Help me buy a digital camera for about $1000

I’m looking for a pretty high-end consumer digital camera.

It does need lots of megapixels because I do blow things up pretty large - up to 4’ x 4’ wouldn’t be uncommon. I layer and manipulate images in Photoshop, and print out at a commercial service that can handle large paper sizes. I have a 3 meg Olympus camera that I’m pretty happy with, but I always have to use the interpolate functions in Photoshop to keep my blown up images from being too pixelated. I’d like to be able to blow up very fine detail without blurring it through interpolation.

It’s most important to me to have a really good lens with a macro function for extreme closeups. Of course I want everything, so I want a camera where I can swap out the lenses for different purposes. And I want a big honking memory so I can hold lots of big honking images.

Oh and I want it to be really smart. I wanna be about to tell it what kind of shooting I’m doing and what lens I have on, and I want really impressive results on focus and exposure.

Let’s say I can spend a grand for a camera and flash for this purpose, and maybe up to another $500 for a long lens for nature/sports photography.

What would you get?

Both Canon and Nikon have digital SLR camera kits with a lens for under $1000. Both have excellent reputations throughout their lines of cameras. I own a Canon and I am very pleased with it. I’ve not owned or used a Nikon, but they have a very loyal following. Both have a large line of interchangeable lenses that have excellent quality.

For a grand, I think you’re outta luck, unless you compromise a bit. The second rung (you said high end) of the DSLR market hovers around that $1k mark, body only. That’s Nikon D90 and Canon 40D territory. Fortunately, you’d probably be just as happy with the entry level Canon Rebel whatever they call it (450D?). You could also go the Nikon D60. Either of the latter two entry level models, you’re looking at around $700, with the kit 18-55mm lenses.

Now the budget’s under threat. What are you going to be looking closely at? The shorter focal length Macros (50 to 65mm) are in the $250 to $400 range. You can end up blocking your own light while getting close enough to bugs or flowers with those shorter Macro lenses. The 100mm versions are probably better, but the Nikkor is around $760 and the Canon $470 (the Nikkor has Vibration Reduction, the Canon doesn’t). If you want to compromise, try looking at the off brand Macros and the second hand market.

I think you just better hire someone else to take your pictures for you. :dubious:

Cameras know what lens you have on already, you don’t have to tell them. I think the rest, which is the hard part, is up to you. Learn, study, practise.

You could get one of the entry level cameras with a two lens kit (18-55mm & 55 - 200 or 300mm) for under a grand. Those lenses are adequate, but not really much good in lower light situations. All the consumer grade cameras have a built in flash, of limited ability. A dedicated flash unit that mounts on the camera will probably set you back slightly less than $200. A proper macro flash setup, to get the light up close to your small target, high $400’s.

I’ve got Nikon stuff, but Canon is an equally valid choice. Anything else is going to be limited in the range of lenses and accessories. You aren’t buying just a camera, you’re buying into a system, and the big two have just about any lens or accessory you could ever need.

I’d get my arse on the 'net and learn as much as I could before spending a cent. :stuck_out_tongue:

Boyo Jim has a lot of good advice. The camera names are different in the US than they are in the UK. And for all I know, New South Wales isn’t in the UK!

I have the Sony DSLR-A300 (10.2MP) and I love it. It takes a compact flash card, so it has a pretty decent memory capacity (I have a 2GB card in mine). It does have a macro function and it came with 2 different lenses but there is a huge line of flashes/lenses). It also has a really cool tilting viewfinder. It takes really beautiful pictures and does everything I want it to do.

For a little more money, you can step up to the DSLR-A350 (14.2 MP).

If you want to blow images up to 4’ x 4’ you would really want a full frame sensor camera, IMO. And for what you want, that won’t happen for $1000. You’ll be able to print images at that size with an APC-c sized sensor but you’ll notice the difference if you are looking closely. Numbers of mega-pixels isn’t the be-all and end-all, quality of the pixels is equally important.

Full-frame will be more expensive - both for the body and for lenses. The APC-C sized sensors bodies will be cheaper and you will be able to buy smaller and less expensive lenses.

But I second the idea that to get the quality you want you will need to learn about photography. No camera can make all the right decisions, especially if you are talking about macro and huge prints. DSLRs give you more options, but you still have to choose yourself at some point.

4’x4’ is really freaking big. Either it’s intended to be viewed from substantial distance, in which case fine detail doesn’t matter any more than with a smaller print viewed closer, or you’re talking medium format cameras, in which case $1k is an order of magnitude low.

The best you’re going to get for $1k is one of the entry level dslrs from either Nikon (D60) or Canon (XS or XSi) along with an extra lens or two. Most third party macro lenses are good, so you can save a bit there - possibly look at the Tamron 90mm macro.

But don’t kid yourself. DSLR gear is expensive, and doesn’t take good pictures without a competent hand on the controls. Even with the entry level body, if you want a decent telephoto zoom, a macro, a reasonable flash, and a decent tripod, plus spare battery, some SD cards, a cleaning accessories, and a bag to put everything in, you’re going to be looking at minimum $2k and probably closer to $3k.

