Jim Strutz - Anchorage, AK , Sep 25, 2005; 04:47 p.m.
A "date" body has a clock inside that can imprint the date & time that the picture was taken. Some people think that might be useful, and a few people actually need to document the time the photo was taken. However, the imprinting is usualy an anoying glow-in-the-dark-red that messes up the photo.
Another option, rather than a film body SLR, is an EVF camera (Electronic View Finder) with a long zoom and image stabilization. For instance, the new Panasonic FZ30 has manual zoom to 420mm and manual a focus ring, so selective focus and framing is easier to achieve than with other digicams. It has most of the features of a digital SLR, but a far lower cost. Sony & Canon also make similar cameras. They really aren't a replacement for an SLR, but if want to stay with digital they are an option. Image quality with these is as good as fast film, as long as there is sufficient light. Digital noise gets bad if you turn up the ISO in low light, but the fast aperture lens and image stabilization make up for a lot of that.