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February 8th 2012 9:47 pm

DSLR Advice (First Time Buyer)

Hey guys, I'm looking to purchase a mid-range to high-end DSLR, and I know absolutely nothing about the cameras, brands, or photography itself. Let me make this clear though, I will learn. I don't do anything halfway, so please don't be concerned about how advanced the devices may be, or how high the learning curve is.

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!

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I was in your position a few months ago and had similar questions. I got a lot of good responses from users here gdgt.com­/question­/why­-did­-you­-choose­-canon­-nikon­-o... and here gdgt.com­/question­/what­-features­-and­-specs­-do­-you­-l...

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.
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I highly recommend the Canon T3i. It has a solid body, takes great images/video, flip out screen, good viewfinder, etc. etc. Plus the body is only $630 on Amazon or $710 for the 18-55mm lens kit so you'd be saving $300 or so which you could then spend on lenses! Hope that helps.
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I concur with andrewkalies, With $1000 you'll be able to buy the T3i (with or without the kit lens) and invest in a decent piece of glass. The 60D body goes for about just under $1000 and is essentially the T3i with some added functionality and would be considered more of a mid-range where as the T3i is considered entry-level. As for brands, I just go with which company makes the best product to fit my needs and for quite some time that's been Canon. I've recently been impressed by Nikon's new higher end cameras, but now I'm likely never going to buy anything from them, since I already have Canon glass(unless I become rich... which is the goal right?).
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Most of the Nikon vs. Canon rivalry is all personal preference. That being said, I would recommend going into a store, try out their displays first, before you make your brand choice. I do like the Canons better, I think the colors look more real and I find the interface to be more intuitive, but you can decide that for yourself.

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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It might help to know where you're coming from and what you're looking for in a camera to start. Of course if you're really starting from a blank slate, then I guess you can buy something and figure out of it is what you want or not. For the $1000 you'd probably be looking at a lower-end/beginner DSLR potentially with another lens. Many folks have written about the Canon T3i/600D; I went with the Nikon D5100 which is the Nikon counterpart. The D7000 costs more, but has more features. Others have mentioned the importance of going to handle the camera and I agree with that. I was initially going to buy the Canon but after going to the store and playing with them, I wasn't really impressed. The Nikon just felt better. I ended up ordering a combo/deal rebate from Amazon and getting the kit lens (18-55) along with its bigger brother zoom (55-200). I ended up adding in the 35mm f/1.8 (a fast "normal" lens for use inside when it is darker) to my standard package and it is presently my favorite lens.

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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