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DSLR cameras make for awesome gifts. They’re impressive, practical, and are the gateway into a creative hobby that’s been proven to increase how happy you are 5 Creative Hobbies That Will Make You a Happier Person 5 Creative Hobbies That Will Make You a Happier Person Read More — and what other gift can also boast all of these aspects?

There are three potential recipients — those who are photographers, those who have no photography experience, or yourself — and there are reasons against buying a camera for all three types. It’s up to you whether these reasons apply to your situation.

So even though DSLRs make for nice gifts, that doesn’t mean that they should be given as Christmas gifts. If you’re in desperate need of a gift idea, try these useful photographer gifts that aren’t cameras 10 Great Gifts for Photographers 10 Great Gifts for Photographers No idea what to buy for the photography enthusiast in your life at Christmas? This article will give you 10 inspirational ideas. Read More instead.

1. Your Smartphone Is Good Enough

If you want a DSLR for the purpose of getting into photography, then pump your brakes and consider learning on your smartphone first. Of the many ways that a smartphone camera makes your life easier 10 Ways Your Smartphone Camera Can Make Life Easier 10 Ways Your Smartphone Camera Can Make Life Easier "Does your phone have a camera on it?" said no one since 2005. Nobody even asks how many megapixels your phone's camera has anymore. With the ubiquity of smartphones today, and the resolution of the... Read More , convenience is paramount.

The problem with DSLRs — especially for newbies — is two-fold:

  1. There are so many new buttons, functions, and features to learn.
  2. You have to carry the DSLR around in order to use it.

Every photographer can recall plenty of moments where they’ve exclaimed, “Argh, I wish I had my camera with me!” The beauty of a smartphone is that it’s always on your person anyway, and that alone is reason enough for newbies to learn on one.

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But the truth is, smartphone cameras are more than good enough 6 Reasons Your Smartphone is the Best Camera You Own 6 Reasons Your Smartphone is the Best Camera You Own It might not be a digital SLR, but your smartphone is punching well above its weight when it comes to photography. The next time you go out, leave your old point and shoot at home. Read More for someone who isn’t a photography expert. In other words, smartphone cameras may not be as advanced or flexible as DSLRs, but they’re more than capable of taking amazing photos.

And in the near future, with all of the advancements in smartphone camera technology 5 Camera Technologies That Will Change The Way You Take Pictures 5 Camera Technologies That Will Change The Way You Take Pictures It seems every day that cameras are getting better. What does the future hold for cameras? Is it more of the same, a revolution, or a bit of both? Read More , we may even start to see them surpass DSLRs in what they can do.

2. Your Current Camera Is Good Enough

This group of people is the group who should really reconsider buying a new camera — the group who already owns a DSLR but wants to upgrade it because they think a better camera body will result in better images. That’s not how it works!

If what we said above is true, that smartphone cameras are good enough to take amazing photos, you can rest assured that your DSLR — no matter how “entry-level” it might seem — is also capable of taking amazing photos. This also holds true for point-and-shoot and mirrorless cameras.

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Of course, higher-tier DSLR bodies do have better specs, like more megapixels, wider ISO range, and faster autofocus. If you want to upgrade because you need a specific feature, then that’s valid, but if you think a newer body is going to make your shots look better, you’re sorely mistaken.

The things that actually matter are photographic experience (which includes practical and theoretical knowledge) and lenses (which impact your photos way more than the body itself ever could). Study, practice, and research lenses instead.

Thinking of treating yourself to a nice, big upgrade this Christmas? Forget the camera body and buy a new lens or two. Here are the most commonly used camera lenses 5 Common Photo Lenses & When To Use Them 5 Common Photo Lenses & When To Use Them Though there's no photographic rulebook when it comes to focal length and aperture, there are a few best practices to remember. Read More , and if you’re a bit rusty, be sure to know the difference between zoom and prime lenses Zoom Lenses vs. Prime Lenses: What's the Difference? Zoom Lenses vs. Prime Lenses: What's the Difference? After graduating from a kit lens, you’ll need to decide between a prime lens and a zoom lens. But what exactly is the difference? Which one is better for you? Read More .

