complete beginner's SLR?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by cloud9, Feb 11, 2006.

  1. cloud9

    cloud9 Member

    Messages:
    2
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2006
    Shooter:
    35mm
    hi,

    i just discovered this site about a week ago...
    i'm interested in learning photography..

    so i want to buy myself a nice beginner's SLR.
    bear in mind that i dont know ANYTHING about slr cameras..
    ive never used one before, and i dont really know anyone who could teach me, so i think im just going to try to self-teach myself with some books and internet resources...

    what kind of cameras would you recommend?
    what kind of features do i need? (or dont need?)

    thanks!!
     
  2. Bill Hahn

    Bill Hahn Member

    Messages:
    351
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2004
    Location:
    North centra
    Shooter:
    35mm
    There are many possible answers here...I just tell you on what equipment I learned....

    I learned photography on a Canon Elan IIE. You could leave it fully automatic, but I forced myself to use it in completely manual mode most of the time. Although the lenses are auto-focus, you can switch them over to manual focus as well. (Used Elan II bodies are available at keh.com for less than $100.)

    I started with a cheap zoom lens, eventually tried other lenses, and what I learned is that (for me) I prefer wide-angle to telephoto.

    You might want to invest in a tripod...you will quickly find out that it's easy to take blurred shots with slower shutter speeds you get with overcast conditions and slow lenses.

    Finally, if you hear the term "mirror lockup", it's not some fatal defect in the camera -- it's a feature which allows the mirror to move out of the way of the lens a few seconds before the shutter releases - the motion of the mirror can cause the camera to shake leading to blurred shots. It can be useful in macro shots...the Elan II had this feature.

    Just mentioning how one photographer learned....you will get other opinions I bet (ha!).
     
  3. magic823

    magic823 Member

    Messages:
    460
    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2003
    Location:
    Boise, ID
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If you really want to learn, get a nice manual camera. Your don't need all the frills like autoexposure or autofocus. They only make you lazy and not think. The Pentax K1000 is a good choice. I can also recommend a Fujica ST801 (if you can find one cheap enough). Other options are a Nikon FM, Canon FTb, Pentax Spotmatic, Minolta SRT series (the X series is nice also, but don't use the auto features when learning). Out of all those mentioned the Nikon is the nicest, but also the most expensive. With most older cameras you may have to replace the light seals (cheap and easy to do) and some are difficult to find batteries for.

    I book I recommend for beginners is the National Geographic Field Guide. Well written and well illustrated.

    Steve
     
  4. melmoth

    melmoth Member

    Messages:
    59
    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2005
    Location:
    ireland
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Hallo,
    As someone who was in a similar position not so long ago, I cannot recommend these two books highly enough for a person just starting out in film photography. I went through a lot of stuff, both written and off the web but heartily plum for these.

    1. Black and white photography: a basic manual (Henry Horenstein) third edition, revised. (Little, Brown - publishers). Available on www.amazon.com
    [Basic Photography (Michael Langford). Seventh edition ( Focal Press) is also excellent but Horenstein is less dense and easier to read. www.amazon.co.uk]
    2. Composition in Art ( Henry Rankin Moore) (Dover Publications). An invaluable guide to composing a photograph. I believe it is out of print. I bought mine off ebay. A terrific and concise book. Not a word wasted.

    Both are applicable to digital. good luck M.
     
  5. Sparky

    Sparky Member

    Messages:
    2,099
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Years and YEARS ago - I used to sell cameras at a shop. It's funny- because I took a very unusual tack to my job. I would be honest with customers. I'd tell them to forget about all the hoopla... go as manual as possible and use ONLY one lens - and no zooms or silly filters! It doesn't make me more money that way - but the customers REALLY appreciated. Actually - I got bonuses for really high sales since everyone would come to me since they trusted me.

