. Why not rent one for a few weeks with some shots pre-planned?

Inexpensive is not really a useful metric here! What do you mean? My inexpensive may be very different to yours... Think about his needs. I'd suggest 2nd hand Nikon D7000. Decent movie mode (which is more and more important to PJ's), that awesome Sony 16mp sensor and right now you can probably pick up some bargains as advanced amateurs prepare to update to the D7100. There's one ex+ in KEH at the moment for $665. He's getting into the Nikon system which is obviously great. Lens wise get a 2nd Sigma 17-70 and a cheap fast prime either the plastic fantastic 35mm or the 50mm. Fisheye wise the Samyang 8mm is grand enough or if you're lucky the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye zoom might be found 2nd hand for a similar price. If budget is super tight then the Pelang or Zenitar fisheyes work fine. If he's interested in fisheye I'm guessing that he's interested in skate style stuff so should deffo get couple of flashes if he can. The traditionalist would say get a couple of Viv 285's but I've found the Yongnuo Yn-560 mkii to be an amazing manual flash for the money. Feels better built than my Metz 58 and will trigger great off the inbuilt flash.

If he had more cash or was more sure of what was going to happen next I'd say get a 2nd hand 5D mkii. (A nikon D700 would be equally awesome/better for stills but you need that video mode) If he has less cash then a 2nd hand Pentax k-x is pretty much pennies but what you can get out of that sensor in raw is just ridiculous. I'm still using it now for paid work shooting at ISO 4500. I have to say that if you're prepared to shoot raw and deal with that then if you can't shoot decent images with any DSLR from the last 4 years you're really not trying hard enough. Don't forget to budget for lenses! Another good lens option would be to use the kit lens just as a wide angle and get a Tamron 28-75mm for longer work. It's an awesome lens if you get a decent one....

Oh and for budget buyers/users I've never felt limited by a bottom of the range Pentax. Whereas the bottom of the range Canons and Nikons have often made me feel different...

A D90 might be in the running, while there a ton of Canon models I'm not sure what in the D40/50/60 series is great or bad, and the rebels may make good images but the controls make me want to slap penguins. There are tons of earlier D80s, D200, etc on the nikon side, but I can't help but think that they'd be wasted money - the D90 would have the best 'legs'.

My suggestion would be a used Nikon D200 or D300 depending on what price point he is comfortable with. These should be less popular on the used market since they're bigger and heavier than others, and yet they're more pro, more responsive, and should be durable and not quickly obsoleted (except for sensor improvement factors). Or for a bit more money perhaps an original Canon 5D.

Hard to go past the Pentax K30 - highest performing and pro featured DSLR going around.

I would try to find a used Nikon D80, or D90 if price allows. You won't (shouldn't) pay more than $200 and you'll get a camera that I frequently use to this day. As opposed to getting the equivalent D7000/D7100 you'll lose four things I actually notice:
1) some resolution (not that much)
2) high ISO performance (a considerable amount)
3) continuous shooting speed
4) the giant LCD

I own a D80 and D7000 and as I said use them both. If I'm not shooting in low light, even at 100% I can't really tell you which picture came from which camera. The great thing about Nikons is they take almost all the old lenses, something I loved when money was tight. I picked up a number of the original AF primes for substantially less than the latest counterparts on the market today. That's why I recommend the D80 with the screw drive. The only thing it doesn't give you is auto exposure on the oldest, non-autofocus lenses.

I can't imagine a camera solution that would give you better expandability and performance per dollar.

(sorry for multiple comments - thinking whilst posting) a 2nd hand d5100 would be $200 or so cheaper but the lack of in body motor limits you on 2nd hand lenses and could cost more in the long run. Same image excellent image quality though and far from being a bad camera... Also kit lens and the cheapest 50mm you can get would do great. That's all I had for the 1st 2 years that I was getting paid for taking photos and it's a totally usable combination.

