In this buyer’s guide, you will learn the basics of a DSLR camera and how you can pick your very first one based on your level of expertise. In recent times, using a point-and-shoot camera for long isn’t enough. Most people are looking to upgrade their familiar photography skills into something unique and provoking. I’m sure that’s why you’re here too.
While a point-and-shoot camera is compact and lightweight to travel with, choosing a DSLR camera can offer you versatile photo shooting and video recording opportunities. You can shoot fast moving objects, control your shutter speed and ISO settings, and freeze fast-action scenes in less than a second!
For beginners, picking a professional DSLR camera isn’t as straightforward as picking a point-and-shoot camera. There are tons of factors to consider before you buy, so here’s how you can finally become a skilled shutter bug!
1. What Do You Need A DSLR Camera For?
Most people begin by asking themselves why they need a DSLR camera. Believe it or not, this is as important as determining your budget for one. After all, if you don’t precisely know why you’re buying a DSLR camera, it is a possibility that you might end up buying the wrong kind.
You have to ask yourself what you enjoy doing the most. Perhaps you need to experiment with different photography niches to find something that fits your style. Based on your location, choosing your photography niche can also be made simple.
There’s wedding, fashion, landscape, macro, fine art, and sport photography. Each genre has its own sets of camera requirements from exposure, focus, and image sensitivity settings. In our ultimate guide we list the types of photography to draw inspiration from.
So picking your genre is all a matter of preference and style. Above all, it’s important to buying a DSLR camera so you know which image sensor to buy. This brings us to the next important factor that is the type of sensor you can need for your DSLR camera.
2. Choosing Different Image Sensors
Generally, people often consider megapixels as the determining factor when picking the best DSLR camera. But you don’t have to make that mistake. Considering different image sensors is slightly more significant than megapixels. Why is that?
When I talk about different image sensors what I actually mean is image sensor sizes. You will find two main DLSR formats in the market. Full frame cameras have sensors that are a lot bigger than cropped frame cameras. This can only affect the focal length of the lenses.
To put into simple words, image sensors are responsible for letting in light to develop every image. The millions of photosites that make up the image sensor stands in between what’s out there being photographed and what is precisely seen through the lens.
Hence, the bigger the image sensor size, the better the landscape. But if you prefer using telephoto lenses for macro photography (see macro lenses for Nikon and Canon), using smaller image sensors is good enough. (2)
The advantages of using bigger image sensors is attention to detail, dynamic range, and better low-light performance. The only downside is that using bigger sensors requires bigger lenses to cope. This is because the big image sensor needs a higher-grade lens to meet the needs of the image.
On the other hand, smaller image sensors are more affordable, easy to use, and comfortable. They work well with all types of lenses, specifically those that don’t match up to big image sensors.
The possibility to using a cropped frame camera is more likely for people buying lightweight DSLRs. According to Nikon, a cropped frame cameras occupy a very small portion of the full image that’s projected on the lens. It has a 1.5x cropping measure when compared to 35mm strip of film.
So there’s more light sensitivity and gathering in full frame than cropped frame cameras. (3)
3. Do You Need An Entry-Level Or Advanced DSLR Camera?
If you’re buying a DSLR camera for the first time (which most of you are!), buying an advanced DSLR camera is not the right way to go. There are lots of features you need to get used to on an entry-level before you upgrade to an advanced one.
For starters, advanced DLSR cameras are generally bigger in build with complex controls. While entry-level cameras feature both automatic shooting modes as well as manual so you understand how each image manipulation element works. If you have not handled DSLR cameras before, there’s a learning curve even with the best DSLR camera for beginners. (4)
An entry-level DSLR comes with intelligent shooting modes and manuals you can look forward to.
If you buy an intermediate or advanced DSLR, you get better video shooting features, accurate autofocus, and a higher frame-rate to begin with. The fact that advanced cameras come with a bigger internal storage memory and rugged processing engine makes them twice as fast and efficient than entry-level cameras.
If your first DSLR is an advanced one, you might have to sit in front of the computer for hours learning about the techniques and forms of the camera. But using an entry-level camera will give you a first-hand experience on how things usually work.
Taking control of your DSLR requires you to understand the basics first. This includes learning the versatile intelligent shooting modes, ISO, exposure, aperture priority (Av), shutter priority (Tv), and white balance.
Exploring and experimenting with these settings on your entry-level camera helps you achieve a set of photographic goals. And isn’t that the main reason why you bought a DSLR in the first place?
On an ending note, advanced DSLRs are twice (or more) as expensive than entry-level DSLRs. So if you’re working towards a practical buy, opting for an entry-level DSLR is a good choice. However, to have an advanced DSLR has its own perks including a weather-sealed body, better controls, and longer battery life.
4. Which Lens Is Best For You?
There are many types of lenses to factor in when buying a DSLR. From standard and kit lenses that often come with a DSLR to wide-angle and telephoto zoom lenses. Keep in mind that when you buy a DSLR, you are handed an entry-level lens which lacks the skills of more advanced lenses.
If you’re shooting everyday scenes, using entry-level lens is good enough. But for more advanced shots and techniques, the entry-level lens is better kept aside. (5)
That said, let’s look at the different types of lenses and their features. (6)
Standard lenses: Standard lenses fall between 35 to 85mm frame. It’s precisely what the human eyes can see through the viewfinder of the camera. People often opt for standard lenses because they capture more natural and subtle images. Using 35mm lenses might be a bit closer than expected, but it still produces natural-looking and realistic images.
For portrait photography, using an 85mm lens is more apt. Based on my research, standard lenses are generally used by beginners.
Wide-angle lenses: Wide-angle lenses fall between 18 to 30mm frame. If you’re looking for better “light gathering” capability and depth of field, go for wide-angle lenses. There’s a lot of difference between buying a cheap wide-angle lens and an expensive one. For starters, advanced wide-angle lenses correct the inward angle and distortion.
When straight lines such as walls on a landscape are curved slightly inwards on the frame, it’s called the inward angle. Most inexpensive wide-angle lenses have this problem, but that can easily be corrected using Photoshop. There are many other wide-angle photo techniques that you should know of before purchasing one.
Fisheye lenses: Fisheye lenses are 12mm or less in frame. Fisheye lenses produce images with exaggerated depth of field and detail. These are also very common among bloggers. If you want to use something practical and minimalistic, using a fisheye lens is more useful than say standard lenses.
Telephoto lenses: Telephoto lenses fall between 100 to 300mm frame. This is when you want your lens to get extremely close to the object without you moving an inch. Telephoto lenses are more expensive and bigger in size than others. It offers a flat depth of field without compromising on image quality and resolution.
Photographers, especially those who like to capture wildlife, often opt for telephoto lens. Always remember to take a tripod with you as telephoto lens can start to feel heavy and bulky after some time (see best tripod for DSLR cameras for some ideas).
5. Finding A DSLR Camera With Image Stabilization
As the name suggests, image stabilization eliminates the effects of camera shake on an image. If not eliminate, it works hard to reduce the appearance of camera shake. The two main settings that contribute to camera shake is shutter speed and focal length.
If either one of these settings is elongated beyond normal standards, it produces a distorted and blurred effect on the final image. Other reasons such as defocusing or subject movement can also cause camera. For which a built-in image stabilizer is an essential asset for most photographers.
How to Choose a DSLR Camera
According to Science – 12 Factors to Consider
How to Choose