What does it mean for a DSLR camera to be described as "body-only"? I found one advertised for sale that was described as such, and I don't know if I'll need to add a lens. I assume that it means either that the camera is used without attaching an external lens, or that the camera is sold without a lens but and will need to have one added.

If it needs no additional lens, like a regular digital camera, what is its focal length likely to be?

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    I think that a $2200 camera probably isn't the right place to start in photography. You could get a camera suitable to your skill level for a tenth that, and if you drop it in a puddle or decide you just aren't enjoying yourself, you'll feel a lot better. Nov 11, 2014 at 23:42

5 Answers 5


A body can capture an image without a lens, but it will most likely be shades of black/grey/white (depending of light source available and shutter speed).

No lens = no focal length = no "mm"

The reason why there are 'body-only' cameras are because camera bodies (and lesnes) get upgraded. So, if you have a lens that you really like, you can use it on a new camera body. Also, if a new lens comes out, you can use it on your body. But don't think that any lens with fit and/or work with it. There are different mounts and even same brands have different mounts.

While I agree that the Nikon D750 isn't the best camera to start with (considering your question), I'm not going to tell you what you should/shouldn't buy.

You can actually attempt pinhole photography but it's strongly suggested to purchase a lens.

As an example of pinhole photography, this was taken with a hole of about 100 micrometres (that is 0.1mm), taken with my OM-D:

enter image description here

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    The claim in the first sentence is incorrect. A camera without a lens will take a completely unfocused image but this doesn't mean that the colour information will be lost: the "image" will be the average of the colours coming in so, for example, a "photograph" of a blue sky with no lens would still be blue. Nov 11, 2014 at 17:12
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    If you are standing in an unlit room with a small window and hold a magnifying glass in front of your camera with no lens, you can take a photo of the outside. It is usually worse than a pinhole lens, but can be fun for a couple hours.
    – Phil
    Nov 11, 2014 at 18:03
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    A camera body without a lens is essentially a "pinhole" camera with a hole about two inches across.
    – Mark
    Nov 11, 2014 at 22:24
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    I think this answer is misleading. A camera body on its own will not take any kind of usable pictures, which is almost certainly what the OP was asking. While technically you can use it as a pinhole camera, that isn't likely to do much good to the asker. Nov 12, 2014 at 2:56
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    Rather than some random picture from a pinhole camera, how about a picture of what you'll actually see if you try to take a picture without a lens? Nov 12, 2014 at 23:36

You need a lens. It's probably possible to persuade the camera to expose the sensor without a lens on it, but nothing would be in any sort of focus whatsoever.

As an aside, if you're asking this kind of basic question about cameras, I'd question whether a full-frame SLR like the D750 is the right choice. You'll end up spending a lot more on your equipment (potentially 3x as much) for a relatively small change in the abilities of the system.

  • hmm, I understand that. Could you please ellaborate what you meant by "a lot more"? Exactly on what things? And what major difference are there between D5300 and D750? Nov 11, 2014 at 11:33
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    I agree very much with the sentiment here. An expensive camera is only worthwhile if you know how to use it and the level of knowledge implicit from the question here is far from what is needed to make an expensive camera worthwhile. I would recommend learning a lot more about photography before spending a lot of money on a camera. You can't become a great photographer just by buying a great camera. Nov 11, 2014 at 17:10
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    @BBking: No, Stack Exchange is for questions and their answers, and this is a responsible part of the answer. These people do know what's better for someone else, because they are experts, and consulting experts is what Stack Exchange is for. Nov 12, 2014 at 12:22
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    @CameronJackson, if you're just starting out now with SLR cameras, then you might find that the features you end up wanting aren't the ones you've got. It'll take a bit of time and experience for you to work out what your preferences are, and what features you're looking for. So if you just get this camera now then you might find in a while that you wish you'd spent the money differently. Although if this is a second-hand camera body then you might as well buy it now, and then you can sell it later for about the same price (so long as you don't overpay or damage it) and buy something different
    – A E
    Nov 12, 2014 at 12:40
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    Folks - there are a number of interesting questions here (partially but not completely covered by the well-linked What should I look for when shopping for my first DSLR?), but comments on this answer aren't the place for it. Ask a new question or take it to chat.
    – Philip Kendall
    Nov 12, 2014 at 13:00

Yes, it's possible to capture some kind of images without a lens, but it's not useful.