Although I am a canon man the answer to this question is simple. Pentax Pentax Pentax. Their digital cameras have great quality better then some of the big names. The key is they are not as popular so the prices are low and you can generally find last years models for very cheap. More importantly there are a vast amount of used lenses you can get for Pentax mounts and a lot of them are of the same quality as $1000+ new lenses. Their is also nothing more fun then buying a lens for $40 and finding it's a gem. A lot of the Pentax bodies have in body stabilization which will work with the legacy lenses. Video shooting however is not at the same standard as the other cameras but still pretty good. Also the legacy lenses will have older auto focus or manual focus. I find my Pentax smc 50mm f1.4 very easy to focus. If you want to get a Fisheye lens for not a lot of money then manual focus is the way to go anyway and with the use of m42 mount which is a Pentax mount then it opens up a huge amount of other lens manufacturers to buy from.

For a DLSR I would recommend the Kodak 14NX or SLR/n if a full frame Digital is needed. They seem to run about $400-600 on eBay. I use one regularly and if you want wide & Super wide lenses, this is the least expensive of the lot. Nikon lenses are used on this camera and Repairs are still done by Midwest Camera. I love mine.
Raw images can be converted to Adobe DNG and processed in almost any software with great results.

Interesting question. The level of film experience changes things slightly but in a very positive way. He understands shooting and not getting instant results so he won't have to break a bad habit of editing after every shot.

If I were to give him advice in this situation the first thing I'd say is not to get a DSLR but go mirrorless instead. That's where things are headed and the wieght saved is better used for lenses. Micro 4/3 is probably the best balance of cost/performance right now in used gear. Get it with the 25/1.4 lens and as fast a zoom as he can afford. I'd say to get a good add-on EVF as well if the body of choice doesn't have one. He's already used to composing in a finder and I still consider that a preferable way of composing.

Last of all, if he has made any investment in real glass (Nikon, Canon, Leica, etc) he can still use just about everything on a Micro-4/3 with the appropriate adapter. I find the 2x crop makes it easier to use adapted lenses because the similarity to film FOVs makes it easier to decide which to use. In addition, I believe that Canon and Nikon both made fisheyes that can be found reasonably priced at the usual suspect used camera stores.

I feel I can make this recommendation with confidence as I recently photographed a rock concert with my E-PL1 and a handful of Pre-AI manual focus Nikkors. This was taken with my 105/2.5 (a particularly fun lens that night along with my 24/2.8 & 50/1.4)


Hope this is of some interest.

I think this depends on the definition of "money is tight". I can only comment on Nikon, but I would suggest looking at secondhand sales of any of the models discontinued in the last year or so. Looking at Ebay (in the UK) there are lots of D90, D300, D7000 and slightly older models for sale. I think many people trade up and sell off lightly used bodies with plenty of miles on them, just to get the newest. All my Nikons have been secondhand and it has saved a pretty penny. My pick would be a D300 or D7000 as the balance between full featured and cost.
I would avoid the more basic models that tend to be missing key features like bracketing that a serious tog would want, or grow into.
The other consideration is to think about sharing. Are there any friends and family with a lens collection your young photographer could borrow from? It makes a difference if they can borrow a long lens for occasional use rather than have to buy (thinking of the action photography which suggests from a distance). That might dictate the lens mount to go after so they can pool resources.

I'll let others comment on the correct camera, but for a fisheye on the cheap - check out Samyang. They make an 8mm fisheye for most DSLR brands, and even m43. New from Amazon it'll set you back around $270, but you can usually find gently used versions on craigslist or fleabay for even cheaper - mostly because people don't need fisheye's for very long, and/or they get bored with them. As you probably know Samyang also produces under the name Rokinon and Bower.

I can attest to the build quality of results I get with my Rokinon 35mm, and Kirk Tuck posted some reviews of the 85mm recently.

Hope that helps.

Nikon D5100 seems a good deal to me, 12-55, 55-200 and maybe a 50 prime?

I'd guess there's a lot of good used equipment out there, since the DSLR has passed through the hype marketing to casual consumers (as distinct from photographers) who didn't realize what they were getting into when they bought a body and kit lens and started lugging a big bag and being a nuisance to the spouse.

My daughter went through a commercial photography course and faced these questions. The first is which platform to build on - e.g. Nikon or Canon - considerations being what you own right now and may be familiar with, who do you know to borrow the odd lens or flash or piece of advice from, and what rental and used sales facilities are nearby. My daughter found her first serious lens (Canon 70-200mm L f/4.6) was a more important and inspiring jump than the move to full frame. I'd say beginners ought to rent or borrow speciality lenses like fisheyes until they know they have a creative commitment to them.

