I often get asked about what camera to buy.  The good news is that there are so many great options out there!  With so many options I know that can make the decision harder but I just want to say that if you don’t have one of the two that I’m about to list, don’t think that it means that you have a bad camera.  Just figure out what your camera can do before you give up on it.  I’ve had lots of people through my Photography classes who thought they had a bad camera until they started realized all the stuff it could do.

The big advantage to owning a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera is the ability to switch out the lenses.  This allows a wide range of photography from wide angle to telephoto with a range of maximum apertures that you just couldn’t get in the small point and shoot or advanced point and shoot cameras.

I’m going to narrow it down to two beginner DSLR cameras that control the market of DSLRs – Canon and Nikon.  Again, not that other brands (Sony, Pentax, Lumix etc.) are bad, Canon and Nikon just lead the market.  One plus about buying a camera from a manufacture that is leading the market is that it makes buying, selling, upgrading and trading that much easier. Canon EOS Rebel T5 Nikon D3200

We have had hundreds of people through our Cork and Click classes with both Nikon and Canon cameras.  While both Nikon and Canon are great at taking photos, I think Nikon has a slight advantage in the “User Friendly” category… and this is coming from a Canon user!  It makes sense though to look at both, see how they feel in your hands and if the buttons and dials are easy to manage before you buy. Also, ask photography friends.  I bought a Canon partly because it allowed me to try out my friends’ lenses and gear before I bought my own.

Nikon D3200 –  $616.95 (kit with two lenses)*

Canon EOS Rebel Ti – $598 (kit with two lenses)*



The kits that I’ve chosen above both come with 18-55mm and 55mm-200/250mm.  This gives you from wide angle to telephoto covering a huge range of focal lengths.

If you could just add one more lens to your bag, I think you’d really like it – a 50mm f/1.8.  This is a prime lens (meaning it doesn’t change focal lengths) with a big aperture opening of f/1.8 allowing you to get shots in low light as well as giving you a dramatic shallow depth of field at that f/1.8.  It is reasonably priced at just around $100 for both Canon and Nikon.

Canon 50mmNikon 50mm

If you read a lot about cameras, most people will advise to just do camera body only and not the kit lens.  While I agree that the kit lenses aren’t as good as the upgrades, I think the kit lenses have gotten a bad rap.  The lenses are pretty darn good for the money.  Of course you can get better lenses and of course, you have to pay for them.  If money isn’t an object then by all means, just get the camera body and upgrade on the lenses.  I would for sure upgrade on the lenses before the camera body.



Black Rapid camera strap

I can’t believe how long it took me to buy a nice camera strap.  I love my Black Rapid “Kick” strap ever so much.  I tell anyone who’ll listen! Don’t waste as much time as I did using uncomfortable camera straps!

The Kick

When you buy from Black Rapid use the coupon code GETOFFAUTO for 5% off your order.


Don’t make the mistake I did for my first tripod.  I bought the cheapest one I could find and it was a waste of money.  It was so flimsy that any little bit of wind or vibration caused it to move making the whole point of having my camera on a tripod void.  This made me not want to even use a tripod essentially missing out on a lot of great photography.  When I finally decided to buy a new tripod, I bought the best I could afford and haven’t regretted it.

I like the ball and head type for easy locking and unlocking rather than screwing the tripod in directly to the camera.Tripod

UV Filter

An essential accessory to your bag is a UV filter for each of your lenses.  Look on the back of your lens cap for the diameter you need.  They are cheap and can possibly save you a lot of money by protecting your lens.


Extra batteries are also a good idea so you can have one charging at all times.  I’ve found that the off-brand batteries don’t hold a charge quite as well as the brand batteries but as a backup they do just fine.

With the essentials above, you are set to capture all kinds of great photography!  I hope this list was helpful in picking out new gear for yourself or as a gift for your favorite photographer!

Happy Holidays!!

*Prices may range from this quote.