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First time DSLR recommendation

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Initial post: 21 Dec 2012 14:26:25 GMT
I'm considering buying a camera to take high quality photos for several projects I'm working on and to post on a website I'm currently constructing. Images will mainly be of products that I will be reviewing, although I will use the camera when out and about on holiday, etc.

I'm kind of new to photography so have a lot to learn about everything and didn't want to spend a fortune on a camera initially. I've been looking at something like a Canon 1100d or a Nikon D3100, both seem like good entry level DSLR's and easy to get to grips with. There's also cashback offers on at the moment which makes it more attractive with the Canon 1100d being the cheapest at the moment. So I'm just wondering if these two models would be good choices and if anyone has any insight into which one I should go for.

As a footnote I've also recently looked at a Sony NEX-F3, not a DSLR I know but I can get one for £250 after cashback and it seems a good camera. How would something like this compare to the above two DSLR's?

Thanks :)

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Dec 2012 18:01:18 GMT
I bet you'd get good results with either of those choices and a decent tripod. The rest could come down to feel, ease of use of the menus and ability to use external flash; among others. Lens quality will be high on the list and both Nikon and Canon do an inexpensive wide aperture 50mm prime (fixed focal length) that will knock the kit lens into a coked hat. Not sure about Sony Nex there is a 50 prime but it may be a bit dearer. This will give pleasing perspective and enable backgrounds to be thrown out of focus to isolate the subject. It will be better in poor lighting too. You could consider Sony SLT 37 as well. All of these have the APS c sensor which is much larger than 4/3rds and compact sensors.
Try googling best entry level dSLR and best entry level interchangeable lens camera.

Posted on 21 Dec 2012 23:37:55 GMT
G. E. Hearn says:
I'd have the Nikon, others would go for the Canon. They're both equally capable, and no matter what the fanboys say, there's minimal difference. Lenses make a far bigger difference to your pics than the bodies, and both Canon and Nikon have been around long enough for there to be a huge choice and sensible used prices when it comes to glass.
Dr G makes a very valid point. Try them both and see which one you get on better with. Your camera needs to be quick to use and easy to adjust, otherwise you're going to miss shots because you're faffing about getting into menus.

I would suggest that as a bare minimum you need an easily accessible dedicated knob for exposure compensation, a dedicated button for switching metering mode and one more for switching AF zones. If you're not sure whether your intended camera has those, then ask the salesman. If he doesn't know either, then walk away and buy in a specialist shop.

The golden rule to remember is that more expensive bodies don't necessarily mean better results. Picture quality is at least 80% down to the lens. Professional cameras are simply more solid, better built, have a faster rate of fire and have individual knobs and buttons for common adjustments rather than making you faff about in menus and sub-menus.

Any camera is only as good as your ability to learn it and to use it instinctively. I've always found Nikons more logically laid out than Canons, but again, it's personal preference. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

Good luck!


Posted on 26 Dec 2012 00:36:09 GMT
I have 2 cameras the Sony a300 which is the main one ( not produced now ) but would certainly recomend one of the Sony Alpha range to start dslr photography. Some people would avoid the Alpha range but my brother in law, whose's a semi professional camera user, was very impressed with the build of the a300.
Just bought myself, with Christmas vouchers, a Olympus pen e - pm1 from a high street chain. Very impressed with it so far. As already pointed out the lens is very important as is your ability to learn. Seemingly 90% of a good photo is down to the photogrpher.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Dec 2012 12:01:44 GMT
Quiverbow says:
Go into a dedicated camera shop and look at all the ones within your budget. Some might look better than others but not feel right to hold. Ask on here and you'll get Canon/Nikon/Sony/Pentax/Olympus owners all enthusing over the brand they own.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Dec 2012 16:05:41 GMT
Goshawk63 says:
I'd echo all of this. Personally I use Canons and if you are going down this brand line, then I would spend about £100 more and get the 650D - it's a whole lot more of a camera. But the body's manufacturer is relatively unimportant - as others have advised, it is a good idea to visit a camera shop and handle several models to see what feels right in your hands. The lens is certainly more important. It depends what you want to photograph, but I think it's difficult to beat the Sigma 10 - 20mm.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Dec 2012 16:32:12 GMT
I'm sure there are a host of great cameras that would be suitable for you but I would recommend that you look at the Sony Alpha series. I bought an A33 just over a year ago as introduction to digital (my only reason for considering it was the Minolta fitting - I had a bunch of great Minolta lenses from my SLR days). I am incredibly impressed; it is fast and accurate and produces stunning images. If you can overcome most photographers' natural aversion to electronic viewfinder (which is a real advantage in low light) then you will find yourself with a camera which compares extremely well to the equivalent Nikon or Canon machines; indeed because the translucent mirror doesn't have to lift and drop before and after the shutter opening, speeds of 7-12fps are possible... faster than most alternative cameras at the same price. Check eBay and you will find a large assortment of lenses new & second-hand... I am so satisfied with the a33, I am shopping for an a77 or 99...

