Need advice on 1st DSLR purchase and lens


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Jun 21, 2013
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I'm about to venture into the world of photography and need some advice on starter equipment.
I want to take portrait/people, landscape/nature and macro photography.

My initial thoughts were to get a Canon Rebel T3i or a Nikon D3100. At this time, I am leaning towards the Nikon.
Are there any thoughts you can share on your experiences between these two cameras?

I have also decided on a 50mm prime lense (F1.8) for some portrait shots.
Does anyone have any other lens recommendations?

Coincidentally, my father has been doing serious photography for over 30 years.
However, most of his photography today consists of astro-photography.
He's advised me that the playing field has changed so much that he doesn't feel his advice would apply to my needs.
(For those curious he uses a Canon DSLR)

Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated.
A starter dslr and kit lens plus a 50mm prime- it seems like you are heading in the right direction already. I use canon and like the layout of them, but nikon seem to be getting the better reviews lately due their sensors being better. Of the 2 cameras you ask about the T3i is better specced. If you went up a notch in nikons line up to the D5100 or d5200 nikon would probably be a better star camera. You wont go far wrong with whichever but if you go canon you can use your dads lenses
Canon and Nikon are the top two brands. They have been in the SLR business since at least the 1950's, and virtually all professionals choose one of the two brands. Serious photographers spend more on lenses than camera bodies, so they rarely switch brands. Obviously, you can't go wrong with either. You can get a much better camera for the same price if you take your time and use Craigslist.

I live in the San Francisco area, and there are a lot of people here who have bought expensive cameras and lenses, and promptly gave up the hobby. So now I buy my cameras and lenses on craigslist. I meet in very public locations (Starbucks is great) and I only buy pristine, mint-condition equipment. For example, I just upgraded to a Canon 7D for $800. The camera had under 500 lifetime exposures on it. At a discount store, I would have paid $1,300. Another guy sold me the the $160 battery grip for $60; it doesn't have a scratch on it.
I'm next going to buy the Canon 10-22mm lens. $760 at Amazon, and I'm looking to pay $500.
I'm sure that you're nervous that the equipment could be damaged; it's pretty easy to check out a camera, but the best thing is to buy one with no scratches at all -- a Mint camera that looks totally unused. One good test is to manually focus the lens to infinity and shoot a white piece of paper. Then zoom in on it to look for sensor dirt/marks/smudges. A tiny dust spec is ok, but reject anything else.
Maybe I'm confident about this approach because I've been a photographer for a long time. All the sellers I've met were very cool people and everything went very smoothly. For the $900 camera sale, we met in a coffee shop in a mall that had a bank; I brought no cash and brought the guy into my bank to so the withdrawal. The teller looked at us and said, "Craigslist, right?"
I had the d3100 when I started photography but gave it to my daughter for college and bought the d5100. I found both lovely cameras to use but looking back I wish I had purchased the d5100 in the 1st place.
I suggest you start with Nikon D3100. Its quite basic and great for beginners.
Two main questions:

1) Will your father be willing to let you borrow and/or purchase at discount any of his equipment?? If so, buying a Nikon would be ridiculously silly, if your house if full of existing professional Canon gear that you may have access to!!

2) What is your actual budget?
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I would go with whichever feels better in your hands. I'm a recent convert, from Canon to Nikon, a 40D to a D7000. It took some getting used to but I love the layout, everything is quick and easy. The ability to mount the older/cheaper Nikon Ai and AiS Glass is an awesome way to go, lenses are plentiful and a lot of the them are built like tanks.
I've justed started out myself and have learned a lot by reading this forum. I ultimately decided on the Nikon d5100. I had a canon point and shoot which was a pos so I wouldn't spend big money on another canon product. I also read many reviews such as
Nikon D5100 In-depth Review: Digital Photography Review
and I learned the 5100 is a better choice for me. I've seen pics from the 3100 and I wasn't disappointed with image quality fwiw.
I'm about to venture into the world of photography and need some advice on starter equipment.
I want to take portrait/people, landscape/nature and macro photography.

When you say "nature", are you thinking about birds and horses or trees and waterfalls? It makes a difference to what we recommend.
That's a good kit. I recommend only entry-level DSLRs for beginners because until you master the fundamentals no more expensive gear will make any difference. Starting out with pro gear would be like learning to drive on a Formula 1 instead of the family car. It sounds cool, but if anything it hinders more than it helps. Photography is about the photographer, not the equipment. I also recommend a zoom so you can experiment with different focal lengths and have some flexibility, but it doesn't have to be pro level to take good pictures. The 18-200 is one option, and Nikon makes several zooms.
I think if your dad already shoots canon then you should get the canon. I have to believe that good ol' dad will let you try out some of his lenses.
Am I to understand that Canon and Nikon lens' are not interchangeable?
If so, then there definitely may be some value going with Canon.
I hope to be able to get my hands on both in a retail store this upcoming weekend.

As far as my budget, I'm fully capable of spending for a "higher quality" camera and a few lens'.
However, I don't feel I NEED a $4000 camera as I currently do not plan on photography being a primary source of income.
Couple that with the fact that the entry level DSLRs take fantastic photos and I'm confident I will be happy with an entry level.

Please understand that I am not a total beginner. Growing up with a photographer as a father allowed me to grow up using some fairly high end equipment.
When I was young, I used to use one of his Pentax cameras. There was nothing automatic on that camera and I learned at a young age how to use a "manual camera".
(BTW - That Pentax camera was able to take some incredible photos!)

I remember, at the age of 14, being taken by my father to a photographers convention.
I remember meeting a professional photographer who had some work on display. I was completely in awe of the quality of his work.
This gentleman was so patient with me and answered all of my questions. I will never forget something he said to me.
Feeling completely outclassed by his work I told him "I don't think I will ever be able to take pictures like this"
In an effort to cheer me up, he responded: "Do you know the difference between an amateur photographer and a professional?"
He grinned at me and said "The professional throws his crappy pictures away".

I do not expect that to have the same impact on you as it did to me at the age of 14. But I thought you would appreciate the cute story.
Also, if it makes any difference, my father is currently shooting with a Canon EOS 6D
Canon EOS 6D is definitely a good camera. As is the Canon EOS 5D Mk 3.

Sadly I dont know too much about entry level Canon DSLRs. Instead of starting to cite Wikipedia to you, I'll leave advice for them to people who have practical experience with Canon cameras. :)
Also, if it makes any difference, my father is currently shooting with a Canon EOS 6D

It does make a difference. As others have said before, you should get an inexpensive new Canon T3i body ($427 from getitdigital via eBay as of this post) and borrow your father's lenses until you can figure out which ones you want to invest in. You'll be able to figure that out pretty quickly after you start shooting.

One caveat - your father's full frame 6D is compatible with EF lenses only - your crop-sensor T3i will take both EF and EF-S glass. When you decide to buy lenses, I recommend you stick with EF glass, even if it is more expensive. If you decide to upgrade to a full frame 5D or 6D later, your EF-S glass will be unusable.

Hope this is helpful,

Hybrid Camera Revolution

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