In one of my Facebook Groups, Birds of East Texas, someone asked for a recommendation for a used DSLR that would be good for someone just getting started in nature photography. Well, in bird photography.
Here is my reply.
Cameras are a bit off-topic but there is no issue in the comments for an appropriate post like this. 🙂 If you have any questions in the future, just send a message.
There are many used DSLR cameras that are excellent for a beginner. Before I get into the details about the two cameras that I’m about to recommend to you, let me say that the body is important, but not near as important as the lens. I also believe that the brand is very important but I know that both of the major camera makers, Nikon and Canon, manufacturer terrific cameras. I have used both brands through the years and know firsthand that both are excellent. That is not to say there are no other brands that make good cameras, but Nikon and Canon are the most popular and I can’t help but feel that is for a very good reason. I have friends using the new Olympus cameras and one using Pentax. I cannot speak with any knowledge about either of those brands. I have not used either of their digital versions.
The two cameras that I would suggest you consider are the Canon EOS T5 or the Nikon D3200. I have used both of these cameras and think highly of them. One of them, the Nikon D3200, is one of my backup cameras. I will have to say that it is an excellent camera. When it first came out, the reviews on it were outstanding and more than one made the comment that it was much too advanced to really be considered a starter camera. The reviews on the Canon Rebel were also very good. While I have possessed and used both cameras, I do prefer the Nikon, but I know I could be perfectly happy with the Canon. I happen to like Nikon a little more than Canon, but only because of my vast experience using that brand.
I did not do any research on the current prices but I believe that you can find either of these cameras used for $350 or less. That would include coming with a 50mm standard kit lens or a small zoom.
For nature photography, you are going to need a better lens than the standard kit lens. You mentioned wanting a camera system for nature photography but since you are in a bird group, I would imagine that birds are going to be at least a portion of your photographic targets.
In order to take pictures of birds, you will need to have a lens that is at least 300mm. For less than a couple of hundred dollars or so, you can add a tele-extender that will increase the lens from 300 mm to approximately 420-450 mm, depending upon which tele-extender you get (1.4x or 1.5x). There are also 2.0x tele-extenders that are more expensive. That lens and a tele-extender would be a great starting point as the minimum needs for bird photography.
The lenses that you choose is very important. It is much better to spend more money on a great lens than on a great camera body. Also, I would not consider using an off-brand lens. If you have a Canon camera, only get a Canon lens; ditto with a Nikon camera. You can save a little money by going with one of the off brands, but if you are serious about the quality of your images, you will be better off with the name brand. However, you may go the cheaper route in the beginning and then upgrade through time. (Not the route I recommend).
Your outlay on either of these cameras and lenses is probably going to be in the $600-$700 range. However, if you shop around you may very well find much better deals. Before eBay, you might search with Google for used cameras and check out the prices at KEH, Adorama, BH Photo, etc. Those come with a guarantee.
I would also pick up a decent tripod. Not required, but it can make a difference, especially in low-light conditions.
Now, how are you going to learn how to use your new camera? Luckily, there is a wealth of information on the Internet, on YouTube in particular. If you go to YouTube and enter your camera type in the search box, you will have numerous videos to show you how to use every aspect of your camera. The amount of information available on YouTube is absolutely astounding.
Here is a link to an old blog about taking better nature photos.
This is all very basic information. I hope it helps.
Animals Just Won’t Say “Cheese” – Taking Better Nature Photos