Best beginner DSLR camera

jcup

Honorable
Sep 1, 2013
8
0
10,510
0
Hello, I am looking into starting some photography and just want a solid camera to take on hikes, vacations, outdoors, etc. My price range is around $500 and I was looking at the Sony a58 but I do not know much about cameras and I don't know which brands are superior to others. I want good quality that is pretty simple to use and I do not need feature crazy because I will most likely be on auto most of the time.
 

Gunmetal_61

Estimable
Jun 12, 2014
4
0
4,520
2
Ah, something besides computers I can relate to well. I'll write this in a stance that assumes that you're taking photography seriously as a hobby.

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Brand?

Generally, the brand doesn't really matter if you're talking about image quality. Canon, Sony, Pentax, Nikon...all just as good unless you go nitpicking into very, very tiny details (which you shouldn't if you want to actually improve your photography). Heck, Nikon's sensors are actually made by Sony. But the actual real reason why most people buy Nikon or Canon is because of crowd mentality. The pros use Canon. My friends use Nikon. I'll probably want one of those because if everyone's using them, then they must be the best. Don't be fooled. Other brands have good things to offer too.

First and foremost, what matters most when choosing a brand is the selection of lenses. This is where you actually have a legitimate reason to choose Nikon or Canon. Because they hold the largest shares in the market, they naturally also have more resources to develop and diversify their portfolio. If you do it right, you'll learn quickly that there is no single lens that is good at everything. You'll need multiple lenses, and different types of lenses for different types of photography. Canon and Nikon have a HUGE selection of glass; Nikon currently has 86 it is actively making and selling plus 100+ more it has made in the past. Of course, glass is expensive, but since so many people own Canon/Nikon brand lenses, you can find a lot off eBay for cheap.

Second is ergonomics. Of course, each brand has its own little conventions and ways of laying out its buttons and menus. Their cameras have subtle differences from other brands regarding the shape of the grip and weight. You have to actually go out into the world and hold each camera in your hand. Choose what seems more natural for you to hold and manipulate.
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Specific Models?

I can't say for sure on any other brand but Nikon or Canon, but here it goes. I can't narrow it down to one particular model. I can only give you a general range in where you should look. To find the right one, try out the models I listed in a store and compare them. For basic Canon models, I'd choose a Rebel T3 or a Rebel T5. For Nikon, a D3100, D3200, or D3300. They cost around $500 with a good basic 18-55mm lens and get the job you described done. No frills, few buttons.

If you have a little more money, you can get a Canon Rebel T3i, Rebel T5i, or Nikon's D5100, D5200, or D5300 for ~$600-$800 new. They come with a few more features, minor performance benefits and a rotatable LCD. I can talk way more about them, but that's basically it.

If you're looking for an ultra-compact, a Canon Rebel SL1 could be ideal. It offers practically everything its bigger brothers have (T3i, T5i, etc.) and is the smallest legitimate SLR available. Keep in mind though that Nikon's 3000 series are also pretty small, being about midway between the SL1 and the Rebel T models in size.

For Sony, yes, an a58 or a65 is good. But you must understand that Sony's systems are not SLRs. They are SLTs. The difference is that their models don't have a mirror that flips up when taking a picture. It has a translucent one that lets some light through itself to the sensor while reflecting some to the metering and autofocus systems. This allows for better autofocus (especially for video) and quieter operation, but comes at the cost of an optical viewfinder and reduces the amount of light going to the sensor (which forces you to turn up the ISO, etc.). An optical viewfinder can be very important: There is no lag from real time or blacking out of the screen while a picture is being saved like the electronic viewfinder of a Sony. They are working to improve this though. Try out their cameras and see how they compare to ones with optical viewfinders.

Now you may notice that the models are numbered in successive order. Are they generations of the same camera? Yes they are. For example, the D5300 is the newest 5000 series camera from Nikon. The D5100 is older. This means that you can find it used or even new for much less than $600. Same for older Canon models. I’d get an older model with more features than a more expensive new one that is incrementally better, but has less features.

