When I decided to finally splurge on a DSLR camera, I had no idea where to begin...
My next few blog posts will take you through how I got started, step by step, when I wanted to take my photography more seriously. For full transparency, I am no expert and was never formally trained in photography. But, I can tell you I've done a lot of research and will forever be a student, so I'm always learning! The biggest thing to remember is who's behind the camera is just as, if not more, important as the camera itself. A fancy and expensive camera isn't going to make your photography better if you don't know how to use it. And you can take amazing pictures on just your phone!
Step one is an obvious one but probably the most overwhelming. What kind of camera body should you get? Here are the main factors I considered:
Mirrorless vs. DSLR
Without going into too much detail, mirrorless cameras are the next step in camera technology. Obviously, they are mirrorless, with light passing through the lens and right onto an image sensor (kinda like how your phone camera works). Mirrorless cameras are smaller and weigh less, but you'll likely pay a premium for a mirrorless camera over a more traditional DSLR. You'll also need to factor in mirrorless lenses are typically more expensive with fewer options. Here's a more detailed comparison between the two.
Full-frame vs. crop sensor
This refers to the size of the camera's sensor. A full-frame sensor uses the standard 35mm format, whereas a crop sensor is smaller than that. This is most noticeable in your field of view. A full-frame will yield a higher quality image, and they're typically larger cameras. Crop sensor cameras (and lenses) are usually smaller and less expensive. Here is some more information I found useful.
There are so many great brands that I think this part of your decision can be really subjective. Once you've narrowed your camera body down to a few options, I recommend trying them out to get a sense of how they feel in your hands and how intuitive the controls are for you. Now, I'm not saying go for some knock-off brand you've never heard of. But you probably won't go wrong with one of the established brands once you've considered everything above.
And then there are lenses...
Many entry-level DSLR and mirrorless cameras will come with a basic lens kit (like an 18-55mm zoom lens). Those lenses are great for starting out and learning how to use your camera. Once you've mastered that lens, you can start adding to your collection! For my first "real" lens, I decided to go with a 50mm focal length lens. It's called the "nifty fifty" because it's such a versatile lens. But, what lens you decide to invest in will depend on what you plan to take pictures of. For example, the lenses you need for portraits are very different than the lenses you’d use for landscape photography.
So what did I choose? For my first camera, I decided to go with a Nikon d3500, which came with an 18-55mm lens. After that, I invested in a 50mm and then a 85mm lens to take my portrait images up a notch.