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Best digital camera for beginner (serious)

by macandal / March 13, 2007 6:34 AM PDT

Years ago I used to play with my father's 35mm film camera and I used to take very good pictures. I've always liked photography and I think (yes, I think) this is something I could get into. I want to buy a first digital camera and I wanted suggestions as to what to buy. Considering that I probably want something better than a point-and-shoot camera, what camera should I buy? Or should I actually start with something very simple like a point-and-shoot? I was looking at the prosumer cameras recommended here on Cnet's guide to digital photography but, before I buy, I thought I would ask the forum. Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you.

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As a beginner...
by whizkid454 / March 13, 2007 7:38 AM PDT

You would probably only use the basic functions (zoom, quality, etc.) until you actually get to know the more advanced funtions and how to use them (i.e. shutter speed, aperture, etc.) Since you seem like you really are into photography and digital cameras, I would suggest you buy something that will let you expand on your possibilities. Buying a camera with no advanced controls gives you no room to experiment with them. I assume you will get the hang of a digital camera very fast so you don't want to be going out every year and buying a camera to satisfy your needs as you improve in photography. A camera with advanced functions and newer technology will give you plenty of room to expand and build upon your photographic skills.

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What would you recommend?
by macandal / March 13, 2007 7:50 AM PDT
In reply to: As a beginner...

Thanks Whiz Kid! Can I trouble you with specific recommendations?

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Some possibilities
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / March 13, 2007 8:39 AM PDT
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Can you expand those?
by macandal / March 13, 2007 8:56 AM PDT
In reply to: Some possibilities

Over at ( they recommend these two:

Canon Digital Rebel XTi and Sigma 30/1.4; the camera has many bells and whistles but they can be disabled when the camera is in manual mode.

Nikon D40 and Sigma 30/1.4 lens (Nikon has been losing market share to Canon for many years and the Canon EOS system is probably a better investment).

Giving preference to the Canon. While here, at cNet (, they also recommend another Canon, among others.

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The debate comes again...
by whizkid454 / March 13, 2007 9:50 AM PDT
In reply to: Can you expand those?

There will ALWAYS be a debate between Nikon and Canon. Both are very much into the camera industry as the other. It is pure personal preference. I would suggest going to a store and trying them both out to see how they appeal to you. The D40 is a nice beginner SLR with a nice price to boot. The Rebel XTi is also a great SLR, a little pricier but you get what you pay for. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, it's up to you to see what features you prefer over others.

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How do you compare?
by macandal / March 13, 2007 10:29 AM PDT

How can I compare the xti with the d40 here on cnet? I can't seem to be able to. Thanks.

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Serious Beginner
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / March 13, 2007 10:37 AM PDT
In reply to: Can you expand those?

We move from the $200-$300 price range to the $600-$1,200 price range.

These cameras are serious indeed, that is why they are often called pro-sumer (professional-consumer).

In Auto mode they are tame as kittens and that is a good way to start for someone learning about photograph.
From there, the sky is the limit.
I really recommend a class in photography, to speed you along.

The Canon STi is a great choice....
so is the Nikon D40, D50, D80.

The Sigma 30mm f1.4 lens is not a great choice.
It costs $430 and only a professional photographer would need such a lens.
The Canon 50mm f1.8 makes more sense and it sells for about $80.

If you really want to spend $400 for a first lens, I would suggest the Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4.5 for $389.


Which is better....Canon or Nikon?
Canon owners will say Canon.
Nikon owners will say Nikon.
This argument has be going on for over 50 years.

If you want to do some research on lenses, I suggest you visit:

That is a European site that does reviews on lenses.
They do not list all lenses available, just the ones that they have reviewed.


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Lens for Nikon?
by macandal / March 13, 2007 10:48 AM PDT
In reply to: Serious Beginner

What lens would you recommend if I decided to go with the Nikon?

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Nikon Lens
by snapshot2 Forum moderator / March 13, 2007 11:12 AM PDT
In reply to: Lens for Nikon?

For a low light basic lens, I would go for the 50mm f1.8 lens ($115).

For an all around all purpose lens under $400,

the Nikkor AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 G IF-ED DX


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Just a precaution
by jump1127 / March 13, 2007 11:50 PM PDT
In reply to: Lens for Nikon?

