What To Look for when Buying a New DSLR Camera - Photo by Emilie Tips

What to look for when buying a DSLR camera
Okay everyone... I've heard you loud and clear! After the 47th email with the subject title...
"What kind of Camera do you recommend..." I decided to contact my camera know-how expert and mentor Emilie from Photo by Emilie and ask her to do a detailed write-up giving us the skinny on all of the beginner AND advanced consumer cameras and lenses that you should/need to know about... along with price ranges.
Honestly, this couldn't come at a better time, if you've been searching for a great camera for Christmas, or just simply want to take your blogging/personal photographs to the next level.
There is a lot of really great information from Emilie here, so make sure you take notes, and don't end up purchasing more or less camera then you need.
Take it away Emilie!...

You absolutely get what you pay for when purchasing a camera and lens. Sometimes you can find a good sale but for the most part the more you spend the better your images.  The lens is just as important if not more important to the look of your image as your camera. Here are some recommendations for both Camera bodies & lenses. These recommendations are for people who are serious about shooting in manual mode.
I would suggest purchasing a camera body separately from your lens, not in a kit. The kit lenses are not good if you'd like pro looking images and want to shoot in manual mode.
Nikon & Canon are the 2 leaders in the industry and both make killer equipment. I don't necessarily recommend one over the other. 

I'll list them most to least expensive.

Nikon D5100 sells for around $696. This is the most expensive of the Entry level cameras. This camera produces super sharp crisp images. A really fun feature that sets this camera apart is it's 3 inch vari-angle LCD monitor opens horizontally up to 180˚ and flips up and down. Really handy for capturing self portraits or video. Only compatible with the AF-I and AF-S series lenses which are a bit more expensive than the AF-D and G series.

 Canon EOS Rebel T3i sells for around $669. This camera is super sharp and has the highest resolution of any of the entry level camera at 18 megapixels.  It also has the 3 inch vari-angle flip monitor.  

Nikon D3100 sells for around $596. This is the only entry level camera that you can not buy as a body only. It comes with a 18-55mm 3.5-5.6f lens. It's not a lens I recommend for portraits. It has a large sensor for the price (which translates to sharper
images). Only compatible with the AF-I and AF-S series lenses which are a bit more expensive than the AF-D and G series.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i is the least expensive camera I recommend. It sells for around $579. It is comparable to the T3i but does not include the vari-angle flip screen.

For the advanced user or someone who have a little more to invest these are the 4 cameras I recommend:

(These are not considered professional cameras, rather high-end consumer camera.  You are welcome to contact me with questions about professional equipment.)
I get asked all the time do I need to spend a lot of money in order to get a great photo? My answer is no, but your images sure will look better if you do spend the extra money. The major difference in your images as you spend more money is the quality of the crispness, sharpness, color, contrast, white balance... well okay everything about your images will look better! However, the biggest aspect that will determine the quality of your images is... YOU!  That's why I highly recommend educating yourself.
Canon EOS 7D. Sells for about $1,400
Nikon D7000.  Sells for about $1,300
Canon EOS 60D. Sells for about $1,000
Nikon D90. Sells about about $850
**These Nikon bodies are compatible with the "D" series lenses which is an advantage because "D" series are less expense than "G" series lenses.

 Now let's talk lenses. Like I mentioned, I would discourage you from purchasing a kit that includes a camera & lens. I would recommend purchasing the camera and lens separately.  Here are my favorite 4 lens for Canon and Nikon. These lenses complement each other and would make the perfect combination for the ultimate complete set.
(These are not considered professional lenses, rather high-end consumer quality.  You are welcome to contact me with questions about professional equipment.) 

50mm 1.8F for Canon.  Sells for about $99
50mm 1.8F for Nikon D7000 & D90. Sells for about $99
50mm 1.8F for Nikon D3100 & D5100Sells for about $214

This is the best bang for your buck of any camera equipment. Everyone, beginner & professional alike should own this lens.  It's often referred to as the Nifty Fifty. Perfect for everyday situations and particularly good for low light inside shots. Ideal if you take detail shots of products or crafts.

Tamron  28-75mm f/2.8 for Canon.  Sells for around $449 Tamron  28-75mm f/2.8 for Nikon.  Sells for around $449
Tamron is an after market brand. The comparable lens in the Canon & Nikon brands are between $1500-$2000, the Tamron version only $449!!! It's received good reviews, the only complaint has been that it's a bit sluggish to focus, but for a $1500
saving I'd take a bit sluggish all day long. This is your go-to lens when photographing children.

