Buying Guide to Beginner DSLR Cameras

So it’s that time of the year again, and as you prepare your Christmas lists for the holidays, you may be wanting to upgrade from your normal Iphone shots. If you're just starting out in photography, it can be tricky to know where to start when it comes to buying your first camera. Never fear though… With my acquired knowledge in photography I have compiled a list of cameras that are ideal for beginners photography as well as some pros, cons, and options to consider when purchasing a DSLR. Before I get too far however… The worst thing I could do to you today is throw out useless camera terms that only intermediate and professional photographers know the meaning to. This is a beginners guide so I plan to use only beginner terms.

Let’s get started!

First, let’s consider a few ideas that play into your camera purchasing decision.

What is a DSLR?

DSLR or Digital Single-Lense Reflex (Whatever that means) is the term used to describe the digital camera you find most photographers using. The DSLR is a step up from typical SLR’s that were once used in the 2000’s. Unlike the SLR’s, a DSLR allows you to switch out lenses while also viewing the photos almost instantly from a screen. A digital age means a digital upgrade, and it’s important to understand why you are interested in this type of camera in the first place.

Get ready to learn daily with your DSLR.

A camera loaded with all the features won’t be much good in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it. Photography takes practice and lots of it, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t upgrade — there are a lot of reasons why you should start investing in a DSLR. Maybe you’ve found that you enjoy taking pictures on your Iphone and want better quality, or maybe you’re wanting more control over the photos you are already taking. Whatever the reason for upgrading to a DSLR, there is a perfect one out there for you.

Photography is an expensive hobby.

Your costs don’t just stop at the camera alone… They extend to editing programs, lenses, camera straps, stabilizers, accessories, etc. Photography is an investment, and most people who desire a camera may not have enough funds to get started. If you fall into this category, but are seriously interested in this hobby, don’t lose hope! From personal experience, I found that the investment is definitely worth the cost, considering the growth I’ve encountered from taking this hobby into a lifelong career. The possibilities are endless in this creative genre.

Don’t just set your sights on a brand─ The Canon vs. Nikon debate.

There are a few major camera brands, but Canon and Nikon seem to be the most well-known. While one photographer will swear by his Canon, another will insist her Nikon is the better option. So which brand is best? That’s all a matter of opinion. Keep in mind that there are many benefits to photography that aren’t specific to one brand alone. The reason why Canon and Nikon are the leaders in the digital photography game ties to their variety of choices from beginner to professional setups. With that said, it all comes down to personal preference. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a couple different brands, think about which is most comfortable / compatible for you specifically… Not just what everyone else is using.

Lenses are just as important as the camera.

Lenses are the instruments your camera body uses to get a quality shot. The most basic camera body fitted with a good lens can make a good picture, but the best camera body in the world cannot make a good picture with a poor quality lens. For hobbyists who are considering getting their first DSLR, you might not understand just how vital having the right lenses is for shooting. A good lens means everything in getting the right shot.

(I’m hoping to put up a blog post about lenses very soon, so stay tuned!)

Your photos don’t just magically get better when buying a DSLR camera.

Contraying to common belief, photography is more than just the camera. In general, using a DSLR is the best way to take better pictures, not because the camera itself can magically take better photos, but because a DSLR gives you the ability to control the things that are going to make the biggest difference in your photography. You are in control of the camera, not the other way around. As I stated before, photography takes practice, practice, practice─ so knowing how your camera works is crucial to receiving great photos. Additionally though, you have to take into account the other factors that contribute to great photos such as posing, composition, lighting, timing, and the portrayal of a story/message.

Advice? Keep practicing with your DSLR, learn as much as you can, and remember that if there is a “problem” with your images, don’t be quick to put all the blame on the camera. You can absolutely capture the your dream photos, but you’re going to get out of this what you put into it.

Now that you have considered whether or not a DSLR is right for you, let’s check out the competition.

