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Best Nikon or Canon DSLR kit under $500?

Keli S , Mar 01, 2009; 09:31 p.m.

I'm a committed amateur city-scape photographer who is looking for a good DSLR. I'd prefer a Nikon or a Canon. I've done all the research and read the reviews but it's all conflicting! Can anyone help? Here's what I'm looking for:

I want a steady workhorse in the $500-600 range (USA), used. That should include a decent 18-200mm name brand lens. I'm not looking to change the lens often. Thus, it needs to be good at adapting to different situations. I intend to take it outside often so it should be fairly weatherproof. I'm not too concerned with how much it weighs considering that the love of my photographic life was my Canon A1. It must have an autofocus option and be above 8 megapixel. I'm not a megapixel snob I simply want to be able to get crisp prints in fairly large sizes.

Any ideas?

Responses

Matt Laur , Mar 01, 2009; 11:32 p.m.

The only 18-200 lens I'd consider would be Nikon's. Unfortunately, you probably won't find many of those in good shape used for $500 - just for the lens. If you want a rugged, weather-resistant DSLR, then look for a lightly used D200. They're getting pretty cheap these days. But the whole rig, in the way you've described it, isn't going to happen for $600, I'm afraid.

Hansen Tsang , Mar 02, 2009; 12:10 a.m.

Since you are set on Nikon or Canon and have only $500 - $600 you are limited to what ever Nikon or Canon kit that you can find for that price. There is really not much discussion or recommendation here since your budget will definitely limit your choices down to one model of Nikon or Canon. I have not looked at the prices but I am pretty sure that budget will limit you to a Nikon D40 or D40x or the Canon equivalent with a kit lens.

Andy L , Mar 02, 2009; 12:31 a.m.

He did say used. This is possible - look at Keh.com, an XTi and the Sigma 18-200 would be $600. Or a D40 or D60, Nikon version of that lens (confirm it's the lens version with the built in motor). Wouldn't be as good as a Nikkor but satisfies the requirements. Personally I'd go for less zoomy but optically better Nikkor lenses, maybe D40 kit plus 35/1.8 - which could almost be had new in that budget. Forget the megapixels, in this price range 6 quality MP's are better than 12 noisy MP's.

BTW, 18-200 zooms do have downside. Try one at a shop and check out the distortion on that heavy flare-prone chunk of expensive yet consumer-grade optics.

Bob Keefer , Mar 02, 2009; 12:37 a.m.

Pentax K10D, used in LN condition at KEH, $430.
18-250 3.5/6.3 zoom, used in exc condition at KEH, $325.

Total: $755.

More than you wanted to spend, but much more camera than the C-N cheap models.

Bill Tuthill , Mar 02, 2009; 01:47 a.m.

As the Dpreview.com tests show, the Tamron 18-270 and Canon 18-200 are better than the Canon 18-55 IS except at 18mm. The Tamron is less expensive but slower autofocusing. The Nikon 18-200 is not that much better than the Canon. It has that reputation, but Dpreview.com tests say the Canon is sharper in the middle of the range, 50-135. Good luck deciding.

Steve Solomon , Mar 02, 2009; 09:04 a.m.

Greetings! I'm afraid that your $500 is quite limiting for good Nikon or Canon kits. However, a very decent kit is the Pentax K200D 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera with Shake Reduction 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens for about $600. If you go to www.totalqualityphoto.com and search in the Amazon link on the homepage, you'll see what I mean. The Pentax system is a quality kit. As for the sensor, perhaps it is a touch "noisier" than the Nikon or Canon counterpart in low light, but then again, the stabilized lens will help using a slightly lower ISO with a slower shutter speed to compensate. I would highly recommend a good monopod (better, a tripod)for low light, depending on how mobile you need to be.
Good luck!
~Steve

John Vandehei , Mar 02, 2009; 10:17 a.m.

Since entry level DSLR's are generally in the $500-600 range, that leaves little or no money left for a lens. If you really want to keep your budget under $500, I see two choices. Either buy a used body, or scour the net and look for a refurbished body. I had my eye on a Canon 40D advertised by Amazon listed at $799.00 (price has sinced increased). Being around Christmas time, I didn't have the money to spare, so I let it go. However, a refurbished Canon Rebel XTi later listed for $299.00. I grabbed that deal, which now leaves me with the funds to also pick up a decent lens (most likely the Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8). The refurbished Rebel works every much as a new camera, plus I saved $300.00. So if you're in a budget pinch, I highly recommend considering going that route.

Sarah Fox , Mar 02, 2009; 08:22 p.m.

I found a refurb 40D for $600 -- w/o lens, of course. You can find a 20D or 30D used for much less. Adorama has some refurb XTi cameras for around $300; however, the construction is a bit flimsy if you want a "workhorse" camera. All of the Canon xxD cameras are wonderful devices!

I wouldn't recommend an 18-200. Most lenses with this sort of focal length range leave a lot to be desired optically.

There's nothing wrong with the Pentax systems that frequently get recommended. Pentax has always offered value to the budget-minded photographer. My first and second cameras, long ago, were both Pentaxes.

Kari Vierimaa , Mar 06, 2009; 07:53 a.m.

Bob's suggestion of Pentax K10D is very good. Sturdy body, good viewfinder, in-built stabilizer and weather sealed, it kicks CaNikon's lower end bodies to next week. Bit more pricey than you wanted, but your requirements are not for $500 set... Canon 20D + Sigma 18-200 should come pretty close though.

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