Good luck with your search


Posted on 27 Dec 2012 18:10:49 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Dec 2012 18:12:41 GMT
Quiverbow says:
You should still go into Park Cameras, WEX, a larger Jessops or some other independent (or even PC World if you have to) and look at all the models that you can afford. Play about with them and see which suits you best. They all have different features, which you may not need (video for example) and there's no better test than 'hands-on'. The shops won't mind.

Posted on 28 Dec 2012 07:43:02 GMT
I guess camera choice depends rather on yourself. If you are determined to learn about photography rather than shoot auto then you may go for entry level DSLR. Don't expect to much from kit lens. Be prepared to learn about lighting techniques, apertures and so on. If you expect blurry backgrounds/bokeh be prepared to buy a lens that will cost about the same as your camera or more. If you are going to be rather a casual photographer who just want better images without the complicated part, go for compact system camera. They are more user friendly, much (this should be in bold) easier to carry around even with accessories and they are not that much worse than DSLR's. Especialy Sony Nex 5N or Samsung NX1000 which have same size sensors as most DSLR's. You will still be able to upgrade to decent lenses (30mm F1:2.8 Sigma is a good start for just ~£100) and use different photography techniques.

I have sold my own Canon 1000D with lenses like 50 1.8 and 28-135 IS and bought Sony Nex 5N instead. Quite happy with my choice even though I am more advanced than most DSLR owners, shooting a lot in full manual mode and love to play with old manual lenses, macro tubes and so on. I would also advise to google for "compact system cameras vs DSLR" to find out more about differences and help you understand whats better for you.

Posted on 29 Dec 2012 11:29:55 GMT
Thanks for the suggestions, I might pop down to my local Jessops and have a handle of a few camera's. I'm leaning towards Nikon at the moment just looking at the camera's on Amazon, either the D3100, D3200 or D5100. Having said that I'm just taking a look at some of the Sony DSLR's, I wasn't aware they did any and based on a few comments though they might be worth a look. Just a further question though, which would you recommend for video? I use a camcorder almost daily for shooting videos and I know a lot of people use DSLR's for the same thing and wondered which might be best for video as well. It would be easier to have just one camera that did both good instead of lugging around two different camera types.

Posted on 29 Dec 2012 15:39:34 GMT
Last edited by the author on 29 Dec 2012 15:44:30 GMT
G. E. Hearn says:
Personally of your three possibles (In terms of Nikon) I'd have the D3100. There's not much difference between the 3100 and 3200, and the 5100 seems like more of the same. Biggest gripe I have with any of those is that they won't autofocus with the old AF-E type lenses. My D90 will, which is why I bought it, because I can use my old film camera lenses on there, of which there is a huge secondhand market at very reasonable prices.
Any of those three new ones means you're limited to using expensive and plasticky modern AF-S Nikon lenses only unless you're happy to focus manually.

All of the Nikon models you're looking at (and more) are covered pretty comprehensively here:

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Dec 2012 17:32:16 GMT
LadyBrighid says:
You can't go wrong with a Nikon P510. I am a Sony fanatic; and have maybe 8 or 10 of them. I tried a different model; and though - hmm, not too bad. I have had this model since July 2012; and didn't think I liked it - BUT by September; it has become my number one camera in use! It will do everything you need it to; and more!

Posted on 29 Dec 2012 20:37:44 GMT
C. J. Calver says:
Hi guys! Skywasher the Sony DSLRs are the result of Sony buying out the old Minolta camera interests. Minolta were always pretty good, and Sony produce some of the sensors used by Nikon. The only BUT is that the Nikon firmware is considered to be much better than that from Sony for the same sensors! You pays your money and takes your choice! Personally I went with a Nikon D80 so it would drive the old Nikon lenses, and have never regretted it (Same as Graham with his later D90). I have just upgraded to a D300 to get more of the same. I know the sensor is only 12 Mp but hey when was the last time you printed at above A3+? and the high shooting speed and rugged body has to count for something against the D7000, at least several of the mags cant justify the extra cost of the plastic D7000.

