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Do you want to understand your camera and take great photos today?

Yes Please

I often lurk around photography forums, and a common question that comes up by people who aren’t regulars is ‘which camera should I buy?’.

It’s somewhat tiresome, and the answers are almost always the same. It starts off with a battle between Canon and Nikon, and then a good look at the price range.

I have my own views on how to solve this problem, so here it is…

Canon or Nikon?

All the Pentax, Sony, and Sigma lovers out there might not like my view on this, but here it is. Buy Canon or Nikon. That’s not to say that the other brands aren’t any good, because they are. It’s just that Canon and Nikon give you more options (huge range of lenses and flashes for example).

Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s have a look at which one you should buy.

Disclaimer: I use Canon (not that it matters).

I have two very important questions for you to ask yourself:

  1. Which brand do your friends mostly use?
  2. Which feels best in your hands, and seems the most intuitive to use?

Follow up these questions with some more to help you narrow it down:

  1. Do you want to be able to record HD Video?
  2. What is your price range?

These questions may not be the ones you were expecting. That’s because people get caught up in technical specifications. Don’t think ‘hmm, the screen comes out in this camera’, or ‘yeah, but this camera has more megapixels’.

It’s all nonsense.

The truth of the matter is that Canon and Nikon are constantly trying to outdo each other. If one brand is currently better than the other, it doesn’t stay way for long.

The difference is negligible; the advantages are in areas that most people seem to ignore.

Which brand do your friends mostly use? This is probably the most important factor which will affect which camera you buy. If all your friends use Nikon, there’s a good chance that they will lend you their lenses and flashes. They might also help you to learn how to use your camera.

Camera manuals seem to have gotten worse, so having a friend who can show you how to switch modes, and change things like ISO, will really come in handy.

Which camera feels best? Pick up the camera. Whether it’s in the store, your friend’s cameras, or something you’ve borrowed before, one of the brands will feel better.

I personally find Canon much easier to use than Nikon, but that’s down to me. I also like how it feels in my hands. If I’m going to be using it for hours on end, this is really important.

When you take HD video recording into consideration too, then that will determine the age of your camera. I usually recommend newer cameras though because they have better processors and features.

Finally there’s the price range. Here’s how I break it down.

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Entry Level

Canon EOS Rebel T3 (1100D) – $479.00

The Canon T3, also known as the 1100D, has a 12.2 MP sensor. This might seem like a lot by modern day standards, but I assure you, it will do just fine.

You might be thinking about getting older, higher range cameras, which isn’t a bad idea. But the entry level range is a good place to start as you will have the latest technology at a good price.

This camera is just over a year old. I doubt it will be replaced for another year or so, but if you’re willing to spend a little bit more cash, then the next level up would be a better choice.

I’m not going to ramble on about tech specs, you can see all of that by clicking on the link above. I will note that this is a pretty basic camera.

It’s very small, and the camera only shoots at up to 3 fps. It does record HD video too though, but only at 720p.


Nikon D3200 – $646.95

This is still the entry level range so there’s not too many bells and whistles. I’m sure you’re wondering what justifies an extra $160. Well to start, there’s twice as many megapixels at 24.2, which is good. The more the merrier in the lower range, but chances are that most people won’t really need them.

For printing the photos, to say, 10*15 inches, there’s not going to be a massive difference.

Another advantage that Nikon has over Canon is that it records HD video in full 1080p. This would definitely account for the increase in price. There is also a couple more autofocus points (which I’ve never really had a need for), and it also shoots at 4 fps.

Mid-Range Consumer

Canon EOS Rebel T3i (600D) – $799

This is the next step up in the range for Canon, and it’s a very popular range indeed. I actually had the XTi (400D) myself, and it’s a range that I trust. About once a year they update the camera, and the next version will be the T4i, or the 650D.

They make the cameras better each time, and add new features like a fold out screen, or live-view in the past. If you’re looking to get started on a camera which is going to last then this is a good place to start. I owned my 400D for over three years before upgrading.

