Best USED DSLR Camera - Nikon or others


TPF Noob!
Jan 2, 2008
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Hi photo lovers,

I'm a complete noob when it comes to photography. I hate my P&S camera and I've wanted to upgrade but I'm on a budget. For some reason I like Nikon as a brand, so I've been comparing Nikons only so far. I am looking for some advice on a budget digital SLR and I'm stuck on these questions/conclusions.

I can't afford a D80.
I can't afford most new Nikon Cameras.
Budget ideally under $500 (but i still need a decent multi-purpose lens)

I am looking at older models (D70, D70s are my top two choices), comparing them to current entry level models D40x, E-510, Canon Rebel XT, etc.

What is the better camera ? D70, D70s, D40x, D50, E-510, Canons... ?

I know the D40x lacks a AF Motor and requires different lenses - is this an issue for a new SLR users who owns no lenses ? Is this the future ?

The D40x lacks an upper LCD screen but sports 10MP instead of 6MP compared to the last generation D70 - does this make a difference for a non-pro ?

Picture Quality + Usability + Re-Sale value are my three top priorities. If re-sale value is important, a newer model would be better I would assume.

I am using the camera for these purposes: Close up Macro Shots and General purpose Portraits, and maybe once in a while - landscape. No sports.

Which leads me to another question regarding lenses. I don't know anything about them except that I am thinking of a 18-70mm F/2 or better? Still lots to learn here, but if it can serve Macro and General Purpose shots with great clarity under normal/low light conditions, I will be a happy man ! :D

Thank you so much !

Ken :mrgreen:
Look at the Fujifilm S3 Pro. I love mine :) had it a fair few years now and it still out performs many of the new budget dslrs (such as the d40 for example). It has a very wide dynamic range, and is nice for portraits.

Theres always confusion on megapixel count with the S3... it says 12.. but its a split sensor, so its around 6-8 imo. More than enough for most.

Its not fast... fact. max 3fps at the best of times and has a slow write speed. BUT that is not important if your not shooting sports. I've found it fast enough to do my photojournalistic work anyway..... more skill in getting one good frame in a second than 10 in my opinion.

It takes nikon lenses and accesories :)

A nice camera in my opinion
Welcome to the forum.

There are plenty of pretty good options. I might suggest a D50. It was Nikon's entry level DSLR before the D40 and it doens't have the AF/lens limitations that the D40 does. The D70 (or D70s) was a great selling camera in it's day...and there should be plenty of them floating around on the used market. Great camera.

If resale 'value' is a might as well buy used. A new camera will have a higher resale price but it will drop faster than a camera that is already used. A newer used model will cost more than an older used model...but the value is higher for resale.

Personally, I think one of the best values to be had, might be a used Canon 20D. Probably slightly better than the Nikon D70 and I'd think the price would be close. One big plus is that it shoots at 5 fps...but as you aren't shooting sports, that may not be much of a perk.

As for usability...they are all pretty much the same. The layout will be different and that's a personal choice. One thing to note is the different levels. The entry level cameras (Nikon D50, D40 and Canon Rebels) are smaller and lighter but made with more plastic. They may not be as easy to wield as the higher up bodies like the Nikon D70/D80 or Canon 20D/30D.

The 'macro' ability of a DSLR is not really determined by the's mostly in the lens. Some lenses allow you to focus with the camera closer to the subject...thereby allowing you to get 'close up' shots.

When talking lenses...the main things to consider are the focal length (18-70mm, for example) and the maximum aperture. (the F number). The lower the F-number, the bigger the max aperture...and that's good. However, that will also add to the size, weight and price of a lens. For example, an 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 lens might cost less than $200...and a 17-55mm F2.8 lens might cost close to $1000.
Is the 500 for camera only or camera and lens, also, is 500 your maximum budget or could you extend it somewhat? If you were able to extend it a little bit it might open up a few third party lens options.
Given that list, I would personally choose a D70 or a 20D, depending upon which lens system you chose.

Barring one of those, I would choose a D50. I do not recommend the purchase of a D40/D40x (you can see why in my controversial post HERE).
Thanks for the suggestions! For some reason, I am still an avid Nikon fan.. But I will investigate further on other brands and options. $500 would be ideally with a lens. I've seen some D70s for $400 or less, so I would pay another $100 or so for a lens. But if I know I can get something much better for say $600 total, I would go for that.

Going back to the lens questions, would a regular 55mm lens be able to do macro shots ? If the camera is just sitting right in front of the object - what is the minimal focal length if thats the right term ?

D50 or a D70/D70s? I would think the D70 would be better no?
The only thing is if you go with the d70 it pretty much eats up your entire budget, and there arent to many zooms for 100 bucks. And as to the 55 mm lens it depends on the lens, it should say on the lens the minimum focus distance. Its not as versatile but you might want to look at the d70 and the 50mm 1.8 prime.
If you are open to Canon, The digital rebel XT goes for under $500 new, including the kit lens, you could go with the body by itself (right at $400) and get a better lens than the kit.
D50 or a D70/D70s? I would think the D70 would be better no?
Not necessarily...the D50 is a newer camera and therefore has newer technology.

