When choosing your first 35mm camera there’s definitely not an exact science to the process. You want to choose something that is not too expensive but will also serve you well (read: will not break) while you experiment and learn the process of the camera. Most people get caught up in the brand war and will tell you that either Canon is better than Nikon or vica-versa; or that sony offers the best option in the market. While each brand has their pluses and minus’, I’m going to recommend a few other considerations to think about before choosing the brand you want to go with.
Consideration 1: Level of Involvement
Consider how involved with photography you want to be, do aspire to eventually make photography your profession or do you just want to learn the basics in order to improve your shots and introduce a bit more creativity into your pictures? This consideration will ultimately dictate how much you are willing to spend and perhaps even the type (digital or film) of camera you want to purchase. If you are looking at just learning the basics, or if you are looking to save some money you will want to pick up cheap film slr. If you just want to pick up one camera that you’re going to stick with for a while then perhaps you want to look at beginning digital slr like the Canon Digital Rebel.
Consideration 2: Lens’
Do you have any old lens’ laying around? perhaps you have a relative or friend with a 35mm slr? If you know of someone or somewhere where you can get a hold of a lens, you will want to consider this in your decision for your first SLR. You don’t want to buy a Nikon and end up finding out cousin john has tons of canon lens’ that he would be willing to let you experiment with. Remember one of the great advantages to the SLR camera system is it’s interchangeable lens and trust me these are not cheap, so if you have others around you willing to let you borrow, you may want to consider matching camera brands with them.
Consideration 3: Digital or Film
This can be a sticky issue for a first time SLR buyer. With the boom of digital photography it is now possible to get a relatively cheap digital SLR. For the same reason film SLR cameras are also much cheaper. You will want to think about this as you are making your purchase. Perhaps consider again your level of involvement that you intend to get into with photography; then decide whether the extra couple hundred is worth it to jump into digital. If you intend to only wade in the vast sea of photography and don’t really plan on upgrading to the more professional digital cameras in the future then perhaps it would be wise to put some extra money up initially and get a camera that you will use for many years to come. But if your intention is to eventually go all out into digital and grab up one of the professional quality slr cameras, perhaps it would serve you better saving the money now and just buying the cheapest film slr to learn the basics on.
Maybe you don’t know what you intend to do down the road. You just know you are interested in photography and want to try your hand as something a little more advanced. I would recommend just getting the most basic equipment you can and experiment away. You can worry about upgrades later.
No matter your decision at this point, the main thing is to get your hands on an SLR of some type. The basics are the same for all cameras, so whatever brand you pick up you will be well prepared for shooting.
Some places to grab up cheap SLR systems: