Finding my very first DSLR Camera

Home Forums Photography Q&A Finding my very first DSLR Camera

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  • #15667

    Greetings Everyone!

    I am both new to photography and this site, and I found this place through a friend named Everett (who I believe knows you James). I have not had any formal classes on photography or software to use with it. My whole goal is to pick this up as a hobby and see where it takes me. Currently, I am serving in the military and would love to use it for any traveling I do. Besides that, there is a lot of recreational sports activities that I would love to be apart of capturing. And Finally, maybe test the waters with “being the photographer” for any formal ceremonies (i.e. weddings, fifteens, sweet sixteens, military promotions, dances, etc..). But first I have to start with priority number one, and that is picking out a great camera that has potential to support some of those aspirations. So I come to you all as my new family to help me pick out this great camera! All advice is valuable and the more suggestions you give the better. I have done a ton of youtube and general DSLR searching and come up with three contenders for what I think would be some great cameras for myself. My budget is somewhere around $1200, but no more than $1500. I know some cameras I list could be more than that, and if it is undeniably a camera worth buying, then I’ll stretch my budget and make it happen. Alright, so the cameras I have are a Nikon D5500, a Fujifilm X-T1, and a Pentax K3 II. At first, Nikon was my first choice because that is what is on the mainstream market and it seemed affordable, reliable, and easy-to-use. Then my research got a little boost from some youtube searching and friends. I instantly fell in love with the Pentax K3 II from its style to its quality and it still is my favorite maintaining its affordability. Lastly, the not-so-cheap camera is the Fuji X-T1, love the size and the viewfinder really sticks out to me. I did not get too much into the specs because I know you guys will spend a lot of time doing this for me. But what I do understand is the ISO, f-stop, shutter speed, fps, and other things like the megapixels and the Pentax’s pixel shift resolution. Where my knowledge lacks is EVERYTHING else, including picking out lenses. So please, feel free to persuade me to any of the ones I mentioned or tell me I’m going completely the wrong way and mention another! Thanks so much and sorry I wrote so much but I’m sure you guys just have just as much to say back!

    James Staddon

    Welcome, @adrian.mendoza! Super excited to have you on board! You’re in the right crowd . . . I’d venture to say very few of us here on the forums have “formal” training either, but because our love for photography is our motivation for what we do, we see no boundaries on what there is to learn, and thus learn it with a passion!

    You’re right about getting a camera being the first step. The main thing to remember with the purchase of your first camera body is what camera system you are buying into. Each brand has it’s own size lens mount which limits your lens choices depending on what brand you go with. Thankfully Sigma and Tamron fill in the gaps here.

    From a DPReview side-by-side comparision, it seems to me that the Pentax K-3 II is your best shot. The Fujifilm X-T1 looks good but it’s a mirrorless camera, and I’d have to do some research to see what long-reaching impact this might have on your pursuit of doing photography for hire. I would agree that the Nikon D5500 is the weakest of the three you mentioned.

    When it comes to lenses, doing the sort of things you mentioned, my first impression would be to go for a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, though you probably want to have two lenses eventually, one for wide angle and another for telephoto.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 5 months ago by James Staddon.

    Thanks James! So I’m convinced in getting a lens like that sigma you talked about, but that could be quite the bundle that I may not be able to afford off the bat. Maybe there is another lens like the sigma that you might be able to suggest? As for the camera body, I’m pretty much set on getting the Pentax at this point, but I was told not to impulse buy. On amazon I found the Pentax K3 II for $734.94 with the body only and all the way up to $1043.49 with a kit. If I bought the body only, would the Pentax HD DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED WR 55-300mm Zoom Lens ($299) be a good lens to start off with? And do you think I could get a better deal somewhere else? Lastly, I definitely can wait on a wide angle lens, I have no desire to look into that spectrum just yet.

    Side note: I only found the sigma lens for canon and not Pentax and the price was $1149. If I shouldn’t waste my money buying other lenses and it’s best to save up for this one lens I will do just that. Spending this much money, its no time to shy away from higher prices if I won’t regret it later.

    Ezra Morley

    Hi, @Adrian-mendoza!

    Good call on choosing Pentax! I’m a Pentax fan user, so I’m glad to see someone else who “sees the light”! πŸ™‚ I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

    As you probably know, the K-3 II is Pentax’s newest and greatest camera so far, so you can’t really get any better, as far as Pentax goes. BUT, just because it’s the latest and greatest, doesn’t necessarily make it the best choice, as far as the financial side of things goes. The Pentax K-3, which is a bit older, does everything that the K-3 II does, except for the built-in GPS, and Super-Resolution/pixel-shift. If you’re serious about getting your money’s worth, then you’ll have to choose whether you want the latest-&-greatest, or more “bang-for-the-buck”.

    The K-3 II is $734, like you said (Or $599, if you buy used, like-new); the K-3 is only $604 on Amazon, or $799 (used) with a weather-sealed 18-135mm lens!

