So you (or someone you know) want to get into photography, but trying to decide which camera to purchase is SO overwhelming! I frequently have clients and friends ask me which camera they should buy, so I thought I’d do a quick post on this subject. First, I’ll go over some bare minimum requirements when looking for a new or used DSLR camera, and then we’ll talk about my favorite cameras on the market.
Most people I’ve talked with want to get the best camera for the least amount of money. You can buy a brand new camera if you have a little money to spend, but don’t underestimate the used cameras out there. There are SO many great cameras and lenses out there that are barely used or just a few years old. Photography is one of the those hobbies that people think they want to do, so they go out and buy a great camera. Inevitably, the camera ends up sitting in the corner for a few years and then they decide to sell it. Used cameras like this can be AMAZING cameras for beginners and you can find them really cheap if you’re willing to do some hunting!
Recommendations For Used DSLR Cameras
So what do I look for in a used camera? Here are some guidelines to follow. Camera bodies and lenses that are a few years old will do a GREAT job for you on a budget.
** Don’t want a used camera? Scroll down to see my #1 new camera picks for 2019-2020!
I have a lot of friends and family that find theirs on a local craigslist ad/ Facebook marketplace / garage sales / etc. and have loved what they bought. As with anything used, just make sure (to the best of your ability) that whomever had the camera before you took very good care of it, and it wasn’t dropped or damaged.
These are the specifications I recommend you look for before considering to buy the used camera:
- The camera must be digital. Meaning you do NOT put film in it 😉
- The camera must be a DSLR with a removable lens. We are not talking about a camera on a phone, or a small camera that would fit in your pocket.
- The camera should shoot at 10 megapixels or more. Megapixels (in a nutshell) means how high quality the image will be. If you get below 10 megapixels, you could have a problem with blurry or pixelated images when you print.
- Preferably no older than 10 years old. If possible, 5 years old or newer 🙂 Technology has advanced greatly in the past 10 years. If you get something older than 10 years, you may have poor image quality.
- Pop up flash. If possible you want a camera with a pop up flash (not completely necessary – but ideal). You can eventually buy a flash that will attach to the top of the camera (more about that later), BUT for now it’s nice to have a flash automatically included for night time photo ops.
- ISO range of up to 6400 (not completely necessary but ideal). A high ISO range is great for night photos or for photos in dark indoor rooms. Some older cameras may only go up to 1600. If you can find and afford a camera that will go up to 6400 ISO, you will be able to take higher quality photos in dark rooms or at night.
I am a huge fan of Canon gear, especially for people starting out. It’s reliable, it’s excellent quality, and it’s affordable. The main reason I choose Canon is for the price and the wide variety of lenses and bodies. I believe you get the best results and the most options for your money with Canon. That being said, there are many other brands out there that do a fantastic job as well. I have many friends that use Nikon and Sony, etc. and love them. Nikon cameras are known for having great skin tones and when zoomed way in, usually their images are a tiny bit sharper than Canon and Sony (but this is not noticeable for 99% of images). Downside to Nikon is they’re considerably more expensive than Canon bodies and lenses. Sony cameras are known for producing great low light images and for great video capabilities (in addition to regular still photography). Downside to Sony is like Nikon, they are also more expensive… And Sony has a very limited selection of bodies and lenses. Canon is known for being very high quality and having the widest array of lenses and camera body options for the least amount of money (so you will find many pro photographers are Canon because as you grow in your skills, you have many more lenses and options available to you at an affordable price). I don’t believe the brand matters as much as the specs. You want a camera that is over 10 megapixels, is no more than 5-10 years old, and is in good shape. Until you’re shooting covers of magazines, or complicated setups, these cameras will get the job done regardless of the brand or model!
Recommended New Cameras To Buy
Listed below are a few good deals for affordable starter cameras on Amazon. If these are above your budget, try finding some used cameras locally either on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
Quick disclaimer: By clicking on these links and purchasing we do earn a small commission. Amazon Affiliate statement: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
MY #1 PICK FOR BEGINNERS! SMALL BODIED CAMERA CANON SL-2
Canon Rebel SL2– This camera is my #1 pick for beginners- it has it all! Small, compact, TONS of amazing features like WiFi, 24.1 megapixels (HUGE!), video capability, a flip LCD screen for doing selfie videos or vlogging. The smallest, lightest DSLR camera Canon currently has out! This camera will easily photograph kiddos, landscapes, or video and easily fits in a purse for travels and outings. The flip out screen is a feature that most other cameras don’t offer, which is great for selfies, vlogging or videos. Small and mighty, this camera is built to be an entry level amateur camera, but still packs many pro features like a 24.2 megapixel sensor. I love the Canon Rebel series and HIGHLY recommend this camera.
