Buying a DSLR can be overwhelming. So many options. So many brands. What do you choose? As a Baton Rouge LA newborn photographer, I’ve been through a few DSLRs myself. I even jumped brands. Then I jumped right back. Here are a few things I learned along the way.
Should I buy a starter kit?
First and foremost, I think the most important thing I learned when buying a DSLR was DON’T BUY A DSLR STARTER KIT. I know they seem appealing because they usually include one or two lenses. It seems like a one and done. The reason I’m against the starter kits is that I’m not a fan of kit lenses. Now don’t get me wrong, a good photographer can create beautiful photos from any lens. But I feel like kit lenses are very limiting. You want those pretty blurry backgrounds (known as bokeh)? It’s not as easy to get that with kit lenses. They typically have higher apertures and the aperture usually is dependent on the how far you are zoomed in or out.
Quick camera lesson: What’s “aperture” you might ask? Aperture is the opening in the lens where light passes through. The lower the aperture, the more light. Higher apertures let in less light. Aperture effects depth of field (how clear or blurry the area is behind your subject). There are other factors when it comes to getting that pretty blurry background, but aperture is a very important factor.
So what do I recommend instead?
I recommend you buy the camera body and the 50 mm 1.8, otherwise known as the nifty fifty. This lens is a prime lens (it doesn’t zoom in or out). The low aperture allows for lots of light to come into the camera. It’s a good basic lens to learn with and it’s one of the cheaper lenses at about $100-200 depending on the brand.
So now which brand do you pick? This is really personal preference. The entry level DSLRs are all about the same when it comes to features. The two biggest and most well known brands are Canon and Nikon. Sony is also making some waves with their DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. For most people, it’s between Canon and Nikon. Personally I use Nikon. But I recommend going to a camera shop or anywhere that carrier DSLRs so you can pick one up and really get a feel for it. You should look at the button placement to see how comfortable it is for you to use.
So you’ve picked a brand, but which model?
Both Canon and Nikon have entry level consumer DSLR lines. For Canon, it’s the Rebel series. For Nikon there’s the 3000 and the 5000 series. I personally started with a Nikon d3200. That was a few years ago and so there have been updates and new models.
Should you buy new, refurbished, or used?
There are pros and cons to whichever way you choose to buy your DSLR. If you buy new, you don’t have to guess at what that camera’s been through. The shutter count will be at zero. DSLRs stutters have a limit and eventually need to be replaced. If you’re just taking personal photos, it probably won’t be as soon as if you are a pro going out on regular photoshoot. Buying new means you get a warranty. Buying refurbished is another option. Factory refurbished DSLRs are are a little cheaper than new. These are cameras that have been returned to the manufacturer. They’ve been cleaned, any defective parts fixed, and tested. The up side is it’s not as expensive. The downside is you have no idea why it was returned. Refurbished camera usually come with a limited warranty, usually 60-90 days. Used cameras are usually the cheapest. But it really depends on how old the camera is, the shutter count, and the wear and tear on the DSLR. With used it’s good to ask lots of questions and get a good look at the whole camera. If buying online, ask for photos from all angles. Again with used you have no idea what it’s been through. There is no warranty.
My advice on what condition you should buy your DSLR depends on what your future plans are. Do you think you’ll keep this as your only DSLR until it eventually dies? If so, buy whichever condition you choose and your wallet allows. Do you plan to upgrade in the next few years? I’d go with either refurbished or used. I personally have bought both new and refurbished with no complaints.
I really hope this has helped out even just a little when shopping for a starter DSLR. I know it can be confusing with all the things to think about before buying. If you’re looking for DSLR reviews, I recommend heading over to kenrockwell.com and reading the reviews. He has the specs, sample photos, and a review for tons of DSLRs.
Baton Rouge LA posed newborn photographer, Mariko Searing, specializes in newborns through through the first year and serves the greater Baton Rouge area. IF you would like more any questions or more information, please email me at [email protected]