    But what I really think on the issue is simply this. Go as high quality as you possibly can. Think about what you want to DO with the camera. Aperture or shutter priority auto models might be a good thing depending on what you're doing. But with prices of 35mm slrs being SO LOW right now... it's easy to buy quality. Without knowing too much about what you're doing - I'd say go with a Nikon F3HP and 55 micro lens. you should be able to pick up a kit for less than $350. It's a REALLY solid high quality camera - with a REALLY excellent viewfinder. I cannot stress enough the importance of ergonomics and easy use like this in a camera you're just starting out with. If the design is too funky - then it'll be a turnoff - and you may never really make it out of the starting blocks. The lens I menioned... while a tad slow - is unbelievably sharp and will allow you to get in as close as you need to any subject whatsoever. Many people might suggest a beginner pick up a low-quality camera to begin - but I think that's anathema to learning. Other good choices would be spotmatics, nikon f or f2, SRT-101 or 102 (if memory serves), yeah, the canons are good. If you can get something with removable prism - that's a great and useful thing at times (nikon F2, F3, canon FT).

    I stress the one-lens approach also because that way you'll be able to train your vision and your composition better without being fettered by too many choices. The more things remain the same - the faster you'll go forward. I know that may seem like a hard thing. But you'll have to trust me on this.
     
  6. Sparky

    Sparky Member

    Messages:
    2,099
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    oh - by the way - also get yourself a GOOD separate light meter - even if your camera has one built in. Don't use the camera meter. You'll actually get really good at guessing exposures to within half a stop after awhile - and for those rare situations where you'd be stuck WITHOUT a meter - your new skills can save you.
     
  7. T42

    T42 Member

    Messages:
    121
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2006
    Location:
    Georgia, USA
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Hi Folks.

    I resonate with those who say to learn the basics on a fundamentals-centric camera like an F, F2, F3, FM2, FM3, Nikomat, Minolta SRT, Pentax Spotmatic, etc. I think I would add that a serious student will come to appreciate an SLR with depth of field preview. Unfortunately, the near lengendary K1000 does not have this.

    The hand meter is also an excellent idea, as is learning how to use a gray card or an incident dome on the hand meter.

    Henry
     
  8. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,694
    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2003
    Good Afternoon, Cloud9,

    The advice you've been given above seems fine. I would emphasize that any SLR you get should be fully functional (except possibly for the light meter) WITHOUT a battery. There are dozens of good possibilities, and most of us have our favorite(s). I'd start with an all-mechanical model from the '80's or even the '70's; try to get one which seems to have been well taken care of and shows no obvious defects. The prices on most models will be relatively modest, so the risk is somewhat limited. Suggestion--do an APUG search on various brands and you'll should find a lot of information. Keep your eyes open--sometimes these days, people actually give away perfectly good 35mm film cameras.

    Konical
     
  9. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

    Messages:
    2,725
    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    Location:
    Woonsocket,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Others have given good and (mostly) consistent advice, and I concur with the overall themes. My own advice is this:

    • Go all-manual. You can always upgrade to a camera with as much automation as you like later. If you buy used, the prices are low enough that the camera purchase price is pretty minor; you'll probably pay more for 2-5 rolls of film and processing than for a basic used camera. A manual camera has the advantage of not tempting you to use automation. This will force you to slow down and think about what you're doing, which will help you learn about things like motion blur, depth of field, backlighting, etc.
    • Buy used. Consider your first SLR camera a try-out. Don't buy a new camera with all the features you think you might want; instead, get an inexpensive used one so you can learn the basics and figure out which features you'll really want for the long term. After a few months, buy a new or used camera with those features. This will then give you two cameras, which can be handy. You can load them with two different types of film or use your first (presumably less valuable) camera in environments that might be hazardous for the camera.
    • Choose your mount. Most SLR manufacturers use lens mounts unique (or almost unique) to the manufacturer. For instance, you can't fit a Canon lens on a Minolta camera. There are a few exceptions, though. M42 screw-mount (aka Pentax screw mount or Praktica screw mount) lenses fit many makes from the 1970s and earlier, and a few later models. The Fujica ST-801 mentioned by magic823 is an M42 camera. (This was my first SLR, and it makes a good learning camera.) M42 lenses take longer to change than do bayonet mount lenses, though. Another multi-make mount is the Pentax K-mount system, which was used by many manufacturers, including Pentax, Ricoh, Chinon, Cosina, and a few others. A few of these are still making cameras. The most popular mounts are probably M42, K-mount, Canon, Minolta, and Nikon (in no particular order). I'd stick to one of those types if practical -- but if you don't invest in extra lenses at first, you can choose to switch mount types with your second camera and not throw away a big investment. Note that many manufacturers have made cameras in multiple mounts -- particularly M42 and a more recent bayonet mount. (Everything except M42 and a few rare types are bayonet mounts.)

