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Is it still ok to learn on a DSLR?


I would like to learn more about photography. I’ve used point and shoot (film and digital) cameras in the past but I’ve been exclusively using my iPhone for the past 7 years. I’ve mostly convinced myself to buy a Rebel t7i, as the $775 price for camera + kit lens that I see fits my budget well. My plan is to learn on the Rebel and kit lens for as many years as I can and buy EF or EF-S lenses if I need them. If I feel the need to upgrade the camera in the future, I’ll likely buy a Canon R series to continue using any EF lenses I’ve accumulated.

Have I missed something important? Should I be considering a mirrorless option more strongly? I’ll probably keep whatever I buy for 5+ years. If it matters, I’ll primarily take pictures of family, urban life (buildings, architectural features, people) and landscapes. I don’t anticipate shooting a lot of video.

Edit 11/1: I appreciate the replies I've received. I've been doing my best to understand the equipment and what it does and ignore marketing hype.

Edit 11/3: For anyone following this thread I decided the solution for me was to look for a mirrorless option. While I agree that someone can learn photography on any camera, I don't currently have any cameras or lenses so it makes sense to me to choose an R series camera as my first. Thank you to all who offered their helpful opinions.




Whoops..  late post.



You can learn the fundamentals on a DSLR.

If your budget is under $1k, the T8i kit is a better option.  Refurb directly from Canon is $719

If it were me, first time camera buyer, I'd go mirrorless.  Costs just a little bit more, but will provide a higher return on investment in the long run.  Its up to you.  DSLR equipment will continue to drop in price and become more scarce.  MILC (mirrorless) is here to stay.  Investing in older EF glass today is not as wise a value proposition as it was previously.  Yes there is still a market for it, but 5 yrs from now, it will be a different story.  Whereas mirrorless will be mature and continuing to be refined. 

Buying a DSLR today is something you need to be prepared to walk away from.  That ship has sailed (as others have said).  Mirrorless is still in its infancy comparatively.  It has a long road ahead.

Don't let me dissuade you from buying a DSLR.  You'll love it and will have years of learning and happy memories.  Just understand that manufacturers have already started to shift and move away from this technology.

Bay Area - CA

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To answer your original question simply, OF COURSE you can learn on a DSLR. All of the principles of photography and digital photography are the same, and you can absolutely transfer all the knowledge and skills you add.

I am a firm believer in avoiding latest technology when older stuff will do all you want to do for the foreseeable future. And if cost is an issue (as it is for lots of us, despite what some think it should be), you can use EF and EFS lenses on the R-series mirrorless cameras, if and when you think you have outgrown the "old" way. They are also widely available on the used market. The DSLR IS NOT OBSOLETE!!!

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Thank you, this was helpful information, especially the part about the kit lens. I'm glad to know that the T8i and kit lens will be adequate for what I hope to photograph. I am somewhat interested in the nifty fifty, but I'm not a fan of bokeh, and I understand that a 50 mm will make that more common. I plan to spend plenty of time with the kit lens first to figure out what I'm doing. 

I also hadn't seen the recommendation about the lens hood, so thanks for that. I probably will buy refurbished from Canon since people seem to have good experiences with that and I'll be able to take my budget farther.

Regarding shallow depth of field, there are actually numerous variables: focal length, aperture, distance to subject, and sensor size.   Check out a depth-of-field calculator to see what a prospective lens will do at various distances and apertures for your particular camera's sensor size.

You can definitely pick up a 50mm f/1.8 lens.   If you shoot at that widest aperture and are at the minimum focusing distance, you'll get the shallowest possible depth of field for your lens/camera combo.   But you can also focus on more distant objects.  Or, close (stop down) the aperture to also increase depth of field.


Camera: EOS 5D IV, EF 50mm f/1.2L, EF 135mm f/2L
Lighting: Profoto Lights & Modifiers


A lot of good information here. You can learn photography on any camera. It all depends on your budget. I race sailboats (well used too) and one of my partners said It's not always the boat.

Exactly. The question I answered was

' Is it still allright to learn on a DSLR?

The answer is still yes. The rest boils down to budget, subject, output and commitment.

cheers, TREVOR

"The Amount of Misery expands to fill the space available"
"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris

I relate strongly to this comment. In the 90s, I bought a 70s era Buick with a Chevy engine that was my primary vehicle for 15+ years. My wife used to say that another person wouldn't have gotten the same experience out of the car. 

I also saw one of your posts about being an engineer. I also have an engineering background and it seems that I'm questioning some of the hype around mirrorless more than the average person.

Have either of you actually used the new R5 and R6 bodies? 

I started my career back in 1980, before autofocus even.  I have shot since 2002 with DSLRs and added to my menagerie (see my profile) with the R5 and R6. I too am an engineer.

Like any technology, they are not a panacea for taking good images.  That said, for people who engage in certain types of photography: particularly those that require high levels of stabilization, and need to get very accurate focus on eyes along with tracking - so that's not everyone by any means, they are a game changer.

I still shoot with DSLRs - even quite old one - see my posts in share pictures section and so I don't see them as a magic wand.  However, make no mistake - the DSLR is no longer under development by Canon, so it is a dead-end in the evolution of cameras.  For that reason, whether we see it as hype or not, the development is in the MILC direction and while we can buy up legacy gear, it won't get any better.

cheers, TREVOR

"The Amount of Misery expands to fill the space available"
"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris

Call me a Luddite if you want. "Not under development by Canon", or any other manufacturer, does not mean that the "old" technology is not good for MANY years, and that the vast array of features and capabilities on the "old" stuff is suddenly insufficient for the vast number of us.

