7 Things I Wish I'd Known When: Buying My First Budget DSLR

So you've decided to upgrade your camera huh?

Then welcome to my shoes about 3 years ago, when I finally decided to ditch my point-and-shoot in favour of a big new awesome-ones-photographers-use DSLR.

Of course, a 14 year old + a pro DSLR = incompatible DREAM (unless pennies and old buttons were an acceptable form of payment - if only....).

So I turned my attention towards their easier to use budget siblings instead, simple, I thought. Just one problem.

Cue my there-are-so-many-options-WHAT-DO-I-DO meltdown!

After 3 months of searching for the perfect digital companion, I was stumped. 

There were so many options, each one with it's own confusing statistics (24MP, 1600 ISO - what?) and features.

EVENtually I chose what I thought was a decent camera at the time, but it's now a big pain in the butt! 

I completely focused on pointless features when choosing my Pentax-Kx, which has ended up being of little use to me now.

So here are a list of 7 things I really, really should have known before making that decision:

Want to Join 13,900 Students in Learning How to Crush Procrastination, the Fear of Failure and Fear of What Others Think? 

Get Bi-Monthly Email Updates with Actionable Advice on Overcoming these 3 Mental Barriers to Achievement:

* indicates required

1. Should I Get One With Loads of Megapixels?

Now the most pointless assumption that I made was this:

LOADDS of megapixels = EPIC photography BEYOND HUMAN COMPREHENSION,duh.

Now if you can relate to this, let me tell you, *shaking you by the shoulders* IT IS NOT TRUE.

So step AWAY from that 21MP camera you've been ogling - right - now.

Here's why: A higher MP count won't give you better photography, it will simply allow you to blow up your images to a larger size when it's time for printing. But honestly, 10MP's are more than enough for most print sizes today, unless of course you want an image the size of Everest, in which case, go for it.

Also, you know that amazing 21MP camera you've been eyeing up? Unless you have a higher end computer with a fast processor and oodles of memory, a very large memory card and a good editing software like Photoshop (noo, Paint does not count), then you probably won't even be able to process those pictures from last nights party.

So bigger isn't always better ladies (no pun intended)!

2. Is Getting the Right Lens a Big Deal?

This is one aspect that I completely neglected and really regret now, because your choice of lenses is SO important to the image quality, sharpness and focusing of your pictures.

Most cameras today will come with the standard kit lens of 18-55mm, which will allow you to shoot landscapes (at 18mm), and also portraits ie. snapping yourself and friends (at the zoomed in 55mm).

Now this lens is OK for when you get started, but believe me you'll grow out of it quickly. And if you do fancy an upgrade then let me introduce you to THE holy grail of lenses *cue angelic chorus*; the 50mm.

Make sure you pick one with a super low F/___ number, because that's what will give you those beautiful shots with the subject really focused and a blurred background (just like this one below!).

But let's say you don't want to fork out for a lens upgrade AND a good camera 'body' (that's geek talk for the actual camera with no lens), then I would definitely suggest getting a cheaper camera body so that you can indulge in a new 50mm lens.

Ps. if you're interested in landscape photography etc then look into lenses which will allow you to zoom in more - I have the 55-200mm which is great for this kinda thing.

But back to the holy grail lens, here are a bunch of the best 50mm's for your budget DSLR:

3. Is a High ISO Range necessary?

Now don't be scared, an ISO range is essentially nerd speak (as you can see, I'm pretty fluent) for showing you how sensitively your camera will capture light.

So if you opt for a camera with a high ISO range, it means that it will be better equipt for  shooting pictures in low light situations.

But if, like me, you mostly shoot outdoors during the day when there's good light, or indoors (with flash if necessary), then this probably isn't going to be much of a deal-breaker.

Most cameras will have an ISO range of 100-1600 which will be good enough for shooting in most low light scenarios.

4. Should I go for one with Live View?
If you've been using a point-and-shoot camera so far, then just so you know, you've actually been using Live View already.

Live View just allows you to use the screen on the camera to take the picture. If you really like shooting in this way then go for it, but from experience I've realized that it's not really important.

I've got Live View on my DSLR and I pretty much never use it

It's so impractical in bright sunlight because it makes viewing the picture really hard, whereas using the viewfinder is easy and avoids this issue.

5. Is Having a Big LCD Screen a Big Deal?

A 3" LCD should be fine (mines actually a 2.7" and has never been a problem).

A large LCD screen will basically allow you to review your shots and zoom into them to check focus easier, and will have larger fonts for easier reading, but all in all it's not really that important.

6. What is Sensor Cleaning?
The disadvantage of being able to switch lenses all the time is that when you take them off, dust and dirt are more likely to sneak in, which will appear as annoying small fuzzy spots on your pictures.

