Buying an Entry Level DSLR?
But where do you start – not sure?
Don’t worry, this guide will take you through the questions you need to answer to help you choose the DSLR that’s right for you.
Buying your first DSLR is a big decision, lets face it photography is not a cheap hobby. And DSLR’s are expensive, so you want to make sure you make the right decision.
I know I did when I bought my first DSLR.
The thing is it’s different for everyone. Why? Because photography is individual. Whether it’s what you like to shoot, how you like to shoot it or what you like to shoot it with!
So what I’m going to do is lead you through the information that you need to know to help you make that decision. And tell you how I made my decision when I bought my first DSLR. Oh and I’ll leave the high tech details out, and go for the plain english keep it simple route. Because if you’re overwhelmed with info overload you’ll never know which one to choose!
Why do you want a DSLR?
When I decided to upgrade to a DSLR from my point and shoot it was for these reasons, but these reasons also turned out to be the features that I needed to look for in my new DSLR:
- I had a point and shoot but felt limited and wanted to be more creative = want full range of camera modes
- I was already familiar with a point and shoot’s settings = want a DSLR to reflect this
- I don’t want a camera that fits in my purse I’m more bothered about image quality = want best camera for my budget
- I want more flexibility and to be able to change the lens = want great choice of available lenses
- I want more control over the photos I take = want to try different types of photography: depth of field, macro, night, travel, sports, portrait or landscape
These are all great reasons, and make a great wish list, but with all the different choices out there to buy it can become a little overwhelming, don’t you think?
One of the first things you’ll notice when buying a camera is the amount of tech info and photography jargon that comes with it. What does it all mean? Here’s the main ones that I think you need to know, to understand the sales assistant or what the camera review is going on about:
- DSLR – digital single lens reflex eg. what you see is what you get
- megapixel – digital images are captured on image sensors made up of pixel elements (light absorbing), a million of these elements is a megapixel (determines how large you can print your image)
- image sensor – digital ‘film’ sensor made up of megapixels (DSLR’s use CMOS sensors)
- image processor – the brain of the camera converts the light caught on the sensor into an actual image on the lcd screen
- image stabilisation – either by the sensor or in the lens, it compensates for any movement while the image is being taken (hand shaking)
- memory card – you’ll need a memory card that will fit your camera to save your images on – beware they don’t come with the camera!
Still with me?
Buying an Entry Level DSLR – Which Camera do I go for?
Let’s start to narrow this down.
First of all you need to decide which make of camera you want to buy. I’ll explain later why it’s so important to decide on a ‘make’
All these ‘makes’ make good cameras. And so it’s easier to choose a camera (and to also stop this post turning into a book) I would recommend that you narrow it down to 2 companies. Why? Because there’s no way you can realistically choose from all the entry level models from all 5 companies – your head will end up as mush!
When I did this I chose the 2 companies below. Because I’d used Canon products before and thought the image quality was very good. And also both have huge experience in making imaging products, literally decades of it. Which means they also make alot of accessories for the cameras, which can only be a good thing. And let’s face it they are giants in the camera world:
So why is the ‘make’ of the camera so important?
To realise why this question is so important you have to look at the bigger picture.
Ok, so you’ve decided you want to improve your photography and buy a DSLR. But you’re quite rightly a little worried about figuring out all the buttons and new features that your new DSLR will give you. You want to see if you like it before you go too mad on gear?
Now when you learn to ride a bicycle you don’t start off with a full suspension mountain bike do you? You start off with a normal bike and if you’re a kid you’ve got training wheels on it, when you gain your confidence and experience you get the full suspension mountain bike.
Same with a DSLR. If you start out with an entry level DSLR and really enjoy it you’ll probably buy a few lenses for it and a flashgun etc… but then you want the full suspension mountain bike, like a semi-pro or full frame camera?
But you’ve spent a fair bit of money on accessories and you don’t want to have to start all over again and buy new ones, you want to be able to still use your beloved (and possibly expensive) lens on your new bells and whistle camera.
So it makes sense to start off with the camera ‘make’ that you’re going to stick with, because then you can just upgrade your body and all your old accessories will still fit it! Make sense yeah?
Canon or Nikon?
The age old question. I’m not getting into that one!
To be honest they’re both great cameras, and there’s not much between them so this is where it comes down to personal preference.
Lets compare their entry level models so you can see what I mean:
- 12.2-megapixel image quality
- Feature Guide Mode: Yes
- HD video: Yes
- new 18-55mm IS II kit lens
- 9-point Auto Focus system
- 2.7-inch Live View LCD screen
- Use with all EF and EF-S lenses (60+)
- 14-bit DIGIC 4 image processor 3.2fps continuous shooting
- 14.2 megapixel DX-format image sensor
- Feature Guide Mode: Yes
- HD (full) Video: Yes
- 18-55mm VR kit lens
- 11 point Auto Focus system
- Large 3-inch, high-resolution LCD monitor
- Extensive in-camera editing functions
- EXPEED 2 image processing engine with up to 3 fps
The best advice I can give you (and what I did) is to go to a shop (yep they still have them) and pick them up. Try each model out, hold them and see how they feel in your hands, look through the viewfinder and see how it feels, press a few buttons, how do the menus work?
Once you’ve done that you’ll know which one you want!
Its all about the glass
The camera is only one part of the equation when it comes to taking great images. If you’ve got a fantastic camera, but a really cheap low quality lens, then you’ll never get the same great quality shots than if you use a really good quality lens with a cheaper camera. The lens makes a big difference. Lens quality ranges from very cheap to very expensive. While cheaper cameras are getting a lot better. That’s the advantage of spending money on getting decent lenses and not a very expensive camera body.
And being able to use different lenses is what you want a DSLR for in the first place, right? It’s where things start to get really interesting…
What do I use?
I decided on a Canon camera. At the time Canon didn’t make the 1100D/T3 series, so the best entry level camera I could afford was the Canon 450D/XSi, and I still use that camera today.
I love it!
I’m not telling you to go out and buy a Canon or Nikon entry level camera (although they are very good cameras for the price).
I’m showing you the process I went through to decide on a Entry Level DSLR. So it can help you decide.
It doesn’t matter which camera you choose as long as you are happy with your choice.
So get out there and start shooting and having fun!
And don’t forget to pop back to The Photographer Blog to pick up some more tips to help you with your photography…
See you soon!