Cameras Are a Queer’s Best Friend: The Holiday DSLR Guide

Hey there starship troopers! It’s the holiday season and we’re here to help you get your shit together in a variety of ways: recipes, kits, gift guides, holiday how-tos and so very much more. Come along with us, won’t you, to Autostraddle Holigays 2011!  FYI, if you follow the amazon links from our website when making holiday purchases, Autostraddle gets a little percentage of that money via our Amazon affiliates account, so we encourage you to do that All Season Long!! Thank you!

You’ll probably need to get some gifts for the special snowflake people in your life, but first let’s start with YOU. Do you own a DSLR camera? Have you been thinking about buying one? There’s really no better time or excuse than the holidays to buy yourself an extravagant digital camera that’ll take your festive happy snaps to a whole new level.

We asked a bunch of photographers, ranging from the professionals to the weekend warriors, to tell you all about their favourite cameras and lenses, so you can make a super informed decision about your next purchase. Or, if you already have a DSLR and just wanna talk depth of field, this will be relevant to your interests as well.

Update: This article is based on the personal recommendations of photographers on the Autostraddle team. Coincidentally, they are all Canon users and so many of their recommendations are for Canon products. If you use another brand of camera and can make a recommendation, we’d love to hear it! Leave it in the comments section below.


Robin Roemer

Autostraddle Photographer

Canon 5D Mark II
If you are serious about making photography a full or part-time career, or at the very least making back the $2500 you will spend on a camera body alone, I recommend the Canon 5D Mark II. It looks just like the Canon 5D with some major improvements. First of all, this camera is amazing in low light. You can shoot up to 6400 ISO without much grain at all. It, like the Canon 7D, can also take HD video. But seriously, don’t buy this camera if you don’t know everything about shooting in manual because it’s a waste in the hands of an amateur and way way too expensive.

Canon 5D Mark II with Canon 50mm lens

Canon Flash 580EXII
Like a professional camera, having a professional flash is only worthwhile if you know how to use it. Bouncing flash is an art. Direct flash can flatten a photograph in a really gross way if not done correctly. (If done correctly, it can be really awesome.) I use this flash on manual and it is amazingly powerful. You can take these bad boys off camera and use them with umbrellas and pocket wizards/sync cords and get a softbox effect without spending thousands on heavy duty light kits. Get some “eneloop” rechargable batteries and shoot away for hours. If you find you are shooting faster than your flash can keep up, consider Canon’s compact battery pack CP-E4. It houses 8 more batteries (use the same batteries as you are using in your flash). Strap that bad boy onto a belt and it hooks right up to your flash and allows you to pop off many flashes in a row without needing time to recycle.

I’m really into prime/fixed lenses. The downside of primes is that you have to change your position since they do not zoom. The upside is that they are sharp, have tremendous depth of field, and can pull amazing color/tonal detail. My favorite two lenses are:

Canon Normal EF 50MM f/1.2 L
This is by far my favorite lens. If I was going to be stranded on a deserted island and I had to bring three things, I would bring the Canon 5DMark II, the 50MM 1.2, and probably a boat because I’m not sure I like the idea of a deserted island post-Lost. There is only the slightest distortion on the 50MM for portrait, but you can use this to your advantage.

Canon 85MM f/1.2L II
This is an amazing portrait lens. No distortion, just solid amazing color and detail. You do have to have some room to use it though so don’t rent this lens and a closet-sized studio. It’s super thick glass causes it to be a little heavy, but at $2000 a pop, you want to feel the weight of decent glass in your hand. It’s so sexy, you guys.

Other lenses to consider:

Canon EF 24-70MM f/2.8
I know everyone loves this lens because it’s versatile but be careful about using it for years and years without getting it checked out once and awhile. It’s already not the sharpest lens you can own and it tends to get fuzzier with age. It is widely known as the most popular standard Canon lens because it’s decently priced and has a great range.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 II
This is by far the best canon wide zoom. This is great for nice landscape shots, big shots of a room, or fun close ups, but obviously there is distortion as it is a wide angle. I’m not a fan of the “fish eye” look, so this is as wide as it gets for me.

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L
If you want to shoot amazing portraits and not have your subject know you are targeting them, this is a great stealthy lens. Plus, its HUGE and you’ll get at least one, “damn, that’s a serious camera/lens comments per minute.”  Intimidation is the key to success.

