Buying Your First DSLR

Today’s question comes from Bri:

I am finally ready to “upgrade” to a DSLR camera after feeling limited by my point and shoot.  I am a complete amateur but plan to learn as much as I can to improve on my everyday shots.  So, what kind of DSLR would you recommend to someone like me?  I’ve been trying to read consumer reports to find out which is rated the highest but would prefer some feedback from a fellow Momtog!  Also, would you recommend that I go ahead and buy an additional lense or is that too over the top for me right now?

My first DSLR was the Canon Rebel and I loved it.  Of course, I didn’t know any different.  But, I shot (at a professional capacity) with that camera for over 6 months.  Through my paying jobs I was able to save up enough money pretty fast to buy the 30D.  The Rebel was a great camera.  In fact, I gave it to my Dad last year and he is still using it and getting great images.  I personally think the lens that you use affects the image more than the actual camera body, but let’s take a look at the DSLR camera bodies that are out on the market right now.  To make this a little easier I’m only going to look at Canon.  Besides, Canon better than Nikon anyways 😉

Digital Rebel XS (aka 1000D) 10 MP – $599 (with stock lens)

Digital Rebel XSi (aka 450D) 12.2 MP – $749 (just the camera body for $649)

Digital Rebel T1i 15.1 MP – $899 (just the camera body for $799)

EOS 15.1 MP Digital SLR – $1399.99 (just the camera body for $1199.99)

40D 10.1 MP – $889.95 no lens included

50D 15.1 MP – $1199.95 no lens included

5D Mark II – $2699.99 – no lens

I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the mega pixels.  When you get over 10 mega pixels that’s large enough.   More mega pixels just means larger files on your computer!  I always tell people to buy what they can afford.  If you are not a professional photographer and have no interest in being a professional photographer here is my suggestion to you.  Why not buy a cheaper camera body and buy a nicer lens?  If you just want to take pictures of your own kids you don’t need a 50D or a 5D.  Going from a point and shoot to a DSLR you will be ecstatic with the Rebel.  Trust me!  And if you treat your equipment like most Moms I know you will probably be pretty rough on it.  If you’re only spending $600 on a camera you won’t feel so guilty if you drop it or lose it or if little Jimmy drops it in the pool.  Why buy a nice camera if you’re going to be scared to use it?

But, if I you have a little more money to spend I would go with the 40D camera body.  Why?  Well, the 40D is just a little more expensive, but you get more frames per second (meaning your camera will keep shooting when you’re trying to get those action shots) and it has a higher ISO so you can shoot in lower light situations.  Just my two cents.

Whatever camera you decide to buy PLEASE buy it from a reputable company.  I know when searching online you can find some amazing “deals”, but make sure you know where you’re buying it from.  If it looks too good to be true it probably is.  Getting your money or credit card number stolen sucks.  I buy all of my equipment online from B & H.  They usually have some of the best prices and they are totally legit.

I don’t like the stock lenses that come with cameras.  I always encourage people to buy just the camera body and purchase a lens separately.  I’ve gotten a lot of emails about lenses so I will write a separate blog post about that tomorrow.  Stay tuned!


  1. Jessica says

    Great post! I personally cannot wait for the lens post. I am eager to buy a new lens, and I am excited to hear your two cents on lenses. YAY!

    Jessica’s last blog post..10 TEETH AND COUNTING

  2. Laura says

    Hey Drew! I’ve been waiting for a post like this-thanks! I have one additional question though, which Canon Rebel would you recommend for your first DSLR?

  3. Thanks for sharing your tips. I bought the canon xs at the beginning of the year on my photog Dad’s suggestion, its perfect for taking pictures of the kids. Plus I think spending money on high quality lens is more important. Case in point I have the Tamron 70-2000mm for my camera, its a good inexpensive all around lens but it’s horrible in low light. However when I use my Dad’s higher quality lens it works great and the pictures come out almost just as nice as the ones he took with his expensive body.

    Stephanie @ BizzieMommy’s last blog post..q&a with the entreprenette: funding in a down market

  4. Becky says

    Great post! When i first started out into the newspaper world, my first digital was a Rebel. And I LOVED it. I have out grown it beings it was 8 years ago. But i think it gets you started on the right track.
    And B&H is the best!

  5. Bri says

    Yay! This was MY question!!! Thanks so much for posting it and for such an extensive and helpful answer!! Love your blog and greatly value your advice!


    Bri’s last blog post..Aunt Rach

  6. Kayla says

    Wow you rock drew!!! I was just thinking about upgrading within the next month and had no idea what kind of camera to get next. Thanks =)

  7. Glad you’re going to do a post on lenses. I have a Canon Rebel and would love to know which lens to buy, besides the stock one that came with. Thanks so much.

  8. Rachael says

    O.k…are there ANY Nikon users???? well, besides me 🙂

    Here is something I would like to suggest to the person asking the question.

