Here are my priorities; Recommend me a crop frame DSLR body for $400-600 used

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Strange Loop
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Here are my priorities; Recommend me a crop frame DSLR body for $400-600 used
1 month ago

I'm in the market for my first DSLR. I played with my friend's D3000, which fortunately gave me an idea of what I like and what I don't like (which is a lot with the D3000) After a few days shooting, I found myself using manual exposure and manual focus most of the time. So separate dials for aperture and shutter speed are a must. Also a good viewfinder for manual focus is important. I'll probably get a split prism focusing screen to aid with manual focus. That said, a good AF system is still something I'd want, especially for the sake of flexibility down the road. It just probably won't be a big priority initially. Since I'm going for image quality on a budget and enjoy manual focus, I plan on getting some vintage manual prime lenses like the Helios, etc. So compatibility with 3rd party adapted lenses is also something I'm looking for.

I'm not really into shooting video yet, but I wasn't interested in photography a month ago either, so I'd like something that's fairly competent in that department if possible. Especially since those old MF primes are great for video.

I shoot RAW and do all post-production in Lightroom and Photoshop, so I don't really care about a bunch of white balance options, lens corrections, or image adjustments in camera. I really just want something that's going to capture a wide dynamic range and give me a neutral image with lots of information to work with in post.

Low light performance is one of my main priorities. I'd like something with a fairly wide ISO range and also good noise performance. An AF system that works well in low light would be a bonus, but again, I usually favor manual focus so a bright, large viewfinder might be more important.

I'd say frame rate is moderately important. I'm usually fairly deliberate, but a bit of spray and pray is appropriate in certain scenarios where I can't take my time to get that one perfect shot. I'm not shooting race cars or anything but who knows what I'll be into a couple years down the line.

A nice screen would be... well nice. I'm not too bothered about gigantic articulating screens, but something sizable that's easy to see in daylight will be helpful to make sure I got an exposure right, in tandem with the histogram.

An AF-On switch would be good for times that I want to use autofocus. I really hate the shutter lag when the autofocus is tied to the shutter release, so I prefer to have it tied to the AF button so I can use it when I need it. I guess you can usually remap the AF to the AE-L button which is what I'd do in M mode, but it's always nice to have two separate buttons so you can use exposure lock during shutter or aperture priority shooting.

A DOF preview button is on the wishlist as well. I'd also like something with live view and mirror lockup for getting sharp focus at long focal lengths. Auto exposure bracketing would be helpful for doing HDR (I'll keep it subtle, I promise!) and also as a safety net in tricky lighting scenarios.

So hopefully I can find something that ticks most of the boxes and doesn't blow the budget. Initially I intended to go for an older, higher-end body to reap some pro features at a lower price. Unfortunately that usually means sacrificing live view, decent video capabilities, a moderate megapixel count, or ISO range/low light performance. Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of Canon ergonomics, but Nikon's got that annoying thing about adjusting aperture in movie mode or live view. Lately I've been taking a hard look at Pentax. The K5 IIS seems too good to be true, and even the lower tier K50 or K30 are feature packed for their price points. I've also considered the D7000 or one of the more recent models from the D5X00 series. I was also considering a Canon 50D for a while but I forget why exactly I lost interest in it.

I'm hoping for some guidance from someone with knowledge of the offerings in this price point. It's hard to judge different bodies on paper without actual real world experience. Even narrowing down my options would be a great help since I can then monitor ebay and jump on a good deal when it comes up. I'm not really in any hurry to buy and I'd like to keep it as cheap as possible since I need to buy lenses too. Speaking of which, any recommendations on cheap but nice old lenses to look out for would be very welcome.

Cheers

Canon EOS 50D Nikon D3000 Nikon D7000 Pentax K-30 Pentax K-5 IIs Pentax K-50
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