    FWIW, I'm most familiar with K-mount cameras. If you're interested in them, you might want to consult this table, which summarizes most of the K-mount cameras made between 1975 and 1994. Try loading the table into a spreadsheet or something and sort by the features that you want to have (or not have). You can then search for those models on eBay or take a list to a local used camera shop. Perhaps somebody else can suggest similar resources for other types of cameras.
     
  10. Matt5791

    Matt5791 Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,001
    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2005
    Location:
    England, Bir
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think that my advice will simply amplify ther others here.

    I used to own a Canon EOS autofocus SLR. One day, by chance, I sold it and bought a Pentax K1000. It was the best move I ever made and I learnt nothing while I had the EOS because the level of automation and features made it hard to figure exactly what was goin on and you don't need that when you are a novice - It is a bit like trying to learn to play a Cathedral organ without having learnt a bit on the Piano first.

    So my advice is Pentax K1000, and you can always sell them when you want to move on as a lot of courses stipulate students should buy K100's.

    Matt
     
  11. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

    Messages:
    1,607
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2005
    Location:
    Iowa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    There are numerous ways you can go about this, but I do have a few suggestions that you may want to consider. I figure I'll state them all, though some will no doubt be rehashes of what others have said, for the sake of consistancy.

    • If you're wanting to learn all there is about photography you want a fully manual camera or a camera that allows you to have full control over everything easily. Your cheapest bet is going to be to find the older fully manual SLRs or aperture priority models. New SLRs with digital readouts can be a pain in the ass. Cheap "entry level" SLRs (at least the one that I started with) can be fully auto only.
    • Start your lens collection with the fastest normal prime you can afford. Normal (IMO) is anywhere from 35-50mm. Getting yourself used to one lens first will help the learning process out a bit...and, unless you're doing nature or sports photography, you really don't have that big of a need for a zoom starting out. The faster the lens, the less situations where you won't be able to use it. I would suggest nothing slower than F/2 and recommend f/1.4 if you can swing it.
    • Consider carefully what you want to shoot. Your next lens purchases will have a lot to do with what you want to photograph. If you want to do portraits, consider an 85mm, 105mm, or 135mm lens. If you want to shoot landscapes, consider something wide such as a 20mm or a 24mm. Nature photography (animals) often takes very long lenses as does sports photography.
    • Note that the camera body is only the carriage for your film. It's the lenses that you really want to worry about. They are what make or break the photo when it comes to the equipment. Always, always, always buy the best glass you can afford and, if you can possibly wait and save up to buy something, get the better glass over the cheap stuff starting out.
    • Start with color film or C41 black and white and work up to regular black and white. Why? Regular black and white can be expensive to get processed correctly by labs and you should know what you're doing with an SLR before you attempt to develop your own film. :wink: Developing yourself is a very rewarding process but it has a learning curve greater than that of better film cameras. The local Wal-Mart can do relatively good color film developing; the local one hour can do it at a higher price. The only way I'd suggest using black and white film is if you have access to a good lab.

    SLRs are a lot of fun and a great learning experience. I went to using rangefinders, but I have to say that I miss my Nikon FE and I plan to get another one soon. :wink:
     
  12. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

    Messages:
    2,364
    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2004
    Location:
    East Kent, U
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    You'll get a lot of different answers! After 50 years of picture-taking with everything from 35 mm to 8x10, I feel that what I am looking for in a 35 is GOOD auto-exposure, since I feel that if I have time to use a separate meter (in itself a good idea), I also have time to use a bigger camera. 35 mm cameras need to be fast, it's what they do best - technical quality can be more than acceptable with a 35, bigger cameras are always better.

    The worst thing to avoid is an older camera with center-weighted metering (for example, Pentax M series). This type of metering gives good results only with average subjects, it's really hard even for an expert to figure out how to compensate for other types. Nikon for some reason seem to do better center-weighted metering than anyone else.

