Which DSLR should I buy my wife?

My wife has an interest in photography as a hobby, but all we have is a point-and-shoot digital and our iPhones.

Our anniversary is in July, and I’d like to save up and buy her a DSLR, but I don’t know what to get her. We have a one-year-old daughter, so I’ll also need to buy a wide-angle lens and maybe a long lens for distance shooting.

I’d like to spend about $500-700 on a body (I’d love it if it came with a standard lens) and another $300-500 on lenses, with a max of about $1,000 total.

Any recommendations?

I’ve always been a Nikon guy, and have a D-100, which was about $1500 when I bought it a few years ago. That said, Canon makes some killer optics now, and I’m usually impressed with the photos I see from those DSLRs. You might try a Google search for reviews of DSLR cameras to at least see what NOT to buy.

Hard to go wrong with Nikon or Canon. The recently released Canon T3i is in your price range, but I understand it’s a rather minor upgrade from the T2i. So you might look for a good deal on the T2i and spend the money saved on a good lens or two. (I still use the Canon XSi, which I think is 2 versions before the T2i, and it’s still a great camera.)

For the hobbyist, is there a noticeable difference between the 14.2 MP Nikon D3100 and the 18 MP Canon T2i?

Not really.

That being said, you could get a Nikon D90 for the price you’re talking about. I think its a better camera than the 3100, and will give you more room to grow down the line.

Hmm… the D90 looks like I’d go way over $1000 to get it with two lenses. The body alone is at $900 on Amazon or at Best Buy.

During this bit of research, the T2i looks great to me. However, I haven’t been into photography since high school, and that was with a 35mm Canon EOS Rebel/G. I am completely ignorant of digital photography, and don’t even know what I’m really looking at when reading spec sheets now.

Can anyone recommend a good DSLR buyer’s guide, even? Or should I just dive in with the T2i and be happy that it’s probably a good enough camera for her to learn on?

The D90 (body only) is $750 on Amazon. With the 18-105 zoom lens, it’s about $950. With the extra $50 you could come close to picking up a nice, fast 50mm lens.

Megapixels really don’t mean much, especially in this range. There are much more important things to look at, especially low light high ISO performance, burst mode, and features. I’d bring her to the store and let her try them in her hands - that’s probably the most important thing in this price range.

Telemark nailed it - have your wife try out several models at a good camera store, and buy the one that fits her hands the best and which has a menu system she finds easy to use. DON’T worry too much about brand; there really aren’t any bad DSLRs out there.

Women often have smaller hands than men do, so she may find the smaller models easier to hold comfortably, for what it’s worth.

If video is also something you’re interested in, you’d want something more recent as they’re constantly improving.

Worth looking at the Sony NEX and Olympus Pen etc ‘EVIL’ cameras too - while not DSLR’s, the smaller size can be really useful if you want to carry it around a lot.


Thanks for the info everyone. Now I’m trying to figure out a sneaky way to get her to hold a bunch of cameras and rate them for comfort!

I recently went thru this myself and ended up with the Canon EOS Rebel T2i (a/k/a the 550D). Especially when I found it for sale from Canon directly as a refurb for $639 for a kit with the 18-55mm lens (the 35mm equivalent of 28.8-88mm) and the full Canon warranty. You can also get the body only (sans kit lens) for $560.

I got in on a different deal for the T2i, and have been pleased with it so far.

My only advice - other than the go-to-the-store-and-hold-it-in-your-hands suggestion, is to stick with Nikon or Canon. Not that the others are bad, but your choices of lenses and accessories are much greater.

I’m a Nikon dude, but I’ve heard that Canon’s are, in general, slightly smaller and would be perhaps a bit more comfortable for your bride.

Good luck (and don’t go cheap on the lens) (except the 50mm)


T2i or T3i from Amazon with a lens package. They are the same except the T3i has a viewscreen that pulls out.

I agree, stick with Canon or Nikon - its not just that there are more lenses that are produced now, it is that Canon and Nikon have been using the same lenses for decades. I don’t have a Nikon, but for Canon those are EF lenses. You’ll also see EF-S lenses which are only for Crop-frame cameras (which the ones you are looking at are). But all cameras that take EF-S also take EF.

I’d agree with that if a large amount of lenses or accessories were wanted but most people just want a couple of zoom lenses and maybe a 50mm or 35mm prime.

So I would focus on ergonomics and bang for the buck rather than brand in this scenario.

The wonderful thing about a SLR is that if you have a specialty application, you can get a lens that is designed for that application. The only better customizing you can do is with a view camera, which can tilt and shift far beyond a SLR. SLR tilt and shifting needs $1,500 lenses (to start) and still are not as versatile. But outside of that, SLR cameras, particularly from Nikon and Canon (or Leica should you be a zillionaire) are much more convenient to use.

Not a photographer, but some bits of advice I’ve gotten from semi-serious photographer friends.

  1. External “bounce” flashes can make a huge difference shooting indoors, so buying a model that supports external flashes is really useful if that’s something you want the camera for.

  2. Nikon cameras aren’t necessarily better than the comparable Canons, but they’re arguably easier to get advice on and find users of, especially since the D60 and D90 were THE go-to cameras for serious amateurs for years.

  3. At the end of the day, don’t look at anything outside of Nikon or Canon unless there’s a really specific reason that’s overwhelming. Otherwise, it’s a better bet sticking with the big two since they’re known entities, make great products, have a big secondary market, and are both still going to be producing bodies and glass for years to come.