Nikon D3300 : $499

Nikon D3300 Body + 18-55mm Lense

Ranked #181 out of 1156 camera

Like I have said before, cameras can get expensive, but this is the best quality camera money can buy for the cheapest price available. The great thing about Nikon is that they produce some great beginner level cameras, and they are easy to use! Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity of shooting with this camera, but I have heard great things from my friends who have used it. The best thing about this camera is that it provides the right amount of controls for a beginners without overwhelming you with useless features. I do however want to point out that an extra $100 can go a long way when looking for a camera. Don’t just settle on a camera / compromise on quality if you can save up a little more and purchase a better model.

In a nutshell...

Decent Quality

Easy to Use

Cheap / Great price for the quality

No built in Wifi (Adapter Available)

Additional Specs

Built in Flash

Attachable to Wifi

Small and Light

Shoots well in Low-light situations

Canon EOS Rebel T6i : $599

Canon EOS Rebel T6i Body + 18-55mm Lense

Ranked #120 out of 1156

I had the opportunity to shoot with this camera once before, and I was pleasantly surprised with the images I received, even in automatic mode! I love this camera because the images you produce are almost exactly as you see them in the viewfinder. Canon did a really nice job of producing a camera that adheres to beginner photographers at a very reasonable price. Unlike most beginner cameras, the T6i comes with built in Wifi that allows you to wireless sync your camera and smartphone via the Canon app. From there you can wireless download your photos from the SD card to your phone without sacrificing quality. This is crucial for photographers who editing solely on a mobile device, or don’t own a computer. I recommend this camera to people who are looking for good quality photos without breaking the bank. Of course you may not receive the highest quality from this beginner DSLR without purchasing a new lense in the future, but it’s an entry level into the many perks Canon offers.

In a nutshell...

Good Quality

Easy to Use

Built in Wifi + Wireless to Canon app

May need to upgrade lenses as soon as possible

Additional Specs

Built in Flash

Built in Wifi

Touch Screen

Pull out Screen (Selfie Friendly)

Photos I have taken with this camera

Nikon D5500 : $715

Nikon D5500 Body + Dual Kit Lense (18-55mm and 70-300mm)

Ranked #61 out of 1156 camera

This camera has a special place in heart just because this is what I began shooting on when I first started photography. The reason I love this camera is because you have enough room to get started with more potential of growth. I used this camera for about 2 years, and learned something new every day! Although this camera is on the pricier side of the budget, I recommend this camera to nearly anyone who asks. It’s categorized as a beginner camera, but once you practice a bit more, you can take high quality intermediate shots that exceed the beginner status. Even with the kit lenses, I was able to take quality images and videos that fit the look and style I was going for. On the other hand, the biggest disadvantage I saw with this camera is that there was no built in Wifi. This is crucial for beginner photographers who aren’t ready to use complex editing programs that you would find on a Mac or Microsoft Laptop. Nikon does however offer a Wifi adapter that connects to your camera for only $30-$45 more. Problem (sort-of) Solved!

In a nutshell...

Exceptional Quality, even with kit lenses

Room for Growth

Easy to Use

No built in Wifi (Adapter Available)

Little more expensive

Additional Specs

Touch Screen

Pull out Screen (Selfie Friendly)

Smartphone Remote Control

Built In Flash

Photos I have taken with this Camera


The Takeaway.

Now you may be asking, which one is right for me? Chances are it is any of these – or none of these. The answer lies in what you’re looking for that fits your budget. The prices we’ve discussed all include a kit lens to get you started, but be aware, these are usually the lowest-end optics available, and you’ll want to upgrade as soon as possible to another lense. (I’m hoping to put up a blog post about lenses very soon, so stay tuned!) All of these are excellent cameras, and were chosen because of what they offer for the price, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other cameras that would serve the purpose just as well or even better. At the end of the day, you want a camera that will facilitate the learning process you’re going through, so choose a camera that assists in that purpose, without breaking the bank.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

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