3. You Can Save Money By Waiting

You might think that the holiday season is the perfect time to snatch a deal on DSLRs, but it really isn’t. I mean, if you’ve been eying a particular model for months and you manage to find it on sale for 50% off, then yes, jump on that deal! But in general, you should wait.

The main thing to keep in mind is that you should never buy a new DSLR Why You Should Never Buy a New DSLR Camera (And Always Buy a Used One) Why You Should Never Buy a New DSLR Camera (And Always Buy a Used One) Here's why DSLR camera bodies and camera lenses should always be bought used -- especially if you're a newbie shopping for your first entry-level DSLR or a hobbyist replacing your first model. Read More and always get used if you can. (Unless you run a professional photography service, in which case always buy new.) DSLRs have long lifespans, they hold up well over time, and the price cuts are phenomenal.

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But if you’re dead set on buying new, then you should wait until the second quarter of the following year. Every January, new camera models are announced at the Consumer Electronics Show, and that means that most older models end up getting their prices slashed come February when demand drops.

This is just one of many money-saving tips when buying a DSLR 5 Money-Saving Tips You Should Know Before Buying a DSLR 5 Money-Saving Tips You Should Know Before Buying a DSLR Here are some helpful tips for making photography a more financially-manageable activity. Read More . Heed as many of those tips as you can!

4. The DSLR Will Just Collect Dust

If you’re thinking of gifting a surprise DSLR to someone who has never used a camera in their life and has absolutely no photography knowledge, then you may want to reconsider.

As mentioned above, non-enthusiasts don’t actually need a DSLR to dive into photography as a hobby. In fact, if you give a DSLR to someone who doesn’t explicitly want one, it’s just going to end up collecting dust from a lack of use. After all, what kind of non-enthusiast wants to carry around a heavy camera everywhere they go?

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There’s also the issue of maintenance. DSLRs need to be cleaned and treated well to prevent malfunctions — something that a non-enthusiast probably won’t care to learn how to do. And that’s not to mention the fact that a lot of beginners quit, which would mean your gift was in vain.

Instead, a better gift would be the gift of education — namely, access to an online photography course Master Photography By Studying It: 10 Great Online Photo Courses Master Photography By Studying It: 10 Great Online Photo Courses There's a lot of theory and knowledge behind a beautiful photograph, so much so that it can be overwhelming for the beginner. Fortunately, there are some great online resources that make getting started easier. Read More that the recipient could use to sharpen and hone their skills. Our favorite photography courses are the ones on Lynda.com How to Improve Your Photography Overnight with Lynda.com How to Improve Your Photography Overnight with Lynda.com Lynda.com is great for online learning. Of the 546 photography courses available, here are some of the best ones for sharpening your skills in just a few hours. Read More , of which there are hundreds for just $25 per month.

Similarly, you shouldn’t gift a DSLR to a hobbyist or professional either. A photographer at that level knows what they want as their next purchase, and there’s a good chance that the camera you buy won’t be the one they want. If you really want to gift them a camera, ask them what they want beforehand.

What Are You Buying This Christmas?

Given these reasons not to buy a DSLR this Christmas, there are valid reasons to go ahead and buy one anyway — for example, someone specifically told you that they want a certain DSLR model and you want to get it for them.

But as a general rule, there are better gifts to give a photographer other than a camera body: lenses, accessories, and photography courses. They’ll get more out of those than an extra camera body that they don’t really need.

So what are you planning on buying? Going ahead with a DSLR? Or did you change your mind to something else? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Image Credits: opening a gift box by Tinatin via Shutterstock, Smartphone Camera by welcomia via Shutterstock, Camera Comparison by Benny Thaibert via Shutterstock, Nikon Camera Set by Vdovichenko Denis via Shutterstock, DSLR On/Off by javitrapero via Shutterstock

  1. Stephen Hall
    July 11, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    I have a Pentax K-X and a Samsung Galaxy Camera 2. Both have pro's and cons. The biggest con with the Samsung is the screen. No viewfinder means that when it is a bright sunny day you cannot see the image on the screen. My preference, although i like both cameras will always be the Pentax. I usually fit the 50-200 zoom lens and get some stunning results. Not that good for close-up shots, where the Samsung camera comes in to it's own.