This Canon camera costs $50 more than its Nikon counterpart, but it does come with two extra megapixels, at 18MP. That’s probably where the advantages stop. It shoots at 3.7fps, which is slightly slower than Nikon’s 4fps. On the plus side, unlike the 1100D, this camera records full HD movies at 1080p.


Nikon D5100 – $749

The Nikon is a very good camera for the price. It has slightly less megapixels than the Canon, at just 16, but I assure you, that’s more than enough. Like the Canon, it also has a fold-out screen, which can be tilted, and shoots full HD video. It’s also cheaper.

A feature you may find useful is the built-in HDR mode, but I couldn’t say how good this is. Canon have just included similar technology in their Canon EOS 5D MkIII. It’s certainly something to look out for.

There’s also the ability to apply different effects to your photos in the camera. But that’s not something I think you should be playing with if you want to learn and improve your photography.

Advanced Consumer

Canon EOS 7D – $1,799

This is a high-end consumer camera. This is where you start to see some real improvements from some of the cheaper cameras on this list. For starters, the 7D shoots at 8 frames per second (fps), is weather sealed, has 100% viewfinder coverage, shoots at speeds of up to 1/8000 of a second, has 19 cross-type focus points, and of course, records full HD video. It’s also lighter, has considerably shorter shutter lag than the Nikon below, and two more megapixels at 18MP.

On the down side though, it is a lot more expensive, with very little justification for it. It’s a good camera, but is it better than the Nikon?


Nikon D7000 – $1,499

The Canon has some good specs, but I think for the price, the Nikon comes out on top. It does have two megapixels less, and only shoots at 6 frames per second (who cares?), but it wins on most specifications. The image quality is better, a better dynamic range, and less noise at higher ISOs. The battery life is also better, slightly lighter, a better boost ISO, and has room for two memory cards. Oh and it’s $300 cheaper.

The Nikon also offers 100% coverage with the viewfinder, a strong magnesium alloy body, and good weather sealing, just like the Canon 7D above.

Both excellent cameras, but the price does win it for the Nikon – other than that, there’s not much in it.


Canon EOS 60D – $1,199

When you start to get into the higher range of cameras with Canon and Nikon, the lines between the models start to blur, and the prices start to separate. I didn’t want to leave the Canon 60D out of the mix though as it’s a very good camera for the price.

The screen flips out and has a higher resolution than the Nikon above. It also boasts more megapixels at 18MP, rather than 16MP. The 60D is a good camera, but in areas such as ISO noise, image quality, colour depth, weather sealing and dynamic range, the Nikon does come out on top. Still though, it’s $300 cheaper so should be considered.

A Personal Note.

If you’re looking to buy a camera, but can’t decide which one is for you, I recommend buying the best one you can afford. Time and time again, I’ve made the mistake of buying a lesser version of something that I’ve wanted, in an effort to save money. It almost always resulted in me buying twice, rather than getting it right the first time.

If you’re looking for higher end cameras, then the ones that are getting the most talk at the moment are the Nikon D800 and the Canon EOS 5D MkIII. They’re not out just yet, but click on that link to see a full comparison. I will be revisiting this topic in the future with other ranges of cameras, so click like below to keep informed.

Which DSLR Camera Should I Buy? – The Answer!

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  • Lol this is a funny article!! Why write so much? The title could have been, “Which DSLR should I buy? Go for a Nikon or Canon. For more details refer other websites”

    • Did you read this whole post?

  • Josh just one question, Why are you printing prices in $ I was under the impression you were in the UK.
    otherwise a good read

    • I am indeed, but only 10% of my traffic comes from the UK, rather than the 66% from the US so posting dollars appeals to more people.

  • Matt

    Very difficult subject to post about subjectively and from a Canon Nikon comparison you’ve shown little bias between the two.
    I don’t agree with your suggestion to only stick with Canikon tho. Not all Dslr buyers will go on to be professional photographers who need a range of 30 or more lenses, flash guns and extras that Canikon provide. For most weekend amateurs, any dslr would do and Pentax, Sony, modern mirrorless would suffice and serve them well. You can get more bang for buck if you consider an equally good Pentax K series, Sony A or any of the mirrorless cameras.