If he really needs more than 6mp, Nikon: D90 or D200. (Canon: I have no idea.)

If he can live with 6mp, you can do a lot worse than a D70. I'd be tempted to tell him to go with 6mp if he can get away with it and money's really tight, except that I ended up reshooting a bunch of things once I got something with more megapixels. (I like to print portraits above life-size, and 6mp is marginal for that.)

Lumix GH2. Haunt eBay, look for one w kit lens, will spend between $500-600, good combo video and still.

Lets see...First I'd stick with either Nikon or Canon. Lots of lenses by many mfg's. accessories same. If it was a Nikon D2H any AI or AIS lenses from the mid '70 on could be used and are very reasonable in cost. A kids good eyes could manually focus the older lenses without a problem and metering works. D2H at 4 MP is fine for a college newspaper and its as responsive as any digi camera of any age. Built like a tank- downside- as well built as it is, its also very heavy. But for a kid, hey no problem.
I know- I'v got a D2H and still works like new.

Sounds like a D300 might be in the ballpark. If he's planning on interning at a local newspaper (God help him), he might want to look into what they shoot. Would open up access to the pool lenses that way.

Isn't there a post about this somewhere around here? Ah yes.... http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/05/letter-to-george.html

A list from one familiar with the Nikon line--there's probably an equivalent set available in the Canon world:
Nikon D200/D300/D300S body, with one or two extra batteries.
Wide: Nikon 12-24/10-24 zoom,
"Normal": Nikon 35/1.8G or 40/2.8G, or---if you've got more dough---the lovely Nikon 17-55/2.8G.
Various Nikon 85/1.8 lenses make an excellent general purpose telephotos if needed.
Substitute aftermarket brands where cost dictates.
Plus your choice of Nikon 10.5/2.8G or Samyang or Sigma fisheyes.
All available used, build the "system" as you go.
Nikon advantage: Very large world of used lenses available, now and in the future.
Nikon disadvantage: Costs may be slightly higher than non-Canon, non-Nikon competitors.

The Samyang 8mm fisheye is cheap, great for that price, and available in Pentax, Canon, Nikon, Sony, 43rds, or Samsung NX mounts, which may take the pressure off that being a deciding factor.

I have a Pentax K100D that he's welcome to if he wants it. It's about 7 years old, but it was a pretty decent camera in it's day. It comes with the 18-77 kit lens and a Sigma 18-125 f3.5-5.8. It takes standard Pentax K lenses, so eBay might provide better glass.


I would recommend one of the recently replaced Canon or Nikon entry DSLRs, ie the last Rebel or the D3100. Both can be found new inexpensively. My preference I think would be the D3100, but the choice should be which lens mount could he possibly borrow lens for.

Mike, as much as I've talked on here about disliking my Nikon's, for both their weird auto-focus, and odd-ball skin tone, you can certainly seem to find a Nikon D90 used at KEH for about 500 bucks (no lens, tho). There are certainly people doing very nice work with it, and I've especially seen some nice portraiture with it (altho they must be spending time in 'Shop messing with the face tones). I wish I could offer you mine with the 18-105, but I'm just not fully 'wrung out' on my Lumix G3 enough to let it go, I was planning to sell it on eBay this summer.

Additionally, I started with a Canon 20D, and thought that was OK, certainly seemed better built than my D90, but it seemed to really excel on bright days or with strobe light. I would think the 30D or 40D, which would be 'better', might be pretty cheap used, they sold a ton of them. Of course, there's always the ubiquitous Rebel if he wants to buy new. The T4i's are rock bottom because the T5i is out. My personal suspicion is that they now probably have the same shutter as the more expensive Canon APS-C models, as they won't report on shutter life for the Rebel now, probably because they don't want to eat their upper APS-C sales.

