DSLR Starter Kits

Every year I get asked the same question. Every year the answer is different ;~).

Basically, the premise is something like this: "I want to buy my son/daughter/grandchild/friend a DSLR kit to get started with serious photography. What do I buy?" Almost always, price is a big factor: the questioner wants to keep prices to a minimum.

This year, my answer is a little different than in previous years thanks to some deep discounting going on. 

Note that I'm mostly considering DSLRs with this article (though I have a mirrorless alternative with each choice). It's the traditional camera choice, and not necessarily a bad one when you're price sensitive. 

Two choices come immediately to mind for a starter kit this year:

  • Canon SL2 — On Cyber Monday this 24mp APS-C camera with a two lens kit [advertiser link] (18-55mm, 75-300mm) was a very affordable US$550 (normally US$900). The camera's good but not fancy, it's smaller and lighter than the Rebels but with the same sensor and focus abilities, and the full-swivel rear LCD makes it versatile. The dual pixel design and touchscreen actually make it an excellent Live View/Video camera. With any reasonable discount, this is the base Canon DSLR you should be considering. Sure, it doesn't have 4K video, but what it does, it does well. Mirrorless alternative: the EOS M50. Same sensor in an even smaller mirrorless body, also in basic-but-not-fancy form.
  • Nikon D3500 — On Cyber Monday this 24mp APS-C camera with a two lens kit [advertiser link] (18-55mm, 70-300mm) was a very affordable US$500 (normally US$850). While it's missing some of the extended features of the higher end Nikon DSLRs, it's another really solid basic camera with excellent image quality. Indeed, state-of-the-art APS-C image quality. Mirrorless alternative: Nikon doesn't offer one, so I'd tend to point you to the Canon EOS M50, the Fujifilm X-T100, or the Sony A6000. The most Nikon-like of that bunch would be the Fujifilm.

What about full frame? Well, finding a bargain starter kit there gets more complicated. You have to go back to older cameras (Canon 6D Mark I and Nikon D610) to approach the US$1000 mark on the DSLR side. Both would be good choices, and I'd suggest the Yongnuo lenses [advertiser link] to create a simple and inexpensive prime kit (review coming). Mirrorless alternative: look at the Sony A7 Mark I and II models for deep discounts, and pick up the Samyang/Rokinon f/2.8 primes for it.  

Okay, final comment: why DSLR when mirrorless is the future? Simple: price/performance. APS-C sensors are excellent these days, and you can't match the price performance of those two kits at those Cyber Monday prices (I expect we'll see both deals re-appear). That's pretty much true even at the non-discounted price. 

text and images © 2020 Thom Hogan
portions Copyright 1999-2019 Thom Hogan-- All Rights Reserved
Follow us on Twitter@bythom, hashtags #bythom, #dslrbodies