  2. Peter Mundy
    December 3, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    For me, as an older person, I like the camera's ability to take it to my eye, compose the picture, zoom in and out, adjust the frame etc., etc, so easily.
    Also I can reduce considerably the sun-strike on the smart-phone, so I can get the optimal shot.

    Downside is having the camera on hand, and sometimes when the batteries have "died".

    • Joel Lee
      December 5, 2015 at 1:25 am

      Yeah, there's a lot to like about DSLRs, especially the viewfinder. But I'm just saying, a DSLR isn't the be-all-end-all of photography!

  3. Marty Monroe
    December 3, 2015 at 8:31 am

    "Your Current Camera Is Good Enough"

    It sure is. My 1952 Exakta Varex VX still takes perfect pictures. If I want to use something more up to date, I can turn to my Pentax LX of 1980 vintage. I very much doubt any of today's DSLRs will still be going strong after 60 years.

    • fcd76218
      December 3, 2015 at 2:38 pm

      " Exakta Varex VX"
      OMG, I haven't heard that name in decades. I didn't think anybody used them or even knew about them. :-)

  4. fcd76218
    December 3, 2015 at 1:33 am

    It's not the tool that makes the craftsman, it is the craftsman that makes the tool.

    Just as a set of the best brushes will not make one into a Renoir, a DSLR will not make one into an Ansel Adams.

    • Joel Lee
      December 5, 2015 at 1:21 am

      Absolutely. I love it when professional photographers do little side projects where they take high-quality photos with an iPhone or Android. It really illustrates the point.

  5. Art DiNo
    December 3, 2015 at 1:10 am

    I do not agree, there is no comparison. A reflex camera gives you the option of professionalization in such a vast field as the photograpy. With a single smartphone you shoot. With a reflex camera, you create pictures.

    • fcd76218
      December 3, 2015 at 1:42 am

      "With a reflex camera, you create pictures."
      A good photographer can create pictures with a smartphone or even a box camera. A good camera helps but is not necessary.

      • Kosta
        July 12, 2016 at 11:32 am

        Right, give photographer smartphone to take a picture in low light situation, and see what he will tell you. You can create picture but in most of the situation it will either look like crap or will not be comparable with any dedicated photo equipment, regardless if its dSLR, SLR or Prosumer...
        A good camera and lens helps a lot actually...

        • fcd76218
          July 12, 2016 at 1:18 pm

          @Kosta:
          It is the craftsman that is important, not the tool. A good photographer can take good photos with even a cheap camera while a hacker couldn't take a picture with a top of the line professional outfit.

    • Joel Lee
      December 5, 2015 at 1:23 am

      This article was mainly for beginners. For them, DSLRs aren't really necessary. If they gain experience and want to advance, then sure, upgrade to a DSLR! But until then, smartphones and point-and-shoots are great.

  6. katsarov
    December 2, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    1. Are you kidding? Smartphone compared to DSLR? Ya, sure... if you want only to take photos and don't care of quality. At least the speed of taking photos in motion is totally different experience.
    2. Megapixels don't matter much really. And ISO... you just don't need more than 300-400. If you use more - this is not for you - use smartphone instead.
    3. DSLRs have a "life" of 100,000 shutter actuations (or at least manufacturers claims that for entry-level) . So its very possible if you buy a used DSLR to have a very short life in your hands.

    Yes, its not for a non-enthusiast photographer.

    • Joel Lee
      December 5, 2015 at 1:20 am

      An amateur beginner would have no idea of the differences between a smartphone camera and a DSLR in terms of what they can do. Until you have a good bit of experience, a smartphone is just fine. It's even preferable because it has a shallower learning curve, which means less likelihood of giving up!

  7. Mary S
    December 2, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    You can certainly learn composition on a smartphone, but if your intent is to learn the science of photography, you can't do it on a smartphone. You need full manual control for that. You certainly don't need a high-end dslr to learn on. Any low-end one will do.

    • Joel Lee
      December 5, 2015 at 1:19 am

      Yup, you're right, you can't really learn the manual functions without a DSLR, but you can still learn composition and lighting with just a smartphone, and those two things will take a LONG time to learn well. Just saying, a DSLR shouldn't be someone's very first experience of photography.

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