Well, it turns out that most of my friends shoot Canon.
What should I look out for when buying a second hand DSLR? Most likely an EOS 350D (that's Digital Rebel XT to some of you).
Here's my basic checklist:
1. Total Use: The shutter count should be reasonable. Over about 25-35k operations and you've got a heavily used camera body which may need some adjustment service in the near future. If the previous user left the camera in sequential-numbering mode the whole time, you can get this from the file numbering that is used while taking your test shots.
2. Test shots: You should be able to pop off a good 30-50 shots in multiple exposure modes, with multiple lens change-outs, in a wide range of lighting, with multiple f/stops and shutter timings (try M, Av, and Full Auto at a minimum), and produce images that are appropriately sharp relative to the lighting and aperture setting, without ever generating any error messages or lockups.
3. Mirror: Pop the lens and take a good look-and-listen. The mirror should operate smoothly, it will be noisy but it shouldn't slap or vibrate; the mirror itself should be clean, and if it isn't, the user really
didn't care about maintaining the camera properly.
4. Sensor: The sensor should be clean and reasonably dust free. The 350D doesn't support LiveView, so you will need to change the exposure mode to M (manual) and set the exposure time to "Bulb", then hold the shutter release for an examination. If you find an affordable 400D, that model does support LiveView and you can just press the "Set" button on the back once to engage LiveView and the camera will correspondingly hold the shutter open.
5. Cosmetic: The body should be free of any severe scuffs or gouges that would suggest a harsh fall or a slide across a rough surface; the mounting ring in the body should be free from any serious wear marks (excessive lens changeouts) or dents (suggesting it was harshly dropped while wearing a lens); the LCD may have some surface scratching but should not be gouged (abuse) or showing signs of gradients, washout, or dark spots (component failure).
Finally, I would suggest getting a 400D (Rebel XTi) rather than a 350D, if you can find one within your budget. It will buy you at least three things that are quite useful: LiveView, a 10MP sensor, and a proxy sensor that automatically kills the LCD when you have the unit up to your face, which is really
helpful for sighting the viewfinder in dim light. On the 350D (XT) and the 450D (XS), the display has to be killed and re-enabled manually, which is kind of a pain if you can't easily see the button that does it.