Yes, an older camera’s picture quality may be a little worse, have less megapixels, etc., but once again, don't let this fool you. It's just as good of an instrument as the latest model. See, the difference between newer and/or more expensive models VS cheap and/or old models is that they make it easier and faster for you to get the picture you want. That's why pros pay $5000 more for the giant models versus our dinky Canon Rebels; there are more buttons and more specific adjustment features that allow them to get what they want faster. The lowest end camera is just as capable of pulling off what an $8000 Nikon D3X can do in the right hands. It just takes more time to adjust the settings. A more expensive camera does not equal better pictures.

The camera does not make the picture. What really makes the pictures is your vision. Your camera is just an instrument: Its job is to get out of the way of your vision as much as possible.

Another thing is that the quality of the lens matters more, but I’m not going to even get into that. All that you have to know is that the basic 18-55mm kit lens along with maybe a $200 cheap 55-200+mm telephoto is good enough to start with. Once and if you start to REALLY take photography seriously and can start recognizing the differences between a $2000 pro lens and a $200 starter lens, then you may upgrade.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A Tip to You:
If you are going to start photography, you'll eventually need to start doing some manual adjustments and start switching away from Auto mode if you want to really grow. But starting with Auto is fine. Getting the composition of your picture right first means a lot more than technical adjustments.

I could write a whole book on the subject and still not be done. If you have any questions about anything photography-related, message me or Google it.

TL;DR: Get a Nikon 3000 series or Canon Rebel non-"i" series camera (i.e. Rebel T3 instead of T3i). If you have more money, get a Nikon 5000 series camera or a Canon Rebel "i" series camera. For Sony, an a58 or a65. It's probably best not to get anything released before 2010. You'll have to try them out at a store. No one can say which one is best for you. I can only lay out the guidelines. You should really, REALLY read the dang post though.
 

Gunmetal_61

Estimable
Jun 12, 2014
4
0
4,520
2
Ah, something besides computers I can relate to well. I'll write this in a stance that assumes that you're taking photography seriously as a hobby.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Brand?

Generally, the brand doesn't really matter if you're talking about image quality. Canon, Sony, Pentax, Nikon...all just as good unless you go nitpicking into very, very tiny details (which you shouldn't if you want to actually improve your photography). Heck, Nikon's sensors are actually made by Sony. But the actual real reason why most people buy Nikon or Canon is because of crowd mentality. The pros use Canon. My friends use Nikon. I'll probably want one of those because if everyone's using them, then they must be the best. Don't be fooled. Other brands have good things to offer too.

First and foremost, what matters most when choosing a brand is the selection of lenses. This is where you actually have a legitimate reason to choose Nikon or Canon. Because they hold the largest shares in the market, they naturally also have more resources to develop and diversify their portfolio. If you do it right, you'll learn quickly that there is no single lens that is good at everything. You'll need multiple lenses, and different types of lenses for different types of photography. Canon and Nikon have a HUGE selection of glass; Nikon currently has 86 it is actively making and selling plus 100+ more it has made in the past. Of course, glass is expensive, but since so many people own Canon/Nikon brand lenses, you can find a lot off eBay for cheap.

Second is ergonomics. Of course, each brand has its own little conventions and ways of laying out its buttons and menus. Their cameras have subtle differences from other brands regarding the shape of the grip and weight. You have to actually go out into the world and hold each camera in your hand. Choose what seems more natural for you to hold and manipulate.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Specific Models?

I can't say for sure on any other brand but Nikon or Canon, but here it goes. I can't narrow it down to one particular model. I can only give you a general range in where you should look. To find the right one, try out the models I listed in a store and compare them. For basic Canon models, I'd choose a Rebel T3 or a Rebel T5. For Nikon, a D3100, D3200, or D3300. They cost around $500 with a good basic 18-55mm lens and get the job you described done. No frills, few buttons.

