DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras are becoming more common these days. While Smartphones continue to evolve rapidly and give better results, their smaller sensor size will always be a limiting factor due to which they will never come closer to the amount of control a DSLR can give. With rising purchasing power, lot of people want to buy a DSLR.
Maybe you just decided it was time to take my photography to the next level or maybe it is another reason that has you shopping for a new DSLR. At any rate, you have started your hunt online and off and will soon be making a large investment in a camera.
It’s nearly impossible for any beginner to sort through all of the functions, features, and price points of DSLR and mirrorless cameras and make an informed choice. In How to Choose Your First DSLR Camera, we will simplify the buying process and help you find the camera that fits your needs and your budget.
This is a detailed guide on how to choose and buy a DSLR camera. We decided to write this choosing your buying DSLR cameras.
The first thing I tell anyone looking to buy a new DLSR is to go to a store and see how they feel. Grab a Nikon and a Canon and a Sony and Olympus and Pentax too. This is what stores are for and why they are better than just shopping online. Here are some things you should look for while handling the camera:
How does it feel in your hands?
This is one of the most important aspects of any camera. Pixel counts and auto-focus modes are great to debate, but if the camera does not feel good to hold, you will not be wanting to pick it up six months from now and you will have wasted your money on the latest, greatest wonder camera just because it had a lighting optimizer feature that online reviews told you could not live without. Not only should the weight be appropriate for your build, but the grip should also be comfortable.
Can you navigate the menus?
Second suggestion is to play with the camera’s menus. All manufacturers have different paths through the dozens of features packed into the electronics of modern cameras. While I have learned Nikon’s menus and can navigate fairly well, I prefer Canon’s. Sony, on the other hand, rocks the menu world for new photographers with some great contextual information. With the camera in your hand, see if you can easily change the ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture, White Balance, drive mode (especially self-timer), focus mode, exposure bias and metering.
Megapixel is not a metric to measure quality of image, it is a metric to measure size of image. With a 24 MP DSLR you will be able to print bigger images but 18 MP is just fine for printing even A2 size images. And we assume since you are a beginner in photography, you would have no plans of printing anything bigger than this.
In all beginner level DSLRs you would come across terms such APS-C CMOS sensor. What do they mean?
Sensor size – APS-C refers to size of sensor. Sensor size is very important deciding factor in a camera. Bigger the size, more light it can capture. APS-C means a specific size which tends to vary slightly across different manufacturers. This size is much bigger than smartphone cameras and point and shoot cameras but smaller than full frame cameras. Full frame cameras are professional cameras which cost much higher. APS-H and Four thirds are some other smaller sizes some manufacturers use.
Type of Sensor – This refers to CMOS or CCD or similar such terms. These are technologies used to manufacture sensor chips and the way they work. They do affect the image quality but are not in your control. Most cameras you will find these days will be CMOS.
IMAGE PROCESSOR –
You must have seen terms like DIGIC 4+ or Expeed 4 processor in specifications of cameras. What do they mean?
These are integrated circuit chips and keep evolving just like Pentium and AMD chips. An image processor does tremendous amount of work after you click and before the image gets stored in internal memory. Canon calls its image processor DIGIC while Nikon calls it Expeed. Number is used to show improvement over a previous version which means 5 is better than 4 and 4+ is better than 4.
AF POINTS –
AF points refer to auto focus points. Ever wondered how auto focus works? To simplify, there are pre-decided points in your camera where it will check things like contrast, light, color or infrared rays and if the object is in focus. So more the number of such points, more accurate, easy and faster your auto focus will be. This is especially important if you shoot moving objects like birds, children, cars or sports.
Also note that a focus point can be single point or a cross type point. A cross type point is better than single point. Beginner’s DSLRs usually have one cross type point in center while advanced DSLRs will have many cross-type points.