Not every Nikon's lense can be used on every Nikon camera. Definitely, Nikon D40 has quite a few number of lense you can use. Visit for more specific type of lense you can use and purchase. D40X has just arrived, you may want to check that out ! Good luck.

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by macandal / March 14, 2007 2:13 AM PDT
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Just one thing...
by whizkid454 / March 14, 2007 5:45 AM PDT
In reply to: Thanks!

Please be cautious with online buying. Do not trust any company that claims to sell the product a couple hundred bucks below retail price. It is 'usually' a scam. Some are actually legitimate, but buy from companies who have a good ratings from past customers who bought their products. I would suggest you to visit to check out any online seller before buying from them. Just a hint that could save you a lot of wasted money...

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If you don't mind my asking...
by macandal / March 14, 2007 5:49 AM PDT
In reply to: Just one thing...

Where do you buy from? Or where could be a good place for me to buy from? Also, about packages, do you know of any places that give you package deals? Thanks.

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by whizkid454 / March 14, 2007 6:19 AM PDT

I just buy from local retail stores, Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.) The reason is because I know I am getting what I paid for. I know that it will be a product that has not been tampered with and I know it will be the right product out of the box. It costs more but I am willing to spend the extra money for peace of mind.
I rarely buy from online stores for two reasons. First, they, as I said before, could be a fraud. Second, shipping the product takes time and there is the risk of damaging the product during shipping. The only advantage I see buying from online stores is the nice price.

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by jjsifo / March 14, 2007 1:49 PM PDT


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by macandal / March 14, 2007 2:23 PM PDT

What's your reason? I was going to get the Canon EOS XTi.

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Watch for those massive images
by fionndruinne / March 14, 2007 4:37 PM PDT
In reply to: Reason?

The XTi, while a really nice camera, is 10 megapixel, which can be a problem rather than a help - rarely does one need such a big image, and of course, more megapixels don't improve quality. You can always resize, but that's a chore, and 10MP fills your card faster.

I'm looking at the Nikon D40,which is 6MP, a nice size, and looks to be top quality. At $559 on Amazon, that's one nice price as well.

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Best Serious Beginner DSLR
by hjfok / March 16, 2007 1:17 PM PDT

You really should go to a local camera store and try out different models to see which one you like. But remember you're buying not just the camera body, you are actually picking the whole line of DSLR system.
Canon and Nikon are both excellent. Canon has a choice for full frame camera bodies (at at premium), which Nikon does not offer at this time. This may be important for a serious wide angle fan, but most people don't really care. Camera bodies change every few years. The lens are your longer term investments, and likely can still be used for your next few camera body upgrades in the future (so invest in some good lens). Although you need good skill to take good photos, a good lens will help you a lot in taking great pictures. You should learn more about lens before buying one, at least have some idea what kind of zoom range you need, zoom/prime lens, the depth of field (aperture) that you want, "speed (fast/slow)" lens, IS/VR or not, USM or not, etc.
I will recommend B H photo if you want to buy online from a reputable source with reasonable price (, or Adorama. They are reliable, and have great selections. The local stores usually have higher price and limited selections, especially their low end (lower quality) lens.
Everyone has his/her own preference. You have to find your own. My first DSLR is Canon 30D with EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens, a great combo for all occasions including low light situation (but be careful about EF-S lens because they cannot be used in full frame bodies if you plan for an upgrade in the future). The Rebel XTi is also a great camera with 10 Megapixel, anti-dust, and light-weight. But I like the 30D better because it has faster frame rate and a "spot" meter (Rebel XTi lacks this feature). It also has a separate window at the top of the camera next to the controls to display your camera settings, instead of using the LCD screen menu. So this is more efficient for me to adjust my settings (personal preference). It also has a more rugged build (though not weather sealed) and feels more balanced in my hand when using a bigger lens like the EF-S 17-55 mm f/2.8 IS and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS (this is an awesome lens). This package however is expensive and heavy, but gives me great pictures. If you prefer a lighter and more compact package, the Rebel XTi will be a better choice. The Nikon D70 or D80 with the 18-200 mm VR lens is also very popular (the 18-200 mm range is convenient and you may not need another lens for quite a while, though ultimate image quality will be compromised). There are just too many good choice, and we have not even mentioned the Olympics, Pentax, Sony, etc. Good luck!

