A Beginner’s Guide to DSLR’s ~ What Camera Should I Buy?

* This is going to be the first in a series of guides geared towards beginners. I want to introduce those of you that are interested in photography to the basics from the ground up. Now, I’ll be honest here. I will be doing my very best to get these up on a regular basis, but I know that sometimes life and work gets in the way, so be patient with me! Oh, and if there is something that you’d like to know more about, please feel free to e-mail me or hit me up on the J. Lynn Photography Facebook page!

This is a question that I’m often asked. Cameras have become so much more affordable for the average consumer over the past few years. So what should your first camera purchase be when you want to get into “big boy,” higher end consumer cameras? Well, I’m SO glad that you asked! Read on-You’re in the right place 🙂

First off, the cameras that I mention in this article are current as of March 2014, but the same rules will apply down the road because honestly? Camera manufacturers are producing new camera models faster than the auto companies are getting next years model lineup out. Welcome to the wonderful world of DSLR’s. Okay, WAIT! What is a DSLR you ask? It’s the acronym and the term that all of the cool kids use when asked what kind of camera they use that allows you to change lenses and has all sorts of other buttons and stuff that are confusing as heck. A DSLR camera stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex camera and sometimes is shortened to SLR. Okay, great. But what does it mean in terms I can understand, you ask? Basically, the lens sends an image to a mirror mechanism, which is between the lens and the inner workings of the camera body, which is then sent to the viewfinder and digital chip inside of the camera so that you can see what image you’re going to capture when you press the shutter button.


There. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to cameras for beginners. The two main players in the beginner DSLR game are Canon and Nikon. I currently use all Canon gear for work, but I have used Nikon in the past and have plenty of friends that love Nikon too. If you have friends that are camera enthusiasts, you may want to see what they have and get their opinions on what they like and don’t like about their equipment. Another thing to consider is that lenses are expensive and if you don’t have an excuse (like I do) to buy new, expensive lenses, you may also want to talk with friends and see about getting the same brand as some other friends that you could possibly borrow or swap lenses with on occasion. I know that I have plenty of friends that I can call in a pinch if I ever break one of my lenses or need a certain focal length (The higher the number, the bigger the zoom. A 16mm focal length I use for large group photos. A 200mm focal length I use when I’m a little farther away and I want to zoom in on something.) for a shoot that I don’t already have.

Canon has two great starter DSLR cameras – The 60d and the Rebel T3i. The 60d is going to run you about $700 new, or around $900 with a decent “kit lens,” which is essentially any lens that comes in a kit or grouped with the camera body. These lenses typically are great for your average consumer but are not typically pro-grade lenses. Seriously though? Chances are you aren’t ever going to need a pro lens, so don’t worry about it! The Rebel T3i on the other hand, will cost you about $500 new WITH a decent kit lens. Both cameras are 18 megapixel cameras, which is more resolution than you’ll probably ever really need. The Rebel T3i is a little older, but still plenty good. Both cameras also will shoot video, which is another bonus. The 60d is capable of shooting at a higher ISO, which is essentially your cameras sensitivity to light. Remember the good old 110 film camera days? If so, remember you would always use 400 film for a nice sunny day and you would use 1600 film when you were going to be shooting in a darker location? Those numbers were essentially your ISO. I’ll go into that more in another post. Both cameras take SD memory cards, which can be bought pretty inexpensively nowadays. In addition, both cameras come with a built in, pop-up flash, so you won’t need to invest in a flash right away (although you’ll be amazed at what a difference a speedlight will make versus the built in flash)!

Here are pictures of the Canon 60d and the Rebel T3i, respectively, from the Canon website.

Canon 60d Camera

Main 60d Camera Specs

  • Uses SD memory card types
  • 18 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • ISO range of 100-6400 (expandable to 12800)
  • Fully articulated 3.0″ screen (3:2)
  • Shutter speed range of 1/8000 to 1/60
  • Max 5.3 fps continuous shooting (frames per second)
  • Full HD video capture
  • Live View shooting
  • 23.8 oz weight


Canon T3i camera

Main T3i Camera Specs

  • Uses SD memory card types
  • 18 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • ISO range of 100-6400 (Expansion to 12800)
  • Fully articulated 3.0” screen 3:2
  • Shutter speed range of 1/4000 to 1/60
  • Max 3.7 fps continuous shooting (frames per second)
  • Full HD video capture
  • Live View shooting
  • 18.2 oz weight

If I had to pick between the two, I would go with the 60d. It has specs that are a little better than the T3i, but there aren’t huge amazing differences that an average consumer would notice.

I know I mentioned it before, but if you DO decide to purchase a camera body, don’t forget to get a lens for it! Not sure what lenses to get for your new camera? I’ll go into that with my next beginner’s guide blog post! Let me know if you have any questions and if you’re curious about any of the specs, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help!

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what camera I shoot with, my main camera is currently a Canon 5d MKIII 🙂

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