    I’m in the camp that says, “Buy a good camera for as cheap as possible, then spend your cash on a good lens”. So far I haven’t exactly practiced what I preach, the most I’ve ever paid for a lens is a little over $220 for a Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4. Of course, I’m not a “pro” either, and so far, I’ve managed with the glass that I have!

    I do think you’re more likely to be happy with a good lens on a decent camera, than a top-of-the-line camera and a kit lens.

    Regardless of which camera body you decide to go with, you’ll need a lens. You mentioned that you couldn’t find a Sigma 70-200, that’s because both Sigma and Tamron discontinued their 70-200 2.8 lenses in Pentax mount. (Don’t ask me why; it doesn’t seem like a very smart move to me…)

    Anyway, the Tamron 70-200 f/2.8 is available at the moment both used and new, and thankfully they’re cheaper than their Canon counterparts.

    There is also a used Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 available right now on the Marketplace. I think the Sigma is a better deal, it’s a little more money, but it has a better auto-focus motor in it. (Quieter and faster)

    Both of these lenses are becoming a bit harder to find, so if you want one I would definitely suggest that you don’t hesitate too long.

    I think you will realize quite soon that a wide-angle lens is a must. If you’re doing any sort of event photography, you’re going to need a wide-angle. The 18-135mm kit that comes with the Pentax K-3 series is quite a good lens, and it will be weather sealed for those times when you need it. (The 70-200 lenses are not weather sealed, unfortunately)

    Dan Cope

    FWIW I’m shooting with a Nikon D7100 which would be in the same price range as the Pentax K3 II and would be a definite upgrade over the Nikon D5500. I have no experience with the Pentax so I can’t offer any opinion based on personal comparison but I can say that the D7100 is a great camera that may be worth considering. Although it has been replaced by the new D7200, it is still available new. I purchased mine refurbished by Nikon for around $600.


    @buddingphotographer thanks for your input!
    I’ve taken some serious thought into your suggestions, and I am really considering getting the K3 over the K3 II sacrificing only a few features. I feel like it makes a lot more sense buying the K3 for almost the same price as the K3 II, and the K3 includes a lens. As for the sigma lens, I know I only have a limited time to snatch one up before its gone. I checked out the forum and I assume the person who just asked about the lens was you. Just to clarify, that lens would work with a K3? Would I make a mistake purchasing the lens first, and then waiting a little to save up again for the camera? I would only do this because I know the lens won’t be as available as the K3. Also, if I decide to get the sigma lens, would the pentax 18-135mm be worth buying(besides the weather sealed feature)? I could find another lens, maybe a prime lens or wide angle lens separately and just buy the body? Please let me know! This is getting quite interesting and exciting, I’ve been doing so much research into this stuff.


    Dan, thanks for your suggestion! I have looked at the D7200, but only briefly. Maybe I’ll have to get some good research into looking at this camera. I’m also sure I’ll be able to get a lot more research and compatibility as my favored Pentax.


    Alright, update.
    I’ve come to the conclusion that a 70-200mm lens with f/2.8 is a MUST. I contacted the seller on the pentaxforums and will purchase the K3. Debating whether or not to also purchase another lens, like the combo of the pentax K3 with a 18-135mm. or buy the body only with a prime lens like DA 50mm f/1.8. Lastly, I could just purchase the body only and the 70-200mm. Comments encouraged.

    Dan Cope

    If it fits in your budget I would suggest that you go ahead and include the 18-135 in your purchase. As @buddingphotographer said, “I think you will realize quite soon that a wide-angle lens is a must.” If your budget doesn’t allow for the purchase of both lenses, I would recommend the 18-135 (or some other wider angle lens) over the 70-200. I understand your desire to get that lens while it’s still available, but in reality I think your start into photography will be more pleasant and less frustrating with a wider angle lens. It’s easy to see the advantages of a certain lens (or any piece of equipment) and feel compelled to think that it “is a MUST”. But keep in mind there is a lot to photography that can be learned even with the most basic DSLR and kit lens. A 70-200mm f/2.8 lens has a lot of potential, but you won’t be able to take full advantage of that potential until you have learned and developed some skill as a photographer. That being said, I certainly am not suggesting that you shouldn’t get the 70-200 right now if you can afford it. I’m only saying that if you can’t afford both, I think you will have a better start into the world of photography with the wider angle lens. If you want to purchase the 70-200 used, I would recommend doing so through a reputable company such as Adorama. They rate their used items so that you can have an idea of how “used” it really is. I recently purchased a used lens from Adorama with their highest rating and it literally is indistinguishable from brand new. Right now they have 2 of the 70-200 lenses available in their used store that would save you some money over buying new and along with a Pentax K3 kit that includes the 18-135, you could still be within your budget of $1200-$1500.