It is sad that so many think that equipment (cameras, scanners, printers, computers, tools, etc.) must be replaced when it is no longer "supported". I do beautiful photography on  EOS T1i, 50D, 60D, 6D, even a Powershot G11, and scanning on equipment that was last "supported" for going back to Windows XP. So many on this forum and everywhere else think their Windows 10-supported printers are trash because they got a Windows 11 computer. My CanoScan 8800F scanner was trash to its previous owner because it only went up to Win 7. The Win 7 driver and software works perfectly in Win 11. I got a free Minolta Dimage film scanner that's only "good" for Windows XP.  Found a driver on the Web written by a guy for Windows 7. I tried it on Win 10, works great. Even works on Win 11 perfectly. Only have to temporarily disable Windows's verification function to install it. This scanner sells on eBay for $500.00 with many listed for up to $1000.00.

My computer needs are well met, for photo editing and everything else, on computers (cheaply acquired Dell laptops) 10-14 years old. The latest ones are my "new" computers in both function and appearance. Windows 11 is great on them.

So please, don't let  "not under development" and "unsupported" be an automatic reason to give up on wonderful hardware.

You're definitely not a luddite. I currently use a 7 year old phone and have had many old computers over the years. It's always a good feeling when I can keep an older device running. I appreciate that you're getting value out of quality products other people have discounted. I'm hoping that the camera I buy will allow me many years of use. 

One of my joys is shooting with the Canon EOS D30 and D60 (preceding the 30D and 60D).  These were the first APS-C CMOS cameras that Canon made and were considered revolutionary. Extract from Photography The Definitive Pictorial History by Tom AngExtract from Photography The Definitive Pictorial History by Tom Ang

Most of my camera gear is legacy - in fact, one of my favourite cameras is the 2010 Canon EOS 60D.

Canon EOS 60D, EF 70-300 IS USMCanon EOS 60D, EF 70-300 IS USM

So, I have always enjoyed older gear, however I am not suspicious of new technology, nor do I feel threatened by something I use being considered obsolete.  I embrace the new tech as an engineer and I use it when I deem it is appropriate.   As I have maintained, new tech can augment the skills of a competent photographer by benefitting from features for specific purposes - which, as a wildlife photographer, is very much impacted by focusing and eye tracking technologies with the newer R-series bodies.  This is different from the classical Gear Acquisition Syndrome, where there is a belief that one's latent photographic genius will be released by the latest development in a product, or technology.  Such practitioners are the ones that have every new model of every device they could use, yet still bemoan their shortcomings as major issues.    Over 40+ years, I have used multiple brands of everything from point and shoot to fully manual medium format cameras.  I have never felt constrained by the technology itself, but by my own ability to get the best out of what I have. 

It is here that I shall dwell on the differences between features, benefits and value.  I used to lecture on this for those working for large corporations in the context of technology.

A Feature is a characteristic of a device or services that is tied to the offering and as a group will serve  a particular market, but has no connection to a specific user.  In a way, it answers the question, what have your created.

A Benefit is a very personal characteristic that is tied to the type of activity, needs, constraints and aspirations of individuals.  This could be paraphrased by the song 'Tell me what you want, what your really, really want?'  Essentially it demonstrably improves performance, or removes a constraint to achieving that performance.

Value is achieved only when features can be matched to benefits.  One example of this would be a camera that is capable of taking 4k video.  That is a feature - it does that.  The question is whether this is something that is needed or even wanted.  If not, there is no value in that feature, and may be considered a detraction because of cost or complication.  Such things may not be fully performance -tied.  The value may be in terms of  personal enjoyment. 

For example, I purchased a Nikon Df camera.  A stills-only camera that was the swansong of, and tribute to, Tetsuro Goto, head of Nikon Digital Imaging, just before his retirement.  He created a high-performance FF DSLR that harkened back to the his very first SLRs that I used, through its interface of dials.  Yet, it incorporated a top-end sensor and could, if so desired, be operated as a conventional DSLR, yet some of the characteristics that would be considered shortcomings today - single card slot, relatively few focus points, no built-in flash and no video were part of its charm for me.   The benefit to me was the joy of returning to my roots, and the tactile pleasures of controlling the camera in a way that slowed one down and made taking a photo an event to be cherished in its own right.  I still have and use the Df today.  One can find similar features with the Fujifilm X-T series and I enjoy using them too, but they are not quite the Nikon I started my career with.   Do I think it will make me a better photographer?   Maybe, by slowing down, but it gives me pleasure in other ways, so yes - it has value.

cheers, TREVOR

"The Amount of Misery expands to fill the space available"
"All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy;
"Skill in photography is acquired by practice and not by purchase" Percy W. Harris

I haven't tried the R5 or R6 bodies, but I haven't used much other than an iPhone in the past several years, so the subtleties would be be lost on me.

I've done a bit of reading about some of the newer features in the mirrorless cameras and about the ways in which the new RF lenses interact with the camera body. I'm excited about things like built-in lens corrections. As I understand it, auto lens corrections means I wouldn't notice an imperfect image when zooming in and out. As an amateur, I'm also wary. Features like power windows, power locks, and power steering make a car more comfortable to drive, but those features don't make people better drivers.

I'm also wary about buying older equipment, especially since I don't currently have any. The R10 seems like it may be an updated, mirrorless version of the Rebel and a model I want to consider. I won't be able to optimize my budget, but that camera seems to meet all my criteria.