This site is all about creating great images from a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex camera). So what should you look for if you are buying one?
The question is very pertinent as there are a lot of very good DSLRs on the market these days. Ten years ago, it wasn’t even worth buying the best DSLR because the quality didn’t compare to film. But in many ways, digital technology has surpassed film.
The big names are always worth looking at; Canon, Nikon, Olympus etc, but because this is now a digital market, some new names are making a mark in the camera world, such as Sony and Panasonic.
In basic terms a 10MP DSLR from Sony and a 10MP DSLR from Canon are not going to be much different. Sure they may have different sensor and different gadgets, but side by side you can great a great picture from both of them… under ordinary conditions. If however you aim to specialize in a particular type of challenging photography such as ‘low-light’ then you will need to research which sensor is best for this purpose. This article though, is about those just wanting to take great everyday pictures.
Some things to think about…
It is easy to assume that the more megapixels the better, but unless you want to print very large prints of your work, you will be fine with around 10MP. The 21MP 5D markII from Canon produces stunning resolution, but you might need to buy a new computer to deal with the large file sizes. 10MP will allow you to create high quality A2 pictures (24X18cm).
Maybe you want all the bells and whistles? Lets have a look at some features available on today’s DSLRs:
- Live view
This allows you to see what you are capturing via the display screen, you don’t have to look through the view finder.
Pros, focusing and composition are much easier.
Cons, Uses battery juice fast.
- Sensor cleaning
This will clean your sensor every time you switch the camera on and off.
This, keeps the need for cleaning you sensor to a minimum.
This is the ability to switch the ISO values from ranges between 50 and 3200. This is an important consideration if you are shooting low light conditions. You need to research to see how the camera deals with noise at the higher ISOs. If your camera has excellent high iso performance, you can save money on lenses as you don’t have to buy a big aperture lens.
- Crop Factor
Crop factor refers to the size of the sensor compared to 35mm. This is an important consideration when buying lenses. A 1.5 crop factor will mean that a 50mm lens will actually be a 75mm lens (50X1.5=75). This is great for long lenses as it makes them more powerful. But for landscape, you will have to buy a 17mm to get a focal length of 25.5mm.
- Frames per second
This is important to consider if you shoot fast action subjects. A good rate of shutter actuations per second will give you a better chance of capturing a great shot from a short burst of action. Your camera will sound like a machine gun!
One of the biggest features of all DSLRs is the ability to change lenses. The lens is the most important part of a camera.
You need to know what kind of lens you will be using in your photography. if you are a landscaper, you will need mostly wide angles, a portrait photographer will need 50mm to 85mm, a bird photographer will need 200mm and longer. Think about which lenses you will need and research them first. If you are not wealthy, start with a cheap 50mm prime lens. Then see if you mostly want something wider or something longer. If you are wealthy, find the best lens in the class you want and then buy the camera.
The cameras with the best selection of high quality lenses are Canon and Nikon. The other brand names are catching up fast and third party lens manufacturers such as Sigma and Tamron are making lenses for many different cameras.
I chose Canon and I have stuck with Canon all the way… because… it is a popular camera and I am able to sell my old lenses very quickly and I am able to find very good second hand lenses everywhere.
My best advice, when you are ready to buy, is to have two or three cameras in mind. Walk into a good camera store and ask to hold these different cameras. Buy the one that feels best in your hand.
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