A very fine gentleman I know asked me today what digital SLR I’d buy for a thousand dollars. I was going to email him back with an answer, but I realized that more people would probably be interested in my thoughts on it than just him.
To be honest, for a good DSLR setup, $1000 is tight, but doable. You’ll want a decent camera body that can be used for a good long while to come. I had a Canon Rebel XT for a while, which was quite nice, but I really do like the bigger size of the LCD on the XTi (2.5” makes a huge difference compared to 1.8”). Also, the XTi offers automatic dust removal from the sensor, which is a nice touch. The 2 megapixel difference? Doesn’t matter. Anyway, your call. The XT is $200 cheaper than the XTi, so let you wallet do the talking. I’d rather have an older, less cool body and have a nicer lens.
Skip the kit lens version, as tempting as it may be. The fact that the price difference between body-only and with-kit lens is about $50 should tell you something about the quality of that lens. It sucks, you don’t want to use it. End of story.
Instead, spend the money on a really decent lens. You have a few options depending on what you intend to shoot. If you want to do a lot of long-range telephoto work, pick up the 70-300mm lens listed below. More normal stuff? The 28-135mm is no slouch.
You also need accessories. The most important accessory is the compact flash memory card. You can get by with only this for the time being. Pick up a 4GB card; you’ll kick yourself later, otherwise.
- Canon Digital Rebel XT - 8MP DSLR body. $400
- Canon Digital Rebel XTi 10.1MP - 10MP DSLR body. $600
- Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens - Nice walk-around lens with built-in image stabilization. Won’t give you much for longer-range telephoto work, though. $416
- Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens - Nice telephoto lens; not the best, but it won’t break the bank. Currently the telephoto lens I use. $550
- SanDisk 4 GB CF Card - 4GB means you’ll be able to take a decent number of pictures. $45
So, if I was really dead-set on paying $1000, I’d pick up the Rebel XT, the 28-135mm lens, and the Sandisk card. If I was willing to spend about $1300, I’d pick up the 70-300mm lens, too.
If money wasn’t as much of an object, I’d probably replace the XT with the XTi, but this is less crucial. This ends up being about $1600.