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Thanks but now I'm more confused!!
by macandal / March 17, 2007 5:25 AM PDT

Thanks hj, but now I'm really confused. I went to a local camera store and tried out the cameras I had in mind plus the attendant showed me a Sony Alpha. to be honest with you they all felt great (some heavier than others but other than that...) so I didn't know what to make of it. I want the best camera I can buy (can I be more general?). Considering this is my first serious camera, I don't want to buy something too expensive but I don't quite want to skim on quality either. I don't want to limit myself to a budget of, say, $100 because that may not (most likely it won't) give me that next step I'm looking for. I also want something reliable and versatile. You mentioned lenses, especially in lenses, I want something that I can use in other cameras if/when I decide to sell the camera I'm now buying to get me another one better (the next next step). Thanks.

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Making a choice
by hjfok / March 17, 2007 7:55 PM PDT

Making a choice is often difficult. But if you have your mind on the Canon Rebel XTi, then go for it. And if you have extra spare change, then consider upgrading to a 30D. If you're interested in my rambling, then read on.
Everyone has his/her bias. So let me give you my bias. The main advantage of D-SLR over PS cameras is the wide array of special lenses of D-SLR. If you use a cheap slow lens (like most of the kit lens), your pictures are probably not that much different from a good PS camera. However, PS cameras are no match to D-SLR when it comes to macro, low light, sports, wild life, and portrait (with bokeh effect) photography. But all these require some special lens, eg. macro lens, lens with wide aperture, etc. These lenses can cost more than an entry/mid range DSLR camera body.
I think your choice of D-SLR system should be based on your need and budget. Most camera bodies perform quite well. The performance difference of the camera bodies should not affect your photography as much as your own skill. As long as you pick the right lens and accessories, you should still enjoy great photos.
If you are on a budget, Pentax and Sony will probably save you a lot of money on lenses, since their camera bodies have built-in shake reduction, so you won't need to spend extra money on lenses with image stabilization (which on the average cost $500-600 extra per lens). In that case, you can take advantage of the cheaper but good 3rd party lens and save even more. Unless you bring the tripod everywhere you go, image stabilization is a very important feature to have. It will save your day in low light or slower shutter speed situations.
If budget is not a problem or if you won't mind saving up to buy the best quality equipment, then Canon and Nikon are probably your best bet. From a nonprofessional (like myself) point of view, I think zoom lens is much more fun to use than prime lens. But zoom lenses usually have lower image quality and cost more, with some exceptions. I'm a Canon user, so I'm going to talk about Canon, and the Nikon fans can give you their opinions. For Canon, the Rebel XTi is a very good entry level camera (30D is better if budget allows). If you are not planning on getting the full frame body in the future, then the EF-S 17-55 mm f/2.8 IS is the best general purpose and wide angle lens. If you may get a full frame body one day, then get the EF 24-70 mm f/2.8L or EF 24-105 mm f/4.0L IS for a general purpose lens (but you won't have wide angle on the XTi or 30D). And for mid-range tele, the EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS is the best (followed by EF 70-200 mm f/4.0L IS). These 2 lenses (EF-S 17-55 mm f/2.8 IS and EF 70-200 mm f/2.8L IS) cover almost everything that I need, and I will use them on all future camera bodies until they break down. These 2 lenses initially may look like they cost a lot but they're worth every penny, especially when I see what they can do (something that no PS camera can accomplish). The other 2 lenses that I may get in the future for occasional use include a macro lens (when I start doing macro) and the EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS (for wild life at a distance/bird photography).
There are some good quality and reasonably priced Canon/Nikon prime lens, or 3rd party lens. I haven't used them and will let someone else talk about them. But as I said, the prime lenses are not as fun to use, and the 3rd party lenses don't match up to the Canon/Nikon.
Yes, photography is not an inexpensive hobby. But there are a lot of other hobbies that cost more. Besides, this is something fun that I can do with my family and friends. It has recorded beautiful precious memories that I will cherish for years to come. And it also adds fun to my other hobbies like scuba diving, now I can share with others my encounter with a shark in a cave. That is priceless. So go and get your camera and start having fun with it.

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The meagpixels
by hjfok / March 17, 2007 12:49 AM PDT

It is true that you don't need 10 MP for a regular size home printer. But those extra MP may be useful when you crop your photos. I have 8 MP on my Canon 30D and once a while I wish I have 12 MP when I crop the photo a lot. Or maybe one day you capture an exceptional picture and want to blow it up to hang on your wall. It is worth the extra price if you can afford it.

