Here’s how it works: your body accounts for roughly 30% of the quality, the lenses account for 70%. Whatever your budget, you should always aim to invest in better lenses first because that is where your money really gets the most value.

If you can’t afford $5,000 (or more) worth of camera, then don’t even look at the higher priced bodies. Get the cheapest dSLR in the Canon lineup and then find the best lens for your needs and budget. Always. This advice has been battle-tested (I have eight years experience as a photographer) and confirmed over and over again talking to other photographers. Invest in lenses. You will never go wrong.

The Body

For Canon the latest and lowest priced body was just released:

Canon Rebel Ti6 $749 (body only)
APS-C 332.3mm 24.2 megapixels ISO 100 – 12,800

The Lenses

It really depends on your budget. I’m going to arrange this page according to cost.

Canon Lenses

If you get just one lens pick from the list below according to your budget:

$105: Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

$329: Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard

$1799: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens

That’s it. Leave the kit lenses behind. If you don’t have a lot to spend, it’s better to get the 50mm and save for the 24-70mm later.

If you want a wide angle lens for landscape, or architecture then:

$1499: Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

If you want a telephoto lens:

$1999: Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens

(Note: there are older versions of all of these lenses and some sold on the used market. Unlike bodies, lenses are good forever. They don’t age. If the glass is perfect and unblemished, go for a used model. If someone is selling an older model those are okay to get too.)

So what does that leave you with?

$854 Canon Rebel Ti6 plus a 50 mm f/1.8 lens, with the idea that you’ll save up and get the 24-70 mm, 16-35 mm or 70-200 mm depending on what you like to shoot most often. Then you can slowly add in other high end lenses as your budget allows.

OR if your budget allows you to invest in more, you might get:

$1078 Canon Rebel Ti6 plus a 50 mm f/1.4 lens – and you save up for more lenses later.

$2548 Canon Rebel Ti6 plus a 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens – you could be all set with just this lens for a long time

OR if you do mostly landscape you could go with:

$2353 Canon Rebel Ti6 plus a 50 mm f/1.8 lens AND the 16-35 mm.

OR if you shoot mostly sports, nature etc and want a telephoto lens as your main lens, you could have:

$2853 Canon Rebel Ti6 plus a 50 mm f/1.8 lens AND the 70-200 mm. (The 50 mm will give you a walking around lens as the 70-200 is quite heavy.)

Camera gear gets expensive quickly and it’s mostly the cost of the lens. However, if you look at some of the bundles out there… for example this Canon 6D bundle with a bunch of stuff… I would personally prefer to get the Rebel with the 24-70 mm f/2.8 lens for just a little more. That lens is a lifetime investment, whereas bodies age quickly and often you’re itching to upgrade in 2 years and definitely within 4. A great lens like the 24-70 mm will be with you for a decade or longer as long as you don’t scratch it or break it.

Finally, there’s a good Used Canon Gear group on Facebook.