Beginner DSLR Cameras
Canon T3i – Here's Why:
Digital single lens reflex, or DSLR, cameras are becoming a more and more common camera in everyday life. Their low price and versatility makes it very appealing to professionals, enthusiasts and anyone wanting to capture video or still images. Having the ability to swap out the lenses allow this wide spectrum of versatility able to adjust to your needs. There is a lens for every kind of photography or videography that you can think of. It is a good starting point to do research on cameras before you spend that much money. Hopefully, by the end of this page, I will have given you the right information so you can start capturing photos already! I'll also leave you with some resources at the end for post processing the images (if you're into that kind of thing).
DSLR cameras come in two parts - the body, and the lens. The whole concept behind a digital single lens reflex camera is that its lenses are replaceable and interchangeable. To this note, you will have one body and usually many lenses (which you can keep if you ever decide to upgrade the body). Because the camera body is relatively cheaper than most lenses, many people usually focus less on the body and more on the lenses. It's better to have a (relatively) bad camera body and a (relatively) good lens if you are wondering how to divvy up your assets.
The task of photography for you, the novice, might be a little daunting at first sight. Whether you're an aspiring professional, a Mom wanting to capture memories, or just a newbie who wants to get into the hobby, there are two things you will need to start: a camera body and a lens.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II SLR Lens
DSLR Camera Bodies
Canon vs Nikon
The age old question - which company to go with?
In the end, it doesn't matter what company you choose to give your money to. Although people argue about it a lot, they are pretty similar in technology and support. The big difference in the two companies are the layout of the buttons on the camera, the functionalities they present, and that's about it. As an example of functionality differences, I've noticed that there are more Nikon cameras that come with a built in intervalometer, while Canon cameras usually don't. However, this is a small detail seeing as you can download a third party hardware update so that your Canon camera can have the intervalometer built in by using Magic Lantern. Magic Lantern has many more functionality upgrades like HDR photography, videography and in the near future, they will be able to unlock RAW picture in smaller cameras. All this means is that each image, or frame (for video), has more data information to be manipulated. I, being the biased buyer that I am, will tell you to go with Canon because they are, from my perspective, a more popular brand. That's the main reason.
The Canon T3i is among the bodies that I find myself recommending most and I see many other professionals recommend to beginner photographers and videographers. Ask anyone who is 20 years or older how much a camera that offers these quality images would cost. Unless they are familiar with the hobby, they might assume many thousands of dollars because it is getting very close to reaching the quality of professional videos and movies. This camera is only $550. It shoots 720p at 60 frames per second (so you can do slow motion video) or 1080p (for super high quality video). For photography, this camera shoots very high resolution images (you can lower the setting to save memory on your SD card) of amazing quality that is used by professional photographers around the world.
Why T3i and not T4i or T5i?
There's a simple answer to this question. When the newer versions of this camera series came out, it dropped the price of the T3i dramatically. Also, the latter versions didn't add much to the table; only a touchscreen and autofocus feature that you probably wouldn't use much anyway. You may be asking yourself, then why not buy the T2i? I'm not saying this model is a bad one, but I will tell you the swivel screen on the T3i is considered by many, worth the upgrade. Also, the T2i is (as of the post date on this page), more expensive! That should be enough to steer you away from buying that one, haha.
Lenses To Start Out With
There are two main lenses that pops to everyone's mind when they think of their first notable lenses for their camera: The Canon 18-55mm and the Canon 50mm lenses. The 18-55mm (known as the kit lens because it usually comes in a 'package deal' when you buy a camera body) and the 50mm (a prime lens, meaning it doesn't zoom) are so popular because they are cheap, show great quality, and are sold everywhere.
The 18-55mm lens is partly famous because it's commonly sold with the Canon bodies as a 'package deal' and partly because it's a decent zoom lens. Most zoom lenses are pretty expensive and out of the price range the beginner photographer is willing to spend. The title of each lens can be a bit confusing at first glance, but really it's not that troubling.
Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II SLR Lens (Kit Lens)
The 18-55mm kit lens is a decent lens for beginners. It's a zoom lens with OK quality, but it's not perfect or very professional looking. Because of it's variable zoom, the image given isn't as clear as one you might get from the 50mm. That's not to say it gives a bad image; it just requires more care. The f stop is the "f/3.5-5.6" signifies the lowest aperture it will go to. This is often referred to how much light it lets into the camera's image sensor. The f stop number indicates that it will let in more light at it's smallest aperture setting. Relative to more expensive lenses (or the nifty 50), this lens doesn't let in as much light so it wouldn't be recommended for low lit situations. But for an everyday lens, this lens is good for a lot of things (which is why Canon ties it with many camera bodies for peoples' first lens).
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens (Nifty 50)
The 50mm lens, also known as the nifty fifty, is one of the best lenses you will ever purchase (for ~$100 on Amazon). It is made of plastic, so it has a plastic feel and it might be considered a 'cheap build' in comparison to other lenses (but remember - only around $100!). It has a fixed focal length so it can't zoom, but most photographers will tell you it's good practice to walk to where you want to go instead of zoom in because prime lenses (doesn't zoom) lenses give a much more crisp picture than many zoom lenses of a similar price range. The f stop on this lens goes down to 1.8, meaning it is pretty good in low light situations. The low aperture setting also gives it the shallow depth of field that many viewers find attractive. This lens is a must buy for anyone that owns a DSLR camera (unless you really like spending money).
For more on what lens you should get, check out my in-depth guide on the entry-level lens spectrum.
Best Bang For Your Buck
By far, the best camera for you money, would currently be the Canon T3i if you're just starting out. Also consider that I have only owned two DSLRs but I've done a lot of research and the T3i is the one I love. At the same time, I have seen many people across the internet use and recommend this cheap camera. Its swivel screen helps for video and sometimes even photos when it's hard to peer through the viewfinder. The versatility between video and photo is of great quality and professionalism. Even if you want one of these for a hobby, it's a great purchase for beginner photographers because it's relatively cheap (about $650 with a lens [the 18-55mm kit lens]), the quality perceived by the camera can increase with your budget (by buying better lenses) and it's highly voted by 700+ people on Amazon. I hope this information was enough to give you the confidence to get you the gear to help you start your hobby.
Example Video From The Canon T3i
Timelapse With The Canon T3i
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Shyam Singh on August 11, 2020:
Thanks for sharing the amazing content . I will also share with my friends . Great content. Thanks a lot.
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Krimba on January 23, 2020:
I have a canon 70d -
whenever I try to do video -
it has a clicking sound - any help?
Claire on January 27, 2016:
Hi! I'm 18 and I want to have a DSLR but I don't know what to pick coz I'm just a beginner but I do love taking pictures and I'm only using my Iphone 5s phone. So... I think Canon T3I is good because of your review but I'm still thinking if I'll choose this one or not.
MediaUnmasked (author) on May 16, 2015:
Amanda, it's hard to tell how sharp the image is on the viewfinder, so maybe put it on your computer to take a second look before printing it out.
Amanda on May 15, 2015:
How come the pictures I've taken looks so clear in the camera? But when it's develop , it's not clear
MediaUnmasked (author) on August 12, 2013:
A great, cheap lens that works well in low light is the 50mm I mentioned above. Consider if the lense would allow for a wide aperture, so a lens with an f-number of 2.8, for zoom, is great, but expensive (~$1000-2000+). Also, you can change the ISO to a higher number to help lighten up the photo (not too high though, it adds grain). I would recommend the nifty 50 (50 mm - max aperture of 1.8) lens, depending on how far you are in the concert. If you're not looking to spend a fortune and still want the zoom aspect, the Canon 55-250mm lens is decent, with a maximum aperture of 4-5.6 (depending on amount of zoom) at a price of ~$265 (or a lot less if you're buying the body too from Amazon). Check out this page to see a more in-depth look at lenses I mentioned and recommend: http://goo.gl/RgZUQE
AJLake on August 11, 2013:
What lens would you recommend for low light settings like rock concerts, etc? I'll be side stage and far away.
asu on August 11, 2013:
wat is the cost
Elizabeth Parker from Las Vegas, NV on June 16, 2013:
I have the T3 and I love that one but one of these days I'm looking to upgrade. Good advice in this hub and nice explanation of the lenses. I agree- the 50mm is a must have- it's my favorite lens so far. voted up!