Looking for your first DSLR?

It's that time of year again!  We're in the midst of shaking off the food coma and checking the injury tally from Black Friday.  We're bracing ourselves for the holiday sprint.  Inevitably, this time of year, everyone who shoots will have a league of friends, relatives, and coworkers asking the same question:

"I'm getting a {Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Quinceanera/Emotional reparations for traumatic faulty parenting} gift for {x} and was thinking of a camera.  Which DSLR should I get without breaking the bank?"


Camera technology in the past 5 years or so has come a long way.  Even entry level DSLR cameras can capture professional level images in the right hands.  I think the Canon Rebel T3i is a great place to start if you're on a tight budget.  This model will give you a full sampling of what's available on a professional-grade camera but in a limited scope.  For instance, it offers continuous shooting or "Spray and Pray" mode which is great for sports, kids, or pets.  The T3i, however allows you to shoot at 3.7 frames per second whereas more professional models will shoot closer towards 7 frames per second.  This truncated yet capable sampling of features keeps the cost down and lets you explore lots of different types of shooting so that you can find what you're passionate about.  The ability to explore will point you on a clear path towards your next model when you're ready to upgrade.

The menus are laid out in a straight-forward way and all the controls are within easy reach.  The T3i lens mount accommodates both EF and EF-S lenses.  That means you can invest in the higher quality EF lenses and they will be compatible with an upgraded full-frame sensor camera body.  As a little bonus, this camera also features a large articulating LCD screen.

The camera comes with a battery, charger, transfer cable, software, and camera strap.  This camera is available in a kit with a basic 18-55mm lens f/5.6 lens.  This kit is on sale often, and usually runs around $450-500.  For around $650, you can usually get it in a bundle with an 16GB memory card and a basic camera bag.  If you're looking for stocking stuffers, these are always helpful:

If the recipient becomes a budding photographer, you'll never be in want for gift ideas ever again.  There are countless tripods, stands, light modifiers, straps, and other accessories that will always be very much appreciated.  For now, the above will arm them with enough to get their feet wet and explore the possibilities.  Would you recommend something different?  Leave it in the comments!

**Please note - When it comes to brand, I always recommend shooting what your friends shoot so that you can share lenses and flashes.  I shoot Canon and that's what I'm familiar with.  Nikon is awesome too and I'm sure they have a comparable model available. :)