If you are new to the digital SLR market, you should look really hard at the Nikon D300s. It is an amazing piece of engineering, as proclaimed by most of the photographers who buy it.
One of my favorite photographers, no, I take that back, my favorite photographer is Moose Peterson. He is arguably the best nature photographer on earth. I admit, there are some excellent people taking nature photos, but Moose is at the top in my book.
Anyway, Moose is a Nikon guy. His equipment is mega-expensive. Lenses cost $5000 and up for the telephoto ones that can see into the nostrils of a bald eagle in flight. I can only drool and dream about having a lens like that.
The reason for mentioning Moose here is that he got me thinking about switching to Nikon after seeing his pictures and hearing his testimonials about his equipment. (I am a Canon digital SLR owner.)
Prior to buying my first digital SLR, I went through the process of searching forums and photography sites to figure out which kind of camera I wanted to purchase. Depending on where you look, you will find people who are extremely passionate about their equipment. So, if you are reading a post by a Canon owner, that brand sounds like the best, and vice versa when reading a blurb written by a Nikon owner.
Long story, shortened, I came down on the Canon side. But if I had it to do over again, I would most definitely be buying a Nikon D300s. User reviews make this camera sound like the ultimate Photo Enthusiast model. Most of the buyers are semi-pro, but there are lots of professionals buying it too.
The Nikon D300s is not a full frame camera, but the image quality is so good, you can't really tell the difference. That is unless you are one of those “pixel peepers” who write the expert reviews and you own a full-blown camera lab.
The D300s has all the bells and whistles a photographer will need to get the best shots possible from a camera. Yes, you will have to get a lens or two, because the lens is just as important as the camera, but don't skimp on either if you can afford it.
I would not hesitate to suggest that you read all the reviews before making up your mind. But don't get distracted by the research. It will drive you nuts reading the camera bashing articles written by either Canon or Nikon users. Both are great cameras, but this one is great.
It is really cheap? Well, not by my standards, but when you consider the quality, it truly is… cheap.