Which Camera Is Best

Q: I'm considering buying a D40/x/D60 or {insert camera brand/model here}. Which is better?

A: There are few, if any, bad DSLRs on the market. However, to find the best camera for you, you should examine both the features of each camera and the options for upgrading each camera and lens within its respective system.

There are a lot of great cameras on the market today. Each manufacturer has its strengths and weaknesses; each model has its strengths and weaknesses.

If you're thinking about buying a camera, you should visit sites like dpreview.com and look for in-depth reviews that discuss image quality, feature set, etc. You'll get far more detailed information there than you will from a bunch of casual answers to a question asked in a flickr group for the 99,000th time. Once you're familiar with the features and limitations of each model, if you have specific questions, that's the time to ask us how we feel about this or that aspect of the camera. (It also helps to search before you ask.)

When you're shopping for a DSLR, don't forget that you're not just buying a camera, you're buying a system. A point and shoot you buy once, but an SLR you buy over and over again — each time you buy a lens to fill a gap in your kit, each time you upgrade your body, each time you pick up a critical (or not-so-critical) accessory.

Look at the offerings of the manufacturers in question. When you're ready to step up to a prosumer body or a nice fast zoom, or a tilt/shift lens, or an ultra-wide — will there be a suitable option available to you? If you decide you want to save a few bucks by buying used, or if you decide to sell your old gear when you upgrade, will you be able to tap into a lively used market? Do you already know one or more Nikon, Canon, Pentax, etc. users who can give you advice or let you try out their stuff?

And, as with most products, there's no substitute for trying one out in person, if you can.

In the specific case of the D40, D40x, and D60, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are megapixels important to me? (Remember, more megapixels doesn't mean more quality. It does give you more leeway to crop, and it makes it easier to make ginormous prints, but it won't make your pictures better.)
  • Do I need any of the following features: Mirror lockup, autoexposure bracketing, depth of field preview, add-on vertical grip with shutter release, ability to autofocus older Nikon lenses? (None of these cameras have these features; it's up to you to decide whether any of these is a dealbreaker for you.)
  • Do I have a bunch of really old pre-AI lenses from my film Nikon days? (If so, the D40/x/D60 is totally your friend.)
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