If you are a pro, try to stay away from lenses that are f4 and up.

Check out Robin’s photography.

Canon 5D Mark II with Canon 85mm lens


Stef Mitchell

Contributing Photographer


I use a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera. It’s one of the best cameras on the market and so I had pined for it like Oliver for a long time. When it arrived in its sealed brown box, I cleared a space on my bed and, taking a large knife from the kitchen, I opened the box with the precision of a bomb squad and proceeded to marvel at its contents. Being a little too excited, I dropped the knife and sliced my thumb open from the nail down to my knuckle. I have an aversion to blood so I spent the next half an hour lying next to my new camera with my thumb wrapped in toilet paper trying not to pass out. I thought I’d take my chances blowing off stitches to play with the 5D.

Canon 5D Mark II with Canon 24 - 105mm lens

As the camera body was no small purchase, I could only afford to get one lens. I saved up for a long time for the Canon L Series 24–105mm zoom lens, reasoning that it would be the most useful lens for me because I can basically get away with using it for all occasions.

The lens is full frame and has a slight kick on the edges, making it seem like it can see further sideways than your own eyes can. The only bummer is that the f-stop only goes to 4.0. I recently used a friend’s Canon 85mm fixed lens and almost gave myself a nose bleed seeing the difference in switching the f-stop to 1.8. That will be first on my list of things to buy once I win the lottery. Aside from that addition, I couldn’t recommend the Canon 5D and 24-105mm lens set up more.

The first time I used this camera, the difference between my old one (Canon EOS 450D) and the one I had in my hands was like comparing a Mercedes to a go-cart. I ran outside to shoot anything around me and realized I was shielding it from the wind like a newborn.

Generally I would recommend any Canon product. I’ve progressed from the Canon IXUS point and shoot to the Canon 5D, and used almost everything in between. The shots have always been super sharp and it allows you to have the colors really accurate or saturated. Despite only playing around with a Nikon on a few occasions, I have a child-like hate for them, it’s sort of like the same way you’re born liking a sports team and hating all their rivals. So while my opinion of Canon being the superior brand of cameras and lenses isn’t exactly objective, I stand by it.

Check out Stef’s photography. For inquiries email stefmitchell1 (at) gmail (dot) com

Canon T50 with Canon 35 - 70mm lens



Guest Contributor


I don’t remember how old I was when I saw a picture of myself and thought, “I should really be on the other side of the camera”, but that burgeoning insecurity propelled me into the dazzling world of mediocre photography that I inhabit today.

Since my dad gave me his old Pentax SLR as a kid, I have been through a lot of cameras. The Canon EOS 7D is easily my favourite. From the moment I picked it up, I noticed the excellent build quality. It is seriously sturdy, considering the reasonable weight, and the grip feels almost as though it had been molded to fit my hand. This is so important when you are shooting for any amount of time.

Usability on the 7D is seamless. My thumbs just automatically find the multi-function and quick menu buttons located around the shutter button and viewfinder now. The shooting modes range from full auto (point and shoot) to creative auto, which allows for tinkering without necessarily knowing all about aperture and shutter speed. I tend to lean towards AV mode most often. It gives priority to the aperture and allows me to control depth of field. The 7D also allows for personal customisations and, of course, manual mode.

The lens I bought with my 7D body was the Canon 24-105 EF f/4L IS USM lens. This is a robust and versatile zoom lens with fast, accurate focus. The lens can capture a sweeping landscape and a bee hovering over a flower in crystal focus. Whenever people ask me which lens to start out with, I recommend this one.

Canon 7D with Canon 24 - 105mm lens

Canon 7D with Canon 24 - 105mm lens

My secondary lens is a Canon 50mm EF f/1.4 USM and I am so in love with the depth of field on this lens, that I can’t even find words. One word I would like to shout at you, however, is BOKEH! Look up the bokeh galleries on flickr, and you will see what I mean. Aside from that, it is a great lens to have when I am walking around with my camera all day and don’t feel like dislocating my shoulder.

