I must state I am a beginner, and not even a 'serious' amateur yet. I shoot 35mm film on a Nikon with prime lenses, using Tri-X or Tmax 400. I have read almost every essay on the Lula website, plus a thousand others, and still find the need to ask what I am about to ask. I apologize beforehand if I have made a mistake in doing so.
Here's my interest in photography:
1. I would define my interest as 'carefully staged and artificially lit fictional B&W photography where the prime subject will always be one or more human beings in various surroundings'. If possible, I would like to have the camera shoot color as well. I will shoot both outdoor and indoor.
2. I will need to print to a maximum size of 36 inches in its longest side. The goal is to create fine art that will sell.
3. 6x6 or square format is NOT an option. Any other rectangular format is okay.
4. I will not go above ISO 800 under any circumstances, and in most likelihood, be well within ISO 400.
5. I will almost always shoot on a tripod, but will need to use the camera handheld as well. I will have all the time in the world to compose and select settings, so I don't need professional weather-sealed bodies with buttons for everything. I am okay with menus. Autofocus is not a requirement.
6. I will need an interchangeable lens format. Most of my shots will be stopped down since I will be lighting the scene and need a lot of depth of field. Flash is not required.
7. Fast shooting is not required. A perfect meter is not required (I will be using a light meter) - meaning, a basic DSLR meter is okay.
8. Film is out of the question (for reasons I don't want to get into). It has to be a digital camera system - one with easy-to-find batteries.
9. I will be using Photoshop to manipulate the images, and it might need to have the exposure bracketing feature.
10. It has to be the cheapest system possible.
I think what I'm looking for is a cheap camera system that is meant to do one type of photography only. The question is: how low can I go?
For example, I have printed JPEGs (72dpi) off a 550D on A1 (23x33 inches) and the resolution seems okay. But would any of you consider a print from a 550D as fine art? Assuming I master my camera in and out, and become a good photographer, will an entry-level Nikon or Canon system limit the quality of the print? Do I need to go full frame, or can I stay with APS-C (or even 4/3)?
In my particular case (I can manipulate my content to my heart's desire), will a kit lens be good enough? Or L glass, or Zeiss? Would I be able to overcome any limitation in the lens with my methodology, or is it futile? Or should I set my standards higher and aim for a Leica M9? Or higher, to a medium format system?
Thank you in advance for any assistance.