Firstly, 'Macro' means 1:1 magnification...and only a few lenses can actually get that close. That doesn't stop many of them from saying 'Macro' though. If you want a true Macro would probably cost more than your budget...without the camera. However, some lenses are able to focus rather close. The typical 'kit' lenses, are actually pretty good for this.

To tell the truth, when it comes to getting close, many of the 'point & shoot' digital cameras are actually pretty good...and can get much closer than a DLSR with a regular lens.

$100 won't get you anything more than a kit lens anyway.

That being said, there are other ways to do close-up & Macro photography. One way would be to use 'close up filters' (diopter) lenses. They screw to the front of a lens and act like a magnifying glass. They usually come in a kit with +1, +2 and +4. The quality isn't as good as a real macro lens...but they are much less expensive. Something like THIS.

Another option would be extension tubes. They go between the camera and the lens...and allow you to focus closer.
The S3 took some fine shots but from the grousing I heard when they were still top of the line for Sony they were cumbersome.

I'd get the D70/s and a Nikon 28m or 35mm @f2.8 to start with and then save for a zoom. (both lenses work as a normal lens).

The thing with the D70 is that it works well with the older lenses and you can find some bargains if you are willing to manually focus. How does a 200mm (equivalent) f2.8 for $30 sound?

Yes? Look for a Nikon Q 135mm f2.8 that has been AI'd. A 50mm brand new is $120 and at 75mm eqv, makes a great (although extremely sharp) portrait lens.
I may have bump up my budget for a decent lens. :( Canons are indeed nice, I'll continue my research! One thing that may be just hearsay is that Nikons have better cases - less plastic... ? Not too sure..

Here's a quick review between the 20D and the D70 that I found... very similiar cameras, but the D70 is still a bit better in certain categories. 20D better for sports 5fps and it has 8 AF sensors compared to 3 on the D70 ?
Lesson Ken Rockwell with a grain of salt. :lol:

You will drive yourself crazy if you spend your time comparing Canon to Nikon. You might as well compare Pepsi to Coke. They are both good brands.
On a budget of $500 I'd get a....

- refurbished D50 body-only for $399, which has a 90-day Nikon warranty. These are good as new and know of a few people that have gotten them to know that. I didn't see any at B&H or Adorama listed (must have sold out for the Christmas) but keep your eye out.

- For $100 new or less than that used or refurbished, get the 18-55 kit lens. It's not a 1:1 micro lens, but at 1:3.2 it's the closest focusing DX lens that Nikon makes and great all around to get you started. It's not a fast lens though, and not very good for portraits either, so eventually you'll want something else. So when you get some more money saved up....

- For $100 new or less used, get the "nifty fifty" 50mm f/1.8D lens. Maximum reproduction ratio on this is 1:6.6 which isn't very close at all, but it's great for portraits, and you can turn it into a micro lens with a close-up adapter or extension tubes for less than $100. I think a Kenko 12mm extension tube is like $45 or something.

- If you're really serious about close-up photography, forget the nifty fifty and just save up for a new or used Nikon 55 or 60mm f/2.8 micro lens for $200-300 new/used. These will give you in-lens 1:1 micro capability with no special adapters, tubes, or other BS. If you can find a Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro lens for cheap, get it. It also does 1:1 but gives you a lot more working distance than the 50-60mm micro lenses will. You can also use these lenses as portrait lenses.

You'll also eventually want to get a half decent tripod, so budget about $100 for that too. BTW I'm using micro and macro interchangeably. Different manufacturers call them different things and I always get them confused. :D

There's also no such thing as an 18-70mm f/2, but man that would be sweet :D, but also super heavy and absurdly expensive. Large aperture zoom lenses require A LOT of very expensive glass. For reference the Nikkor 17-55DX f/2.8 is $1200 and weighs 1.6 lbs (755g). The 18-55DX f/3.5-5.6 weighs almost nothing in comparison at 0.45 lbs (205g). Extrapolating, it's easy to see why something with more range than the 17-55 f/2.8 and a faster f/2 aperture would not be a usable lens, at least in terms of economics and weight. It'd be too expensive to buy and too heavy to carry. Fixed focal length lenses are what give you the large apertures and speed at reasonable costs and weight, but you have to forego lens zoom and use "foot" zoom instead. :)
Here's a quick review between the 20D and the D70 that I found... very similiar cameras, but the D70 is still a bit better in certain categories. 20D better for sports 5fps and it has 8 AF sensors compared to 3 on the D70 ?

Lesson Ken Rockwell with a grain of salt. :lol:
Why are disclaimers needed about KR on a perfectly fair comparison of the D70 and 20D? I think Ken's site is a great resource, so long as you consider your own shooting style and needs which might not be in sync with his. He says to do this right in his About pages.
Well I think why so many people have a problem with him (correct me if im wrong) is that he tends to state his opinion as fact. I could be wrong but i believe thats most peoples problem.

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