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What should I look for when shopping for my first DSLR?

I am new to advanced photography. I am looking to buy a DSLR, Nikon D5100 is my main interest, previously I was thinking about Nikon D3100. Also thinking about Nikon D7000 - but felt more expensive?

And I am planning to get with twin lens kit - 18-55mm and 55-200mm/55-300mm (If Nikon D5100). Is that good for a beginner?

Or should I go for Nikon D7000 since no need to upgrade for a while - I gone through the specs and it was good. If so 18-105mm lens is enough or more high range is also required?

Or any options in Canon?

My goals are to take landscape, macro shots, miniature effects (I am not aware of all the things :))

I am not planning to make money on photography, it's my long time interest. So I want to start up with and get learning everything as a hobby.


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    Before buying anything, I'd read some documentation about lens specifications and uses. With your goals, you'd need a wide-angle zoom ($$$), a macro prime ($$) and a tilt-shift lens ($$$$$). Definitely not kit lenses. you don't seem to need much tele, so maybe a large aperture zoom lens (~20-70mm F2.8) would do, if money is an issue. Tamron has a good one. – Berzemus Aug 24 '11 at 10:08
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    So, are you new to professional photography - as in you're going to start charging money now, or you're new to advanced photography - as in you're moving away from a P&S and want to learn about photographic principles. The difference of level of gear between the two is huge. – rfusca Aug 24 '11 at 13:46
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    Getting an SLR won't make you a professional photographer. If you need to ask which camera to buy, you are more likely to be a beginner/amateur. I normally suggest all my friends to get a second hand camera (pick any one.. canon/nikon) with a decent lens.. use it until you figure out what features you want in a camera/lens. – Sridhar Iyer Aug 24 '11 at 16:02
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    @Sridhar — there's no particularly good reason to limit dSLR choices to Canon/Nikon. Pentax and Sony are completely viable choices as well and shouln't be arbitrarily cut-out. (For completeness: Olympus and Panasonic make good cameras too but are clearly focused on mirrorless.) – mattdm Aug 25 '11 at 12:51
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    This isn't a question we can provide a definitive answer to: an entry-level camera from any of the main manufacturers is capable of addressing all of @Shankar's needs and providing a good upgrade path for future purchases. As it stands, I think the question is far too broad and really needs to be closed unless the questioner can detail some very specific requirements. The title alone (and the line "Or any options in Canon?") points to a far-too-open question. Anyone else agree? – Mark Whitaker Aug 30 '11 at 12:31

All the cameras you suggest produce great images but only the D7000 is suitable for professional photography. The main difference is that the interface will slow you down, particularly the D5100 which I reviewed yesterday.

The D7000 has plenty of other advantages including a more sophisticated and faster autofocus, a 100% coverage viewfinder, weather-sealing and faster continuous drive. Not to mention much better build-quality.

If you are serious about photography, you should skip on all the lenses you mentioned. They are slow, dim and do not provide much control over depth-of-field. You must be quality first, even at the expense of some range because professional images are measured based on quality of the shots you get. Based on your needs you should get at least one macro lens like the AF-S DX 85mm F/3.5 and a wide-zoom like the AF-S DX 17-55mm F/2.8. You may also consider a set of prime lenses instead, perhaps older ones to keep costs down.

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    The D7000 has the inbody motor too, which means older lens are an option. The D5100 does not. – rfusca Aug 24 '11 at 13:44
  • A very good point. However it should be mentioned that the D5100 (and D3000/5000) will work with older lenses but will not autofocus due to lack of in-body motor. – 5arx Aug 25 '11 at 8:12

I'm going to go at this from a different direction, since you mentioned that you're new to "professional" photography. Three questions that you need to ask yourself before making this decision:

How much annual revenue are you anticipating? If you're shooting professionally (i.e., this is your primary source of income), you shouldn't be too concerned about the cost of your equipment. Obviously, you don't want to go overboard and buy Nikon's entire lineup, but a pair of bodies, three or four lenses, and various accessories is not unreasonable as an initial outlay for starting a business. You can cut that down by buying one body (but then you don't have a backup), or fewer lenses.

How much capital do you have to invest in your business? Can you cover your initial outlay? If not, you'll need a business loan, which brings me to my last question.

Do you have a business plan? The bank will likely want to review it before taking the risk of loaning you money to start your business. You should have one even if you're financing this venture yourself, because it's a good idea to put your thoughts onto paper, and sell the idea to yourself (if a bank would think your business is too risky, why should you put up your own money?)

If you can't answer these If you're serious about this, I'd go for a D7000 with the 18-105 kit lens, and a 35mm f/1.8 prime. Add an external flash, a good macro lens, and a wide zoom (like the Tokina 11-16) in a year or so. By then you should be able to re-visit the above questions. The equipment you'll have at that point will be a good starting point.


If you're a beginner I suggest you start with a Nikon 3100 (the previous generation 3000 and 5000 are also very good cameras and will suit your needs (still photography) just as well as the newer 3100/7000.

The 18-55mm will be more than adequate for starting out and covers a decent range.

The experts on this site will no doubt shoot me down in flames for mentioning Ken Rockwell but as a beginner I found his articles accessible and reassuring. Of course there are more respected experts in the field but I think his site is a good place to start looking for camera recommendations and photography tips.

Here are this thoughts on recommended cameras, Nikon D5000

Hope this helps. Good luck with your new hobby!

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    I'm not going to shoot you, but I will point out that Ken Rockwell compares his own site to "The Onion". He actually has some really great articles (like this one on ultra-wide angle photography), but he also has articles that he wrote knowing that they're attention-getting garbage. It would be nice if he'd refocus as a serious site, but I guess there's little incentive to change. – mattdm Aug 24 '11 at 15:16
  • I actually met Ken and he's a really nice guy but it didn't take much time for me to understand that what he's looking for when he tries a camera is different from what I look for. If "professional" is part of your criteria, be aware that your needs will be different from what Ken primarily reviews for. Still, Ken looks at and writes about a ton of cameras. For details about cameras that seem interesting, I recommend dpreview.com, which gives you the unvarnished facts along with some conclusions supported (largely) by these facts. – Steve Ross Aug 24 '11 at 17:14
  • @mattdm - I didn't know about his cavalier attitude to his site until now! Now feeling like I've been duped! Nonetheless its not a bad site. Steve Ross- agreed. dpreview.com is excellent. – 5arx Aug 25 '11 at 8:03
  • I like Ken's reviews for the opinion he injects in them. Not everything about a product can be reviewed objectively, and not all of the "facts" are important enough to worry about. You just have to take everything with a few pounds of salt, read reviews from a few different sources, and form your own opinions. – Adam Jaskiewicz Aug 25 '11 at 12:19
  • @Adam — the problem isn't opinions; it's that you can't really be sure if what he says is his opinion or some dramatic statement he's made to get the site attention. – mattdm Aug 30 '11 at 13:27

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