Tamron  70-200mm f/2.8 for Canon. Sells for around $699
Tamron  70-200mm f/2.8 for Nikon.  Sells for around $699
This is the sister lens to the Tamron lens shown above. Again, it's a huge savings over the Canon/Nikon brand lens. This is your go to lens when photographing older children & families. Typically this lens is used outside. The focal length is a little too long to be used in small spaces. You'll melt when you see the images that come out of this lens. 

Tamron AF18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 for Canon.  Sells for around $625   

Tamron AF18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 for Nikon.  Sells for around $625 

This is the perfect everyday lens. It's perfect for birthday parties, vacations, family reunions, kids playing at the park. The large range of the focal length makes this lens very versatile. I would not recommend this lens for portraits.

  For detailed information about how to actually USE your new camera, be sure to put my workshops on your Christmas list!

 Just a few of the things you'll learn:
-Shooting in Manual Mode
-Perfect Lighting Every time
-My Favorite Poses
-The Magic of Photoshop
Photo By Emilie Workshops:


  1. Shelley and Emilie, Thank you. Thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyou! I'm forwarding this to my husband....NOW. *send*

  2. I'm in the market for new lenses for Christmas or my birthday. I'll have to bookmark this post and make sure the husband reads it!!!

  3. Great info! So....question.

    I have a Nikon 3100 with the lens that come with it. What new lens should be on my wishlist? I use my camera for family shots, my blog and my etsy shop.

    Any advice?

  4. Thanks for such a simple and helpful round up! Perfect timing too ;)

  5. Bless you both.
    Going out to buy a 50mm 1.8 today...

  6. You ROCK!!I have been wanting a post like this to pass along to my hubby (slyly) (sp?)! But once last thing in case I have been haughty & am only good for a point & shoot~ What do you recommend?? Thanks!

  7. Thanks for this. I'm just in the process of looking for a new camera. Leaning towards the Nikon D5100.

  8. I'd also suggest not being afraid of purchasing gently used SLR's. Photography is such a popular hobby/business that there is constant turnover of merchandise out there. I bought a gently used Canon 5D last year and have been super happy with it. Yes it's no Mark ii, but neither was the price tag. I love that lenses hold their value fairly well too.

    If anyone is interested I have sharp copy of the Tamron 28-75mm that I'm selling- it's been a fabulous lens.

  9. Great post. I have a canon t1i and am trying to learn all I can about using it! Trying! I would love to get a better lens.

    Please stop on over to enter my giveaway of a great decor book from Southern Living.

  10. Thank you both so much for taking the time to put together this info! It's plain english for us novice photographers which is GREAT :) Now I know what lenses to put on my wish list for next Christmas. Glad to see there are less expensive choices for about the same quality. LOVE

  11. Thanks so much for this post! Detailed and concise info with all that we bloggers really want to know! I have been researching for a good camera and it can be overwhelming. Thanks!!!

  12. Thank you SO much for this! Now I need to reevaluate the camera I ordered from Amazon. It's backordered, so I can change my mind without penalty.

  13. Tamera Viann made one of the most note worthy comments. I do this for a living and can tell you just about 90% of most shutter bugs are newbies to this and really have the mentality of "Latest and greatest" camera will be my key to getting to the best photos or everyone thinking I am a great photographer. Let me tell you it does not.. In that frame of mind you see tons of people unloading last years model the minute the newest marktriple ddd's model hits the street... then the inevitable flood of ads of people selling their previous markdoubledd's model with quotes in their ad "I just bought the newest camera model marktrippleddd and now need to sell my old camera" Which means guess what that camera that guy paid 1,800 bucks for a year ago and played with it for maybe 2000 pictures snaps is selling it for 800 bucks.. See what I am getting at less than half of what he paid for it a year ago. IS there a big difference between the cameras as far as sharpness or image detail? Noooo not but a long shot. That last year model camera will do you beyond ok it will be fantastic so you can save that other 800 dollars for a much nicer lens or better yet budget for some great wall prints or albums to actually enjoy and not use for just saying you have the latest and greatest camera body... I sadly see this so often...


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