No matter what we all think about the quality of Pentax, Olympus, Fuji, etc., i.e. all the cameras we really lust after on here; I can't say enough that a young person getting into photography should just concentrate on the "big two". It will easier to borrow pals lenses, and any additional purchases they make will generally skip the possibility of investing down a blind hole. All the stuff you buy will be resalable, when you actually get enough experience to start thinking about outfitting yourself for exactly what yo want to accomplish.

I think a used NIkon D90 is a great option. Has a modern Sony sensor, good AF (compatible with all AF Nikon lenses), is pretty tough, responsive, and should last a long time. Also has a relatively low cost fisheye option (Rokinon 8.5mm).

I don't know if there are fisheye options, but a used Pentax of some sort probably is a good option what with the vast availability of used K mount lenses. And I suspect the Pentax cameras don't have good resale (a boon for Nate). Maybe something like a K20D is an option?


Nikon D700, the older 50mm f/1.4, take a gamble on a used 35mm f/2, the 85mm f/1.8, and see if he can hunt down the Tokina 28-70mm f/2.6-2.8.

(I'm shooting kit very much like this now, and very happy with it; it should all be a lot cheaper on that side of the pond).

For the fisheyes, there must be some russian options, then there's the excellent and ridiculously cheap Samyang.

Mike (still reading every day, just rarely in time to comment!)

I'm sure that you'll get as many suggestions as there are inexpensive to mid-cost cameras, but my suggestion is a mid-level ("pro-sumer") DSLR -possibly used, if in good condition, such as, for example, the Nikon D7000, because:
1-It will do just about anything he needs in terms of image quality, ISO range, video capture and flexibility;
2-There are many good used lenses available, and if he goes to manual mode, they tend to be inexpensive;
3-It should last a long time, and while newer cameras may have newer bells and whistles, my crystal ball doesn't indicate anything coming soon that will obsolete the type of camera. After all, some still use film cameras successfully-if less conveniently.
4-It has enough capability that he will be able to experiment and learn with it for the foreseeable future.
5-There is enough experience data on these cameras that he should be able to make a good choice.

Other than the above, its a matter of preference and cost.

I'd vote for either a Nikon D2Hs or Canon 1D2 if either can be had. Both are responsive without being shoddy and can be thrown around at a concert, a riot, or what have you. Nikon has the advantage of the 10.5mm DX fisheye which is also going for cheap these days.

Canon rebel + kit lens.
The new one has a touch screen, pinch to zoom like an iphone!
Also the 18-55 is the best lens ever for a hundred bucks.

For a fish there's the peleng and the samyang for about 3-400.

Don't get a telezoom. They're all horrible unless you spend $1500.

That's what I tell most people who ask and don't want super in depth explanations and reasons.

Nikon D90, still has competitive IQ, video if he needs it, and a good system start. And the prices are finially coming down some on the used ones.

Canon T2i/T3i/T4i are excellent cameras. Nikon's equivalents are also great but, Canon's colors, AWB, sharpness are generally more pleasant (not necessarily correct) out of the box. Moreover the available lenses are generally cheaper.

The only exception is Nikon 35mm f/1.8 for which there is no equivalent on Canon side.

If money is really tight, he might want to pick up an Olympus four-thirds DSLR. With some careful eBay bidding, he can probably pick up an E-410 or E-510 with the two kit lenses for $200 or so.

Yes, this is now a largely orphaned system, resolution will be only 10MP, high-ISO performance is lacking, and the kit zooms are slow. Still, the cameras are pleasant to use, reasonably featured, and the two lens kit cover the (35MM equivalent) range of 28MM to 300MM. (Don't really have an answer for the fisheye thing).

At the low cost of entry, he can resell the kit and upgrade later with minimal financial impact.

Easy. Old Canon 5D. They're built like tanks, shoot at the drop of a hat, and produce gorgeous 12mp files. There's a BGN copy at KEH for $546. (You may want to tell your young photographer friend before publishing this, lest they go away).

No video though, does that make it obsolete?

I would advise a student photojournalist on a budget to consider a lightly-used Canon 30D. It's much nicer than its predecessor, the 20D, and it lacks some of the bells and whistles of the 40D and later models but overall it's a solid performer that I still use as a backup for newspaper work. With the right combination of decent glass and good light, it performs well for sports photography.

