So many family and friends ask me this question and truth be told, I find it difficult to answer because there is much to consider! To start off with – I’m definitely not a technological guru and I don’t claim to be one! There are so many websites on the Internet that can take you through the individual specs of a camera in detail and I would urge you to read these reviews before purchasing any camera. This article will focus on some general points of consideration if you find yourself sniffing around for a new DSLR…
Start by establishing your needs and asking yourself a few simple questions…What will I use it for? How/When will I be using it? Have I got my sights set on becoming a pro or is it just a bit of fun that I’m after? After you’ve done that, consider setting a rough budget based on how much you are willing to spend but know that there may be some compromises made along the way…
There are several manufacturers of DSLR cameras in the market today and many of them offer high quality cameras priced very competitively making it quite confusing to know where to start. Because you can use many different lenses with one SLR, when you buy an SLR camera you are technically committing to the brand in the long term. For this reason, it is important to be aware that Canon and Nikon are the two front-runners of the industry. They have a vast range of lenses and accessories all the way into the professional range. Choosing a Canon or Nikon DSLR (even though you may choose an entry-level Canon/Nikon SLR) makes it easier to expand your kit as you change and grow as a photographer. And if you don’t plan to expand your kit, no harm done. Canon and Nikon are both great brands so which one you opt for is really up to you!
Bursting the Megapixels Bubble
To put it bluntly, megapixels are not as important as the camera manufacturers want you to think! A common misconception is that the more megapixels the camera has, the clearer/better your image. The honest truth is, if your camera can give you anywhere around 10 megapixels then it will most likely suffice for all your needs and enlargements! The key here is that there are several OTHER factors that result in the sharpness/quality of your image such as the lens, the focus point of your photograph and the low light capability of your camera. So please don’t be fooled into paying more for megapixels, its really not necessary!
Lenses and Accessories
As important as it is to choose the right camera, the lens or lenses you end up with are even more important! So lets discuss lenses before talking about the other features of the camera you need to look out for.
Chances are, your DSLR will come with a standard kit zoom lens. This kit lens will be great for playing around with your camera and for taking daily photos; for many of you, that’s all you need to complete your photography journey!
However, if you decide to take your new camera just a little bit more seriously, you will soon discover that there are a host of different lenses that can aid your photography immensely. In fact, many photographers will go as far as to say that the camera is not as important as the lens! Admittedly, the lenses referred to in this statement can be incredibly expensive. Yet, there are some lenses out there that are wonderful and inexpensive! One of my all time favorites is the 50mm prime lens F1.8 which you can pick up for under £100! This lens is great for taking all kinds of portraits and it can give you a wonderfully sharp image with a creamy soft background when used correctly. Parents, this is a great lens for taking pictures of your kids.
Another accessory you may wish to consider is an external flash unit. These are small flash units that you can mount on your camera. Yes your camera does have its own built in flash, but the results from a simple external flash unit can hugely improve the quality of your image! It gives you the flexibility to direct and bounce the light creating a much more eye pleasing result when flash is needed in low light situations. The latest external flash units are quite expensive however as hobbyists, you can hunt for some great bargains by choosing older models or opting for used/refurbished units.
In conclusion, you may find it wholly unnecessary to invest in different lenses and flashes – however, equipped with this knowledge you may decide to consider a less expensive camera body in exchange for a special lens or two, or a simple flash unit!
Important DSLR Features
When looking for a camera, equip yourself with knowledge about some of the following important camera features:
1) Focus points: Focus points are used to pinpoint which part of your photo you want to have in focus. Whilst it is certainly not necessary to have more than a few focus points (3-9) having the luxury of more focus points does create ease of composition. It also makes it easier to track a moving subject. Pro range cameras can have anywhere between 39-60 focus points.
2) Sensor Size: Nikon has two different sensor sizes: Full Frame (FX) and 1.5x (DX). Canon has three sensor sizes: Full Frame, 2.3x and 1.6x. Without getting overly technical, Full Frame cameras offer better image quality, ‘no crop factor’, and they really do shine when it comes to ISO performance. They are also terribly pricy. For the average consumer a smaller 1.5x or 1.6x sensor will suffice just fine; if you only plan to own the standard kit lens and maybe one other lens, it just won’t make sense to spend the extra money on a full frame camera.
3) ISO capability: If you plan on shooting with pre-dominantly natural light and/or in low light situations, do read up on how well a camera performs with a high ISO. Again, Full Frame cameras cope excellent with high ISOs but don’t expect to find them thrifty.
4) Speed (Number of frames per second): This refers to how many pictures a camera can take in one second. For the average consumer anywhere between 2-4fps will suffice. Faster is only better if you need the speed for quick action or sports.
5) Video Recording Capability: With many DSLRs offering HD quality video recording capability, it is a worthy consideration to check out what recording options are available within your budget.
Again, reading online about each camera and its features will help you to ascertain your needs whilst staying within your budget.
To give you a starting point, below are some cameras that may be suitable for various budgets. I am a Nikon girl and the recommendations below are all Nikon based however rest assured that Canon models are equally fantastic. Do note that this is by no means an exhaustive list so please use these as starting points to begin your camera hunt…
Budget: Under £300-£500
Nikon D3200 / Nikon D5100
Budget: Under £800-£1000
Nikon D5200/Nikon D90/ Nikon D7000
Nikon D700/ Nikon D800/ Nikon D3x
In conclusion, whilst I can’t tell you exactly which camera to buy I hope that the article has given you some background information to begin hunting for your perfect camera. The Internet is obviously a great place to research a camera’s features in depth and I would urge you to do so before purchasing any camera. Once you do this, you may find that you have specific questions about features and I am more than happy to help answer any questions you have!
For those of you who want to know what I use here at MJP, below is a list of my core camera equipment:
Camera Nikon FX D700
Camera Nikon DX D90
External Flash SB 900
External Flash SB 700
Prime Lens 50mm F1.8
Zoom Lens 24-70mm F2.8
Good Luck and Happy Shopping!