Putting together a used Nikon kit

(UPDATED FOR SPRING 2017)

If you don’t own any camera gear already, strongly consider a Nikon kit, as well. Nikon once reigned supreme in the world of professional photography. When I started shooting in the 1980s, over 90% of professionals used Nikon gear.

Canon has gained the edge in both amateur and professional market shares, but Nikon products and technology are still recognized as serious gear for pros, and Nikons are always reliable and of top quality. Again, perusing the KEH website, I would recommend considering the following bodies:

Nikon D200 ($144-182) – I highly recommend this excellent prosumer camera, even if it’s a bit dated. It makes great image files that are easy to work with in image editing software. It has all the controls you need right at your fingertips instead of having to scroll through menus. It has weather sealing and is more solid and durable than the Canon and Nikon consumer-level DSLRs. This is a really easy camera to use and learn on. In fact, I know a couple of pros who still use it.

Nikon D40 or D40x ($133-159) – These entry-level DSLRs are now discontinued, but a used one can make a fine, economical starter camera to learn on. Small, light, and easy to use. The D40x has a larger megapixel count (10.2), but unless you want to make poster-sized prints, the D40’s 6.1 megapixels are plenty enough resolution for most uses.

Nikon D70 or D70s ($62-126) – At these prices, the D70 is a much better deal than the D40 or any of the Canon Rebel models, as it offers a more robust build with more features and external controls. The D70 had an excellent reputation and even has some unique features that once made professionals include one of these in their bags along with their highly expensive bodies.

Nikon D80 ($133-168) – See above. The D80 is a little more advanced.

If you insist on something a little newer, consider the D3100 or D5100 ($182-268). Both are entry-level DSLRs that have slightly more advanced sensors than the above cameras. Like all entry-level cameras, they lack external controls to change all the settings. You’ll have to to call up the menus more often.

The advice for Nikon lenses is generally the same as it is for Canon, except Nikon has kept the same lens mount from their film days. In other words, if you are willing to focus and shoot on manual, you can use any Nikon lens built all the way back to the 1960s. The following recommended lenses are all autofocus, but if you want some advice on other lenses that might work, let me know.

*TAMRON 17-50MM F/2.8 ($257-278) – again, for comparison: this is the same lens supplied with the university’s DSLR camera kits, except with a Nikon mount.

NIKON 18-55MM F/3.5-5.6 G AF-S DX VR II  ($94 – $115) – Nikon’s latest, basic “kit” lens. Maximum apertures are slow and it’s got a plastic barrel, but it’s sharp, has vibration reduction (image stabilization) and it’s fine to learn on.

NIKON 18-55MM F/3.5-5.6 G ASPHERICAL ED AF-S DX ($65-76) – same as above, but without vibration reduction, which isn’t crucial in this focal range.

NIKON 18-70MM F/3.5-4.5 G ASPHERICAL ED IF DX AF-S ($115-126) – For a little more money, you can get a lens with much better build quality, slightly faster maximum aperture, and a wider zoom range. This one’s recommended.

NIKON 35-80MM F/4-5.6 D MACRO ($72) – This is an older lens, but will work fine with pretty much any Nikon body. It’s a bargain, too.

NIKON 28-80MM F/3.5-5.6 D ($45-62) – Similar to the above lens, but with a wider zoom range. Another bargain.

NIKON 28-70MM F/3.5-4.5 D MACRO ($94) – Similar to the above two lenses, but a little newer and a little better build quality.

These are all basic, lo-cost lenses to get you started. If you can spend a little more money on a lens, I recommend that you do it, and I can make some suggestions for you.

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