Q&A: New Entry-Level Camera Purchase Recommendation

(This post is from an email conversation with a coworker. I thought the content might be useful for others.)

Q:  Here is an opportunity for you to redeem the reputation of Nikon aficionados by guiding me in the selection of a new DSLR camera. 🙂 My budget is up to $1,000, but that can go primarily to the camera body if need be. On the lower end it looks like the D3200 or D5100 might be good choices. On the higher end the D7000 got really good reviews. My original Nikon was a D50 (it’s kaput now) and it came bundled with an 18-55 lens and a 55-200 lens. My impression is that neither lens is particularly great, but they work and sticking with them for now gives me more budget for the camera body. Do you agree? So, what do you think overall?

A:  Well, crud.  Nikon had a Black Friday deal that ended yesterday for $999 on a D7000 and 18-105 lens.  Now it’s around $1200.  Still $300 cheaper than usual, but not within the $1K limit.

The cheap kit lenses really aren’t bad, and the 18-55 (either VR or not) looks surprisingly good for the price on my favorite lens testing web site.  The 55-200 doesn’t fare as well, especially in the middle of the range.  But most lenses will do a fair job if you keep them stopped down to f/5.6 or f/8.  (On the D7000 and other high resolution bodies, you can’t stop down too much or you start to lose sharpness due to diffraction.  On it or even worse, the D3200, f/11 is the most you can stop down, and even there, you have started to lose sharpness, especially on the D3200.)

Anyway, the D7000 is a great DX body with excellent performance, focusing, etc.  It’s around $900 right now.  Can’t go wrong for a higher-end body.  Does movies, too, of course.  Great body for an “enthusiast.”  17MP, which is more than enough.

If you’re looking for a great lower-cost body for family and vacation shots / movies, then I would look closely at the D3200.  It’s 24MP!  Does movies, if you care.  Has all the expected ease-of-use features you’d ever want.  Great body for a person for whom a point-and-shoot isn’t cutting it any more, but who doesn’t really anticipate becoming a camera nut.

I have the 18-70 and 18-200 lenses if you want to try them out if you buy a body.  I like them both for different reasons.

This is so exciting!  Always glad to help others spend their money.  🙂

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