ISO as you might already know is sensitivity of sensor to light. More the sensitivity of sensor, more you can see even in dim lights. However, you would see noise at higher ISO levels too. Beginner’s DSLR usually have ISO range 100 to 6400. A DSLR model that gives you a broader range say up to 128000 is better suited to click pictures in low light.
FPS stands for Frames per second. What this means in photography is, if you are shooting in burst mode, how many images will your camera be able to click in a second. If you shoot moving objects like birds, wildlife, sports etc. it is difficult to click an image at the exact time. Shooting number of images in burst mode and then selecting the best one makes it much easier. But the processing time of each camera varies and thus number of images you can shoot in a second varies. Beginner’s DSLR usually has 3 to 5 FPS and it increases as you go to higher models.
You might be surprised to know that there are commercial movies shot on DSLRs which are released in theaters. Specifications to keep in mind are resolution and FPS. Full HD is the norm of the day so 1080p is necessary. 720p and 480p would usually come with all DSLRs. Also important is frames per second for videos. 24 or 30 FPS is what our eye perceives as normal but higher FPS can be used creatively to create slow motion or time-lapse; so, they are always an added advantage.
LCD SCREEN –
LCD screens of DSLR camera are usually used to see clicked image or video and sometimes used to frame the shot and click. Their specifications usually tell you about the size and resolution of the screen. Though a bigger size and higher resolution of screen is beneficial, this should not be the criteria for choosing a DSLR.
What can matter is if the LCD screen is touch screen. Since a lot of people graduate from Smartphones to DSLRs, they are used to touching the screen to focus and keep pinching the screen to zoom-in. Many beginner level DSLRs have started adding such touch screen which you can opt for. What also helps is a tilt screen which lets you place cameras in awkward positions and allows you to see through the LCD screen.
Which brand of DSLR camera should you choose? While there are number of options such as Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Pentax etc.; we would recommend going with either Canon or Nikon. The main reason for this is that both of these brands are widely available, have number of service centers across India, have wide variety of lenses for you to choose, have various models at every step for you to upgrade and have right price points.
Note that investment in a DSLR camera is a long-term commitment. Once you buy, say, a Canon, you would most likely be a canon customer for rest of your life unless say Sony comes and sponsors all your gear. The reason for this is that each manufacturer designs proprietary products. Though overarching technology and features might remain same, once you have learnt the controls of one brand, you will find it difficult to adjust to any other manufacturer. Also lenses of one manufacturer do not fit directly into camera body of another manufacturer. You can use an adaptor to fit them but they have their own limitations. Considering this, a Canon or a Nikon seems to be a safer option compared to the rest.
As far as Canon vs Nikon is concerned, there is no absolute answer to this. Experts supporting each brand can easily be found and there is no clear winner here. Both have some pros and cons and as a beginner if you blindly pick up any one, you will not be disappointed.
PURPOSE OF BUYING A DSLR or HOW WILL YOU USE THE CAMERA? –
Now that you know quite a bit about how to choose your first DSLR camera, we hope you plan to buy it for the right reasons. My friends own a DSLR so I want one or I can afford it so I want one are not the right reasons to buy a DSLR. If you plan to shoot photos with a DSLR just like you do with a mobile or point and shoot, you do not need a DSLR camera. If you plan to shoot in auto mode, then it is better to continue using a point and shoot or mobile phone.
A DSLR camera needs you to be serious about learning photography. The major advantage a DSLR camera gives is the ability to control various aspects of photography and the wide range of control it gives. Buy a DSLR camera only if you plan to use the power it gives you.
Photography is a relatively costly hobby. DSLR is not the only thing you will have to buy. You will need lenses, camera bags, probably lens filters, lens hoods, tripod, remote control, extra batteries etc. and then one day you would want to upgrade it all.
Hope you are in a better position to understand the features and information you need to keep in mind before buying your first DSLR.
Incase you want to rent before buying we have a range of cameras available from Canon to Nikon and Sony.