    So-called matrix metering is astonishingly good, it will get the exposure right in 95 to 99% of cases, the only thing is that some makers' matrix metering is only semi-intelligent, it works great on horizontal shots, gets totally confused if you turn the camera round. I agree with others that auto-focus is dispensable unless of advanced specification (range restriction, choice of focus spots, etc.).

    Others have mentioned various types of older Nikons, these are very good, I personally have a Nikon FM3a, it's got everything I like and handles like Nikons always have way back to the original F model of 1959.

    Someone said "the camera body is only the carriage for your film". Absolutely disagree - a poorly made or worn-out SLR body will have a high vibration level that will wreck the sharpness of virtually every shot.

    Whatever you buy, now is a great time to buy it, with staggering bargains in good second-hand equipment! Have fun!

    Regards,

    David
     
  13. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

    Messages:
    1,607
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2005
    Location:
    Iowa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm pretty sure that a poorly made or worn-out SLR, or *any* type of camera for that matter, wouldn't get into anyone's hands who came into this board. What I mean is that you can use a cheap, manual SLR or one of the high-end professional models and still get good photos...but if you use cheap glass you're likely to not quite get the same results you'd get if you'd sprung for the more celebrated lens. In the end, the body *is* only a carriage for the film...the lens is only a way for the light to be better directed to the film. In order to take a good photograph you have to have the vision.

    Also note that I've seen photographers take great photos with the crappiest equipment I've ever seen: small box cameras with no real lens to speak of, pinwhole cameras made out of Altoids tins, toy cameras with plastic lenses...

    I use a Fed 5C. Cheapest interchangable lens rangefinders you can get. Crappy build quality, really, but it's light tight and has good glass. I can tell you, with confidence, that vibration hasn't been what caused unsharp photograhs...it's me not being able to hold the damn thing quite steady enough at 50mm, 1/4th of a second. If you have to take a shot where the mirror vibration would be a problem, why not use a rangefinder to eliminate that problem?

    Now to bring this back on topic, I agree with you. A cheap, poorly made body can be detrimental to the photography experience. But it can also be a learning experience: you know what *not* to buy next time! :D
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

    Messages:
    2,364
    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2004
    Location:
    East Kent, U
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Just as a matter of interest, vibration levels with SLRs is a bigger problem than most people realise. I do not use 35s as my main camera, and when I do I use mainly Pentax. I have, however, toyed with numerous Nikons, such as a second-hand FE, F3 and FM, all of which I sold on fairly quickly because of the vibration level. It was only when I bought a new FM2n a few years ago (and the FM3a I have now) that I felt I was getting properly sharp pictures.

    As a general rule, I would say anyone with an SLR more than 10 years would seriously upset themselves if they were to shoot a series of pictures of the same subject with the same effective exposure, changing the shutter speed from 1/500 one step at a time down to 1/30. It is more than likely they would see sharpness decreasing from 1/250 downwards.

    Rangefinders like your Fed are of course unaffected by mirror vibration, as they don't have mirrors, and most of the shutter vibration seems to be generated as the shutter stops after the exposure. Engineering to Leica standard can take vibration levels down very low with rangefinder cameras, although I feel that only a leaf shutter can have zero vibration (because all its moving parts are concentrically balanced).
     
  16. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

    Messages:
    1,607
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2005
    Location:
    Iowa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think that the loss of sharpness is directly proportional to how steady you're able to keep the camera regardless of what kind it is. I had no trouble keeping a Nikon FE with a 50 steady inside at f/1.4 at 1/60th of a second. It was decently bright, though, and I get into some problems when I got down any farther than that with an SLR. It's actually why I switched to rangefinders. I do, however, sometimes miss my FE...I took some nice photos with it.
     