Posted on 2 Jan 2013 22:47:48 GMT
A. Messenger says:
Hi TJ, From my personal experience I would plump for Nikon, I know that there will be some who disagree with this advice. I have owned by Canon and Nikon and find that the colour repro is far more realistic on Nikon than the Canons that I have owned. I also have to say that I find the Nikon menus easier as well. If you go for something like the 3100/3200 you are going to have a decent camera that you can 'grow into', the alternative is the 5100/5200. Hope that helps

Posted on 3 Jan 2013 11:21:00 GMT
Thanks. I've ummed and ahhed over various camera's and driven myself insane by constantly changing my mind over which one to go for. In the end I've decided to be sensible and stick to basics and not get ahead of myself. I've ordered the Nikon D3100 as this seems to be ideal for a beginner like me, I like the idea of the Guide function which should be invaluable to a noob like me lol I can always upgrade to a better, more expensive camera when I've mastered the D3100.

Thanks for all the advice and suggestions everyone :)

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Jan 2013 19:55:16 GMT
Nik Watt says:
You'll be very-disappointed buying the NEX! It's not very easy to hold and the lenses are expensive, as you'll never 'settle' for the compromised lens that comes with it!

Personally, I would suggest a longer look at the Canon. The Nikon's okay but there's no 'depth of field' preview button (as there is on the Canon) and you have to buy specific lenses for the Nikon, as there's no motor in the body.

The best thing you can do is to go to a store - even if you buy it from here, of course - and see how each lies in your hand: Is the grip maybe too small on the Nikon; what does that do; what sort of price can I get a good all-rounder [lens] for? I'd suggest you consider Sigma from that 'front'.

I dismissed the NEX immediately, you'll notice: I own and use Sony DSLR cameras and five lenses for them..

If you think that I'm talking through my hat, "Google" my name.

Cheers - and good luck.

Posted on 3 Jan 2013 22:57:16 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Jan 2013 22:58:40 GMT
G. E. Hearn says:
T.J: There's nothing 'beginner' about the D3100. Put some professional lenses on there and you'll get professional results. Plus, you've got a camera compact enough to carry around without making your neck ache, which is more than can be said of some of my Nikons!

Welcome to the brotherhood of Nikon, my dear fellow! I would have bought exactly the same in your position. My first DSLR was the Nikon D40 and I've never for one moment regretted sticking with the lovely toys that come in the gold boxes.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jan 2013 10:54:05 GMT
Nik Watt says:
Still think the Canon's a better option - not least because the lenses 'go on' the "right" way. ONLY Nikon lenses are attached anti-clockwise.

"Glass" is the most-important factor (although the Sony-made sensor is important too). A better lens doesn't mean a better picture though - that's down to experience. Professional or otherwise.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jan 2013 11:14:15 GMT
Interesting as your opinions are, if TJS has looked at reviews and handled cameras, then who are we to question his decision to purchase a camera from the highly regarded Nikon company?
By the way Bronica ETR lenses attach anti clockwise and its a non issue. Personally I never use the stop down button on my cameras - mainly because I find I can judge the likely effect of aperture well enough and I can't see much on a dSLR screen which has just gone dark.
I think advice should be impartial.
I hope you have fun with the new camera TJS.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jan 2013 11:36:36 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Jan 2013 11:40:57 GMT
Nik Watt says:
A 'discussion' is a series of opinions, nothing else.

I didn't question what the person bought. They asked our advice (which is likely to be an opinion) and that's what I gave. Using a Bronica is a slow process and changing lenses on one isn't likely to be a rushed affair 'in case they missed a shot' - whereas using a smaller [DSLR] camera is more-likely to be a quick-switch.

Never said Nikon aren't of a high standard. Neither did I say that Canon were somehow better. And anyone preferring to use the screen to view their target is somewhat subjective too (if I have a viewfinder, I use it - but not everyone holds to this 'idea'): Either way, the view will - obviously - darken. If that's some kind of a problem: Take the shot at a given aperture: Check the result and - assuming your subject's still in front of you, shoot it again if the DoF isn't big enough or too much. Or you could use the 'auto DoF' setting (available on a Canon), and let the camera take control.

I assume Dr. G's taken a few photographs to 'know' the DoF for a given aperture over another, and I assume TJS hasn't (otherwise why ask the question in the fashion they did?). And so you have the experience they do not. And like you started, "Interesting as your opinions are": You continue with saying that you never use the Dof control button? Yet another opinion one could easily-question?

