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Have you been waiting to buy a decent digital SLR camera for months, or has it actually been years? Well, we believe that now may be a very nice opportunity to spend your hard-earned money on something that will retain its value much better than computer components. There are some nice 8 to 10 megapixel digital SLRs on the market now for less than $1,000.
If you go for a digital SLR camera, however, you'll quickly learn that the cost of the camera is only the top of the iceberg. Depending on how far you go into semi-professional photography, you will need multiple lenses, at least one flash, batteries, different types of lamps, sophisticated tripods, carrying gear and other equipment. All of this will cost you more than the camera body.
There are potentially thousands of dollars to be spent, but it doesn't have to be all at once. We have assembled a nice list of equipment that we recommend for starters with lots of ambition - and a flexible budget.
This 10 MP camera has been available since September 2006, and is the successor to the D70/D70S. It's available for $999 without lenses, or $1,299 when bundled with the new 18-135 mm Nikkor zoom lens. The D80 offers most of the features of the almost-professional D200, which retails for $1,699. If you want to spend the extra money for the D200 you will get a metal housing, the ability to take 5 frames per second instead of 3, and additional settings information in the finder. The drawbacks include the higher cost and greater weight (29 ounces compared to 20 ounces for the D80.) If you're asking yourself whether you actually need those extras, chances are that you probably never will, so let's stick to the D80.
Some of its most important features are its 10.2 MP resolution (3872x2592 pixels), 11-area TTL auto focus, 1/4000 second to 30 second shutter speeds, 1/200 second flash synchronization, ISO 100-1600 sensitivity, white balance with six settings or color temperature selection, a 2.5" LCD display, image presets, RGB and luminance histograms, built-in retouching features, and a weight of 1.5 lbs including the Li-Ion rechargeable battery. In short: this is a very powerful digital SLR camera that leaves little room for complaint unless you're a real pro.
The new AF-S Nikkor DX lens covers a nice zoom range of 18-135 mm at f-stops of f/3.5 to f/5.6. The lens's range makes it superior to the D70S's 18-70 mm lens, but is clearly less than that of the 18-200 mm flagship. We would only recommend that you go for the 18-200 mm lens if you plan to use only one lens for all occasions, because it retails at around $800. Others should go for the 18-135 mm kit lens, which is great for starters, and buy into additional lenses as needed.
Nikon offers two iTTL Speedlight flashes, the SB-800 and the SB-600. Although the SB-800 is clearly more powerful, the SB-600 is fine for amateurs and a good place to get started. The SB-800 is also be capable of controlling and triggering additional SB-600 or SB-800 flashes, which is a feature that you will only want if you go professional.
This 50 mm beauty comes with a wide maximum aperture of f/1.4. This lets you take excellent pictures even in very low light, so you can use a lower ISO setting to keep noise to a minimum. It's also great for taking natural light pictures in places where a flash is not allowed, or where it would tend to ruin the ambience of the scene.
HBG Part 1: Motherboards, Processors, Coolers and RAM
HBG Part 2: 2006 Networking Holiday Buyer's Guide
HBG Part 3: Components & Peripherals Buyer's Guide
HGB Part 4: Gifts for Non-Geeks
HBG Part 5: The Mobile Stuff