Most cameras including this one ship with a so-so lens. The lens that comes with the camera will get you by for a while, but I highly recommend eventually replacing it with a super value Canon 50mm 1.8 or a more versatile Tamron 28-75.
USED OR CHEAPER OLDER MODEL CAMERAS:
These cameras are a couple of years old, but offer a great entry level price! DSLR camera technology has not changed *that* much over the past few years, so going with a model that is not the newest one is not detrimental in most cases!
I am not a Canon rep nor does Canon pay me to endorse their products. But I am the most familiar with their lineup (and the majority of my friends and family own their cameras). For this reason, I usually recommend Canon to start out with- as you’ll have the most options available to you for a great price!
Canon Rebel SUPER CHEAP!!! – If you’re on a tight budget, I would grab this camera, it’s a steal! It’s a little older than I would normally recommend, but I’ve had this exact camera as a backup for my second shooters in the past and loved it. Great deal for someone just looking to try photography out. The lens that comes with most cameras out of the box is okay, but I’d eventually plan on upgrading the lens to something like the Tamron 28-75. Want to read more about lenses? See my post on recommended lenses HERE.
Canon Rebel T7 with a simple 18-55mm lens This is what I’d recommend if you want a new starter camera, but don’t need a flip screen for videos of yourself or a lens to shoot sporting events… This is a very high quality camera at 24.1 megapixels, wifi, and video capabilities! Eventually I would plan on buying the Tamron 28-75 instead of using the kit lens that comes with the package. Overall, the package is a great deal!
Canon Rebel KIT with a lot of extras – Includes 2 lenses, 18-55 and 70-300 (the 70-300 is the lens I love for daytime sports photography) and tons of extra freebies. Some of the extra stuff in this kit you will not use, but it’s actually cheaper to purchase the entire kit than to buy it all separately! Most cameras ship with an okay lens, which will be okay to start with. Eventually, I would plan on upgrading the 18-55 mm lens that comes with the package by buying a Tamron 28-75 lens for better image quality.
Want Nikon? Check this Nikon kit, 2 lenses 18-55. This camera has all of the specs I’d like to see in a camera! I would eventually plan on getting the Nikon version of the Tamron 28-75 to replace the kit lens. 🙂
LARGER PROFESSIONAL BRAND NEW CAMERAS:
Are you thinking about becoming a professional photographer? HERE ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE BRAND NEW CAMERAS in order of most expensive to least:
Canon EOS-1DX Mark II – Have a big budget and price is no object? Without going into super complicated Hasselblad’s or Phase One camera bodies – Here’s your camera, friend. Canon’s top of the line EOS-1DX Mark II. This bad boy can shoot 60 FRAMES PER SECOND. Yep. You heard me right. It’s the best for fast action and can also pull a 8.8MP screen grab (whhhhhaaaa?!!!) Don’t know what that means? Well just trust me- you will be the envy of your friends (and pro photographers) when you walk in with this camera over your shoulder. And it will shoot some amazing photos.
Canon 5D Mark IV – Wanting to get into professional photography as a profession or very serious about having the top of the line? The Canon 5D Mark IV is a best buy for both still photos (think portraits and landscapes) and video. With a 30.4 megapixel full frame sensor, this camera is a serious contender. Most pro photographers I know use this camera body.
Canon 7D Mark II – Want a very well rounded pro-level camera but don’t want to spend the cash on the 5D Mark II or the EOS-1DX? The 7D Mark II is also an excellent contender. It boasts a 20.2 MP sensor and shoots 10 frames per second. It’s also great at video! The main downside to this camera is it features a cropped sensor, which basically means your lenses won’t shoot to their 100% full potential. But for most, it’s not a huge difference. Many beginning photographers I know shoot with this camera as their main body. Many videographers I know also use this body for their main video camera.
Need lens recommendations too? See my post on recommended lenses HERE 🙂
Other Camera Accessories You Will Need
1- At least one fully charged battery and charger, preferably 2 batteries – One main, one spare.
1- At least one memory card, 16 GB or more preferably. I use 32 GB cards. Depending on your camera model, your memory card may be called either SD or CF card.
And if you’d really like to go all out, consider buying your loved one a subscription to Adobe Photoshop! It’s only $9.99/m and can really take your photos to the next level. Read more about what you’d need to do this in my article here 🙂
As always, I hope this article helps! Feel free to leave comments or email with questions and I’ll do my best to answer. 🙂
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Side note: HERE IS THE YOUTUBE video to watch about how to choose if you’d rather watch this than read.
Krista Lee is a Nashville, TN based portrait and wedding photographer. See her work and professional site at www.kristaleephotography.com