Robert Scoble says that he likes conversations on his blog more than email because everyone benefits from the information that is exchanged. I would agree with him. In the past few days I’ve had about 10 people come to me asking personally for information on what digital SLR they should consider buying for Christmas. Although my knowledge is by no means comprehensive (there are many, many digital SLRs that I’ve never tried) I thought I’d take a minute to offer up some recommendations at the various price points.
First a comment about brands in general. I’m biased towards Canon. I shoot Canon personally. If you look at what digital SLRs the Pros are shooting these days Canon completely dominates the field. You still see a few Nikons out there and you also see some Hasselblads at the very high end (I had my portrait taken with one up at Getty last month), but mostly the Pros shoot with Canons. This does not mean that Pentax and Fuji and any number of other digital SLR manufacturers don’t make good digital SLRs, it just means that the Pros are mostly using Canon.
My first recommendation is for the person who wants to try to spend around a $1,000 on a digital SLR set up. For this person I’d recommend the following.
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT body (approx $534) includes a battery and charger.
Canon EF 28-135 zoom lens (approx $389 with rebate).
SanDisk Ultra II 4GB flash memory card (approx $159).
Total cost: approx $1,082
My second recommendation is for the person who has more money to spend and really wants to go top of the line. Here I could not recommend more highly the Canon 5D. It’s the camera that I personally shoot with. It’s the best priced professional grade full sensor digital SLR. It takes amazing photographs!
Canon EF135 telephoto lens (this is my favorite lens of all) (approx $875 with rebate).
Canon EF 50 (approx $289 with rebate).
Sandisk Ultra II 8GB compact flash card (approx $300)
Total approx price for the above set up: $4,400.
If you wanted to try and do it without using the three prime lenses and only using one zoom lens instead you might want to consider the Canon 24-105 zoom (approx $1,000 with rebate)
Total approx price for the 5D, zoom and memory card: $3,800.
If you already have Nikon compatible lenses or just prefer shooting Nikon, I’d also recommend you look at the Nikon D200. This is another solid offering that takes amazing photos. Personally I’d spend the extra $1,000 and get the Canon 5D with it’s full frame sensor, but if you really want to go Nikon the D200 is definitely worth looking at.
My advice on where to purchase your camera is that you consider B&H; Photo (all of the links above). B&H; Photo has a reputation for very great service and very low prices. B&H; doesn’t pay me any money to say this. I’ve bought a number of different items from B&H; and have been very happy with their selection, service, website and prices.
Alternatively you might want to consider purchasing your camera at Costco.
The disadvantage with Costco is that you can’t really customize your camera set up just the way that you want.
The advantage with Costco though is that their return policy is perhaps the best in the business. Anytime within a year you can take your camera back to Costco for a refund or replacement. This is better than the one year warranty that comes with Canon cameras where you need to send your camera in if it breaks. With Costco you could just walk into the Costco give them the old broken camera and get a brand new one. In fact, if the price drops on the camera you can even get your money back for your broken camera and spend the lower amount on a new camera. It’s amazing to me that Costco is able to offer money back guarantees on technology which surely will drop in price over the year, but they do. (Computers are six months only by the way).
The one thing you *don’t* want to do is try to simply find the cheapest retailer online using shopping comparison price engines. I did this about a year ago and it it resulted in my most popular blog post of all time after I had a run in with a sleazy bait and switch camera retailer out of Brooklyn called PriceRitePhoto. You can read the horror story if you like here.
Avoid buying the camera kits with the flimsy kit lenses. You will get so much better photos by buying a decent lens. Also consider purchasing a sturdy tripod if you are interested in doing night photography. Don’t waste your money on a cheaply made tripod that will break. You’ll just end up buying another one. I’d recommend one with a good ball head like this.
Oh, and what should you do when you take all those great new photos with your new digital SLR? Upload them to Zooomr and share them with the rest of the world of course (I’m the Evangelist and CEO for Zooomr so I had to get that one in there)! Check out some of the great shots that people are putting up on Zooomr here!
Oh and for a little inspiration on your new photography hobby check out this cool little Canon commercial video as well.