I'm a big fan of the Canon 1d Mark II, great handling and autofocus but only 8mp and a small LCD screen. I only recently "upgraded" to a 5d Mark II but to be honest I prefer the 1d for a lot of uses. Bulletproof and cheap. Of course the 1.3x multiplier makes fisheyes a bit more tricky but you're not going to get a high-performance full-frame camera within a tight budget.

40D or D300?

If he is looking for a DSLR, a used Nikon D5000 with the kit lens (18mm to 55mm) is a great choice or for a bit more money the 18mm to 105mm lens is better for sports.

An excellent entry into the world of fisheyes are the Rokinon (a.k.a. Bower, Samyang etc.) 8mm lenses. The older versions without focus confirmation are less money and they are about $200 used on amazon.com. If you get the Nikon D5000 camera, it will work but since the sensor is DX (Nikon's APS-C designation) size you will not get the full fisheye circle. To get a circular image you will need a full-frame camera and the best choice on a zero budget is any used Nikon Full Frame film camera. The Nikon models: Nikkormat, FE, FM, 2000, and 2020 will all get the job done here.

The main thing is to have fun.

The lesser used camera I'd take for journalism and action would be a D7000, the best (with an affordable price) would be the D700. During my brief times at newspapers I used Canons and Nikons (prosumer models mostly). The Canons never did good with the hard work, they always ended up in repair (30D, 40D) along with its consumer lenses (you know them, everything north of f3.5). From my limited experience seems like Nikon puts more care in its consumer and prosumer lines.

I never got tired of using the D700. Lovely camera.

Pentax K10. Seems to be available on EBay for around $150.00. A capable picture taker with some weather sealing and dust protection. The Bower fisheye is available new at B&H for $250.00. For four hundred bucks he's off and running, with a million Pentax lenses available for cheap money, along with in body stabilization.

Does it need to be a DSLR? A used Panasonic GH2 would be pretty great for his needs, since videography seems to be pretty important for aspiring photographers. There a a couple fisheye lenses for M43 too.

If he needs it to be a DSLR, he is spoiled for choice, really. All of the consumer level APS-C cameras are awesome. If he's buying used, he could get any of the Nikon d5100, Canon T4i, Sony A55, or Pentax K-whatever for not too much. If he wants something more prosumer, the Canon 50D or Nikon D90 are both still great and can be bought for cheap. It's tough to really recommend any one camera to someone because camera ergonomic/menu fit is so personal (you and the E-M5 just aren't working well together, while I love my copy, for example).

I still have an old Nikon D70s. Apart from the rubbish screen it actually produces great results. I still take it out occasionally, or give it to my kids. You'll pick one up 2nd hand for peanuts. Pair it with an equally cheap 18-55 or 35. I'm sure Canon have an equivalent in their camp. It's a much better time for a 2nd hand dslr now compared with say 5 years ago

How about a Nikon D90. There are probably a lot of good used examples around & it was on sale for a long period of time - given the frequent turnover of models. I've also found the Canon 40D to be excellent, as a less expensive used alternative.

I'm mostly familiar with Nikon gear, so recommendations for inexpensive but robust DSLRs: D90 ($400 or so), D200 ($250) and a Rokinon fisheye (less than $300), plus the Nikkor AF 35/1.8. And maybe a 'kit' zoom. That ought to do it for awhile.


Pentax K10D or K20D? 10/14 MP, IBIS, Wide lens availability...


Well, if one can be found, a Canon 20D would be perfect. That camera was a home run when it was in production.

Canon Rebel. A T2i is relatively cheap on the used market; you can find lots of used lenses to pick from; and it has basic HD video. Menus are straight-forward (no Olympus here), and the camera gives direct access to main camera settings (exposure settings, ISO, WB, metering).

Used Nikon D50 or D70 and kit lens. Available used for peanuts on craigslist etc. Beat the crap out of it. And then beat it some more. If the AF stops working, keep shooting manual. Tape down the pop up flash. And if he's worried about noise, use Lightroom 3/4 with its excellent NR engine--adds about 1-3 stops.

Working PJ's didn't have it this good 20 years ago. Until he's good enough and experienced enough with such a camera, nothing more's needed--unless you want to believe the marketing hype.