    Like drew said start out at entry level and buy a nicer lens. What I did was to by the nikkor 50mm 1.8 lens, its only $120 and the great thing about this lens, as opposed to the kit lenses, is that you can get your aperture down to 1.8…not only will you get those great bokeh pictures but you’ll also be able to teach yourself how to control all three exposure factors to get a great exposure. With a kit lens they are often 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 which means that you can’t stop down very low and you can only stop down to 3.5 at full zoom.

    I once read someone say that if you can’t take great pictures with a D40 (which is Nikon’s equivalent to the Digital Rebel XS) then chances are you can’t take good pictures with the D3x. I think this makes a good point, there is a certain element to photography that isn’t about the gear which makes it good.

    Rachael’s last blog post..The Rehearsal Dinner!

  9. Lindsay says

    I bought the Canon T1i about a month ago and so far I love it. I was debating on the 40D or 50D but decided on a Rebel because I am new and want to learn but not spend so much money at first. At the time I didn’t know I could get a 40 D body for just $889 or I probably would have. I am now looking at getting a new lens. I look forward to your post tomorrow.

    Lindsay’s last blog post..Not Me! Monday!

  10. Lindsay says

    Rachel, I use a Nikon! 🙂 Great post!

  11. Judy says

    Rachael and Lindsay, I use a Nikon D700. Love, Love, Love it!!

  12. Don’t forget about Nikon. I was positive I was going to get a Canon and ended up getting a Nikon. Check this site for great info on both:

    Thillysings’s last blog post..

  13. Rachael says

    Ohhh…I wanted the D700…but couldn’t be patient enough to save 🙂 I mostly just want to FX 😉 Maybe next year I can get that one and have the D300 as a back up (Now that would be a stacked photo bag)

    Rachael’s last blog post..The Rehearsal Dinner!

  14. One thing I wanted to share was that I had a photo acquaintance that was selling her older model camera so I got the 40d for much less than buying it new and it had hardly been used by her she’d recently upgraded to the 50d.

    Elizabeth McCoy’s last blog post..Tennessee, All Dressed Up

  15. I see your a canon girl, i use nikon. I see alot of professional photographers use canon!.. I feel left out!!.. 🙂

  16. wendy says

    I’m a Nikon girl too. 🙂 Great info. Good glass makes a huge difference as well as knowing your camera inside and out.

  17. Dina says

    I know you are a BUSY woman but if you could just answer this question with one word, that would be so sufficient and I would be SO grateful!

    Without considering price, which camera body do you believe to be better: the 40D or the 5D? I’ve researched both and am torn about the value each brings. I’ve been given a sizeable cash sum to buy a new camera and already have the Xti. If you get to this, thanks a million!!
    .-= Dina´s last blog ..30: growing vintage =-.

  18. admin says

    There’s no comparison. Hands down the 5d.

  19. Dina says

    Thanks! Just to clarify, this is the earlier 5D I’m asking about, not the Mark II.
    .-= Dina´s last blog ..30: growing vintage =-.

  20. Dina says

    Thank you so much Drew! Your immediate response is very appreciated!!
    .-= Dina´s last blog ..30: growing vintage =-.

  21. Amy says

    As most people on here I am just starting out and hoping to eventually go professional. I am torn between the XS because if the $$ factor. But can I use it if I am professional or do I need to upgrade first. Or the XSI which is discontinued but almost the same as the T1i. OR do I go all out for T1i? Please help.

  22. Kelly says

    I have the XS right now and shoot primarily with my 50mm 1.8 lens. I would like to upgrade to either the T2i or 50D. I am by no means a professional, but have started taking pictures of friends kids. I am torn weather to go ahead and go with the 50D, or just upgrade to the T2i and invest in more glass….any suggestions??
    Kelly´s last blog post ..Happy 1st Birthday- Epiphanie!

  23. Annette says

    I’m looking at getting into photography and was wondering about the Canon E0S Rebel T3 12.2 MP…I’d like to get into doing photography professional but need to keep my expenses low while learning. What lense would you recommend for this and do you recommend the speedlite?

    I love your blog it is so helpful! 🙂

  24. I am thinking of upgrading my XSi to a 60D. The XSI is excellent outdoors but the main thing I am wanting to improve is my indoor photography. I am not a professional and don’t plan to become one yet. I mostly shoot with a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 lens. Do you think I should get the 60D or a different lens? I have a 430EX II speedlight as well.´s last blog post ..Comment on Gone Fishing Baby Shower by Nikki

  25. DrewB says

    For indoor images you need a lens that will open up wider than 2.8. I would suggest investing in a prime lens.

  26. Cara says

    Thanks. I have the canon 50mm 1.8 but haven’t used it since I have become better. I will get it back out and experiment. Love your blog.