I think a used D40 or D40x might be a good entry level camera for that age. I have the d40x and it's a GREAT 'lightproof box". I think they can be had fairly cheaply nowadays. I wanna say they are about 4 models old now. I still use mine regularly.
Canon and Nikon are both great manufacturers, although there are followers for both camps...just like Jeep/landcruiser fun. (although LandCruisers ARE better