The very first Canon DSLR I ever purchased, about a decade ago, was the Canon EOS 10D. The very first Canon lens I bought was the EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM zoom lens.
While my photography has advanced considerably over the past decade, this was an excellent starter set up for me. It was a decent DSLR for me (for the time) with a lens, which gave me a very wide range. Ultimately I upgraded bodies and got into more expensive Canon L series prime lenses, but this early set up gave me an opportunity to really experiment and try to figure out if this was a pursuit that I was going to invest more time and energy into.
About the same time I bought my original EOS 10D and EF 28-135mm lens I also purchased a set of Ping golf clubs. I thought golf was going to be something that I’d end up being interested in. I paid too much for what at the time were top of the line clubs. Unfortunately, I never did take up golf seriously and I have a very expensive set of unused Ping golf clubs that sit in my basement today. Maybe someday one of my children will take up golf.
The point of that story is, that if you are starting out with digital photography, you need something that is solid and good enough to take awesome photos, without investing $10,000 into your new hobby. This is why I suggest the EOS 70D and EF-S 18-135mm STM lens as an entry point for people starting out. The EOS 70D is one of Canon’s most popular DSLRs, but it’s much cheaper than the primary body I use, my EOS 5D Mark III. Although I do encourage people to use prime lenses, most people starting out don’t want to buy 5 different prime lenses with 5 different focal distances — that can get very expensive quickly.
The EF-S 18-135mm lens is a strong, high quality lens that you can use with the EOS 70D and shoot everything from wide angle landscapes, to telephoto shots of your kid’s baseball game or school play. With just a bit more range than my first EF 28-135mm lens, it’s a great way to start out. Although I don’t personally shoot a lot of DSLR video, many people do and it’s nice to have such high quality video as another option with this set up.
The photos in this post were all taken with this camera and this lens on my recent trip to Las Vegas.
Because the EOS 70D is a cropped sensor, this lens actually has even more reach than a 135mm lens on a full frame. A cropped sensor is 1.6x times smaller than a full frame sensor — full frame sensors are the same size as traditional 35mm cameras.
Practically speaking, what you see when you look through a camera with a cropped sensor at 50mm would be equivalent to what you would see at 80mm on a camera with a full frame sensor. For this reason, if you are shooting sports or wildlife or other subject matter where you want longer reach, the cropped sensor delivers more reach.
Full frame sensors, in my opinion, do better in low light and at high iso settings and are preferable, but they are also more expensive and might not be as necessary for someone starting out.
One of the fun things that I like doing with a zoom is zooming while my shutter is open on a long exposure shot. This creates an interesting double exposure zoom sort of effect that I use in some of my photographs. The disadvantage of this zoom is that it is not as fast (low aperture number) as some of the prime lenses.
If you end up starting with this sort of a combo, you might also want to consider the excellent value you get from a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II or EF 50mm f/1.4 USM prime lenses. Both of these lenses represent excellent value and are some of the least expensive prime lenses you can buy. You’ll have no problem using the EF-S 18-135mm lens during the day, but at night, or in a much lower light situation, you’ll appreciate being able to put on a faster 50mm prime lens that will work better in less light.
For many photographers the EOS 70D is all the camera you will ever need. Some of the best photographers I know are content to shoot with this body and never upgrade from here. To see some of the best work done with this camera body, check out these photos on Flickr all taken with the EOS 70D. Because this camera will be enough for some folks, I think this is a good place to start.
I personally use my EOS 70D as a second camera — a good backup to use in case something goes wrong with my EOS 5D Mark III and a camera I can keep at my office in case I feel like taking a break during the day and walking around town and shooting. I think it works especially well for street photography given the range you can get with the EF-S 18-135mm lens.
As your passion for photography grows though you will want to consider upgrading to a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and some of the prime lenses that I will review in some upcoming blog posts.
As a reminder, my analysis of my Canon gear is being done in partnership with Canon and I am receiving compensation for this work with them.