I'm thinking about starting real photography using a DSLR; I had been using point-and-shooters before and had been dismayed by the quality of the photo that was produced.

I'm thinking about buying a DSLR but don't know where to start from. A photographer friend of mine had suggested a Nikon D3000 but I'm not sure if it is the right one for me.


There is not the true answer, but I think you could be happy with a D5000 ... very simply to use, quite good for beginners and not much expensive.

Of course you can invest in some good optic in the next feature and retain them when you decide to pass to a more professional device. You will loose them when you'll fall in love with FX cameras :)


I recommend a second-hand Nikon that has enough of the goodies to give you a sense of what you are in for.

The Nikon world is filled with great Nikkor lenses. To use the most of them amicably you'll want a D200/D300/D300s. So I recommend a D200/D300. A D200 for a good price can probably be bought from a friend or friendly photog in your city. It will meter Ai-S MF lenses, and it will drive AF motors required by AF-D lenses. Some of the most approachable lenses (in terms of budget and quality--bang for the buck) are Ai-S and AF-D lenses. The penta-prism and additions of AF focus micro-adjustments, the serious build quality--are the last few things that will seal the deal for you. If you aren't using a Nikon for these merits and qualities, you might as well buy a Panasonic GF1. Because these will end up being the differentiating merits.

If you use a D200 you'll be settling for ISO100-400 for clean files, and that isn't exactly a deal breaker for some photogs. Lighting your shots well is going to be key anyway and that's an important lesson for a photog to learn early on. Thankfully, another selling reason to have a Nikon is that their flash systems talk to Nikon off-camera flashes in ways that Canon is taking forever to catch up to.

So for a decade such as this (a thrifty one) I recommend the D200 as a great start. Hopefully people are selling them to catch up to the D300s--so you should see a lot of it on Craigslist and the like.

Strangely enough, I would give the same advice to Canon beginners, try to source a well-loved D40. Try to get the best-bang-vs-professional-body you can get away with always. Things like micro AF lens adjustment, pro UI, etc becomes not just conveniences but must-haves pretty fast within a year or so of your experimentation with photography if you really apply yourself.

  • +1 for recommending the used D200. Remember, this is what many professionals used only 5 years ago, and it can be had for ~$500 on Craigslist these days. – Naseer Sep 7 '10 at 16:43
  • +1 for a D200 or D300 (which is still in production afaik). I own a D200 and it's a dream to use. Were I looking for another DSLR right now I'd not hesitate to buy one if it were in good condition and had low activation count (do check that, some pro Nikons get very heavy use, hundreds of thousands of activations are not unheard of and will reduce the remaining life of the camera). – jwenting Feb 21 '11 at 14:47

P&S can be just as good as DSLR - it's not the camera which takes a photo, its the photographer!

Go to your local camera hire outlet and try a few out, for at least a week, if not a month at a time and get a feel for what YOU like best

Other people's opinions count for nothing when it comes to something YOU will be using regularly and intimately.

  • 1
    A DSLR is always going to produce better shots than a P&S, regardless of photographer. They're made for that. Sensor, noise, focusing, lenses etc. Unless someone makes a full frame point & shoot :P – Nick Bedford Sep 10 '10 at 20:49
  • @Nick - agreed, that a DSLR will produce a better output given the same circumstances for a given shot. My point was more that a bad photo can be taken just as easily with a DSLR as a P&S. The distinction I am making is between a good/bad photo vs good/bad digital image - that is down to the photographer =] – Shevek Sep 29 '10 at 9:58
  • The vision, I agree. Photography is part gear, part artist, if you could say that. But an artist with gear to match his skill will go a longer way. – Nick Bedford Sep 29 '10 at 22:05

If you are new to DSLR photography, have a budget, and set on Nikon then I can recommend no better camera than a second hand Nikon D40, period.

The photos it takes are fantastic, and it's excruciatingly easy to use and you'll find yourself taking it everywhere with you.

The naysayers will say why use old technology? And it can't use any non AF-S lenses (which is onyl partly true - it'll accept the others, just wont auto-focus). But as a beginner you'll likely only want to use those anyway (ie. the kit lens that comes with it, which is very good on the Nikon side).

It's 6 megapixels, and has only 3 AF points and no bracketing. So sure, it's a limited feature set. But for someone starting out...it's a winner. A secondhand one should set you back probably about £130-£160 with a kit 18-55 lens, so as you develop your skills and find yourself yearning for more, you will have the money with which to invest in newer/more advanced kit in the future.

....and this coming from a Canon shooter! ;-) (Honestly, I'm always tempted to buy a D40, even though there is no logical reason for me to do so!!)

  • Can you really get a D40 in good shape so easily these days? I guess there were a lot of them sold. (Wouldn't be surprised if this is the best-selling DSLR ever in total sales.) – mattdm Apr 17 '12 at 11:25
  • Yep. They are on eBay all the time, and I frequently see them in stores like CeX and Cash Converters. The condition varies, but I have certainly seen some in very good condition. Hence the impulse to buy one! One of my best friends also has one. She uses it only with the kit lens and in full auto mode (drives me mad), but I cannot argue with her pictures. It's also beyond just composition and her abilities, but theres something about the characteristics of the colour, pastelly almost. I just love it! (Again, this coming from a Canon 7D shooter!) :) – Mike Apr 20 '12 at 12:06

I LOVE my Nikon D90 and it is my first DSLR. I also have friends who own the D5000 and D3000. Both of them live by their cameras.


Buying a used D40 will get you a cheap, but good camera for beginners. Thats my recommendation.

  • don't agree. For someone who's serious about their photography, a D40 will soon see them running into the limitations of their body. And of course it accepts only the more expensive AF-S style lenses, reducing the choice of lenses available. – jwenting Feb 21 '11 at 14:50
  • As a beginner you probably will do good with only a 18-55 VR, 55-200 VR and perhaps a 35 1.8 and they are all AF-S anyway. Regarding functionality, it's just about convenience. Can you be more precise on the limitations and the lenses that you are talking about? – grm Feb 24 '11 at 9:38

This video at Adorama.tv http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WTaDdgpbI4 addresses this question precisely.

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