Originally Posted by Atomagenesis
Canon Rebel XSi or the XS
And why that over the D5000, D3100, or D5100? All the bodies are great. In fact, I'd wager the Nikons have better IQ. There's really no reason to say that he has to go with the XSi or XS over the other bodies he mentioned.
Originally Posted by Nhb93
I've already got a D5000 from 2 Christmases ago (thanks again for that recommendation), but a friend of mine wants to get a camera. She I told her to look at the D3100 and the D5000, but she just linked me the D5100 asking about that. Now I don't know cameras nearly as well as you guys do so I'm asking for some help. It's her 15th birthday this Saturday, so I don't want to recommend overly expensive cameras to her. I know enough to know it's quality glass that matters. Bodies can be changed.
Breaking it down:
The Nikon D3100 and D5000 are current models, the D5100 was just announced.
Between them all, they all lack the in-body AF motor. Since you're an owner of a D5000, I'm sure you're familiar with this already. The D3100 is a great DSLR and has some great video on it, whereas the D5100 adds a swivel screen and the D7000's sensor. Obviously the D5100 is also a much more expensive DSLR.
I'm not entirely sure what the budget is, but if your friend is a beginner (and I'm assuming so, since most experienced photogs normally wouldn't have to ask about entry-level bodies), I'd rather go with the D3100 over the others. The D5000/D5100 offer better IQ, and the D5100 has the D7k's sensor, sure, but as a beginner it's like you said: glass is much more important. Moreso, the D3100 is a great camera and I really find it hard to believe a beginner will outgrow the camera in the near future.
If she wants to go Nikon, I'd grab it with the 18-55mm VR kit lens and a 35mm f/1.8 for a larger aperture lens. If she wants telephoto, the 55-200VR is a great lens to add on.
As for Canon, your current market offerings are the Canon Rebel T3/1100D, Rebel T2i/550D, and T3i/600D (Did I ever mention I hate Canon's entry-level naming scheme?) The 550D and 600D both share the same sensor as the much-more-expensive 7D, and has its great high ISO performance and high resolution. The T3 differs from the 550D with the inclusion of a swivel screen, wireless flash commander, and various video things that I don't really remember since I'm not a videographer. Between the two, photography-wise, they're pretty much the exact same camera.
However, like the Nikon, I'd rather go for the entry-level body here for the same reasons. The 1100D is a huge upgrade from the previous Rebel XS/1000D, with a better high ISO/higher resolution image sensor, a swivel screen, and video. It has more of the modern "bells and whistles" that your friend might like. It's also a very capable camera, and I'd pair the T3/1100D with an 18-55mm IS kit lens and a 50mm f/1.8 for large aperture shots, and the 55-250mm IS for telephoto.
As for how to choose between the Nikon D3100 and Canon T3/1100D, honestly both cameras are great and will last a long time. The only big difference between the two really is ergonomics, so I'd take your friend to your local Best Buy and try out both bodies and pick the one that she feels more comfortable holding.