Canon 7D with Canon 50mm lens

Canon 7D with Canon 50mm lens



Senior Tech Writer

I love taking pictures and I love things with on buttons, but I’m actually pretty new to DSLRs. I shot 35mm when I had access to a darkroom, and then begrudgingly came around and realized that I wanted more pictures and had less time. The thing about digital cameras with more advanced settings (DSLRs…not point and shoot cams) is that no matter how you slice it, it’s expensive. You’ll need a body (the hunk of camera you hold in your hand) and lenses, and shit adds up fast. The consensus is generally that you should assess your budget, get a body you can afford, and save some cash for some decent-to-awesome lenses. Lenses are expensive, but they’ll last you forever if you take care of them. And you can use your lenses on any body you might buy, assuming you keep it somewhat within the family (i.e. Nikon-compatible DSLR lenses or Canon-compatible DSLR lenses).

My first DSLR was a refurbished Canon XS body. As far as DSLRs go, the Canon XS about as entry-level as you can get — but that’s okay! Something along these lines would be more than adequate if you just want to play around. While the XS is a fine ultra-basic budget DSLR, at this point the Canon XSi, XT or the XTi would be a sizable step up, so there’s no reason not to spring for one of those to future-proof your shit a tiny bit. Though you could probably buy a Canon XS for next to nothing. In fact, I’d trade you mine for a case of decently hoppy beer.

When I bought my Canon DSLR, it came with an 18-55mm kit lens (a kit lens is usually a kinda meh quality package deal lens that comes with a body). While that lens is by no means awesome, it is a) cheap and b) fairly versatile, since you can keep it zoomed out at 18mm and be all wide-angly which is fun at big events, or when you want to make a Craigslist post for your tiny room and make it look huge and airy.

My one most important suggestion for anyone on a tight budget or just getting started with digital photography is this: Buy a super cheap (think $100) 50mm  f/1.8 lens. It’ll teach you a lot, if you’re looking to start from the ground up. You’re gonna have to walk around to frame a shot since there’s no zooming to speak of, and that’s super important for any beginner to get a feel for. The 50mm f/1.8 is a) super cheap b) super lightweight and compact and c) good for low-light situations (sexy) and d) really sharp for how cheap it is.

Beyond that little fella (which I still use all the time) I’ve got a Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 telephoto zoom lens that is mostly pointless. So far I’ve taken about three pictures of birds with it, but it’s great if you want to watch your hot neighbor across the alley undress or something. A few weeks ago (during an Amazon bender and after two glasses of wine) I bought my first dedicated wide-angle lens, a Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 HSM. I haven’t had a chance to test drive it much, but it looks like it’s going to be really fun for shooting out and about in the city, taking pictures at events and stuff, or shooting in the wilds on assorted camping adventures.

Canon 60D with Sigma wide angle lens

Like I said, I’ll trade you my old Canon XS for beer because I just bought the Canon 60D. I’m still shooting with my lens that cost me less than $100, but the image quality jump is impressive. And most importantly, it feels more like a real camera. I plan on getting a faster 50mm when I can afford to, and actually I might not even end up using any other lenses once I do.

With digital photography, I think the bottom line is to find something that feels good and make the most of it. As a tech-obsessed individual, I tend to get a bit wrapped up equipment, specs, etc…but most of my favorite photos have been the serendipitous by-products of whatever camera I had in my hand at the moment. Don’t overthink it. Just shoot, shoot, shoot and see what happens.

Canon 60D with 50mm lens



Music Editor

Three months ago — prior to starting a new job that required me to take publication-quality photos — I didn’t even know what ‘DSLR’ stood for. The only camera I owned was a Canon point and shoot that I’d only ever dust off for holidays and weddings. I didn’t have the faintest idea about digital cameras or lenses or how to take a photo that was good enough to publish somewhere other than Facebook.

With that in mind, the Canon EOS 60D was the perfect camera for me. The controls are super user friendly, and the automatic setting takes high-quality photos with little effort on my part. But it’s still a fairly serious camera – it has plenty of creative modes and advanced settings so, as I gradually become a better photographer and figure out what things like ‘ISO’ and ‘f-stop’ mean and how they’ll affect my shots, I’m sure it’ll serve me well for the remainder of my accidental photography career.