I agree though on the final line: Have fun, TJS - by "playing" with your new purchase you'll discover a great deal more than the instruction book can 'tell' you or [even] what we might know, as you'll discover why one person likes one thing over another; why Nikon & Canon lead the way (although the former uses bits made by other companies - whereas Can is the only camera made entirely by themselves: Is that 'eggs in one basket' or quality control, tough one).

Shoot whatver takes your fancy and then change a setting and see what difference it makes. See what you prefer TJS: Is it "right" or "correct"? It IS if you prefer it.

"Winners" in photographic magazines are usually wrong-ones IMHO but then, I've never won a photographic competition. This fact doesn't stop me holding an OPINION on them though.

Posted on 4 Jan 2013 11:49:48 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Jan 2013 11:52:21 GMT
G. E. Hearn says:
I've never considered that there's a right or wrong direction for a lens to mount personally. Once you know which way it goes on and off what difference does it make?
My initial preference for Nikon over Canon was that Nikons felt better built. I know they're both probably about the same, but the Nikon had a more solid feel to it. I've never missed a DoF preview button myself as I never use them. Even on my (many) film cameras. I know what to expect when I set the aperture.
Does anyone actually use them on a digital? Not being facetious, but surely rather than squinting at a dark screen you'd just fire off a test shot and look at the monitor? I know I would.

PS: When I said "Put some professional lenses on there and you'll get professional results" I meant technical quality, not artistic results. That is, as you say, down to the user. But the D3100 with top end glass is capable of outstanding results in a purely technical sense.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jan 2013 11:59:37 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Jan 2013 12:02:03 GMT
Nik Watt says:
And I know I do too unless it's 'unrepeatable' - sorry, I guess I mistook the question: I thought TJS wanted to learn as well.

My mistake - not my first, unfortunately.

And, as I said a while ago: I use Sony but I used to own Canons (like they were going out of style and only swapped to Minolta when their autofocus worked - thanks to the Honeywell system - when Canon's first try didn't [even the 35-70mm lens with the 'triangulation-system on top' fitted to the A-system (AT1?) that told the photographer which way to turn the focusing ring disagreed with each other at a Canon roadshow in the early 80s], and I was seldom in a shot taken by somebody else that was sharpish, nevermind in focus). I had a Nikon [F65] for a weekend but couldn't get used to the lens mount.

And with your Post Script, GEH: Make sure you support the lens, rather than the camera, TJS!

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jan 2013 12:03:55 GMT
Nik Watt says:
Keep the camera and buy better "glass" [lenses].

Posted on 4 Jan 2013 12:05:56 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Jan 2013 12:07:35 GMT
G. E. Hearn says:
To be honest Nik, since buying my Fujifilm X10 I've hardly used my DSLR. It's the size and weight that put me off lugging it around. The D90 comes out for anything action-related, mainly motorsports, but for everything else I prefer the X10. The only caveat to that is that it although it's very impressive for what it is, it still doesn't have the quality results of a DSLR, so I don't rely on being able to crop and enlarge a detail from a frame like I do with the Nikon. It's not so good at high ISO either. 800 is about the max really. But for the price I paid for it I'm more than impressed.

But my number one choice is still my Olympus OM-2n. It's the only camera I'd keep for everything if I were only allowed one.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jan 2013 12:20:07 GMT
Nik Watt says:
I use my NIKON Coolpix probably more-often than a DSLR (from Sony) and would probably change it 'in a heartbeat' to either Canon or Nikon [probably the latter, considering my name?]. But the question posed was for advice on an SLR.

The metering of my little A9100 outshines a camera selling for seven-times as much but it's 'horses for courses', surely? I'm more-likely to have a camera in my pocket than something 'weighing a ton' and only occasionally, when confronted with something beautiful, have I've returned with my SLR.

The enormous ISO of an A580 is pretty-much pointless compared to that on a D800 but look at the difference in price!

My sitting-room has two A1 canvas-wrap photographs: Both taken with six megapixel cameras - one a Panasonic TZ2, the other the gorgeous Konica Minolta 7D, and even my photographer friends cannot tell which sensor-size is responsible for each. They have each agreed to differ on which they prefer - but they all like the two.

I still own my Zenith-E [which I got for getting into college in 1976]; I've regretted selling my RZ67 ever since I did, despite the digital stuff I bought with the money it raised.
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Initial post:  21 Dec 2012
Latest post:  22 Feb 2013

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