    Dan, My gut instinct was telling me that my inexperience might have me frustrated in the beginning with a better lens like the 70-200mm. So taking that into consideration, I won’t stress the need to have it right away if I cannot afford it. I was planning on buying from Amazon initially, but I will give Adorama a look because so many people have directed me there already. My priority is to get the K3 with the 18-135mm WR, and try to tag on a 70-200mm. If the used 70-200mm is not within budget, I might just add a prime lens in addition to the 18-135mm. Thanks for your help Dan!

    Ezra Morley

    @adrian-mendoza said:

    I checked out the forum and I assume the person who just asked about the lens was you. Just to clarify, that lens would work with a K3? Would I make a mistake purchasing the lens first, and then waiting a little to save up again for the camera?

    Yes, I asked about the lens on your behalf. It is Sigma’s latest-and-greatest version that they made before they discontinued it. Be sure to bargain for it, since he said his price is a little negotiable! πŸ™‚

    As long as the lens is made for Pentax K-mount, it will be compatible with a K-3. I presume that if it’s being sold on PentaxForums, it’s for K-mount unless otherwise specified. You could ask the seller to confirm, just to make sure.

    Would I make a mistake purchasing the lens first, and then waiting a little to save up again for the camera? I would only do this because I know the lens won’t be as available as the K3.

    I would certainly go ahead and get the lens while you have the chance; if you’re sure that’s what you want. The K-3 will still be there when you are ready to purchase it. Actually, I was just going to recommend that you wait for a week or two on the camera, because Pentax is going to be announcing their first 35mm full frame DSLR, so there’s a chance that prices on other Pentax cameras will get a discount. Actually, to get the best bang for you buck, you would haunt the PF Marketplace, and buy someone’s lightly used K-3 and 18-135 when they sell out to buy the new camera!

    Also, if I decide to get the sigma lens, would the pentax 18-135mm be worth buying(besides the weather sealed feature)? I could find another lens, maybe a prime lens or wide angle lens separately and just buy the body? Please let me know!

    Yes, I definitely think the 18-135 is worth buying; it used to be my main lens, and I’ve taken thousands of photos with it. Seeing as you’re in the military, I think you’ll find that the weather-sealing will come in handy if you ever need to use it in dust and dirt and precipitation. The 18-135 is just a really handy all-in-one lens that can stay on your camera and keep it weather sealed, and still take decent pictures.


    Well, guess its settled. My priority is getting that 18-135mm. bargain for the 70-200mm, and maybe wait on the K3 for a week or so. Last few questions, does anyone have any feedback on the Pentax prime lens 50mm f/1.8, or the 55-300mm f/4-5.8 lens? Guess if I get the 70-200 the latter wouldnt matter too much. but still worth asking about.

    Ezra Morley

    I have both the 50mm f/1.8, and the 55-300mm f/4-5.8 lens.

    I would definitely recommend the 50mm 1.8 (or a similar “fast” lens) if you’re interested in the “blurry background” look. There’s something about fast lenses that changes the “look” of your photos.

    You might also consider the Pentax DA 35mm f/2.4 lens, which offers you approximately the same focal length on a K-3’s APS-C sensor, as a 50mm 1.8 would offer on a full frame sensor. Right now you can buy the Pentax 35mm f/2.4 (Open Box) for only $90.00 from B&H Photo & Video, which is Adorama’s main competitor. They are both well reputed sellers, and I would not hesitate in the least to order from either of them.

    As for the 55-300mm lens? Well, like I said, I own it… I don’t know exactly what to tell you about it. πŸ™‚ I got it for a whoppin’ good deal, so I suppose I shouldn’t complain. I only paid $120 for it, but I was honestly expecting a lot more from it. I have seen reviews which praised it highly, so I was expecting it to be pretty good! In reality though, my copy of the lens is very soft wide open, and while it does sharpen up when stopping down, it’s never really very sharp. It also seems to be a very “noisy” lens, I’m used to my Pentax DSLRs having very good low-noise performance, but this lens seems to bring out the noise like crazy! I wonder if I just happen to have a bad copy, seeing as all the reviews seem to think it’s quite good, so don’t just take my word for it. If you’re interested, here’s a Flickr album with a few images taken by the Pentax HD 55-300mm WR. One good thing about it is that it is weather sealed, which is always a plus!


    Dan Cope

    Dan, My gut instinct was telling me that my inexperience might have me frustrated in the beginning with a better lens like the 70-200mm.

    Just to be clear, the frustration that I am suggesting would not be because the 70-200 is a better lens or that it would somehow take more experience to use it effectively, but rather because of the fact that a minimum focal length of 70mm is going to be a very limiting factor. You’ll be trying to take a lot of pictures where you simply won’t be able to fit everything into the frame. If you were wanting to photograph birds and wildlife, it would be different but with formal ceremonies and landscapes and perhaps to a lesser extent, recreational sports, you will definitely want a wider angle. I think that as you get started into photography you will find it more enjoyable if you have a lens like the 18-135 that will enable you to take pictures in the “normal” focal range as opposed to having only a telephoto lens.

    Ezra Morley


    FYI, B&H has the Pentax K-3 lightly used for only $550 right now.

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