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My SLR recommendations

A lot of you have been asking for my SLR recommendations, so I thought I’d put a post together to answer those. And this’ll serve as a handy place to send people when they ask in the future. Yay for saving time!

Almost nothing I’m going to share with you in this post is going to be terribly frugal, at least not in the typical sense of the word.

Good camera equipment doesn’t come cheap, and that’s that.

But as you know, I’m a big fan of spending money in ways that reflect your priorities, and so if capturing life through a camera lens is important to you, I think investing in quality cameras and lenses can be a really wise thing. And if you can manage to avoid the portrait studio by using your camera, it could actually pay for itself over time.

Just make sure you don’t overextend yourself to purchase any of this…save up and buy when you’ve got the money (also, Amazon sells most of the equipment I use, so you can always save up Swagbucks to help you afford your camera equipment).

Ok! Here’s a quick rundown of what I recommend.

Canon vs. Nikon

I use Canon equipment, only because my first SLR was a gift, and it was a Canon. I honestly don’t think one is better than the other (I think you could be very happy with either!), but Canon is all I know, so that’s all I’m going to talk about.

New or Used

Thus far, I have not been brave enough to buy any SLR camera equipment used. I’m too nervous that it will have been abused, so I’ve stuck with saving up and buying brand new.

I know you can get good deals on Ebay or Craig’s List, though, so if you’re braver than me, those are options worth exploring.

Camera Bodies

If I were starting out with no SLR, I’d be inclined to buy the Rebel t3i, which costs about $600 for the body. It”s the best of the less expensive camera bodies, and if you’re just starting out, there’s no need to go crazy and buy a super expensive camera body. It takes HD video, and has a fairly extensive range of settings and options.

If you want to spend a bit less, you can get the Canon Rebel t1i, which I have. It takes both video and still pictures, and costs $500 for the body. (I opted for this one because the improved video features on the t3i weren’t important to me since I own the 7d.)

There’s also a t2i, but that’s SO close in price to the t3i, you might as well bump up to that.

I wouldn’t really recommend it for a beginner because it’s heavy and expensive, but I dearly love my Canon 7D, which sells for $1400. It’s got fabulous image quality and a ton of features…I lurve it to pieces.


A good lens is WAY more important than the camera body. I’ll take my $500 Rebel with a good lens over my 7D with a bad lens any day.

The lens that you can get with the Rebel camera bodies is typically an 18-55 zoom lens. It’s adequate, but nothing fabulous. I found it to be a good learner lens for my first year with an SLR, though, and I did manage to turn out some nice photos with it.

That above photo is actually hanging in my living room. Check out how curly Zoe’s hair used to be!

I don’t really ever use that lens now unless I’m going to be shooting in very messy conditions (think windy beach).

Buying the kit lens with the camera is the cheapest, simplest route to go. However, if you want to step up your game a bit, a better lens is the ticket.

My most favorite lens, the 50mm 1.4, sells for around $375. This is the lens I shoot with around 95% of the time, which means that almost all of the photos you see on this blog are taken with it.

If you like to take pictures of people, I SO recommend getting a 50mm 1.4. It’s fast, small, light, and gives you lovely blurred backgrounds. (by the way, there is a 50mm 1.8 which sells for around $100, but the image and build quality aren’t nearly as nice as the 1.4.)

The 50mm lens doesn’t zoom in and out…it’s fixed right at 50 mm. If you’d like a zoom lens, you might want to consider the 28-135, which sells for $366. It’s definitely a better quality lens than the zoom lens that comes with the camera body, and 28-135 is a nice all-purpose range.

I hope that wasn’t confusing. If it was, here’s something simple for you…if you want to get a new SLR with a lens, you could buy the Rebel t1i with 18-55 lens for $550. That would get you everything you need to get busy shooting, and you can always upgrade your lenses down the road.


I prefer not to use flash whenever possible, but when I must use flash, the Lightscoop is super handy.

I wrote a whole review of this with before and after photos, but basically, it makes your SLR’s flash pictures look much less like flash photos. The Lightscoop is only $24.95, and so worth it.

Lastly, I like to take my smaller SLR with me everywhere I go, so I love my Jo Tote. It’s a camera bag and purse combined…so perfect for me!

It comes in lots of other fun shades, so if you want to be more colorful than me, you’ve got options!

For times when I want to bring all my equipment with me, I like to use my LowePro SlingShot bag. It’s got room for several camera bodies, lenses, memory cards, and more. I can fit a crazy amount of stuff in that bag.

I know that’s a very basic overview, so please do ask questions in the comments if I didn’t cover something you wanted to know.

Oy. That’s a lot of black in one post, isn’t it? Here’s something a little more colorful to finish things off.


Today’s 365 post:Practicing what I preach

Joshua’s 365 post: Pool!

disclosure: this post contains affiliate links

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Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

Hi, how did you learn to use the SLR? I bought an EOS 70D recently to take photos of my boys but am quite overwhelmed with all the features. Any suggestions? P.S: I love your family photos :)


Tuesday 2nd of December 2014

Well, I did a lot of reading and experimenting and practicing! I didn't take any formal classes...I just learned at my own pace.

Start out by shooting on the P setting, which is pretty simple, but it's better than the green square setting, which kicks off the flash allllll the time!

What lens do you have?


Thursday 23rd of February 2012

So glad you linked to this post in today's post. I'm thinking of upgrading my camera lens, but didn't know what lens would be a good move. Now I have a better idea of what would suit my needs -- thanks!

Ever since I moved to email subscribing to your blog, I hardly ever comment anymore, but I do still read and appreciate every single post. Keep up the great work!


Thursday 23rd of February 2012

Don't be a stranger! :)

Eric E.

Thursday 23rd of February 2012

That Lightscoop looks awesome, but, btw, do you know that with your 7D, you can use "flash exposure compensation" to turn way down how much flash you get? I assume you know that, but I just thought I'd check. Especially for daytime flash fill-in it is awesome. I used to use a Lightscoop type gadget, but now, 90% of the time I just have the flash dialed down. If you don't know about it, check it out. Press the "Q" button, and it is right underneath the ISO window.....


Thursday 23rd of February 2012

Oh, good to know. I'll have to give that a try.


Saturday 24th of December 2011

Loved this post---thank you so much for the great info. I have a Canon Rebel T1i and the 50mm 1.8 lens and have some trouble with getting my focusing just right... Would the upgrade the the 50 mm 1.4 lens help with this? Do you notice a significant difference between the two lenses? Thanks so much!


Tuesday 27th of December 2011

The 1.4 is sharper and better built than the 1.8. Do you manually choose your focal point? That will help your lens to focus exactly where you want it to.


Thursday 15th of December 2011

I'm a Canon to Nikon convert and I've never looked back! I went from the Canon Rebel to the Nikon D7000 and I'm very pleased. My lenses are the 50mm 1.4 and the 35mm 1.8.

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