If you have a little more money, you can get a Canon Rebel T3i, Rebel T5i, or Nikon's D5100, D5200, or D5300 for ~$600-$800 new. They come with a few more features, minor performance benefits and a rotatable LCD. I can talk way more about them, but that's basically it.

If you're looking for an ultra-compact, a Canon Rebel SL1 could be ideal. It offers practically everything its bigger brothers have (T3i, T5i, etc.) and is the smallest legitimate SLR available. Keep in mind though that Nikon's 3000 series are also pretty small, being about midway between the SL1 and the Rebel T models in size.

For Sony, yes, an a58 or a65 is good. But you must understand that Sony's systems are not SLRs. They are SLTs. The difference is that their models don't have a mirror that flips up when taking a picture. It has a translucent one that lets some light through itself to the sensor while reflecting some to the metering and autofocus systems. This allows for better autofocus (especially for video) and quieter operation, but comes at the cost of an optical viewfinder and reduces the amount of light going to the sensor (which forces you to turn up the ISO, etc.). An optical viewfinder can be very important: There is no lag from real time or blacking out of the screen while a picture is being saved like the electronic viewfinder of a Sony. They are working to improve this though. Try out their cameras and see how they compare to ones with optical viewfinders.

Now you may notice that the models are numbered in successive order. Are they generations of the same camera? Yes they are. For example, the D5300 is the newest 5000 series camera from Nikon. The D5100 is older. This means that you can find it used or even new for much less than $600. Same for older Canon models. I’d get an older model with more features than a more expensive new one that is incrementally better, but has less features.

Yes, an older camera’s picture quality may be a little worse, have less megapixels, etc., but once again, don't let this fool you. It's just as good of an instrument as the latest model. See, the difference between newer and/or more expensive models VS cheap and/or old models is that they make it easier and faster for you to get the picture you want. That's why pros pay $5000 more for the giant models versus our dinky Canon Rebels; there are more buttons and more specific adjustment features that allow them to get what they want faster. The lowest end camera is just as capable of pulling off what an $8000 Nikon D3X can do in the right hands. It just takes more time to adjust the settings. A more expensive camera does not equal better pictures.

The camera does not make the picture. What really makes the pictures is your vision. Your camera is just an instrument: Its job is to get out of the way of your vision as much as possible.

Another thing is that the quality of the lens matters more, but I’m not going to even get into that. All that you have to know is that the basic 18-55mm kit lens along with maybe a $200 cheap 55-200+mm telephoto is good enough to start with. Once and if you start to REALLY take photography seriously and can start recognizing the differences between a $2000 pro lens and a $200 starter lens, then you may upgrade.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A Tip to You:
If you are going to start photography, you'll eventually need to start doing some manual adjustments and start switching away from Auto mode if you want to really grow. But starting with Auto is fine. Getting the composition of your picture right first means a lot more than technical adjustments.

I could write a whole book on the subject and still not be done. If you have any questions about anything photography-related, message me or Google it.

TL;DR: Get a Nikon 3000 series or Canon Rebel non-"i" series camera (i.e. Rebel T3 instead of T3i). If you have more money, get a Nikon 5000 series camera or a Canon Rebel "i" series camera. For Sony, an a58 or a65. It's probably best not to get anything released before 2010. You'll have to try them out at a store. No one can say which one is best for you. I can only lay out the guidelines. You should really, REALLY read the dang post though.
 

GarryH_Geek

Honorable
Aug 1, 2013
20
0
10,570
3
No "best camera" existed both for beginners and pros! Any person can grab his or her "best" camera which will be just a crap for many others. But if you want exactly what you describe (e.g. DSLR), take a Canon 100D and some optics marked as "STM": kit, telephoto and 40mm "pancake". This kit will serve you some years without upgrade, giving you the comfortable and automated camera able to register any event in your and your family's life.

If you are have reasons not to choose Canon, see the Pentax K-50 model. This is a little more bulky DSLR but it has a water and weather resistance, can accept AA batteries or AA accu as power source, and has much, much more pleasant colors without any postproduction than modern Canon or Nikon.

Best regards!
 

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