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

I love taking photographs and simple digital cameras don't satisfy me. So I'd like something better. I have never used a reflex, so easiness should be important feature. The price should be not excessive (no more than 600$). I don't want to make money on photography. I love taking landscape and macro shots overall.

What would you advise me?

What about lens? How many and which type of lens should I buy?

Thank you very much



Any entry-level DSLR will be excellent. The questions Akram Mellice pointed out:

as well as How much do lens lineups vary across DSLR platforms? can help if you need more of a starting point, but really, you'll do fine picking something that your friends have or that appeals to you more than the others for any reason.

Review sites make their money in pointing out differences, and so have a natural incentive to accentuate differences and to make it seem as if one choice is miles better than another. This is false. All modern DSLRs are astoundingly excellent, and the distinction isn't A vs. F, but rather A+ vs A++. That doesn't mean that there aren't meaningful differences (see Is there any significant difference between Nikon and Canon? and What do Pentax and Sigma DSLRs offer that differs from Canon and Nikon? if you want to explore that further), but generally it's a matter of working in a slightly different way, not better or worse.

As you get more advanced, you may find you have particular needs that one brand may fit more than another. You'll hear a lot about how your initial choice "locks" you into a system, but that's only true if you start with a big investment. If you're just at the entry level, it's really not that hard to revisit your decision later. More important is to get a camera and get shooting rather than shopping.


Don't overbuy at first. You only need one lens, and not necessarily a super-zoom. You just need something that fits what you want to do. For basic landscapes, the "kit" zoom which comes with most cameras should do, especially if you get a decent tripod. For macro, you'll probably also eventually want a dedicated lens, but you can get amazing results with reversing rings for cheap.

Once you know more of what you're doing, you'll naturally know which lenses you want or need. For some people, having a whole arsenal of choices important, but in general, the advantage of interchangeable lenses is that we can each find what fits us best. (Read this.)


I strongly agree with Russell on this: surface-level easiness is only something you want if you're only going to use the camera once in a great while, and in that case I'd question whether you should buy a DSLR at all. Often, features which seem easy at first are in the way (useless at best, but worse annoying), and things which have a learning curve actually make day-to-day use much easier. See Are there disadvantages to a prosumer camera for a beginner, aside from cost? for more on this.


You don't want to choose a camera on the basis of "easiness"!!!
While some cameras have more complex than average dark magic hidden underneath, most modern DSLRs in your price range will have "Automatic" modes and scene selections and more that allow you to use them in a similar manner to "point & shoots" while you get accustomed to what they do. You can then explore less hand holding features as you get more comfortable with the camera.

A modern DSLR is not an overly complex thing to use until you start to push it towrds your limits and then towards its limits. You'll need to learn about Shutter speed, aperture ISO, while balance, focusing zones, exposure metering zones, depth of focus, noise, dynamic range, blown highlights and out of range blacks, limits of all these, effects of all these, interactions of all these, and ............... BUT not on "day one". As long as a camera has some simple automatic or semiautomatic modes, the rest will come.

Look at your total budget, get some feel for what lens or lenses you may want to start with. If buying new the "kit" lenses are often very low price entry points. Quality is usually modest by top-end lens standards BUT still usually very much better overall that a point and shoot's.

Brand wise - Nikon and Canon are the accepted leaders (or Canon & Nikon), but Sony lurks as the 600 pound gorilla ) eg they make Nikon's sensors, the micro-four-thirds & similar brigade have a number of makers (Olympus, Samsung, Sony, ...) and Pentax are still there. Unless you have special reasons to not do so, buying Nikon or Canon is a safe choice (I own neither). Read reviews at eg DPReview reviews.

  • @mattdm - yes. 4am :-). I was generalising BUT I've updated it :-). – Russell McMahon Jul 16 '12 at 16:06

My advice is to first identify which brand you want because that kind of locks you in lens-wise (all of your lenses should be compatible as you upgrade bodies, for the most part). Once you do that just get the cheapest one. The less features you have to confuse you the easier it will be to learn (crawl, walk, run). I've seen most people say that the camera body is the third most important thing in a picture, behind the photographer (first) and the lens (second). Once you play with whatever you get and finally learn what everything means and how they work together then you'll have a better idea of which body is right for you.

Alternatively you could get a T3i and be set for a long time if you're content with a cropped sensor. If video is important to you then make sure it will do video.

Since taking an interest in photography I don't hear "oooh, that picture has a lot of megapixels" nearly as much as I do things like "good composition" or "the lighting in that picture is great". At the end of the day, they're all tools and it's your skill with them that will get noticed.

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