  • Billy

    I had a Nikon D5100 and I loved it, but I was not feeling very comfortable with the grip. I have sold it and buying the D7000 this week. I feel both Canon and Nikon are good when it comes to image quality unless you are a absolute prof and look for nothing but the best. Go for a camera that fits well in your hands. Remember, its not the camera, but the camera man that makes a differnce

  • Rosa b

    Thank you for writing this ..very useful for such a polemic topic.


    I looked for a camera for long time. I had a rebel that a friend borrowed me to learn photography. In the end, I decided for a Sony alpha Nex 5n.
    Same sensor that one on the Nikon D7000 and very compact. I should have go for the Nex7 but for now 5n is OK. Next year or 2014, will go for the same bang for the buck again.
    I am no pro, but at least one of my PRO (i mean pro for someone who lives of photography) asked me what i am using for my shots as the photos are very good (also i feel flattered) 😀

  • You might be partially right about CaNikon but theres is one big problem. It is true that CaNikon have widest lens/gadgets range. On the other hand except really top pro models, both bodies and lenses are way overpriced compared to competition and especially cheap Canon bodies are absolute crap. I have Nikon now but I had most of cheaper and semi-pro bodies and many lenses in my hands over last 7 years. I used to work with Olympus and I must honestly say, that my current D5100 is junk construction compared to any dslr body from Olympus. Cheap plastic, no attention to details, crippled ergonomy… same applies to cheaper Canons. They should learn a lot from Pentax or Olympus. Btw. these major producers both stealed live view, ultrasonic sensor cleaning and tiltable LCD from Olympus. I do not remember any really new thing from CaNikon in last 5 years. They only improve but they do not invent.

  • Kyl;er

    I’ve personally found much success with the Pentax K-r (upgrading from an old Pentax *istDL – no, I have no clue how to pronounce it). I find Pentax’s lens options pretty good, and their huge compatibility is great. I don’t know how other brands are.

    Image quality wise, the K-r is up there with the really high ends from what I’ve compared myself, and online, and it handles low-light pretty well.

    Only real complaints are the mediocre low-light focusing, and the 720p video, but I don’t use that much.

    In the end, it largely relies on the photographer’s skill and how well they can handle a camera.

  • vikram

    hi am from canada, actually am a point shoot camera guy. looking to enter DSLR or Mirror less camera lineup (NOT PROFESSIONALLY). here is my question i have four choices (1). Canon t4i (2). Nikon D7000 (3). sony NEX-6 (4). sony NEX -5R. Which one is good to start, which gives better picture quality and video too (I use camera for 75% photos, 25% videos). Please suggest me if there some other better cameras too. My Budget is $800-$1200. Will be looking for a perfect reply. Thank you.

    OR is there any update on D7000 coming soon????

  • sgatkinson

    Being a Pentax user, I find that now leaving them out of the discussion is not right.  The Pentax K-5 series is as good if not better than the Nikon D7000 (my understanding is that they both use the same sensor). It has a mode that allows you to use both the Shutter and Aperture Priority at the same time. Not to mention that there are a ton of older Pentax lenses that can be used.

  • Sumeet Tripathi

    Nikon D5100 or Nikon D3200, I am confused between them, could you help me which to buy? To help you i must state that i am not a professional and this would be my first DSLR. Also now a days Nikon D3200 is selling at a lower cost than Nikon D5100 inspite of having higher mega-pixels. Why?

  • V3cToR

    Oh GOD
    The article itself is good, but the price ranges are ridiculous. Maybe these are for brand new, out of the shop, but a real newbie, and even hardened veterans, will search for second hand cameras. Where I live you can pick up a Nikon d3100 for about 250 with lens(just as an example). The d7100 for around 500 (body). I don’t know about the others, since I use nikon, but I feel like this is something a lot of people don’t mention.