Sunday, June 19, 2011

Some Recommendations on Buying your First DSLR

Dragonfly, taken at Warrior's Path State Park, Kingsport, TN
Details: Nikon D90 w/ Tamron 90mm macro lens, f/5.0, 1/400, ISO 500

I often get asked by students and blog readers for camera recommendations - especially for those just starting out. But because cameras and the technology change so fast (and because I don't have the funds to try every newly-introduced piece of equipment first-hand), advice is hard to give.  Thankfully, there are lots of resources out there -- I always recommend two things: 1) do your homework ( is my favorite source); and 2) buy from reputable dealers ( or  If a deal sounds too good to be true, it is.  Here are detailed reviews for the two most recent Nikon and Canon offerings that are intended for beginner/enthusiast DSLR camera owner:

Both are about $850, and include the standard 18-55mm kit lens. Here are two helpful side-by-side comparisons of these very similar cameras...
I don't think you could go wrong with either camera - there are strengths and weaknesses to each. I tend to lean towards the Nikon, and the reviews seem to agree with that. But it's very close - both are excellent cameras for those buying their first DSLR camera.  For me, I'd really like to get the new Nikon d7000, but just can't justify spending the money right now!

Eventually, to have a full camera setup that will give you versatility to shoot landscapes, portraits, and macros, you'll probably want/need the following...
1. Either camera body
2. 18-200mm lens w/ circular polarizer
3. Macro lens
4. Portrait lens - 50mm f/1.8
4. Dedicated flash
5. Extra battery & SD card
6. Camera bag
7. Tripod

It gets pricey real quick. The good thing is that you don't have to get everything right away.  But know that you're really buying into a system of lenses.  Camera bodies don't last forever, they eventually wear out in 3 to 5 years and plus, the technology changes rapidly.  But the lenses can last for decades if you treat them well - so it makes sense to always buy the best quality lenses you can afford.

My final point is to not get hung up on megapixels. The megapixel war was begun as an easy marketing tool to win over consumers who thought (logically) that more megapixels always meant better images. But that's not the case. The 6MP Nikon D40 takes far superior images to any 16MP compact point and shoot camera on the market today.  That's because more important than the number of megapixels is the size of the sensor, the quality of the pixels, the quality of the processor, and the quality of the lens used. For the average consumer who wants to occasionally print out a high resolution 8x10 or 11x14 print, an 8-10 megapixel camera is all they'll ever need.

Hope this helps someone out there!

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