Canon 60D with Canon 24 - 105mm lens

Every now and then Kate lends me her more fancy and expensive Canon EOS 7D and, as a total DSLR n00b I can’t really tell the difference between the two models – except my 60D is slightly lighter and has a flip screen. So if you don’t plan on doing anything more than a little amateur photography, the 60D will suit you just fine. Same goes for the entry level Canon EOS 600D, which I tried out and probably would’ve purchased had my employer not been footing the bill.

Rather than purchasing a 60D that came packaged with a single or double lens kit, I opted to buy the body and lens separately. Just like Stef and Kate, I opted for the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens. I’ve found that the 24-105mm range is suitable for both close-up and landscape shots, so it removes the need for me to buy and then carry around two lenses. And like Robin, I also use a Canon EX580 II flash.

Canon 60D with Canon 24 - 105mm lens

My job requires me to frequently travel interstate, which means lugging a 17″ MacBook Pro plus my camera, lens, flash, hard drive, chargers, batteries and power packs in and out of trains, taxis, hotels and airplanes. The Lowerpro Fastpack 350 camera and laptop backpack makes this a cakewalk, it has room for all the things.


Reader Recommendations

Nikon D40X
Nikon D5000 with 18-200mm VR lens
Nikon D3000 with Nikkor 35mm/f1.8 lens

Olympus E520

Canon EOS 1100D AKA Rebel
Canon 500D AKA Rebel T1i
NON DSLR:  Canon PowerShot S95

It’s your turn! Got a DSLR recommendation? Leave it in the comments section.

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  1. I bought myself the Canon EOS 1100D as an early christmas present.I think it’s known as the Rebel T3 in the US. I think it’s the best you can buy for around 500$.It’s great for DSLR beginners.

  2. It’s like every time I think Autostraddle has covered every single topic I could ever hope for, you go and give me exactly what I want/need when I didn’t even know I was craving it. I mean sure, I love my Canon XTi and 50mm f/1.4 lens, and of course, I don’t have the money to buy any new camera stuff right now (especially if I keep insisting on shooting film with my old Canon Rebel SLR from high school, hello I am a pretensions hipster but I make no apologies, I LOVE FILM) but a post that is essentially camera porn/a ready-made photography wishlist to last me the rest of all of time??!?!?! YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

    Sigh. YOU are my special snowflake person, AS…what can I buy you for the holigays?!

    • I currently shoot with a Nikon and didn’t have any problem with this article. They didn’t position it as a survey of best value or best in class at varying price points. I read it as the kind of feedback you’d get when you ask your friends what they use and how they like it (and, in this case, all the friends have Canons).

  3. I get it, Canon is excellent. I adore my 60D esp. with my 30mm 1.4 but there are other brands out there! Nikon and even Pentax make good DSLRs.

  4. Gah. I have been dying to buy a 5D for a while now. I probably won’t be able to afford one until it becomes totally obsolete. And then the next big thing will be a bajillion dollars.


  5. My theory is that if you’re going to spend money on a DSLR you should probably invest on a tripod as well. I’m not a photographer and know very little about photography but I find it quite useful anyway.

  6. Hmmm… Bit Canon-centric there, no? yeah, they’re a solid choice for a newbie since there’s so much 2nd hand gear out there, but I now shoot with Olympus and actually, I prefer it to Canon. My E520 fits much nicer in my hand and it’s super light… Seems a bit too much like a sly canon advert than an actual legit piece on DSLR’s…

    • really? You think that Autostraddle is in cahoots with CANON and slipping you a “sly canon advert” (which is forbidden by the FCC, sidenote, all sponsored content must be labeled as such)? Autostraddle? No, the sly adverts can be found in all major mainstream magazines where recommendations are tightly controlled by their advertisers and the giant media conglomerates that own both the magazine and the products they discuss. But not here.

      If Autostraddle was in cahoots with Canon, MAYBE I’D BE ABLE TO AFFORD ONE.

      Crystal was a bit concerned when all the photographers in our network returned her request with a Canon recommendation, but decided that it’d be stupid for someone to recommend a product they hadn’t used themselves just to create brand diversity.

      But luckily the comments exist, where you can recommend other brands that we weren’t able to talk about in the post!

      • “If Autostraddle was in cahoots with Canon, MAYBE I’D BE ABLE TO AFFORD ONE.”