Don't know about body DSLR though I'd bet for Canon 40D as a solid choice of an used camera with decent capabilities.

But it's easier thane ever to get to cheap and decent glass: Samyang. Equivalents are 3-5 times cheaper than "in-house" lenses; built for Canon and Nikon. No eletronics, no AF, no nothing, but if you know what to do it shouldn't be a problem.

Search Samyang lenses down and especially observe how they deal with video.

A3 prints from my Canon 10D still impress me. I think any decent SLR from that era onwards will be good enough, just find a mint one for the right price. Add a fast prime and zoom to suit.

More upmarket, how about a Nikon D700?

Hmmm, the old performance vs. budget conundrum. He clearly needs fast glass for action, and that will cost no matter what. I'd advise him to put the money into a good enough used 70-200 2.8, and then find an affordable body that can focus it well enough. Think of the body as more disposable. A used D700 might be a good bet, something to aim for, but if that is too expensive, there are smaller sensor options for the two big brands. Pick up a cheap fast 50, and there you go.

I'd second the Nikon. There are some D90's still available new very cheap and plenty available 2nd hand. If he is interested in playing around with wide angle lenses there are thousands of 2nd hand MF lenses available and the lack of autofocus is much less of an issue.

If he needs longer focal lengths the Nikon 1 series with the F-mount adaptor gets a lot more "length" out of cheaper consumer lenses.


Funny how many of these suggestions will get you up to $1000 in no time. When I was a student the $150 I scraped together for a Pentax K100 felt like a lot of scratch. My suggestion above assumed that "tight to non-existent" means equal to or less than 3 weeks of beer money. The important thing is to start pushing that shutter button.

If he got the funds I'd suggest a used Nikon D300 as well. It will work with manual Nikkor Ai and AiS lenses from 1978 and cheap manual Samyang lenses without electronic contacts as well.
If money is very tight a D200.
A D100 was never that good in comparison is pretty obsolete now and like most of the 'small' Nikons will not meter with manual lenses. Most entry level Nikons up to the D90 have no AF motor and will not autofocus with older cheap Nikkor AF lenses.

I did not realize that used D300s were that cheap. Get that. Those bodies used the excellent wide area AF system that's in the D3 and D700, but it covers nearly the entire frame in the D300 because of the cropped view.

I think he should hunt around for a used Sony dslr.

Sony has two major advantages -

1. Electronic viewfinder for WYSIWYG exposure

2. Built-in image stabilization for low light and video work.

A Sony a350 with 18-70mm zoom lens can be found for around $350-400.

Add an inexpensive fast-aperture prime lens such as the Sony A 50mm 1.8, 35mm 1.8 or even the 30mm 2.8 macro, and then a fisheye and he would be in business.

Depends on the student's preferences and what kind of action. Action that requires tracking AF means a DSLR. But, and a big but, is that only more premium DSLRs and lenses have what it takes to track accurately and produce high quality images in a range of conditions; anything else makes life progressively harder. Conversely, mirrorless is straightforward and convenient for people photography and when focus doesn't need to be on a particular small, off-center area. Not having to put effort into focusing in people photography is a big plus for me. So my advice is to choose the priorities and go from there; trying to cover all bases tends to lead to frustration.

If he wants to go with Nikon, I would recommend used D200, D300 or D300s, as lots of people already said. They are cheap now. D300 or D300s should do better in high ISO-D200 is not that good over ISO 800. These cameras are solid and responsive, and have reliable metering system. They really give you confidence. They also meter with manual focusing lens. I have been routingly using a D200 for about six years now, ninety percent of time with a 28mm f2 AI lens attached. The viewfinder of D200 is OK to me for manual focusing, not as good as my Nikon F3 of course.

I haven't read every post but the Canon 40D does not have less noise than the Canon 50D, 60D, or 7D.

2 lightly used D700s due sale

Not one of the pics fit the requirements as originally stated, all old, out of date, not viable from current market. Most however would work. Good luck.


If he wants to "play around" with fisheye lenses, he may be better off with full frame, like a Canon 5D or 5DII, which I'm afraid may not be too inexpensive. With APS-C, there are many more options.

