Best Nikon DSLR Starter Camera (and the BIGGEST mistake people make when buying a new camera)

One of the most common questions I get asked by friends and family is what DSLR camera to buy. Whether you're looking for something to get better images of your kids, snap photos at a sporting event, update product images in your shop, or become a photographer yourself, this seems to be the question everyone wants answered! And rightly so - even with a beginner model, cameras aren't cheap.

Photography is often joked to be an expensive hobby, and that's not exactly untrue. But, if you commit to getting to know your camera, it's one of the most rewarding! That brings me to my first point - the best camera is the one you have with you, but also the one you learn. I shot on a beginner level DSLR (the one I'm about to tell you about!) for YEARS (probably longer than I should have) before making the leap to something more substantial, and I still got great images from it. The camera is an excellent tool, but it is just a tool. When you know what you're doing, you can make a photo taken on just about any tool look great. 

Now onto my second point: in the great battle between Nikon and Canon, my answer will probably disappoint you. I do not think one brand is better than the other. I shoot on Nikon because it's the brand my college photography class was taught on, and there's really no reason other than that. I do think that both brands have their quirks - for example, in my opinion Nikon seems to shoot more pink and Canon more green. Neither is good or bad; it's just the way it is, and to be honest probably varies greatly between users. 

On to what you came here for...

The Best Nikon DSLR Starter Camera

Whenever people ask me what camera body I recommend, my answer is the same. I learned and shot for years on the Nikon D3000. It was the perfect camera to learn on. It's substantial but not too big (I never noticed it at the time, but my current camera is so much bigger!), it offers interchangeable lenses (which I'll touch on in a second), and the best part is that it offers an LCD screen that visually shows you what your settings changes are doing to the camera shutter. 


When you adjust your aperture (the opening of the lens) it shows you if your lens is getting more open, or more closed. This is helpful when you're just learning because as your number goes down (f5.3 and f8 above), your opening actually gets larger; and as your number goes up, your opening actually gets smaller. Clear as mud, right? That was so hard for me to grasp, so being able to see it was crazy helpful. I think because of this feature, I started shooting in manual right away, as opposed to starting in aperture or shutter priority. 

Nikon no longer makes the D3000, but they have updated the model regularly and now make the D3400. Without knowing every detail about each model, I would say the D3000 and any subsequent models (D3100, D3200, D3300) would make an excellent starter camera.

The Biggest Mistake People make when Buying a New Camera

While the camera body is important when it comes to photography, just about every photographer will tell you to invest in the glass, or invest in your lenses. Camera lenses are a great way to find the style of photography you are drawn to. Do you love wide, landscape-like shots that tell a story? Or do you like close, detail shots that show intimacy? Most photographers have a lens or two that they gravitate to for 80-90% of their work, and it's so fun to see what inspires you. 

Unfortunately, I think the biggest mistake people make when buying a new camera is sticking with the lens their camera comes with! This lens, also called a 'kit lens' is usually a "jack of all trades, master of none." While it has the ability to do a lot, it doesn't do anything all that well. 

A lot of the people I talk to want to do portrait photography, whether that means starting their own business or just taking photos of their kids. A kit lens is going to do you no favors in the portrait category. 

Instead, I recommend the "nifty 50": the 50mm 1.8. This lens is crazy cheap, a perfect focal length (50mm is just a bit closer than your natural eye would see), and super sharp. And, that low aperture (the 1.8 number) let's you get the blurry background (called bokeh) many aspiring 'togs love. I started with this lens, and while I've upgraded to the 50mm 1.4, I still reach for my 50mm in 80% of situations. It's such a versatile lens! 

I absolutely love talking all things photography, so please contact me if you have any other questions and want to talk shop! I'd love to help.