What Should I Get For my First DSLR Camera?
This is a question I get all the time from clients and friends who want to up their game from just shooting with their iPhone to getting a DSLR [or digital single lens reflex]. The great part about purchasing a DSLR now is that you’re getting a ton of camera features for a very low amount of your hard-earned money. Even the cheapest of cameras now have amazing features like shooting RAW or HD video which you can grow into as you get more comfortable with your camera.
Nikon or Canon?
In my opinion, there are only two players in the camera market: Canon and Nikon. While at the entry level point, camera brand might not matter as much, it is however something to think about as the lenses you buy now can be used on cameras you buy down the road.
I have personally only used Canon cameras in my career and have loved every one I’ve owned, from a 10D up to a Canon 5D Mark3. Canon cameras feel a lot smoother and more intuitive in my opinion. While I haven’t had quite as much experience with Nikon cameras, they’ve always felt very button heavy while Canon would have things tucked away in menus. Honestly at the entry-level price you’re not going to see a lot of quality differences between the two. It’s really a personal decision with what feels more natural in your hand. Go run over to Best Buy and play with the cameras and see what you like best. And please for the love of God don’t let Ashton Kutcher be an influence in your buying decision.
What is the best starter camera for the money?
The Canon T5i Body [no kit lens]
The Canon T5i is a fantastic starter DSLR that will handle all your intro photography needs well into when you start getting serious about your craft. Here are the features that are relevant to getting started.
- EOS Full HD Movie mode with Movie Servo AF for continuous focus tracking of moving subjects, manual exposure control and multiple frame rates built-in stereo microphone, manual audio level adjustment and Video Snapshot
Interpretation: You can shoot gorgeous SLR quality video which far surpasses what you’re going to get out of your phone. Cat videos will never be the same.
- 18.0 megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor, 14-bit A/D conversion, ISO 100-12800 (expandable to H: 25600) for shooting from bright to dim light and high performance.
Interpretation: 18 megapixels are more than enough for most people. This means no more grainy out of focus photos if you were to try and blow up your iPhone images. All photos look great on your LCD or on Facebook, it’s when you try to make an 11×14 print of your favorite photo that a camera’s quality becomes apparent. ISO is how a camera ‘sees’ how bright it is outside. Super bright and sunny? 100 ISO. Dusk on a beach? You might want to bring it up to ISO 1,600. Modern cameras can actually shoot in very minimal light with only moderate grain. In the old days 3,200 speed film made your photos look like they were coated in sand since the grain was so high.
- 9-point all cross-type AF system (including a high-precision dual-cross f/2.8 center point) for exceptional autofocus performance when shooting with the viewfinder and Hybrid CMOS AF
Interpretation: Auto-focus is a very important aspect of a camera as it needs to make sense of that crazy child running towards your camera and get it in focus as you’re trying to move out-of-the-way and not get hit with their flying drink. It’s harder than one would think.
- High speed continuous shooting up to 5.0 fps allows you to capture all the action.
Interpretation: This is also known as burst mode where you can have the camera shoot off 5 frames per second as to not miss a very important moment. Later on you can go back and review your photo to find the exact moment that you were looking to capture.
What is the best starter lens for the money?
While it might seem tempting to pick up the lens that comes as a kit with your camera, it’s generally speaking a big no-no. Kit lenses as they’re called are generally pretty junky lenses that while they can cover a huge zoom range, have pretty awful quality and need large amounts of light for decent exposures. Take for instance the 18-135mm kit lens that comes with the Canon T5i. While it sounds like an amazing lens, it can shoot very wide to medium telephoto, the minimum f/3.5 means it has to be pretty bright to not use a flash. When you’re all the way at 135mm it becomes a f/5.6 lens which means you have to pretty much be outdoors to get a useable exposure. The drawbacks put it quickly in perspective.
Now let’s look at the Canon 50mm f/1.8: It’s what’s called a ‘prime’ lens meaning it doesn’t zoom at all- your legs do the zooming! While that might not appeal to everyone out there, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. First off, 50mm is what’s called a normal lens, meaning its close to the angle that the human eye sees. Neither wide nor telephoto. Since it’s a prime, it’s not trying to be an everything lens, it’s trying to be a great 50mm and that’s it. That being said, even for it’s $100 price point, it’s a pretty awesome little lens and a fun creative one at that! The 50mm is a f/1.8, meaning it doesn’t need a lot of light to get a useable exposure. Also at f/1.8 it can do really shallow depth of fields to make really fun and creative images. Ever want to take a photo of an eye and want everything around it to be out of focus? Then this is an awesome lens for you. A kit lens at f/3.5 can only sort of achieve this effect because of its limited f-stop range.
Buying your first DSLR is an incredibly exciting purchase that can help create fantastic memories for your family, but most importantly you’ll come to learn to dislike all Nikon people and all they stand for. The End.