A Complete Guide To Purchasing A DSLR Camera

If you do not currently own a DSLR camera or you are in the process of purchasing one, I know how overwhelming that can be as well!  So where do you even begin?  Today I am going to cover three major topics 1) The difference between a Crop-Sensor camera and a Full-Frame camera 2) Canon & Nikon DSLR camera recommendations 3) Lens recommendations

There are many, many, MANY different digital cameras on the market.  Depending on how you will USE that camera, may affect which camera you purchase and why!  Any DSLR camera is an investment, so it is crucial to do as much research as possible prior to purchasing.  

For the purpose of this blog post I will only be discussing Canon, Nikon, and Sigma brands.  I do not have any affiliation with any of these brands, they are simply the most familiar to me and the brands that I feel comfortable sharing information on.  

A complete guide to purchasing a new DSLR camera and lens

*THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS

1) Crop sensor VS Full frame

When DSLR or "digital single-lens reflex" cameras were first produced, the digital imaging sensor on the camera was significantly smaller than the typical 35mm film camera.  Thus these cameras were dubbed the name APS-C sensor sized cameras or more commonly known as "crop sensor" cameras.  Later in 2002, Canon created the first camera that equals the size of the original 35mm film.  Correctly known as the 35mm equivalent sensor or commonly known as the "full frame" camera.

So what are the pros and cons to each?

Full Frame:  
Full frame cameras offer exceptional low light performance as they have larger photosite, small sensors that capture light, capabilities.  It will also appear as if they capture a more shallow depth of field due to the larger sensor size.  Most full frames have brighter viewfinders, a perk for ease of use.  Finally, they have professional bodies.  This simply means they have more bells and whistles than their less expensive counterparts.  For professionals, this is obviously a necessary benefit for many reasons.  

On the other hand, full frame cameras are considerably more expensive.  Not a necessity for hobby photographers who just need a quality camera for at home.  Due to the build of the body and the camera options, they are considerably heavier.  Along with that, a heavier camera equals heavier lenses.

Crop Sensor: 
Naturally, crop sensor cameras have quite the opposite pros and cons.  They are considerably lighter weight, and while they may not have all of the same high tech options as a full-frame, that can be a positive for hobbyists just starting out.  Less options can mean less confusion.  They are considerably less expensive and may allow more budget for purchasing lenses.  Crop sensor cameras may also be used with any interchangeable lens type, EF or EF-S.  While full frame cameras must be used with EF only lens types.

In regards to lenses, the most notable difference between the two cameras would be the crop of the lenses focal length.  For example, when shooting with a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera, you will have a 50mm focal length.  However, if that same lens were to be used on a crop sensor camera, you will be capturing a much tighter or "cropped" field of view.  This crop is typically about 1.5 times.  Therefore, a 50mm lens would act as a 75mm lens on a crop sensor camera.  

2) Camera body recommendations

Canon

  1. Canon Rebel SL1 - Provides HD Video with continuous autofocus ($399 - Body Only)
  2. Canon Rebel T5i - Same HD Video quality with a large tilt/swivel LCD screen. Ability to capture both video and photos in live view.  Low noise images with fast performance speed ($649 - Body Only)
  3. Canon Rebel T6i - Same capabilities with additional features such as 24 megapixel versus 18 megapixel (higher quality images).  Built in Wi-Fi for easy upload and ability to control with smartphone.  Advanced autofocus features.  TouchScreen LCD Monitor ($749 - Body Only) - RECOMMEND
  4. Canon 70D - Very similar to the T6i - Expanded video capabilities with autofocus.  20 megapixels for high image quality ($999 - Body Only)
  5. Canon 6D - FULL FRAME - 20 Megapixel. High ISO range up to 25,000 versus 12,800 with Rebels (reduced noise in images).  11-point autofocus versus standard 9-point.  Excellent metering quality ($1,399 - Body Only) - MY FIRST CAMERA BODY - RECOMMEND
  6. Canon 5D Mkiii - FULL FRAME - 22 Megapixel. High ISO range.  Excellent metering quality.  61-point autofocus.  Dual card slots.  Magnesium alloy body, weather and dust resistant.  ($2,499 - Body Only) - MY SECOND CAMERA BODY - RECOMMEND

Nikon

  1. Nikon D5300 - 24 Megapixel. Swivel LCD screen.  39-point autofocus system.  Built in Wi-Fi ($496.95 - Body Only)
  2. Nikon D5500 - Similar capabilities with full HD Video.  Vignette control ($696.95 - Body Only)
  3. Nikon D7100 - 24 Megapixel. 51-point Autofocus. Standard ISO 100-6400.  Double SD card slots. Magnesium alloy body with weather and dust sealing ($796.96 - Body Only)
  4. Nikon D610 - FULL FRAME - 24 Megapixel. 39-point Autofocus.  Fast autofocus and image processing. Dual SD Card slots.  Built in flash trigger (for remote flash).  Full HD Movie capabilities ($1496.95 - Body Only)  
  5. Nikon D810 - FULL FRAME - 36 Megapixel. ISO range 64-12,800 (high image quality).  RAW Size S format. Reduced vibration.  HD Video.  CF and SD card slots ($2,796.95 - Body Only)