        I was going to make a response along the same lines…lol

      • For what it’s worth, which is probably not very much, I used to have a camera salesdude roommate and got to know some of his photography geek friends… they ALL recommended Canon when I asked. It was pretty much ‘get a Canon, if you don’t get then get a Nikon, but get a Canon’. I think they just make good cameras.

        Anyway, I wouldn’t mind if Autostraddle was in cahoots with Canon, as then AS would have mega $$$ and live forever and ever. For some strange reason, however, one of the world’s electronic giants has NOT chosen to use a girl-on-girl culture site as a front to peddle its products. Maybe you posted one to many articles about how effing broke we all are?

        • “For some strange reason, however, one of the world’s electronic giants has NOT chosen to use a girl-on-girl culture site as a front to peddle its products.”

          I am legit laughing out loud. Not sure why exactly I found this so funny, but thank you for that :)

  7. I hope Canon will give you money for every time you put them in bold print. That should get you a lot more money than any Amazon links we click on.

    Personally I’m super happy with Olympus, they work a little differently but you can do really nice things with them and their mechanics never fail you.

  8. No Nikon love at all?! I’m super partial to my Nikon d40x – and use my 3 lensbaby lenses on them. SO FUN I DIE

    • hi! so about this Canon thing…

      This article is based on the personal recommendations of photographers on the Autostraddle team. We all happen to be Canon users.

      Given that buying a DSLR camera and lens is such a significant investment, I thought it would be irresponsible of us to recommend cameras that we hadn’t personally tested just for the sake of ensuring that all camera brands were represented. If anyone out there uses a Nikon or an Olympus or any other camera and has a recommendation, we’d love to hear it!

      • The internet fails sexual innuendo yet again.


        I appreciate the article and professional opinions and advice it’s just kinda disappointing to hear exclusively about one brand. I understand that you’re all Canon users and are responsible enough to write about what you know but surely at least one of you knows someone with an Olympus or a Pentax or a Nikon? Why not swap gear for a shoot or something and compare similar gear? (plus it’s fun to test drive other people’s gear!*)

        *totally open to interpretation

        • I agree that it’s fun to swap gear and still I’m glad they stuck with describing what they know. There’s no shortage of info about camera gear from people who test gear for a living (if someone doesn’t know where to start, can be a start). That’s a different experience than having to lug your gear around on hikes or through airports or to weddings – or what it’s like doing all three in the same long weekend.

  9. I’m very amused at how this post is entirely Canon. I get that that’s what you guys use, but perhaps a little time spent on seeking out awesome Autostraddle readers that use other brands would’ve made it more well-rounded. Just sayin’. :)

    • Remembering that none of the authors of this post works for Autostraddle full-time, I hope Autostraddle’s awesome reader continue to proactively share their experiences / opinions in the comments rather than wait to be solicited.

      • Unfortunately, not all readers can sift through every single comment for additional input, especially when a post can have hundreds of comments. Plus, I think it would promote participation if readers actually get featured alongside regular contributors in a post. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Probably I’m just crazy.

  10. What are your recommendations for a decent point and shoot for those of us without need for a mammoth camera contraption but still want creative control?

    • I’m so, so sorry I’m about to recommend another Canon camera (CONSPIRACYYYYYYYYY) but I’m pretty impressed with my IXUS camera. You can muck about with a few settings. To be fair, I’m a pretty shitty photog but you know.

  11. Derail maybe (sorry) but does anyone have a higher-end point and shoot recommendation? Mine died and I’m about to do some travelling, and I would like something good to capture the experience… I am partial to Canon, thinking powershot s95, but would welcome all recommendations :)

    • Hello,

      I would recommend the Panasonic DMC-FH25K 16.1MP Digital Camera for your needs.
      I have not used this particular model but have used the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 7.2 Megapixel camera. I used it for about a year and was never disappointed with the results. If anything the model I’m recommending is an upgrade because of the higher pixel resolution and additional settings. The camera I used did surprisingly well in low lighting situations and the photos were crisp due to the Leica lens. It also featured manual (ISO)sensitivity settings that are often not available to point and shoot cameras. This one says it has “Intelligent Exposure Light Detection” which automatically adjusts the exposure but I’m not sure if it includes the manual settings option. There might be other comparable models that fit your needs better but I would definitely recommend sticking with the ones with the Leica lenses. I didn’t know if we were allowed to put links on here but if you look up the reviews there are some extensive ones out there that allow you to weight the pros and cons. I hope this helps.