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by macandal / September 10, 2007 7:52 AM PDT

Ok. After seriously thinking about it, I had already decided on a Nikon D40. Then yesterday came all the specials for this week and I noticed this on BestBuy:

This Canon XT (8 mp) package sells for $649.

In Amazon, this camera sells for $550:

That is, without all the stuff that the BestBuy package offers. Only with a lens.

I like this Canon because it is between the 6MP that the Nikon D40 and the 10MP that the Nikon D40X (or something like that) and the Canon XTi offer. So, considering price and quality, is this a good buy? Or should I stick to one of the previously mentioned cameras?

Also, why is the gray outfit cheaper than the black one (on the Canon XT)? Thanks.

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Good question!
by mopscare42 / September 15, 2007 2:30 AM PDT
In reply to: UPDATE

Why does the black cost more than the silver gray?.
My first DSLR was a Canon 300D rebel which was the silver gray, it took pictures as good as the black one. but for some reason in my opion it looked like more of a cheap toy type camera rather than the black one which looked more like a real DSLR.
As for the Bestbuy deal, that is a good one. I have a Canon 30D and I paid $59.99 for that same bag at Bestbuy 3 months ago.
The UV filter is used mainly to protect the lens and doesn't cost very much.

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I'll take the Amazon deal
by hjfok / September 17, 2007 4:05 PM PDT
In reply to: UPDATE

What do you get for $100 extra with the Bestbuy deal? A bag that is not comfortable to carry around, a battery that costs less than $50 and a UV filter that you won't need for the cheap 18-55mm lens.
The Canon bag is bulky and not comfortable to carry around, you can go to Best Buy to try it and see yourself. My Tamrac Messenger 4 bag is more compact and can carry the Canon 30D with the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS lens, the hefty EF 70-200mm f/2.8L lens, a Canon speedlite flash, a Gary Fong lightsphere II, a Sony HDR HC3, a lens cleaning kit, a Canon SD 500, an Archos multimedia storage device, a cell phone, my polarizer filter, etc. It costs only $45. However, I use the Lowepro backpack for storage and traveling.
The extra battery is a good idea, especially when you travel.
The UV filter mainly is to protect the lens. The 18-55mm kit lens has average quality optics already, and now add another piece of average quality glass over it. It will be understandable to use a high quality UV filter to protect a lens that costs hundreds or thousands, but probably not necessary for a $139 lens. The high quality Heliopan or B+W filter costs about this much.

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best digtal camera
by magnusfl / September 21, 2007 12:16 PM PDT

a point-and-shoot camera is a popular choice for a first digital camera,
However you will not be happy with it as no one who ever had the opportunity to use a real 35MM camera would be.
So your choices are simple Canon or Nikon as there both good brands with a huge range of lens.

I personally went canon as the lens tend to be a little less expensive so I chose the cannon XT body which I got at Amazon
And Tamron lens for it which was a bit better then kit lens

One thing to note
You will spend a lot more on lens then the body over time so do not bother unless you plan to put in 3-4k in the future into it
As the better IS lens are pricey but there so sweet but you can start quite well with about a 550 dollar purchase of just the body and lens

One final note
Have you ever noticed cameras at sporting events notice the banks of white lens?
Those are cannon lens so cannon rules here in the telephoto area

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At long last...
by macandal / January 30, 2008 12:50 AM PST

So in the end, I got the Canon XTi. Just got it on Monday and haven't had much time to play with it, but, so far so good. I also got the Sigma 30mm/1.4 lens. It took me a while, but I finally got my camera.

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I bought a Pentax K2000
by ravrav / July 6, 2009 4:13 PM PDT
In reply to: At long last...

This is a great and informative discussion about beginner DSLR's and since I'm a beginner and overwhelmed with all the new information, some good advice is really valuable. Although Canon and Nikon are the big boys of DSLR's, I chose a Pentax k2000 for 3 main reasons.

1) Really cheap but good build, quality and features.
2) In camera stabilization/ anti shake because I didn't want to spend more on lenses with this feature (i.e. Canon).
3) Used Pentax, and Pentax compatible lenses are plentiful and cheaper that a lot of Canon, Nikon ones.

Now that I have my camera I can tell you that there's so much to learn (for a beginner DSLR) that its occasionally mind numbing. It's a great camera with the ability to take really good shots. But that depends on my skill.

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