I’ve been seriously thinking about getting a DSLR for about a year and a half. Last year my dad let me borrow his Canon T2i between Thanksgiving and Christmas, so that I could give it a bit of a test run. I loved it, thoroughly enjoyed taking pictures with it, but in the end just couldn’t stomach dropping $700 on myself after only several months of contemplation. In part, I knew myself well enough to recognize my own tendency to really want something, get it, and then come up short in the follow-through department. I told myself if I still thought I wanted a DSLR in a year, maybe I would consider making a case to my husband for such a purchase.

I’m not an artist, but I’ve always been drawn to photographs. I still remember my high school photography class, watching my photos sit in developer, waiting for them to get nice and sharp before switching them to the stop bath and then the fixer. I loved taking pictures and learning about how to do it well. While my work and graduate studies are stereotypically left-brain, there’s a creative streak in my DNA and photography has always been a creative outlet I hoped to explore and develop.

About a month and a half ago when I was in the deep, dark depths of pediatrics, fretting endlessly about making it through, my husband said to me, “Erin. If you pass this class, I will buy you a camera.” And so November 23rd, Black Friday 2012, we ordered me a brand new, beautifully discounted DSLR.

It arrived in the mail last week, and I’ve been dying to spend some day time experimenting with it a bit, so I promised myself I could spend this morning taking pictures before getting my school work on. Here are a few of my first DSLR shots from today:






More than one family member has asked me how I decided to go with Canon’s Rebel T3i, which is incredibly similar to Nikon’s equivalent, the D5100, so I thought I’d say a bit about that here.

First, I perused through many many many online reviews, articles, and blog posts about the differences between these two cameras. (Some of the ones I found most helpful/informative were by the phoblographer, cnet, the discerning photographer, Devin Coldewey, and Gordon Laing, who was by far my favorite and has a 20-minute video highlighting the 10 most important differences between the D5100 and the T3i).  I also had the benefit of having a dad with an incredibly similar Canon model to the T3i (as I mentioned before, he has the T2i) and a father-in-law with the Nikon D5100. So I spent a decent amount of time getting their input on their respective cameras. I learned the following:

The bottom line: these two cameras are so similar that either one you choose is going to essentially give you the same features and photo quality. Especially if you’re a beginning photographer, like myself, the differences between these two cameras are seriously minute. Almost every single review I read said something to the effect of, “If you don’t have brand loyalty, this is a very difficult [read: near impossible] decision to make.”

I found reading about all the minute differences to be helpful, because while I’m very convinced these two cameras are equally great, I was hoping one would feel a slight bit more like the right fit for me. [Full disclosure: I also went in with a miniscule bias toward Canon, as a result of a clunky point-and-shoot I used to have that took strikingly great pictures.] In the end, I chose the Cannon for the following reasons:

1. I was interested in a DSLR for learning photography, and Canon generally seemed to be the brand I saw in the hands of serious photographers.

2. The Canon felt slightly more complex, and gave me the impression I could grow into it for a long while. While any DSLR is much more complex than any point-and-shoot, the Canon seemed a little more geared toward fine tweaking than the Nikon.

3. Gordon Laing emphasized that the Canon was slightly better for individuals who like to edit their photos (using photoshop or what have you), while the Nikon was slightly better for individuals who like to take a picture, and have it finished without any editing/tweaking after the fact. I also read that the photo software that comes with the Canon is a little better than Nikon’s. I don’t have photoshop, so I thought that might make a little bit of a difference.

4. Canon is said to take photos whose colors are slightly more accurate to real life and especially well suited for portraits, which I sort of prefer. Along similar lines (although less significant), I like the way the Canon displays pictures on the LCD, which is also said to be a bit more true to what the actual photograph will look like.

5. Lastly, I think my previous experience with my Canon point-and-shoot has me believing that Canon really does take better pictures (which is not agreed upon across the board, according to reviewers; this question is up for debate, and most reviewers will tell you the photo quality of the Nikon vs. Canon is so incredibly similar it isn’t even worth comparing). So in the end, I think I had a bit of that brand loyalty they all talk about.

Hope this was helpful for any of you trying to make a decision! I still really think that both are great options, and I probably wouldn’t try to sway someone either way. Perhaps some day, with more experience, I’ll feel more strongly!


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