Castle Geyser Yellowstone

What is the Best DSLR Camera for Beginners?

I am ready to move from my compact camera to my first DSLR. Which camera should I get? What is the best DSLR camera for a beginner like me? Is Canon better than Nikon? What should I consider before buying a camera?

I get these questions all the time. And I understand, I was in the same situation many years ago. The only thing I knew was that I wanted a DSLR camera and the brand had to be Canon. Not because I believed that Canon was better than Nikon or other brands. I just had been using Canon for a long time and I was familiar with the brand.

While I have to admit that I favor Canon, I not am trying to influence you on which brand to get. Canon and Nikon, are the most popular brands of DSLR cameras, but there are other fine brands out there, like Olympus, Sigma and Sony for example. You can start by checking out Canon Rebel T3i and Nikon D3200, probably the best and most popular DSLR cameras for beginners.

Here are few things you may want to consider before making the buying decision.

1. Sensor size

There are two general sizes of sensors: full frame and APS-C (Advance Photo System type C). Full frame sensors are about the same size as a 35mm film frame. APS-C sensors are smaller and they are also known as crop sensors. The crop factor varies, but it’s around 1.5x. As an example, if you are using a 50mm prime lens it will became a 75mm lens when used with these cameras (50mmx1.5 crop factor). If you are looking for a first DSLR, you don’t need to spend the money on a full frame. They tend to be very expensive. Go with an APS-C sensor.

2. Resolution

When I got my first digital camera, I think it had a resolution of 6 or 8 megapixels. I was very excited until I heard that other people had up to 12 megapixels and I was so jealous. The truth is, just like a better camera doesn’t mean better photos, the same is true for megapixels. Most cameras today have way more than 12 megapixels. So I would say 14-18 megapixels will be more than enough.

3. Autofocus points

Some cameras have a 9 point system, while others have 11 or even 45 points. I know this is very important for some photographers, but nor for me. I prefer to use the center point most of time anyway. Occasionally I would use one of the side points but I never let the camera decide for me which focus points to use. Just stick with the center one and usually you’ll be fine. You can read more about focus points here.

4. ISO

Cameras today offer ISOs up to something as crazy as 12,000 or more. My Mark II does a decent job at higher ISOs, but to be honest, I never increase it to more than 2000. I will write a more detailed blog about ISO in the next few weeks. So if you are not familiar with it, don’t worry. It should not be a decisive factor in purchasing the camera.

5. Frames per second

Typically you want to be able to shoot at least 4 frames per second (fps). If you are into sports and you like shooting a lot of action, I suggest you look for at least 6 fps.

As I mentioned in an older post, a better camera does not guarantee great pictures. In my opinion, the lenses are far more important and of course you, the photographer. Whether you go for Canon, Nikon or any other brands, it doesn’t really matter. Just go to a store and play with them. See which one you like best. Don’t buy the most expensive camera as your first DSLR. You can always upgrade later. I typically keep a camera for a few years, sell it and buy a new one. I started with the entry level Canon Rebel and I moved up to a full frame DSLR over 5 years. In fact, I bought my first DSLR camera a few years ago, right before a trip to Yellowstone. The picture in this post is one my first shots with that camera.

Have fun shopping!

For more photography tips and ideas, check out my latest photography book, Picture (Im)perfect Photographynow available at Amazon.

One Response to “What is the Best DSLR Camera for Beginners?”

  1. David | December 9, 2013 at 10:18 AM #

    I’m deciding between Canon T5i or Nikon 5200. The 5200 I can get a Camera Bundle with 18-55mm VR Lens, 55-200mm, DSLR Bag, Wifi Adapter, and 16GB SDHC Card. Should I forego the bundle and get a body with better lenses? This is my first DSLR and for now will be for non professional uses. All feed back is welcome and apprecited.

    Thank You

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