Skip to main content

My First Camera and Why I Chose to Upgrade a Month Later

By July 22nd, 2022No Comments

If only I knew then what I know now...

I bought my first camera just three months ago. I wish I had spent more time researching, but I was still clinging to the misguided notion that I would be fine with an entry-level DSLR. After watching a few Youtube videos and reading some Amazon reviews, I settled on the Canon Rebel 8Ti with the 18-55mm kit lens and promptly ordered one from BestBuy.

Note to self: This $1,096.23 purchase included tax and Best Buy’s three-year extended warranty.

As I finalized the sale, I felt an overwhelming desire to rush to my car and examine my new toy in private. Ignoring the beckoning call of the electronics aisle, I raced towards my vehicle. At first inspection, it seemed simple enough, but as I looked at it from various angles, I realized that I had absolutely no idea how to use the thing. There were buttons, letters on buttons and even dials, but not a single clue on how to operate it. The camera’s menu is written in foreign camera-speak, and my initial excitement was quickly replaced by growing anxiety and panic. Was I now the owner of a $1,000 paperweight? Determined, I flipped through the accompanying user manual that has print the size of tiny ants. I briefly debated going back into the store to see if they sold magnifying glasses as an optional camera accessory. Instead, I did what any 61-year old woman would do, I put the camera and its tiny-print user manual back in the box and drove home.

I don’t give up easily, so I began surfing for useful Youtube videos. For anyone finding themselves in a similar situation, I would begin by finding a good video on the various menu items of your camera. The first, and most obvious, place to begin your search is Youtube. A really good video on the Canon T8i is here and a video on more advanced features of this camera is here. Once you find a good video for your camera’s make and model, you should spend one or two afternoons playing. Follow along with the video and practice on your camera. Also, don’t forget to take notes and don’t be afraid to play! As you explore your camera’s menu you will notice that you can reset any changes that you make. If you suddenly finding that your camera is acting “disagreeable” just reset it back to the manufacturer’s settings and start over.

I do not receive any type of monetary reward for recommending the following learning options. My recommendations are based solely upon my own experiences.

  1. I found Tom’s Guide especially helpful. Although it is an actual review of the Canon Rebel T8i camera, it is a great introduction into camera-speak. As I read the article, I googled any terminology I didn’t understand and made notes as I read.
  2. One of the most helpful websites I have found for newbies is Photography Life. Take the time to understand the exposure triangle: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. You absolutely must understand this concept if you want to take good pictures.
  3. A quick search for the “exposure triangle,” in Youtube provides an overwhelming number of results. Some of these videos are very informative and helpful, others not so much, but it’s all about the journey, right? But… there are easier and affordable ways to learn without the high cost of a conventional classroom. There are two paid options that I highly recommend. One is This is an affordable, subscription-based website. The nice thing here is there are a lot of videos that are designed for beginners as well as more seasoned photographers, but it doesn’t stop there. There are also videos on photoshop, lightroom, lenses, lighting, macro, landscape, and the list goes on and on and on. Some of the classes are very lengthy and thorough while others are shorter quick-start guides. Their classes are designed with an in-classroom feel and have a logical learning format. Many of the classes have pdf guides available for download to assist your learning experience. Another option is LinkedIn who purchased which is a learning platform. It is affordable and not only gives you full access to all their videos, the monthly membership also includes a full membership to the LinkedIn website. Be sure to search for Ben Long’s videos as he is an engaging instructor who really knows his stuff. I have watched a lot of his videos and they are top notch. He also has a book, Complete Digital Photography, that includes a link to his free workbook that has exercises and assignments to help you on your learning journey. He goes in depth into some important concepts that you won’t find elsewhere. The book really complements his digital classes on LinkedIn so its a great one-two punch to get the information stuffed into your brain.

By the end of your first month, you should have a basic understanding of the exposure triangle and have started embracing shooting in manual mode.

In the beginning of this post, I assinuated that I felt some buyer’s remorse with my purchase of the Canon Rebel T8i. I did and upgraded to a mirrorless camera a few month’s after my initial camera purchase. Since I had already bought several EF lenses, I chose to stay with Canon and purchased the Canon EOS R which is Canon’s first entry into the mirrorless market. So why was I unhappy with the Rebel?

I don’t want you to think my choice to go mirrorless was due to a flaw of the T8i. The Rebel series cameras are good entry-level cameras. However, I am 61, have arthritis with associated joint deformities in my fingers, and I have poor eyesite. I wanted a camera that is more accomodating to my physical limitations.

1) Mirrorless cameras tend to weigh much less than their DSLR counterparts. The Canon EOS R is 145 grams lighter than the Canon Rebel T8i. In case you were wondering, 145 grams is approximately 5 ounces. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but an hour-long photowalk will make those 5 ounces feel like 5 pounds.

2) Focus peaking is a real-time focus mode that highlights in red the areas around the area in focus.This can help you determine what part of the image is in focus before you shoot. To my knowledge, DSLR cameras do not have this.

3) Mirrorless cameras use a ‘live view’ so the captured electronic image can either be displayed on the rear screen or, if you choose, in the electronic viewfinder (which I almost never use now). While the T8i has a rear touch screen, it is not near as functional as the one that is utilized by a mirrorless camera. For instance, you can magnify and zoom in prior to taking the picture and get a view of those pesky pixels before taking the shot. This has helped me to take take crisper photos.

4) If you already have an array of either EF or EF-S lenses, don’t worry. Those lenses are fully functional on a Canon EOS R so long as you have purchased the adapter.  There is also a more expensive version of the adapter that costs twice as much, but I am not sure if the upgrade is worth the increased price.

Here is a great article detailing the differences between a mirrorless Canon EOS R (which was my upgrade) and a Canon Rebel T8i.


Leave a Reply