  17. cloud9

    cloud9 Member

    Messages:
    2
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2006
    Shooter:
    35mm
    thanks so much everyone for all your tips and suggestions!!!

    its going to take me a while to take all this information in...
    i'll probably try to find and all manual + used one.
    i'm trying to get something under $150-200. my max budget is about $300.

    if i find a possible candidate online, i'll post again to ask for your opinions...
    then you guys will have to help me out on which lense to buy for my body!
    :smile: again, thanks a lot!!

    if you have more suggestions or tips.... or know any good websites/books on basic photography.... dont hesistate to post away~ :tongue:
     
  18. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

    Messages:
    2,725
    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    Location:
    Woonsocket,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    The K1000 is certainly a good learning camera; however, it's pricier on the used market than similar cameras from other manufacturers, and even than some other Pentax cameras with similar or more features. I'm not sure if that's nostalgia value or demand from people who are told to buy K1000s for photography classes. In any event, you can check the K-mount reference table I referred to earlier to find models with features similar to the K1000.

    That said, cloud9 says s/he's aiming for the $150-$200 range, and a used K1000 can be had for much less than that. On eBay, $150 should get a K1000 along with some accessories, such as a couple of lenses, a flash, and a carrying bag. Alternatively, you could buy something new for that money. Among K-mount cameras, the Vivitar V3800N costs $140-$170 at B&H, depending on the package you buy; or the Pentax ZX-M costs $160-$260. (I've got a V3800N and it seems to be a solid manual camera. I don't have a ZX-M, but based on the specs, it's got a lot more automation.) As I said in my first post, though, IMHO it's better to get an inexpensive used camera first, so that you can learn the basics and figure out which features you do and do not want or need. After you've used a ~$50 used camera for a few months, you can spring for something pricier if you decide you need (or just want) it.
     
  19. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

    Messages:
    3,979
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    cloud9, I hope you've gathered from the advice you've been given that there is no best SLR for a beginner and that there are many good ones. FWIW, I started with a Nikkormat FTN. Could have done as well starting with a similar Canon, Minolta, Pentax, ... I'm still shooting 35 mm with Nikons, my current main camera is a Nikon FM2n. Updated improved Nikkormat, lighter too. The only thing I don't like about it is that it won't do auto-TTL flash, which I want to try out. May buy a used N8008S for that feature.

    Look at what's on offer at www.keh.com. They're more reliable than most eBay sellers, also fairly competitive on price.

    How to learn on your own? My little Nikkormat came with a tiny pamphlet that explained what the controls (most of all shutter speed, aperture, focus) did and a set of homework exercises to drive the points home. Being easily led, I did the exercises and am glad I did. I still have it, it is still a good introduction. But IMO A. A. Blaker's book Field Photography is a much better introduction. Out of print, easily found used through, in alphabetical order, www.abebooks.com, www.addall.com, www.amazon.com, and sometimes even on eBay. I used to keep a couple of copies of Field Photography on hand, gave 'em to friends starting out in photography, replenished the stack when it got low.
     
  20. dolande

    dolande Member

    Messages:
    66
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2006
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I second the Michael Langford book. It was my first book several editions ago. Note that you can even buy an old edition since the principles are the same. Quick advice, buy the book fist (either Michel’s or another one) and go over the basic chapters. After that you may have an idea of what equipment to buy.
     
  21. Earl Dunbar

    Earl Dunbar Member

    Messages:
    559
    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2004
    Location:
    Rochester, N
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm really surprised no one has mentioned the Olympus OM series. The OM-1(n) is all mechanical except for the meter, and the lenses are excellent; some of them are amazingly good. Your budget will get you an OM-1n and one or two good lenses, depending on where you buy. An OM-2(n) adds auto exposure, but be aware that the OM-2n does not have mirror lockup.

    I second the recommendations regarding the importance of a tripod and using C41-based films until you are comfortable. I can get develop and scan to cd only cheaply at my corner drugstore (which seems to take care) as well as a semi-pro lab here in town. I have used both Kodak and Ilford b&w C-41 but haven't drawn any conclusions yet as to which I prefer.

    Finally, consider a rangefinder if long lenses and macro work isn't important. As has been stated, vibration is less of a problem.
     
  22. Poptart

    Poptart Member

    Messages:
    64
    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2005
    Shooter:
    Pinhole
    Hi, I have a nice Konica A3 that I've been hanging on to. It has a Tokina ATX 28-85 macro zoom lens. It's shutter-preferred auto or manual exposure. It has the accessory hot shoe and a new battery and new leather skin. It's in really nice condition.
     
