I clearly remember when I started learning to take the kind of pictures I had in my mind. It happened when I finally made the jump from film to DSLR and something about that instant gratification got me. I could see the picture I created immediately as opposed to developing my film (which most of the time I never accomplished because it was during college when I had no money).
But the more I explored with my DSLR camera, the more I wanted to know. It was an addiction almost, and I didn't want to stop until I created the kind of images that I knew were possible. I know there are other people out there with this same feeling. You might be asking, "how do I make the background blurry while the subject is in focus?" Or "how do I move from automatic to manual?"
And even though there's lots of information out there for potential photographers, I thought I'd answer some questions that I frequently get from friends and family. They were the questions I asked too. My first one is focused on starter cameras. My natural instinct is to tell you what lenses to buy, because they provide the real magic. But, first thing's first. You need to buy a camera that will give you a professional feel and let you explore photography on a different level than you can get with a point and shoot or phone.
I'm going to be totally honest with you about the progression of my camera purchases. I knew I wanted a DSLR for a long time but it was hard justifying the price. My husband didn't understand why I couldn't just use my phone to get the images I wanted. I wondered if I would use it as much as I thought I would too. I didn't want to buy something just to have it go to waste.
Eventually Christmas came around and there was a sale at Target so I bought the cheapest Canon DSLR camera on the market. I honestly don't even remember the exact make and model since it was so long ago.
But I promise you, from the moment I walked out of the store, that thing was strapped around my neck and I was on my way to filling up memory card after memory card. It was clear, for the intrinsic value alone, the purchase was very much worth every penny.
I have known other people that go down the path of buying a nice camera but then realize it's not for them. The camera collects dust while they snap photos with their phones (which are incredible cameras too!).
I quickly learned that I was interested in doing portrait photography as a job, which requires nicer cameras and lenses because of the level of control they offer. BUT this is not everybody's goal. However, if you have the itch and you think photography might be something that brings you joy and happiness, then I say go for it. You can always return it, sell it or give it to someone as a gift if you end up not using it.
So what should you start with?
As I said above, I bought my "cheap" DSLR first and then I just KNEW. So I progressed from that entry level camera to the top of the line - a Canon 5D Mark III. There was no in between for me. I've loved my Canon cameras and can't say enough good things about the brand. They offer a wide range of prices and products that fit almost any type of photographer. And I still love lots of my shots with that initial camera. Here are a couple below:
And here are a couple with my 5D Mark III below. Honestly, before I really got into photography, I didn't see much of a difference in images taken by lower level and top of the line camera bodies. But wow, now that I'm deeply in this game, I notice everything. I've come to a point where I can tell you what lens was used on almost any professional image. So if you're just getting into photography, you might not see the differences, but just wait my friend....just wait. You will notice everything and you won't be able to "unsee" things and go back to your "novice" camera days. You will officially be on your way toward "camera body snobbery".
Because my experience with other cameras is limited, I relied on a couple friends that take great pictures for tips on what to buy. I noticed their posts on Instagram and reached out to see what they were using. I've shared the cameras they use, their short review, and a couple of their images below. I've also commented on why my "trained" eye (that sounds snobby doesn't it?) likes the images produced by the respective cameras.
I should warn you that I've stuck with the Canon brand for this post. This isn't sponsored by them or anything (believe me I wish it was!) but I am brand loyal. They have served me so well over the years and I personally love their customer service and quality.
@angiehasseman - Canon EOS Rebel T6i EF-S 18-55mm IS STM Lens Kit
If I were new to DSLRs, this is where I would start. It's not the cheapest at $699 but the camera comes with so many features that you get a great value for that price. My favorite feature is that my friend can take a picture and share it directly with her phone because of the built in Wi-Fi. That was the main selling point for her too, "The camera is super easy to use and always seems to find the right light. The fact that it has built in WiFi and can shoot the pics directly to any device is what sold me though."
I asked her to share a couple pics and I love the ones of her son above. It adds the dimension that comes with DSLRs and the kit lenses they provide give that blurring effect on the objects surrounding the subject.
Plus, with the Rebel series you have the option to attach some heavy duty, professional grade lenses if you want. When I bought that first DSLR, I was really wishing I purchased something at this mid range level because I couldn't explore with lenses. I often thought of renting equipment to see what I'd like but I didn't have the camera body to support bigger equipment. A couple times I rented the camera body with the lenses but it would have been a smarter purchase to get something better from the start so I didn't waste money on renting.
@kimjsugar - EOS Rebel T5 18-55 IS II Kit
A slightly older version of the Canon model above is this one - the T5. It's also a bit less expensive ($549.99) for the same quality of pictures. You just lose out on some extras like the connection to devices via wireless networks.
But this camera will give you that same professional feel and offer great images like the ones above by my friend Kim Sugar. "One of the most attractive things about the Canon EOS Rebel T5 is the bang for your buck factor. I didn't want to break the bank buying a DSLR, but wanted a camera that gave us good, quality pictures and the Rebel T5 was the perfect choice for us. It's taken me a while to figure out the best settings but after some practice, I'm able to take decent shots of my kids which can be a feat sometimes with how much they move! This camera is pretty basic so it's a great option for someone just starting our with a DSLR, or for someone like me who just wants to document my family's life."
Kim's pictures are beautiful and definitely show off the benefits of the DSLR - colors true to life, depth, and that ability to capture a fleeting moment. DSLRs are fast and make it possible to photograph kids at young ages.
In an effort to keep it simple, I'm sticking with those as my top picks for starter DSLRs. I personally get overwhelmed with the amount of options out there (for everything! - like the Cheesecake Factory menu for example). I think two is enough.
I hope this article is helpful for anyone thinking of buying a DSLR. Please write me with any questions or topics you want covered. Also, if you have a new camera and want your images featured in a future post, please share!
Thanks for stopping by,