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Beginner Canon DSLR: Which is the most user friendly to learn on?

Catherine Grant , Jun 04, 2010; 11:17 p.m.

I am looking to buy a Canon DSLR to take pictures of my 8 month old. I have never used a DSLR before, but have been doing a lot of research about the best to buy to learn on. I have features spinning in my head and am now more confused than ever. I am not opposed to buying used and just dont want to spend money on features I wont likely use until I gain some experience shooting with a DSLR. I also dont want to spend a chunk of cash on a camera that is "out of date" or doesn't have key features that are helpful to a beginner using a DSLR. I do not care much about video as I dont envision using that feature since we have another video camera. Which one should I start with? A used XS, XSi, XTi, T1i? HELP! I also heard that a 28-135mm lens with USM and IS would be the most versatile lens. Agree? Any advice is appreciated!


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Erik Jacobson , Jun 04, 2010; 11:57 p.m.

I wouldn't recommend someone with no background knowledge of cameras to buy a used camera, due to the fact that you may overlook some important things to check before you buy it.

I would also assume that the rebels such as the T1i T2i etc would be probably the most user friendly.

However I did completely the opposite. I bought everything used, and went with a 20D instead of a rebel.

Andrew Gilchrist , Jun 05, 2010; 12:46 a.m.

The 28-135 isn't a bad lens for your stated purpose but it doesn't offer any wide angle capability when mounted on a Rebel. You might want both that and an 18-55 IS kit lens. Alternatively, the 18-55 VR kit lens + a EF 55-250 IS.

I don't think general usability and features are all that different between these models, possibly the biggest things you might notice is that the later models offer Live View (can compose on the LCD) and possibly can shoot HD video. Your instinct to use a dedicated video camera is probably right for general-purpose use. And live view on digital SLRs is kind of so-so for a few reasons, most notably because AF is so slow that it's really best used for non-moving subjects, perhaps when mounted on a tripod. So all that said, one of the more notable differences as you compare these models is that the later ones will generally have higher resolution (less important) and improved low-light, high-ISO capability (more important).

James (Jim) Johnson , Jun 05, 2010; 12:52 a.m.

I don't have any experience with the Rebel bodies, but would assume that all that you indicate would be fine.
Which one do you like the best? "That's the one I'd get!"
Canon's User Manuals that are supplied with the Camera will describe many of the "photography basics," (i.e., Aperture, Shutter speed, Depth of Field, etc., etc..) and how to obtain them and which controls to use.
No DSLR is so "User Friendly" that the User's Manual can be ignored!

Lenses . . . for wanting to take photo's of the 8 month old, I expect the 28-135mm will be too long a Focal Length, and most Kit Lenses are not fast enough for "low or natural lit" photos of the "soon to be very active toddler."
A Zoom lens will be very useful however. Something with a focal length of 15mm on the lower end. There are some kit lenses that may be better candidates than the 28-135.
IS is very useful for Handheld shots. You will be taking alot of them.
A zoom lens with an aperture of f/2.8 or larger would be ideal, but unfortunately are expensive. For the money, the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 would be good for the type of shooting you describe. But you are looking at near $500.00 for this lens.

Although I think still a little long, and not a zoom, the Canon EF 50mm, f/1.8 (around $100.00 New) may be your best bet.

Are you currently using a digital camera of any sort?
What Camera types and experience's do you already have?
I'll beat someone else . . . It's often said here . . . "It's not the Camera equipment that makes the photograph, it's the person behind the Camera!"

Bob Boudreau , Jun 05, 2010; 07:08 a.m.

A secondary thought might be Canon's "superzoom" camera, the SX20 IS. I have its predecessor, the SX10 IS and use it all the time to photograph our 1 year old grandson. I do have a Canon XSi and seven lenses, but the SX10 is the one I use all the time, usually with my Canon 430EX flash mounted and a diffuser. The lens gives the equivalent of a 28-570mm range on 35mm, so I can shoot wide or zoom in as needed. With the diffuser on the flash, my around the house photos do not look like flash shots.

The camera has the ability to "face detect", meaning I can point the camera in the grandson's general direction, and the focus follows his face. I often use the camera with "live view", that is with the rear LCD screen visible. This means I don't need to have it up to my eye all the time. I can hold the camera down, with the LCD swiveled so I can see what's going on. It has mostly the same controls and capabilities of my DSLR, (Auto, Program, Tv, Av, Manual, etc.) in a smaller package. And the silent shutter is a real bonus lots of times. I have used my DSLR to photograph the little person, but I always seemed to need a shorter or longer lens. And it's so BIG!

As a bonus to me, the camera does shoot video, easy to do with the one button feature. I've shot the grandson babbling away to himself with video, and it sure was nice to be able to!

Something to thing about!

Brett W. , Jun 05, 2010; 08:30 a.m.

Starting out I would buy new - XSi (450D), T1i (500D) or the newer T2i (550D). I would not buy the 28-135 lens, consider the 18-55IS and 55-250IS combination for better image quality and focal range.

Catherine Grant , Jun 05, 2010; 10:12 a.m.

Wow! Thanks for all of the advice. I am currently using a point and shoot Canon PowerShot SD630 6.0 MP Elph...it is old, but I have been putting it in manual mode and playing with all of the different settings you can change...it is limited though, to say the least! I am just not happy with the quality images I am getting. I am a good self-study but am also looking at some private photography lessions to really get me going. I also think this may be a cool hobby to get into as it really intrigues me. One person mentioned the Canon SX20 IS may be good? Do you think that would be a better "next step" for me? Or, do you think the DSLR with ability to use auto settings is a better next step? Can you change lenses on that one? Can you "soften" the background and sharp focus up close with that one like a SLR? or do the telescopic thing, bringing the background in closer while keeping the subject in the same place?

Mendel Leisk , Jun 05, 2010; 10:20 a.m.

One of the Canon X series, with just the 18-55 kit lens for starters, is likely the best approach, about the most economical entry into Canon dslr.

I'd also consider the 7D body (or an older version in that series, if you can find it), with the same 18-55 lens. Compared to the X series, the 7D body is a bit bigger, easier to hold, and the build quality is better. Also, the controls and menus are a little different. Not necessarily better, just different. There are pros/cons to the controls/menus with each body type. It's worth considering which style you want to get accustomed to, upfront. It's not a big deal relearning, though. My main quible with X series is they are so small it's almost hard to hold them: your hands end up like crab pincers clustered on the edges. I would check out both styles in a store, see how they feel.

One caveat with the 18-55 "kit" lens, it's quite slow, with variable max aperture. I would consider getting something like the Canon 35mm f2.0. I would still get the 18-55, for the versatility of the zoom, but the 35mm f2.0 will work better for interior, low light shots.

Here's a good reference site:


Bob Boudreau , Jun 05, 2010; 01:39 p.m.

Catharine: The SX20 IS is a fixed lens superzoom as I mentioned. The lens starts at a wide angle of a 28mm, and can zoom out to an extreme telephoto of 570 equivalent. This is a range of 20X. It has full Auto, and Program, which will do the settings for you. It is no where as large as a DSLR, making it much more convenient to carry around and always have it ready. They sell for around $400.00 here in Canada, I assume they would be cheaper elsewhere. Combined with a Canon flash such as the 430EX II, it is a great combo for shooting children.

Here's a shot of my wife's fuchias I took recently with my SX10 IS at a zoom setting, making the background out of focus:

Catherine Grant , Jun 05, 2010; 02:59 p.m.

Great picture! Is that an external flash you are referring to, 430 EX II? What is the advantage to using that as opposed to the built in flash? Does it attach to the camera?

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