And that’s before you factor in the photography class you should take if you are serious about getting good results. Photographers override the automatic settings as often as not, but you need to know when and which ones.

Just threw together a list of stuff on the B&H Photo site. It’s Nikon cuz that’s what I’m familiar with - a comparable Canon kit would be much the same price and have much the same capability.

Nikon D60 w/ 18-55mm VR kit lens - $605
Nikon AF-S 70-300mm VR lens - $479 (to save a bit you could opt for the 55-200mm, which can be got in a kit with the D60 & 18-55 for an additional $250) There are lots of cheaper tele zooms out there, but you get what you pay for when you’re buying optical glass.
Tamron 90mm Di Macro - $450 (If you’re doing mostly product shots in a studio, you could go for the Sigma 50mm Macro @ $280. In either case you’re going to need some sort of lighting, but you can rig a lightbox with a white sheet and some desklamps with 6500K bulbs)
Nikon EN-EL9 battery - $39
Nikon ML-L3 remote control $17 (need something to trip the shutter when you’re on the tripod doing macro)
Bogen/Manfrotto 190XB tripod legs $130 (cheaping out a bit here, mostly because I can’t seem to locate the 055 series aluminum legs which I think come in around $200)
Bogen/Manfrotto 488/RC0 tripod head $110
Bogen/Manfrotto 030-14 Quick release plate $18
Nikon SB-600 Speedlight (flash) $185
lens pen and a rocket blower $25
2 4GB SD cards $50
Lowepro Nova 170AW shoulder bag $55 (not sure if this is big enough)

Total before shipping $2165

Places to save - the obvious ones are going with the 55-200 instead of the 70-300, and with the 50mm macro instead of the 90mm. That’s almost $400. Thing is, for sports/nature photography you’ll find that 200mm isn’t a little shy on reach. Even the 70-300 is on the short side for shooting things like birds. As to whether the shorter macro lens will work, it all depends on what you’re shooting. Any macro lens that focuses to 1:1 will have the same magnification, but shorter focal lengths will put your subject closer to the camera (really freaking close, to be honest) and alter the perspective. And also potentially complicate lighting.

Tripods with heads can be had for as little as a hundred bucks, but such are not likely to be particularly stable or robust. Go on any photo forum and you’ll get told to buy Gitzo carbon fibre legs ($500) and an RRS ballhead (another $500). The Manfrotto stuff is a decent compromise, but you could go with a cheap one if it’s just going to be used in a studio and you’re very careful (no stepping near it during a shot, no wind, no traffic vibrating the floor, etc). But you really will want something with a quick release head. It isn’t completely impossible to handhold macro shots, but you need either direct sunlight, dedicated macro flashes, or both.

There are cheaper flashes, but, well, there’s a cheaper flash built into the camera. If you’re going to get an external flash, may as well make it worthwhile. I really don’t know much about flashes though.

For Canon, you’d be looking at a Rebel XS w/ 18-55mm IS ($640), either a EF-S 55-250mm IS ($280) or EF 70-300mm IS ($530), and pretty much the same macros which are also available in the Canon mount, though it appears that Canon makes a 50mm macro for $250.

It cannot be overemphasized that all the camera gear in the world will not take quality photographs without a competent photographer tripping the shutter. If money really is an issue, get a Canon S5 for in the vicinity of $400 and take a class. Or get just the dslr kit, no extra lenses or accessories (cept media, battery, cleaning supplies, and bag) and take a class, after which you’ll know better what extra stuff to get.

I purchased a Canon Rebel XSI with an 18-55mm lens, along with a EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 75-300mm telephoto zoom lens, for $900. There was a special package deal on the camera and the two lenses. Plus I got a 4 gig high speed memory card for another $60. I had a camera bag, but it turns out to be not big enough, so I will need to get another. I already have a tripod.

I tried a few shots in the store with the supplied lens, and I can get close up enough with it that I may not need a separate macro lens. I dunno, I’ll do some more shooting and find that out.

Oh yeah, and I will be taking a couple of courses the store offers.

Well, phooey. I’m too late.

I just came in to say that I found that Costco had, by far, the best camera deal I could find. I got a D50 that included two zoom lenses (35-70 and then 105mm??), plus a carrying case that fits everything, plus two digital cards for $499 a few years ago. I’m sure they are running a similar deal with the D90.

My biggest gripe with the D50 is that it doesn’t shoot in B&W. Otherwise, I would have advised to go with an older model such as this on clearance and then spend your savings on getting a macro lens.

I assume you’ve already bought it, but you can certainly find better deals online. B&H, a company that is known and trusted, has the same package for $760. A 4G high speed memory card is only $30-40.

Thanks for that reminder… there is also a $100 rebate on the package I got, so I’ll only end up paying about $50 more than that online price. That’s okay with me, it was worth it for the chance to go into the store and try several models side by side.

I was looking primarily at the Canon because a couple of different reviews including Consumer Reports singled it out for exceptional image quality. The other I looked most closely at was the Olympus E510, because its performance was very close to the Canon, but it cost about 30% less. It ended up being the 2 lens deal that sold me on the Canon.