3) Lens recommendations

For the purpose of hobby photography, or shooting subjects at home.  There are three to four lenses I would consider looking into.  These lenses can give you a wide variety of use and are all great quality lenses that I highly recommend.  A little bit of background to start:  There are zoom lenses and prime lenses.  Zoom lenses, as the name states, have the ability to zoom in and out as needed.  Prime lenses are referred to as a fixed lens.  They do not have the ability to zoom and require the shooter to move closer or further away from their subject.  

As a professional,  I shoot 100% with prime lenses.  They typically are a bit sharper than zoom lenses and that is an absolute must for me.  Also, I love that they require to move my feet in order to change my perspective of my subject.  It enforces a little more creativity than a zoom lens might.  That being said, I do not have any issues with purchasing a zoom lens.  In fact, I have a few on my list I would love to invest in some day!  You just have to choose what is right for you at that moment.

Second: With Canon, there are EF lenses, and EF-S lenses.  Remember back to the information about full-frame cameras?  They can only be used with EF lenses.  However, a crop sensor camera can use either an EF or EF-S lens!

I will only be listing Canon and Sigma lenses, as I am most familiar with them!  If you shoot Nikon, just look up the Nikon equivalent lens and be sure to read reviews!

50mm Prime Lens
This lens is an absolute must for any beginner photographer!  The 50 mm lens is a beautiful portrait lens, but is just wide enough to capture a bit more of your scene.  It provides that beautiful blurred background (more about that in the workshop!) that so many photographers crave.  There are several options with this lens, but for the price the 50 mm 1.8 can't be beat!

  1. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 ($125) - IN MY BAG
  2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 ($329)

85mm Prime Lens
A simply stunning lens for portrait photography.  This lens would be perfect for family pictures, little ones playing outside, and pets.  A little more expensive, but definitely worth the investment.  This is the third lens I ever purchased.

  1. Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 ($349)

70-300mm Zoom Lens
Often part of a "kit," this lens is often overlooked but for the price is a perfect beginner lens for any nature enthusiast or parent involved in their children's sporting events!  I first started using this lens with my parent's Canon Rebel and it has provided me with MANY beautiful photographs I would not have been able to take otherwise.  I personally used it to take photos of our dog at his "hunt tests" with my husband.  The 300mm zoom allowed me to reach him further out in the fields that I would have been able to with any of my current lenses.

  1. Canon EF 75-300 f/4-5.6 III ($199)
  2. Canon EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 ($449) - IN MY BAG

35mm Prime Lens
My second lens purchase ever made, I simply could NOT live without my 35mm.  This lens is a simply beautiful wide angle lens.  I love it for taking photos of my daughter indoors, or when she is outside playing and I want to capture more of her surroundings.  It is also a great lens for landscape photography.  Or architecture when traveling.  

  1. Canon EF 35mm f/2 ($549) - IN MY BAG
  2. Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ($899) 
    • A little better image quality, however, the Canon lens works fabulous for me!

24-70mm Zoom Lens
If purchasing a zoom lens, this is the second one I would recommend for any beginner.  This zoom lens would be perfect for any hobbyist who is looking to capture both wide angle and portrait shots, without committing to two separate prime lenses.  This beauty could be left on your camera 100% of the time while providing you with plenty of versatility.  

  1. Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 for Canon ($749)
  2. Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L ($899)
  3. Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II ($1799)
    • If you are going to splurge for this lens, I would personally go for either the Sigma, or the more expensive Canon option.  Either of those will provide that beautiful background for portrait shots.  

EXTRAS
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro ($849) IN MY BAG
- A beautiful portrait lens that doubles as a Macro lens (extreme close up) for any avid nature enthusiasts!  Or mommas who want extreme close ups of baby/child details, toes, eyelashes, lips, etc.  

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L ($999)
- Another "kit" lens, this lens is often included with the Canon 6D.  If you would happen to be interested in that camera, you may consider purchasing together as it would make a very quality "walk-around" lens that provides versatility for any hobbyist at home.

PHEW!  That was a LOT of information for one day!  I hope you all find this as a valuable resource and can start shopping soon!  Remember, ANY DSLR purchase is an investment.  Should  you change your mind as you further your venture into photography, you can always re-sell any equipment as long as it is well cared for an maintained and invest towards equipment upgrades!