It's like a bike without tires. It's possible to use it to transport yourself some distance, but it's not anything that you would call riding a bike.

  • Why the downvote? If you don't explain what it is that you think is wrong, it can't improve the answer.
    – Guffa
    Nov 14, 2014 at 0:04

Yes, you do need a lens. But for starting out, a simple, cheap one will do - and there is a healthy market for used lenses. The best choices would be either

  • a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, often called "nifty fifty" because for technical reasons it is a very simple lens design that can be made very cheaply while still providing great quality. As a prime lens it has no zoom, but makes up for it with its large aperture that shines in low light conditions. It can be found used for under $100.
  • an 18-55mm kit lens - "kit lens" means it's one that is usually sold with a body, which means it's produced in very high numbers and gives good value for its (low) price. Unfortunately, full frame cameras like the D570 need FX lenses, and there aren't any really cheap FX kit lenses.
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    You're not going to find an 18-55 for a D750.
    – Philip Kendall
    Nov 11, 2014 at 13:45
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    cheap lenses on expensive camera bodies is an amazingly bad choice. Like buying an expensive stereo receiver and pumping all teh output through $10 speakers. Nov 11, 2014 at 23:48
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    @The_traveler: That's elitist nonsense. Cheap lenses don't automatically have bad quality. Specifically, 50mm primes can be cheap and good because they're very easy to build. And many of the advantages of a more expensive body don't require a great lens to make use of either. Nov 12, 2014 at 9:20
  • @The_traveler's recommendation of a fixed 50mm 1.8 lens is a very good one. You typically get much better quality optics for the money than you would with a zoom lens. A 1.8 won't be too expensive - and I actually prefer my 1.8 to my 1.4 for most things.
    – A E
    Nov 12, 2014 at 12:42

I'm gonna agree with all the answers before. Technicly it's possible to capture images without a lens but they're gonna be so blurry cause you can't control how to light hits the sensor.

My addition to the previous answers here is that you should not even try to take a picture without a lens installed. If you do so, the sensor will be exposed to any kind of dirt or dust that might be in the atmosphere. As a result, once you finally get the lens, you might not be able to get nice images.

The solution here is simple, you just clean the sensor, but I assume that as a beginner you don't know how to do it, and damaging the sensor is the last thing that you want to happen to your camera.

  • Welcome to StackExchange. You might like to consider adding your thoughts as a comment to an existing answer if the main thrust of your entry is really only to agree with other answers. That may be the reason your answer has been downvoted.
    – Conor Boyd
    Nov 12, 2014 at 21:14
  • Hello and thanks for your interest. Well I just wanted to add my opinion on the subject. My reputation didn't allow me to add comments, that's why i added an answer. I just wanted to make clear to the questioner that dust and scratches in the sensor could be fatal for the camera. Something that was not mentioned before from anyone. Too bad I got downvoted, can't understand the hate when someone offers his help.
    – Chris K
    Nov 12, 2014 at 22:05
  • No hate from me. Don't take it personally. The voting is purely intended to help the best answers bubble up. Regarding my suggestion re commenting, I had forgotten that one needs a little reputation before commenting on other's answers, although maybe you have enough reputation to comment on the question itself?
    – Conor Boyd
    Nov 13, 2014 at 0:42
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    @ConorBoyd: You can always comment on your own questions/answers, and on answers to your own questions, but otherwise it requires 50 rep. You can vote up with just 15 rep, though, which is what you should do if you have nothing substantial to add to earlier answers. That said, Chris, your answer does have something new in it, so here, have an upvote. :-) Nov 13, 2014 at 12:22
  • Once again, thank you very much both of you for you interest. Yes I'll agree with @IlmariKaronen that's how the pointing system works. Once I posted this answer, my reputation was 1, and I was unable to do anything more than post an answer. I know it's nothing personal from both of you, as you're trying to help me. There are rules that we all have to follow. Just 20 more reputation and I'll be able to do almost anything. And thanks for the upvote!
    – Chris K
    Nov 13, 2014 at 12:46

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