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

I'm thinking of buying a camera tomorrow .. I was advised to get this:

Canon 550 D .. 18 MP APS-C CMOS sensor .. DIGIC 4 .. ISO 100-6400, H:12800

It's my first camera and I want it to take pictures all over europe as I moved to Italy recently, I'm not a professional photographer. I need a good lens that represents some sort of compromise.

Which lens shall I get? Shall it be a kit lens or something else (18-55 or 18-135 or 15-85 ..etc??)

A quick reply will be much appreciated :) Thanks

  • \$\begingroup\$ ASF congratulation for your move to Italy. Have a look to a lot of other similar question on this topic, like photo.stackexchange.com/q/2876/5032 or photo.stackexchange.com/q/15506/5032 or this photo.stackexchange.com/q/10290/5032 \$\endgroup\$
    – Francesco
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 20:47
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ ASF this kind of questions are much better suited for the chat of this site, where a lot of people will be able to advise you :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – Francesco
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ That model was just discontinued, so you might be able to get a very good price. Compare pricing on newer models and if you think the discount is reasonable, pull the trigger. It's a decent entry-level camera with a lot of strengths, and since you need to make a decision quickly, there's no need to agonize. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ what do you mean by "I need a good lens that represents some sort of compromise" ? \$\endgroup\$
    – K''
    Commented Jul 7, 2012 at 4:19

2 Answers 2


I think the most important decision you need to make for your first DSLR is which brand to go with as that will determine what lens compatibility you have from there on (switching brands can be expensive). Keep in mind that if you go with Canon then your crop factor lenses (EF-S) will not fit a full frame camera (EF). The same is somewhat true for Nikon; they will physically fit, but the image will have a lot of vignetting.

So, pick a brand (I'm partial to Canon for no particular reason other than they were on sale when I bought my first) and buy whatever your budget allows for. Unless you want video I think most of the Canon offerings are adequate for a first time DSLR.

As far as lenses go, the wider the range the more flexible it will be. I'm partial to prime lenses myself (but I also have a strong back to carry them all). The 18-55, 18 is going to be your wide angle and 55 is more portrait length. You might want to get something longer if you want to zoom in on something (if you're going to a zoo and you want to get close up with the animals or you want some detail of a ceiling in Italy)

I was in Italy recently and I went to a number of churches, the 18-55 is fine for getting everything in the frame, but if you want to focus in on one thing you may want another lens.

Also, regardless of the camera, the on camera flash sucks. Get yourself a 430exII or better if you want to use flash.


Definitely take into consideration which brand has the most and best lenses. Invest in what will be best for your future. I definitely think the 550D is a great choice! Don't go to crazy with lenses in your beginner stage. I always recommend my students to learn their kit lens first before graduating to a higher grade lens. The 18-55 is a great starter lens and you will learn a lot from it! You will be pleasantly surprised at its sharpness.

Sample images from kit lens;



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