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ASK ANYTHING | WHAT CAMERA SHOULD I BUY? Searching for your first "Fancy Camera"

One of the questions I get asked most frequently from aspiring photographers or moms is what to be looking for if they are interested in getting a DSLR camera- so I figured I would break down all the important details here!  Now, truth time:  I am not a super technical learner OR teacher, so I’m keeping it simple for ‘ya: I’m sharing basic facts– and want to include that of course, these are just my opinions!  They are not right for everyone, but rooted in my experiences over the last 9 years.

First, I want to take a quick second to explain the main difference between point-and-shoot cameras and DSLR/mirrorless “fancy cameras” in case you are totally new to it all.  DSLR cameras use a mirror system to send light into the camera, and then convert to digital files.  A mirrorless camera does that without the mirror. Both use separate lenses, and are definitely created for people who want to venture into the world of learning more about creative, beautiful photography.  There are also so many great point-and-shoot options if you just want to take good pictures and not go much further, and they are much cheaper! But if you want to take a deeper dive with truly scroll0-stopping photos, there is nothing that will give you better images than a DSLR or mirrorless camera!  If you want to dive deeper into the differences between those two types of fancy cameras, click HERE.

Because I’m a Canon girl, I tend to recommend Canon cameras.  I started on Nikon, switched to canon, and it is a better fit for me (I think they have the best service and products out there –and a lower price point for some great hobby lenses)!  However- Nikon has some wonderful entry options as well!

Newest Entry Level DSLR RECOMMENDATION

For Canon, the EOS Rebel series is the DSLR entry level series, and the most recent release is the EOS Rebel T8i (also called the 850d).   I highly recommend this camera if you want a traditional DSLR camera with super trusted and tested technology.  This camera has the latest and best technology that Canon’s entry level cameras can offer!

MOST ECONOMICAL RECOMMENDATION

The Canon EOS Rebel T7 is the last model released before the T8, and is much more budget-friendly.  It is a great place to start if it matches your budget better!

MY VERY TOP RECOMMENDATION

If you want to spend a little more for a camera type that will one day be the mainstream, you can go mirrorless with the Canon RP (this is my top recommendation if you can afford it).   I think that everything is moving towards mirrorless long term, and this is a GREAT camera to start with, and a significant upgrade in many ways from the previously mentioned 2 cameras.

After the specific camera body, it gets very tricky. If you look online (at a place like amazon, or B&H photo, which are the main 2 places I order equipment from), camera bodies are often sold in “kits”. They either come with one “kit lenses” (which is hobby level zoom lens) and a LOT of accessories, most of which you will never use. You definitely want a few good memory cards, but past that most of the accessories that come in the kits are off brand and not very useful.

So I generally recommend just going with the body and a kit lens. Here is the tough part though…lenses really come in 3 varieties:
1). Kit lenses. They all zoom, they are cheaper, and the quality of glass isn’t as great as the other options here- which is why they are cheaper.  But, you can only get a little of that blurry background look with these lenses- which is usually what most people want a “fancy camera” for.  However, most people want a zoom lens or 2 –and these are the most economical options for that for a hobbyist.
2). Non professional prime lenses. Prime lenses do NOT zoom- they have a fixed focal length. But because of that, there is a HUGE difference in the quality of glass used to make the lens, and therefore what type of images you can get with a prime lens. I also think they aid in creativity- because you can’t just sit in one spot and zoom! I like to shoot on all prime lenses.  If you want to read more about the best lens I think a new DSLR owner can have and why, I wrote about it here!

3). Professional lenses. These are usually MUCH more expensive, and obviously not likely something a hobby photographer would be looking at.  But there ARE professional lenses that perform much better than the kit lenses!  There are a few under $1000 that are my next recommendations after the lens referenced in the above blog post.

When people ask me this question and are JUST wanting to capture their kids at home or other close, still objects I always recommend getting the 50mm prime lens even over the kit lenses.  However, if you are wanting to use it for travel, etc then you probably WANT a kit zoom lens. They generally come with either an 18-55mm lens or a 75-300mm lens, and the 18-55 is much wider (less zoomed in- good for indoors) and the other is much more of a zoom (good for outdoors). Some people get both and I definitely see why. If you are looking for a more expensive and much better zoom lens to start with, the 24-105mm is wonderful.   That being said it is sometimes REALLY hard to find camera bodies without a kit lens (they often only sell together)- so you just need to think about which you would use more.  The 50mm I talked about above is a couple hundred dollars and SO worth it, and was the first serious game changer in my own photography!

So in the end, the answer to this question is very complex. I recommend the canon t7, t8i, or RP (all depending on what your price point is).  Remember- you can always add on later as your budget allows! But I hear from a lot of my students is that they just aren’t thrilled with the quality of images they are getting with those kit lenses- and once they buy the 50mm I highly recommend, and start to gain control of their settings and venture into some manual settings, things change very quickly!

If you are looking to learn how to actually USE your camera gear, I’m your girl– just email me at jill@jillgum.com and I can help with the right first steps for you!

*The links are affiliate links through amazon, which means I get a tiny commission on purchases made through these links. It doesn’t change your cost, but gives me a little “thank you” for some of the free education on this blog!

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  1. This is a great post for people thinking about their first DSLR! My sister was just asking about an entry level Canon camera and as I shoot Nikon I didn’t have a ready recommendation, I’ll have to send her here!

  2. Stefani says:

    Great advice, thank you for sharing!

  3. Great post for newbies!

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I'm Jill, a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Chicago and Central Illinois, and available world wide! I'm also a photography educator, wife to my favorite person on the planet, mama to 3 amazing kids and an energetic Aussie, and obsessed with statement jewelry and all desserts (especially fruit pies!). 

As a past high school teacher, I have a major heart for education. After going full time in my business, I have built a business I love that gives me an almost 6 figure salary and allows me to be home part time with my kids.  I dream for you to run a business that enhances your life and lights you up, and I believe I can help you learn how to do it with a little hustle and a lot of heart!

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Hello Friend!

Are you a Photographer?

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You're in the right place!  As a past high school teacher, educating others is my life's work and a HUGE part of my business!  I have been teaching moms and hobbyists how to use their camera from first purchasing it all the way to coaching them into businesses of their own, and I'd love to help you as well, wherever you are (and whatever camera you have!).

I'm so glad you are here!  Teaching Photographers and other small business owners how to run more joyful, successful, and profitable businesses is one of my favorite parts of my business!  I specialize in working with photographers to make their goals a reality (or figure out what their goals should be in the first place!).  

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