    • I use a Canon IXUS 110 IS point and shoot camera – I think it’s called a Canon Powershot DS960 in other parts of the world.

      The model’s a few years old now but it still serves me really well. It’s simple to use and takes great shots, particularly outdoors. It can also handle a lot of knocking around which is handy, I drop everything.

      • Thank you Crystal! I really appreciate it. If the model is a few years old then it’s likely to be fewer $$ too :)

  12. Off-topic a bit but if any camera-minded person could advise this really inadequate photographer, I would really appreciate it.

    I’m trying to photograph jewellery, and I’m having loads of trouble with glare and with capturing the detail. Any idea what I’m doing wrong or what I can do to fix it? I’m using the macro setting on my (painfully inadequate, I know) basic 15 megapixel digital camera.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions (apart from ‘dispose of the painfully inadequate camera’ because I just spent all my money on materials and additional tools :P).

    • You could try picking up or preferably borrowing a polarizing filter. If you’re using a point and shoot camera that won’t allow for the filter to be attached you can just hold it steadily ahead of the lens or mount it creatively to help reduce the glare. Use a tripod if you’re not already or place the camera on a solid surface like a table or a stack of books on said table.

    • I’m assuming you are using lights (like lamps and not camera flash/studio flash equipment)? If you are: diffuse the light. You can use fabric or plain white printer paper. Tape the fabric or paper to the light. That should help get rid of some of the glare. (may be a bit flammable… but I haven’t had a problem…)

      If you want something a bit fancier. You can build a light box using a box/cardboard/foam board. If you google it you can find some tutorials.

      • Thank you both so much! I couldn’t get hold of a polarising filter, but between the stack of books and a light tent I picked up fairly cheaply in a sale, my pics are incredibly better!

  13. Hi Crystal I really like this post and love that you assembled basically world-famous lesbian photographers to give their recommendations and photographs, I know that’s not easy.



  14. I’ve personally never used a Canon, but I swear by my Nikon D500. I’m especially in love with my 18-200mm VR lens- it’s like magic.

  15. i don’t know much about cameras, canon or otherwise, but the photography in this post makes me so happy! it’s gorgeous! thanks for this.

  16. This is awesome. Also it will save me a lot of time reading endless gadget reviews when I win the lottery because all I really need to know is what is good enough for Robin.

    But since my skill level would be a waste of most of these things I’ll keep playing with my T1i baby.

  17. If I can find myself a job this summer, my money will be going to a) chipotle and b) a semi-decent camera.

  18. Seriously, who the F has an extra $2,500 to spend on a camera right before christmas? I understand that these professional photographers are making recommendations based on personal experience and such, but what about the beginners or the ones who have maybe $600 to spend?
    I’ve been shopping for a decent SLR that won’t break the bank and I’m trying to decide between the Canon Rebel T3i ($660) and the Nikon D3100 ($540). Anyone have experience with either of these?

    • The Canon Rebel T3i was recommended in this post – it’s the same camera as the Canon 600D that I wrote about in my section. (I’m not sure why it goes by two different names, it’s confusing.)

      I tried out the Rebel T3i / 600D and thought it was brilliant. It was super lightweight (but without seeming fragile) and it had all the controls and features I was looking for. I don’t have $2,500 either and so as I mentioned, had I been buying a camera with my money instead of my employer’s, I would have opted for this model. It’s a really great option.

        • When I was deciding between my T1i and the Nikon of whatever # was comparable at the time I went with Canon partly because my previous Canon point and shoot blew my mind and partly because the lower range Nikons have a more limited lens compatibility. I have no idea if I will ever afford a second lens or if I will want one that wouldn’t have worked on the Nikon, but I had a gut reaction to avoid limitations. :P

  19. p.s. Kate’s photo with the cockatoo flying in front of Sydney harbour = BEST = also now I am homesick.

  20. The Canoncentricity is an important factor – I definitely see more women using Canons, now I am convinced it’s a new secret lesbian symbol.

    I have a Canon 500D (Rebel T1i in US I think) which I got because it seemed to be at a decent price/value point, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the most of more advanced features. For other inept amateaurs I recommend saving money on the body and using the cash on other important bits and bobs, such as:

    – a nice bag. I have a crumpler one, which looks nice and non-camera-baggy. Kind of expensive new, but loads of cheaper ones on ebay.