Isn't the topic moot if he gets offered specific deals/gifts?

[For him, I suppose, yes. --Mike]

With the Pentax K5 and 16-50mm lens that's been offered, if that's the Pentax lens it's an f/2.8, not an f/4. I have one and I'm very pleased with it.

To one of my friends, with almost the same needs and on tight budget, I suggested a Canon 1100D with 18-55 kit zoom lens.

For action photography, it has to have phase-detect autofocus. And at least in Ctein's opinion Saturday night, the OM-D EM-5 doesn't AF fast enough even for roller derby (which doesn't have a fast-moving ball changing where the action happens). So unfortunately I think DSLR is probably required.

"Fisheye" covers two somewhat different things, full frame vs. circular image. You can get full frame for Micro 43 easily enough.

Glad to know I only get two good fisheye photos, I guess I'm done now! This will save me considerable time over the new however many years I live.

I had an S2, and it was great, for the time. It's kind of old now, and the AF isn't very good by today's standards and hence not really too useful for sports.

For action photography in general, crop-sensor cameras tend to be better anyway (it's mostly telephoto work). There's another more subtle thing -- at least in the Nikon's, the AF points cover more of the frame, which is VERY useful for action photography. On the Nikon side I'd look for used D300 or D300s, or D7000. Is that within the budget?

I'm not sure there's a full-circle fisheye for crop sensor, but there probably is by now. However, that's a very very specialized lens, and while I don't think you really only get two good images a lifetime with it, I really would strongly suggest that that NOT be a major factor in choosing a camera and format.

On the advice front
from someone who does (pseudo) photo-journalistic work at music festivals and for performing arts groups, I second the advice for a 5D (original version). I personally have more than 80,000 exposures on mine (the greater majority taken at 3200 ISO); other than my film Leicas, the most economical, high quality, productive camera I ever had. If one can resist the tendencies towards zooms, and can learn the discipline of prime lens, add a fast 28mm or 35mm and a 85mm or 100mm; (I might offer an argument for just the 50mm, but for the sake of brevity, see all the TOP columns for that). For sports/action, and photo ops where you can't get closer, the 70mm-200mm (zoom!)is very productive. Although not absolutely essential, a 1.4x or 2x tele-extender, will get you through the occasional need for something longer. Almost forgot, a light weight, but high quality (e.g. Gitzo- unfortunately not cheap) tripod with ball head!.

Although the following probably doesn't meet the budget criteria, I am looking for a good home (with a student or young photographer) for a 1D Mark III, 1DS mark III, Canon 24-70 f 2.8 L and 70-200mm f2.8 IS L. For the right photographer, I am hoping for more than B&H trade-in prices but less than market prices on high quality (built like a tank!), low wear professional quality equipment.

(I am a very satisfied 5D mark III user looking to simplify his kit.)

Mike, edit as you see fit.

Concur that the Nikon D300 or 300S is a whole lot of pro body for not much money these days. Mine takes a licking and keeps on ticking, bought it the very first day it was available and have severely thrashed it. Has a lot more dynamic range than the D200, and ISO 1600 is very useable. (D200 had excessive noise beyond about ISO 640). Using pro Nikon ED lenses I routinely knock out 13"x19" prints on my Epson that are above reproach. DX (APS-C) is greatly preferable for tele use, but Nikon is a little thin on cheap, great DX wides. If a fisheye is in the mix, there's a relatively cheap 10mm one that defishes well in Capture NX, so I hear. I do really like the look of my 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S(exquisite, a moderately wide ~25.5 to 53mm equivalent, a full-frame lens that was developed for DX but is FF), out of production, still spendy and quite bulky. Older 18-35mm variable aperture zoom should be okay for PJ, and there are numerous kit lenses with an 18mm wide side that may be adequate to get started in PJ. Do wish Nikon would grace the DX community some additional wide primes as good and as light as my old Pentax K mount manual primes.

At the risk of invoking "last camera syndrome," I would argue that he needs to do one of two things: either suck it up and get a d3 or similarly expensive camera that really will last him for a while, or get essentially any used $200 cheap slr, knowing that he will replace it in a year when he knows better what he wants to shoot and how he does so.

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