First time dSLR buyers always ask me what camera & gear they should get. I’m always hesitant to answer this question, because camera choice is so personal (Canon vs Nikon) and dependent on what you want to shoot and how much money you have.
With that being said, I know how confusing it can be choosing your first dSL with all the options out there, so I’m going to recommend what I consider the best overall and most reasonably priced dSLR for first time buyers, the Canon XSi (450D).
Why the Canon XSi (450D)?
The 12.2MP XSi is not the latest version of Canon’s wildly popular Rebel series, but it is such a solid camera that I feel it’s age is no factor in its performance. I had the opportunity to fully test this camera and I fell in love with it. At that time I had been shooting with an even older model, the Xti (400D), and I was shocked at how much better the XSi performed. If you are looking for all the technical specs, head over to dpreview. They do a pretty sweet job of breaking things down.
One of the great benefits of buying an older body, is that it is considerably cheaper. The new T1 kit is selling for $1099, while the XSi kit is selling for $699 CAN. And trust me, you’ll need that extra $400 to buy all those extra little camera bits like good lenses (which is almost more important than the body), spare batteries, camera bags, filters, etc, that inevitably end up costing $89 each. Also, I think that for a lot of beginners the XSi will be a great first camera.
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars buying the latest, greatest camera with all the bells and whistles, when you don’t know how to use those bells and whistles yet. I shot with a Canon Xti for 2 1/2 years before moving up to the 5DMkII. I felt like I knew my Xti backwards and forward and that I had mastered enough skills as a photographer to move up to something more professional.
The XSi does not have video, which may be a draw back for those of you who are really interested in video stuff. But unless you actually plan on creating and editing your own high quality videos, then just use your old point and shoot to capture fun video.
What other camera gear will I need to buy?
1. Camera bag. You just spent a small fortune on a camera, so protect it! i know it’s an extra $100 or so, but trust me, cameras are fragile and nothing sucks more than a broken camera. As a first time buyer, you are probably only going to have one or two lenses, so you don’t need something really big and heavy. My favourite small bags are:
Crumpler’s 5 Millon Dollar Home ($89.99 CAN)
Super trendy, lots of colours, sturdy. I lugged all my gear in this on my Australia trip. It even kept my camera dry during flash thunder storms.
Lowpro Stealth Reporter D300 AW ($89.99 CAN)
This was my second bag that I used to carry both my dSLR & my video camera, the Canon HV20. It is one of the most slick and streamlined bags.
Kata Sensitivity V ($89.99 CAN)
This is my favourite bag of all time. You will not find a better camera + laptop bag. It is so small & comfortable. It actually fits under plane seats and you can fit a lot more than you think in this bag. I can carry two camera bodies + lenses + flash + misc gear in this bag no problem. It also saves your neck from being yanked on all day by a side shoulder bag.
You will also need a spare battery. Get the Canon one. There are cheaper alternatives, but the Canon ones are better. I also recommend getting a remote control trigger if you are planning on doing any landscape or self-portraits. I use the Canon Wireless Remote Control RC1 ($50). It works well and the batteries have lasted 2 1/2 years and counting.
2. Also get a cheap camera cleaner kit with a rocket blaster, optical cleaner and those shammy things that come with everything electronic. Keep your gear clean from the get-go, it will save you a lot of grief later.
3. Get a Card reader. I have the Optex Multi-Card Reader ($50). It’s one of the cheaper ones, and therefore is quite slow. But it’s what I’ve been using for 2+ years, so it can’t be that bad. If you have lots o’ money you can get a pricier one, but this one works fine.
One of the most important thing is the lens you put in front of a camera body. I’ll do another post on my recommendations for lenses and off-camera flash gear, as I get loads of questions about that too.
Any more questions or tips, people who are mad that I didn’t choose a Nikon, leave ’em in the comments! Good luck and happy shooting!