    – a sack of rice. This is for when you mistime a shot while going under a waterfall and accidentally submerge the camera. Put camera in a ziploc with rice, then spend a week crying/praying it will come back to life. Can also use excess rice to make a tasty snack while you wait.

    – lenses. Like Taylor, I found limited uses for a zoom lens. I got one good shot of an armadillo’s arse after it ran away from me while I was changing lenses. I definitely wish I’d opted for a wide-angle lens for better landscapes. Instead, I stitch together several dodgy shots using a program like MS ICE.

    – a better computer. Processing photos is tedious. It might be less tedious if you have a computer that doesn’t take an age just to rotate one picture.

    – a holiday. So you have nice things to take bad photos of.

    More mind-blowing tips available upon request.

  21. I use a Nikon D3000–it’s an entry level DSLR and it’s perfect for figuring out if you actually are into photography or if you just want to buy an expensive camera. My favorite lens is the Nikkor 35mm/f1.8–it does amazing things in low light.

    As for point and shoots–i can’t recommend enough the Canon Powershot S95. It’s got the ease and usability of a pns, but it also has some manual control settings that make you feel like a photographer. You can set the shutter speed as well as the f stop, so you can do some neat things. the lens is so great that you can actually take pictures in very low light and actually see things–it’s great.

  22. A good option for people like me who have very little money and just want nicer photos than the point and shoot cameras, there’s Fuji. I got one a few years ago for around $300. Yeah, its quality is no where the same as the thousand dollar cameras, but it’s great for amateurs who need to start small and cheap and want to learn. I have an older s-series and I’ve been pretty happy with it. It takes some fiddling with though to get the light and colors correct, but I do think it’s great for broke beginners.

  23. I have a Nikon D70s, which has been the love of my life for the past 6 years and served me well. Still lusting after a D3, though. I need a cute lady person to buy me one. Meh.

  24. re: canon vs nikon debate, i found when i was doing research prior to buying that at least in the entry to mid-range level, at the same price point canon would consistently have slightly better features, like slightly higher megapixels, slightly larger screen with higher resolution, better video mode, things like that. no prizes for guessing what i have.

  25. That 50 mm lens Robin mentioned… I want to make sweet love to that lens. If you ever have a chance to use one: do it.

  26. The Canon PowerShot S95 (which is my go-to point-and-shoot when I don’t have my Nikon DSLR) has been success-ed by the S100. It’s only slightly more expensive than the S95 ever was, but supposedly has a better sensor, longer zoom, and built-in GPS. It’s also got some minor design changes. With that said, anyone want my S95 so that I can get the S100? =P

    • Um, actually, maybe I do (if I could pay you by paypal and you would send it internationally as a gift). If you are serious, feel free to shot me a message :)

  27. Thanks for pulling this guide together! I’m in the market for a new DSLR and I like that you covered a range of gear, including lenses.

  28. Haha so I clicked on this, and didn’t even understand the first paragraph. I don’t even know what DSLR stands for.

  29. I love the Canon MKII (I don’t have it but I plan to get it eventually). I’ve used it a few times at my old internship shooting in very low light. But the pics are still brilliant. Even though i have rather small hands, holding it was comfy….even for a hour or two.

    Right now I’m shooting with a Sony Alpha 350…which is no longer on the market. I’ve play around with some sony’s other cameras (55, 33 etc) but was not a fan at all. The 700 and 900 were ok. The 77 should be out now. While the specs are nice and there are lots of nice reviews for it. Its not for me.

  30. Does anyone have any thoughts on the Olympus Pen E-PL2 or E-PL3 (or any other micro four thirds cameras)? I’m in the market for a nice camera, but I travel a lot, especially in developing countries, so I want something that is portable. Reviews seem to suggest image quality is almost as good as that of DSLR cameras. Coming from the world of point and shoot, I’m sure anything would be an improvement.

  31. Canon?? Nikon?? neither, i’m all about the PENTAX!!!! its so unrated in my opinion, and a little bit less expensive than the two bigger brands, if can afford it get a Pentax K-5 or if thats too expensive get a Pentax K-r

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