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I want to get into photography so I've been looking at DSLRs. I don't want to spend over $350 or so, so I'll definitely be looking at used cameras. I'm mainly interested in outdoor photography. What should I be looking for specs-wise?

I also did some research and I've found a couple of models that I may be interested in

  • Rebel XT
  • Rebel XTi
  • EOS 30D

edit: a couple of other things to add after reading similar questions: I will likely not be buying another lens anytime soon. I don't care about complexity of the camera, I like to learn the ins and outs of stuff.

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Read here and Here –  Russell McMahon Sep 3 '12 at 17:00
    
possible duplicate of What should I look for when shopping for my first DSLR? –  mattdm Sep 3 '12 at 17:14
    
My question was meant to be more focused on what camera specs are suggested for a beginning photographer, ie what's too much/ideal. –  A.J. Sep 3 '12 at 17:19
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As for camera body, from the three cameras that you've listed, I'd recommend you looking closer at the Canon EOS 30D for at least these reasons: 1) pentaprism viewefinders are generally brighter than the pentramirror ones (and you want to see a clearer picture in your viewfinder, don't you?). 2) Top LCD display gives you handy quick access to a set of useful parameters for your shooting. 3) Rear control wheel dial, IMHO, operates better than those separate buttons found on Rebel-s. 4) 5 frames per second allow you to take more consecutive shots. –  insignum Sep 3 '12 at 17:47
    

2 Answers 2

Any. Really, this is the good news! Any DSLR is good enough to learn photography. They all have manual controls including manual focusing, custom white-balance and shoot both JPEG images and RAW files. Sure, some are better than other but this is all you need to take control of the photographic process and will give you plenty to learn.

There are two features which are worth specifically looking for which are available in a good number of entry-level DSLRs, but not all of them:

  • Spot-Metering: Lets the camera meter from a small zone in the scene which is great to have when learning to expose creatively and learn about things like the zone system.
  • Depth-Of-Field Preview: Lets the camera show you before the shot an approximation of what the depth-of-field of the final image will be like.

You budget is obviously a limiting factor when you include the lens, so while you will be able to get a generic zoom, I suggest you go for a bright prime lens such as a 50mm F/1.8 (even new it's only $120 or so) or wider 35mm F/2 (or similar depending on the brand). This is more restrictive for framing but the bright aperture lets you play much more with depth-of-field and lets you work in lower light. Not only that, cameras focus faster with a bright lens.

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Agree with Itai about Any DSLR. All of low-priced cameras a roughly the same. I'd suggest buying something from Canon, because Nikon cameras of that price range may not have autobracketing feature, which is kinda crucial for outdoor photography. And don't bother much about the lens. You can buy a kit 18-55 lens and be perfectly happy with it for at least 1-1,5 years while your are just starting to learn about photography.

Spot-metering is a great feature, but even if camera doesn't have one you can always set to central zone metering which also works great. Never used DoF preview, not sure what it is - is it the button on camera which closes aperture for preview? That should be on all cameras I think.

Another thing I suggest to look at is a tripod. If you are going to shoot outdoor and landscapes you will definitely need one. Any cheap (~$50) will do for the first time, I used mine for about a year.

And again, don't bother on buying something great from the start. After a few months of using kit lens you might decide to buy a 50mm or 35mm(which will be better from cropped camera), but don't rush - kit is a great lens from the start.

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Spot metering is essential if you want to use the zone system or do other selective exposures which if you want to learn to be creative is highly recommended. Canon used to skip spot metering and DOF preview on their lower-end DSLRs. Auto bracketing not that important since you can do it yourself and the latitude is often too small on basic models. –  Itai Sep 4 '12 at 16:05
    
My 1000D doesn't have spot metering and it doesn't prevent me from setting correct and selective exposure in center-zone metering. It's just not the central dot that determines the exposure but a bit larger area in the centre. IMHO, autobracketing is crucial for amateur landscape photographer - it's a great feature for the start, and it's a bit more difficult to set correct bracket exposures manually, especially if you just started –  AAverin Sep 5 '12 at 5:28

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