I am working up a budget for my first DSLR system and I’m thinking $3000 USD is the maximum I can afford at this time.  I want to get quality gear I can use a long time and grow with that will take great images once I have the skills.  The new DSLRs would take almost all of my budget leaving almost nothing for lenses.  What would you recommend?


Andy –

$3000 USD is really a respectable investment and one I’d consider quite well before making purchases.  Your question comes at a time when the manufacturers have recently released some great new bodies worthy of consideration like the Canon 5d Mark II and the Nikon D700, both costing almost your entire budget.  Quality lenses can be quite expensive as well.

With that said, lenses are forever, new bodies come and go.  If you want really great image quality I’d recommend a full frame digital sensor and top lenses.  The only cameras that have full frame sensors are very expensive new, and the only brand that’s had full frame sensors on the market long enough to create a used market would be Canon.  If your interests are portraits and landscapes look for a good used Canon 5d.  You can find them for about $1200 or so.  If you need a faster handing camera perhaps you can find an original Canon 1ds for under $2000.

Lets say you found a good 5d for $1200.  That would leave $1800 for lenses.  In this column I used the Sigma 20mm F1.8 for the outing section and it’s about $250.  Perhaps add a 70-200 F4 zoom and a 17-40 F4 zoom to the mix (brand new, but used are available) and you have the start of a kit that will take very high quality images.  The 70-200 can be used for portraits and distant objects and the 17-40 for landscapes and shots inside the home of the kids and/or dog playing.  From there, you can go in many different directions but I think you’ll always keep and enjoy these three lenses.

I hope this helps.