#Back to the Roadmap

So you decided to buy a DSLR. If you wonder whether you should buy a DSLR or compact camera check this article on DPS: Should you buy a DSLR or Point and Shoot Digital Camera?

I remember buying my first DSLR back in 2010 having only owned a pocket camera (Canon Powershot A530). I had no real reason to prefer a brand, but for some reason I liked the marketing strategy Nikon had, so I thought I should go for Nikon. Back then two of my friends owned a DSLR: a Canon and a Pentax. Choosing Canon was another option.

I started to investigate what buying a camera costs to find out what my budget would be. In the end the price made me go for Nikon (I found a really nice deal). Taking in concern that Canon and Nikon were head-to-head when it came to performance (my alternative was the Canon 1000D) I decided money would be my reason.

On this page I will give you some tips about buying your first DSLR.

New or used?

It is up to you if you buy a new or used camera (warranty versus price). If you go for a used camera, make sure you do your homework. Search for articles like this one on photographylife.com to avoid problems.

Budget (if you go for new)

Once you decided to buy a DSLR, figure out what your budget will be. Keep in count that you probably need more than just a camera. You will need:

  • A camera (new will be at least 300 euros or 350 euros including kit-lens)
  • At least one lens (most kit-lenses focus slow and are made of plastic, however they are quite sharp!)
  • Memory cards (at one point you will start shooting large RAW files, so go for at least 16GB)
  • A case / bag for your camera and lens
  • Optional: extra battery

Considering all above, you probably end up spending around 500 euros for the basic models and over 1.000 euros for the more advanced DSLR’s (if you look hard enough, you might end up cheaper).

Your goals

Deciding what camera to buy and what first lens(es) depends a lot on what your goals are. If you are about to start a study in photography and use your camera intensely, you might consider not buying the cheapest camera. Take note however: A camera body that will cost you 500 euros does not necessarily has better picture quality than a camera body that costs 350 euros. But the more expensive version will have more available settings (for example if you need your flash off camera). Realize that more settings, mean a steeper learning curve.

The lens has the biggest influence on your photography and is more important than the body. If your main goal is tho shoot landscape, find yourself a wide angle lens (somewhere between 10mm and 20mm). If you walk around all day for some street photography, a nice 18-55mm lens will do fine. If you go for wildlife you probably need at least a 200mm lens and when shoot portraits a lens in the range of 50-100mm suits the job.

Types of cameras

Roughly spoken, there are a two types of cameras: those with an interchangeable lens and those with a non-interchangeable lens. This page will focus on the cameras with interchangeable lenses, since changing lenses will offer more creative options.

This leaves you simply said to three options: A crop camera (mostly used by consumers), a Full Frame camera (used by professionals) and mirrorless cameras (mostly used by consumers). Hopefully these pages will help you decide what to buy:

If you are reading this page because you want to buy your first camera, my advice would be to look at a crop camera or mirrorless.

Types of lenses

As mentioned earlier your lens will make the difference and has to suite your goals and needs. There are different kinds of lenses:

  • All round lens
  • Wide angle lens
  • Standard lens
  • Telephoto lens
  • Prime lens
  • Macro lens

All round lenses cover the ranges you will need in daily situations, mostly this range will be around 18-200mm. This is very comfortable and will suite every situation (landscape, portrait and wildlife), but due to the complexity of the lens it will lack sharpness. Wide angle lenses are best for landscape, while standard lenses are great for portraits and street photography. Telephoto lenses are used by both portrait photographers and wildlife photographers, while macro lenses are mainly used to take pictures of small bugs and such.


To me, the brand of a camera is one of the least important choices. Which lens to buy, having enough storage (memory cards) and a nice bag are the most important decisions to make. These are also the most difficult ones. The most sold brands are Canon and Nikon, but Sony and Pentax also produce some great cameras. If you have friends who already own a DSLR, maybe the same brand will help both of you, since you can borrow each-others gear. But as I mentioned, my choice was based on price (best deal) and “feeling good by the marketing strategy”.

Nikon D3100

My first DSLR, one of the best purchases I ever made!

Hopefully this article has given you some direction. Use Google a lot, go to a store and ask questions, try cameras out in the store and ask how friends or colleagues who own a DSLR experience their brands.

My final note: There are some great articles around the Web on this subject, make sure you also read this one on tutsplus.com.


    • Hi Kurt, thank you very much for your kind words! I was playing around with some “table top” photography. A nice way to learn how light influences your photo 🙂

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