  23. Uncle Bill

    Uncle Bill Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,378
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Oakville and
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Cloud Nine,

    Welcome to this glorious hobby/mental illness, I would look at an Olympus OM-1 or a Nikon FM, or Nikkormat Ftn with a really decent 50mm lens and just get out there. The hand held meter is also a handy thing to have around. I found with just one lens you are forced to learn the basics. Anyhoo, I think others summed up just as good as I had.

    Bill
     
  24. sanderx1

    sanderx1 Member

    Messages:
    252
    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2006
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I'm going to be the heretic and sugegst you get a Nikon N65/F65 or N75/F75 and a wide to mid-tele zoom. It will be cheap, it will allow you to do almost anything (even with flash) semiautomaticly and in no way will it keep you from trying out everything manualy. Walk around and shoot the stuff you like - this will let you find out what focal lengths you really use and need. You will most probably not be limited very soon by things like the lens quality and extra metering options. But it wil llet you easily fnd out which parts of photography you like.
     
  25. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

    Messages:
    4,090
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2006
    Location:
    NYC or Copak
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I think the first thing you should do is determine what your budget is. A lot of good ideas have been offered but it's hard to recommend a particular "kit" w/o knowing what your budget is.

    Nowadays, on eBay, you can buy a very good condition Nikon F3 with a fast 50mm Nikkor lens for around $250 - oftentimes including the case. Manual SLR prices are plummeting (as are AF's too) as many long time shooters race to digital.

    Give some thought to what you want to spend and how basic you want to start. Uncle Bill's suggestion of an older Nikon F or Nikkormat FTN/FT-2/FT-3 is a good way to "get in" cheap with some great, but very basic, manual equipment.

    Oh, and nothing wrong with "self teaching" there are tons of books out there, as well as the web, it's how many of us get started.

    Regards,
    George
     
  26. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

    Messages:
    1,376
    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2005
    Location:
    Oshawa, Onta
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    As you might have noticed, there are many loyalties running through the membership of APUG - ranging from casual preference, through educated choice, all the way (thankfully rarely) to near religious fanaticism.

    The bottom line is this: the brand of the camera matters least.

    But... you do have to choose one, right? Well, yes, you do. I would venture to say, that all the manufacturers make pretty damn good cameras (as can be attested to by the legions of loyal users). I would go further, to say that quality wise, there is little to differentiate a Nikon from a Canon, or Minolta, or Pentax (or whatever) of a similar level (meaning, don't compare a Nikon EM to a Canon F1).
    Where there are differences are in the marketplace. Go to eBay (even if you don't want to buy there), and clickon the 35mm SLR section. Look on the left hand side. The category is broken down further by majour brands. Now do the same for 35mm SLR Lenses. See what I mean? There is a definite drop off after the Canon and Nikon categories. This may be something to be taken into account when basically buying into a system. And this is what you are doing - buying the frist building blocks of a camera system. It should be the camera and lens on which you will build. Just because you are a beginner, and this camera is a learning tool, does not mean you can't have it as perfectly useful part of your future kit. Unfortunately, with production of manyof the affordible cameras being stopped for a long time, buying into a more numerous system will just make your life easier down the road.
    I would suggest a basic camera and a better lens (using Canon for example, I would rather buy an AE1 with a 50mm f1.4 ssc than a A1 with the 50mm f1.8SC). That better lens will be a useful part of your equipment, one you will go back to, even when the relatively simple body will get relegated to back up purposes. And most of what sets the pro-sumer body apart from the entry level one are features you , as a "student" do not need. When you learn what it is you need through experience, you will spend your money more wisely.
    These are just some thoughts - don't sweat any of this too much. As you can see, you really can't go that wrong no matter what you choose - there are that many good chouces out there.
    As for me, I chose the Canon FD system. I have no need for AF, I always wanted a New F1, and becuase of the mount change (from FD to the autofocus EF), FD lenses are a relative bargain in the used market. That was my logical choice made simply because hey, I had to choose one. I own some Nikon gear, have shot Minolta, Zenit, etc. - and frankly, I have made great pictures with all of them, my favourite being with... the Zenit. So it really does not matter :smile: Just get one and go out and use it.

    Peter.