DSLR Advice (First Time Buyer)
That said, what makes the difference when you folks purchase a camera? Are there reasons behind brand loyalties in this sector? How about lens ecosystems, how important are those? Price range is roughly 1000$ but will change according to what I learn from you folks.
Thanks so much!
The biggest thing I took away from this was to go handle the cameras as much as possible before purchase. Everyone looks for different qualities in a camera build so you really need to pick one up. A lot of people told me Canon's felt small but they felt nicer in my hand than a Nikon did. Either entry level DSLR will work fine just need to get a sense and feel. I ended up going with the T2i/550D over the T3i/600D because the difference between the two was minimal so I opted for the lower cost.
I also recommend either the Canon T2i or T3i. The main difference between them is that the T2i doesn't have the flip-out screen whereas the T3i does. If that doesn't matter to you, go with the T2i and save a little money that you could spend on the 50mm f1.8 lens!
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I'm a bit surprised that this has really turned into the old standard Canon v Nikon debate. While I'm on the Nikon side of things there are other options out there these days. Notably Sony who's A77 does make me drool a little (it's out of your price range though). Sony makes the sensors for the Nikon's so they're similar performance wise. Less lenses though. If you're willing to stray outside of SLRs, there are some interesting mirrorless options as well. I actually have a Micro 43 Panasonic camera which is far more pocketable than the DSLR. It comes with me everywhere. The only photo I have hanging on my wall actually came from it. Sony has the NEX series of mirrorless and there are other players there. Although for mirrorless I'd go with M43 due to the wide selection of lenses (and the lenses are generally smaller than the DSLR lenses). The M43 does not yet match DSLRs in low light performance but they're getting there.
The bottom line; go play with them in a store. Visit a photography meet up and talk to people who use cameras. Maybe rent camera for a test drive.
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