Really? I’m not sure. I’m not as familiar with the specifications of entry-level DLSR’s as I am with the more advanced models. Gotta keep up with what I’m lusting for, right? But photographers are asked this question a lot so I’ll put my best guess out there. My overall recommendation is a Canon Rebel with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. That would get you started. Most photographers will recommend that you do your homework on lenses and buy the body only with a lens that will meet your needs. I can only speak to the Canon brand. I’ve never even touched a Nikon. Just the brand I picked when I bought my first camera. I have a Nikon friend looking into the starter models & can hopefully share that soon! So let’s talk bodies first.
Canon has a huge selection of cameras in their Rebel line but when I look at the specifications and reviews, I don’t see much difference. I think it comes down to whether or not the newest technology has proved to perform better than the previous model. Their newest model is the Canon Rebel t3i which runs $850.00. I’m not sure how it outdoes the previous Canon Rebel t2i, listed for $699.00. Both appear to have very powerful movie modes which, as a consumer, I’d rather not pay for. There doesn’t seem to be a high-end Rebel without HD video though so let’s just look at it as a bonus. So see how scientifically I come to my recommendation? The Canon t2i for camera body.
Now for lenses, I mentioned a 50mm lens. This is referred to as the “nifty fifty”. The Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens runs $125.00. It is a “prime” lens which means it does not zoom. When put on a Rebel, it is significantly closer than what the human eye sees which means when you put the camera up to your eye, your subject will appear closer than to the naked eye. It will seem zoomed in a little. I loved my nifty fifty mucho. But I eventually felt like it was just too “close” for shooting my kids inside. Focal length aside, one of the key advantages to the nifty fifty is the “f/1.8”. The “f/” tells us that it’s referring to aperture. Aperture is a techy term. It determines how much light the shutter lets in by opening a lot or a little. The nifty fifty can open a lot when set to the lowest number, f/1.8. This renders a really blurry background and small amount of area in focus. This makes it great for shooting semi-close shots indoors.
If you’re ready to invest in a great, versatile lens, I strongly recommend the Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 lens which is listed for $498.75 (which is why I used the word “invest” on this one). The “28-75” part tells us that it’s a zoom. It goes from 28mm to 75mm; putting the 50mm of the previous lens mentioned right in the middle. The “f/2.8” part tells us that the aperture opens up to 2.8 which isn’t as wide as the 1.8 of the nifty fifty but still pretty wide. The fact that it just says “2.8” instead of a range like “3.5-5.6” tells us that the widest aperture is 2.8 whether is zoomed out to 28mm or zoomed in to 75mm. This is a “fixed aperture” lens.
Most kit lenses are “variable aperture”. The aperture changes as you zoom. This can be confusing when you are learning because as you’re learning to set all of your numbers and settings just right, the lens is changing one of your variables. When shopping, you’ll see the t2i in a kit with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens for $849.00 which leads you to believe that you’re getting a sweet lens for $150.00. I’m not saying the 18-55 is worthless but I recommend the nifty fifty over it any day if your purposes are learning to use your DLSR to shoot your kids.
I’m also asked what I shoot with. I have a Canon 5D MarkII. I upgraded to this camera solely because of it’s amazing performance in low-light situations. I knew that to do the type of lifestyle photography I wanted to do, I needed a camera that would perform well inside client’s homes. My primary lens is the Canon 50mm f/1.4. Wait, did you catch how I said I felt like my 50mm was too close? The reason for that is that camera I have now is a “full frame” sensor which affects focal length. 50mm on this camera isn’t as close at 50mm on a Rebel or other “cropped” sensor camera.
Oh my word. All this jibber jabber without pictures is killing me. Is it you? Let’s look at something pretty:
Aww. That’s Ellie in the Eddy Street Garage the day of her birthday lunch.
Okay, so a few more things to throw out there while I have you overwhelmed and choking at the thought of dropping $1K on camera equipment you don’t know how to use.
The next step up in camera bodies from the Rebel line is the Canon 60D for $1099.00. Once you get into this line, the bodies are much bigger. The buttons are situated with the manual shooter in mind, designed to be adjusted on the fly with the camera to your face. It also has HD video. It performs at a higher level but not to the extent that I recommend spending the extra money on it.
The next step up; the step right before the camera I shoot with is the Canon 7D for $1860.00. It’s still a cropped sensor but it’s fast. It handles low-light situations well but not as well as a full-frame camera. I seriously considered a 7D when I upgraded from my 40D. The camera I have now isn’t as fast as a 40D-60D (60D is the new version of my 40D) and definitely not as fast as a 7D. Ouch. Need something pretty again after that price tag?
I know, right? I don’t do a lot of seniors but when I do, I really enjoy it. It’s so fun to have a cooperative subject for a change. Plus she’s so pretty and has hair like fire. I looked forward her session for weeks just because of her beautiful hair.
Anyway. So that’s an overview. My recommendations and the options. Please, when you go to buy yourself a camera (or make a wishlist for someone else to buy you a camera), do the homework. Shop. Compare. Educate yourself. I linked to amazon.com for comparison’s sake but B&H Camera & Adorama are also very reputable sources. A friend of mine really, really did the research and got great deals at Camera Kings but they’re just not as reputable in the photography world.
You’ll be fine to start out with one battery and a fair-sized memory card. I hear mixed reviews on filters but have never used one. And yes, get the protection plan or warranty.