But don't worry really, most cameras have a self cleaning or dust reduction system nowadays anyway, which might save you from having to get it cleaned at the store now and then, but I've had this feature on my camera for years now and have literally used it a handful of times. 

So I wouldn't have this as a criteria if I was choosing a DSLR again.

7. Should I Get an Editing Software Like Photoshop with my new DSLR?
That depends.

Are you more serious about taking great shots? Then absolutely!

Photoshop can make a HUGE improvement to your photography, and it allows you to get much more creative with your photos.

Also, with Photoshop you'll be able to snap photos in RAW mode, which will give you greater control over fixing errors you might have made when shooting (like exposure, ie. the lighting) and improve how your image looks.

If you're not keen on investing loads of money into it though (like I was), then get the cheaper Elements version instead. I've got Photoshop Elements 10 at the moment (the newest is version 11), and it's more than sufficient.

Here's an example of just how drastically you're photography can improve with Photoshop:

(To get this effect you can read the tutorial here)

Ps. If you're looking into Photoshop then I'd also recommend that you get the Premier elements for video editing with it (which I also invested in). It's nice to have a play around with making and editing videos too!

Ok wise guy, so now that you're armed with the essentials, it's time for a quick revision on what's what:
  • DO seriously consider whether you'd like to upgrade your lens or stick with the standard 18-55mm one.
  • DON'T make getting a super high MP camera a big priority, a 10MP one will be great.
  • DO get one with Live View if you're more comfortable taking shots by looking at the screen.
  • DON'T worry about the rest, like whether it has sensor cleaning, the size of the LCD and ISO range, as they won't make a huge impact.

Now it's time to choose! Here are my favourite picks on the best DSLR's for beginners:

£200 to £300


Extra Tip: If you want to see what these cameras can really do and see samples, then go to Flikr and type the name of the camera that you want to see photos from in the search bar. This should give you a better idea of what images that camera can produce.

Images courtesy of Mariannan (who's using a Nikon D7000 [16.2MP] by the way!), The Beauty Department and Alex Beadon.

HEADS UP - I just want to let you know that a few of these links are affiliate ones! Which is essentially geek speak for saying that if you choose to click on these links and purchase something (firstly, thank you!), then I'll get a small commission to keep the site running. So if you fancy buying any of these and want to support the site then you can use these links. :)

Want to Join 13,900 Students in Learning How to Crush Procrastination, the Fear of Failure and Fear of What Others Think? 

Get Bi-Monthly Email Updates with Actionable Advice on Overcoming these 3 Mental Barriers to Achievement:

* indicates required


  1. Awesome post! Just bought a 50mm lens, I'm so excited!! x

  2. thanks so much for this article, really want to get a DSLR, but I have no idea where to start so this was really really helpful ! :)


  3. So convenient! I was looking for a budget friendly but nice dslr for my travels.

  4. I loved these tips!
    I am about to buy a Canon T4i, first DSLR camera!
    I always wanted the 50 MM lens!

  5. Thanks for your comment :)
    I just got a Canon bridge and I think I chose wisely... Seems to be pretty good!

  6. Thank you for this post! I've recently purchased a Canon 60D and I had no idea what lens I needed nor what "sensor cleaning" was?!

    You've cleared so much up!

    Myra x

    Alluring Style

    1. Wow a 60D? Nice choice!

      & yep, all of those terms are so confusing and misleading.

      Most of the time stuff like sensor cleaning isn't that important!

      I'm glad I cleared things up for you though Myra :)

  7. this article was amazing! I've been looking at DSLRs for months now with no idea what I'm looking for. Thanks!


  8. I bought my DSLR when I was 15 and 3 years later I still love it. I knew I'd be using it regularly which is why I was happy to spend my own money on it however, I wish I'd read a post like this when I was buying one! I bought the Canon EOS 1000D and I do think it was perfect for me but in the beginning I didn't understand sensor cleaning or lenses!

    Great post :)

    Beauty and Lifestyle Blog


  9. This was so helpful! Thanks for the great tips, I will definitely be doing my research before purchasing my first DSLR! I feel like getting a DSLR would immensely improve the quality of my blog pictures. I have followed on Bloglovin', Twitter and Pinterest! x


  10. Did i read that right - 14! No way. Am i embarrasing myself here. If you are indeed just 14 then i have to say you are officially totally amazing!!!!! (If you're 25 or whatever, then youre still amazing of course, but not in the same jaw dropping way.) Youve achieved so much and are destined to go so far. Love and luck to you girl. You earned it!!!! Jacky. : } xx

    1. Haha yep, 14 (and I started blogging when I was 11 or 12) - so I'm a bit of a technology geek ;P

      Thanks so much Jacky :D You too! x

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. You. Are a warrior poet.

    Thank you so much! This was so helpful and easy to understand! Bought my first camera shortly after reading this. You're great! God Bless.


Post a Comment