I’ve been teaching my beginner DSLR camera class, the Everyday Life Workshop, for five years now, and as a result I receive a lot of emails and questions from parents about what is the best DSLR camera to buy. Last week, I took to my Facebook page with a live video where I covered some general information for those in the market to buy. Please feel free to visit my page over there to watch that video! I thought I would recap the info shared here so others may refer back to it in the future, as well.
If you’re a parent, there’s a good chance you’ve considered purchasing a nice camera in order to take better photos of your children and capture all of their cuteness and milestones to come. DSLR cameras have become increasingly popular in recent years, so you have probably seen friends and fellow parents everywhere using them. And for good reason; DSLR cameras allow you to be in full control of the settings your camera uses to create an image. The biggest advantage I can see, as a parent, to owning a DSLR camera is that you can use incredibly fast shutter speeds, which will freeze the motion of your always busy, fast-moving kiddos. If you’re frustrated that 56 of the 57 photos you take of your toddler with your iPhone comes out blurry, consider purchasing a DSLR! With that said, there are a lot of overwhelming options available and a DSLR camera is a big investment, so I’d like to help you through the decision making process with a few tips and things to consider.
Beginner DSLR cameras on the market today run from the upper $400 range to the lower $700 range. Keep that in mind when setting your budget.
2. Latest & greatest
Get the most updated gear you can within your budget at the time of your purchase. Technology is always changing and once you purchase something new it feels like it’s outdated a week later, but when you are in the market to buy, spend your money on the latest technology available in that moment.
3. Skip the camera kit.
You’ll notice that many stores offer a “kit” that includes the camera body, a couple of lenses and maybe some other accessories for a package price. Unfortunately, the lenses that typically come in these kits are not ideal for portrait photography. The lenses I see offered in the kits typically have a varying aperture, which means as you change the focal length of the lens (zoom in and out), the aperture changes. When taking photos of our children, we most often use low apertures which allows maximum light to enter our camera and also gives us that coveted “blurry background” everyone loves to achieve. If you understand aperture, shooting with one of these kit lenses is going to leave you very frustrated. Instead, I encourage you to purchase the camera body alone and then use the money you’ll save by not purchasing the kit to invest in a good lens. I always recommend starting out with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. It is a great focal length for both indoors and outdoors, has low aperture capabilities, and is a fairly inexpensive lens to get started with. You’ll be so much happier with your images from the get-go with this lens vs. any of those offered in the kits.
More information about the 50 mm f/1.8 lens and links to purchase can be found on the Everyday Life Workshop page.
4. Nikon vs Canon
I don’t think you can go wrong with either but here’s something to keep in mind when deciding between the two brands. Many of the beginner Nikon DSLRs do not have auto focus built in to the camera body. This means, that in order for your camera to function with auto focus, you must have it built into the lens you use. All Canon camera models have auto focus built into the camera body. While you may save a little money on a Nikon body upfront, you’ll be spending more on the lenses in order to have auto focus. Likewise, you may spend a little more on a Canon body upfront due to the auto focus being built in, but you may find the lenses to be a little less expensive. There is no right or wrong on which way you go, but keep this in mind when you purchase a body so you aren’t surprised to find that your new Nikon DSLR doesn’t have auto focus.
5. Current beginner models
Based on my current research today (03.20.18), the most current beginner DSLR models are the Nikon D3400, Nikon D5600, and the Canon Rebel T7i. Older models of each of these are still on the market (i.e. Nikon D3000 series – D3300, D3200, etc.) and may be less expensive. However, as I mentioned before, it is always best to go with the most updated technology that you can at the time of your purchase. In my opinion, the savings going with a later model isn’t significant enough to not purchase the latest.
6. Where to buy
Always buy from a trusted and reputable source. I purchase all of my gear from either B&H Photo Video or Adorama. Both have competitive prices and great customer service. You may find it cheaper somewhere else, but beware of the “too good to be true” low prices from random websites. You may actually be purchasing used or refurbished gear without knowing it. That’s not to say that used or refurbished gear is a no-go if that’s what you’re expecting and have done your research.
7. Learn how to use your camera
If you’re going to invest in a camera with so many capabilities, you owe it to yourself to learn how to use it! With the right knowledge, you can take a great quality image in nearly every setting with a DSLR camera. There’s endless information online that can guide you, but I cover it all in the Everyday Life Workshop. It’s a one day course where I break it down into easy to understand terms, spend hands-on time helping each individual learn their camera’s settings and everyone walks away not only knowing how to shoot in manual mode, but also with great take-home material to help them along after the workshop is over. All of the details about the Everyday Life Workshop, including registration info can be found over here.
I hope you’ll find that this information answers your questions and guides you in purchasing your DSLR camera. I’m always happy to take questions or comments so feel free to contact me, as well. And be sure to follow me on the Everyday Art Photography Facebook page where I’ll continue to share information and videos about cameras, future workshops, sessions and more!