Thinking about buying a camera but don’t have a clue where to start? We’re here to help you with this “best DSLR camera buying guide“
DSLR cameras are ideal for photographers who require the best possible image quality and performance, as well as total creative control.
DSLR cameras offer the ultimate flexibility of interchangeable lenses, flashguns, and accessories.
Best DSLR camera buying guide
ENTRY LEVEL VS PRO DSLRs
When looking for a DSLR, you should know that prices start from as low as Rs 25,000 or $500 and can go all the way up to several lakhs or thousands of dollars. While from the outside, the cameras appear similar, there is a lot of difference hidden from the naked eye.
We are here to help you understand where to look for the right camera. You should consider your camera needs, desired features, and potential accessories when thinking about what DSLR camera to purchase.
You can also base your DSLR decision around the camera’s features, like sensor size, megapixels, video mode, and shooting modes.
Consider an entry-level, amateur DSLR camera if you are a beginner.
Amateur cameras are the easiest to learn and most affordable. If you don’t have very much photography experience and are looking for a camera to record your life, capture family memories, or document a vacation.
- You should go to an amateur level camera. Examples of amateur cameras include T3i, Nikon D3200/D5300, Sony Alpha A3000.
consider a semi-professional camera if you have some photography experience.
If you have a middle-range level of photography experience, where you have some understanding of basic amateur cameras but want to try to take your skills to the next level, choose a semi-professional camera. Semi-professional cameras have more complex features, more versatility, and better construction.
- Examples of semi-professional cameras include: Canon EOS 60D, Nikon D7100/D300s, Sony Alpha A77
Buy a professional camera if you are looking to do advanced photography work.
If you are looking to learn professional photography or looking to level up your semi-professional camera, select a professional camera. They have the most advanced sensor technology, focus system, construction, and speed.
- Examples of professional cameras include Canon EOS 5D Mark III/EOS 1D X, Nikon D800/D4, Sony Alpha A99.
Set a budget to spend on your camera.
A good DSLR can cost you anywhere from $500 to $3,000 or more, so cap a limit to what you want to spend. Narrowing your focus by sticking with your budget will help you pick out a camera in your price range.
- Amateur DSLRs cost around $500 to 800 for a camera kit including one lens.
- Semi-professional camera bodies alone cost between $1,000 and 1,800.
- The professional DSLR camera body alone is between $3,000 and $10,000.
- Also consider the cost of other camera necessities, like memory cards, batteries, and lenses. These expenses vary based on size and type. Typically, memory cards cost around $50, batteries cost between $40 and $80, and lenses range between $100 and $2,000.
Decide between DSLR brands based on your personal preference.
Mostly all DSLR cameras are sold by either Canon or Nikon. Other brands include Sony, Olympus, and Pentax. All of these brands feature great DSLR options, and the choice mainly comes down to personal preference. Pick a camera brand based on which camera has strengths in the areas most important to you, like camera features, appearance, and size.
Deciding on Camera Features
Mirrorless or DSLR?
If you decide to go for an ILC, you then have to choose between a DSLR vs. a mirrorless. Sadly, many people have it fixed in their heads that DSLRs are the be-all and end-all of high-quality, high-speed photography. Not true.
The image quality for mirrorless models is extremely similar to that of a DSLR with the same size sensor and an equivalent lens, and the performance of the midrange and higher-end mirrorless models has gotten really competitive, with sophisticated autofocus systems and fast continuous-shooting speeds. Keep in mind that you’re usually better off spending more money on a better lens than on a more expensive body.
The advantages of a DSLR over mirrorless are:
- DSLR’s use optical viewfinders, and a cheap DSLR’s optical viewfinder is usually better than the electronic viewfinder (EVF) on an inexpensive mirrorless for shooting action where the EVF may not refresh quickly enough. That gap is narrowing, though.
- The battery life of a DSLR any DSLR is better than that of most mirrorless cameras.
- You can use old lenses from film cameras without an adapter, and because DSLRs have been around so long there’s a huge selection to choose from.
- Current-model cheap DSLRs tend to be cheaper than current entry-level mirrorless cameras.
The advantages of a mirrorless over a DSLR:
- Most of them are smaller, and their lenses concomitantly smaller, than DSLRs. Micro Four Thirds lenses (Olympus, Panasonic) are smaller than those for APS-C cameras (everybody else).
- Shooting video with a good mirrorless is a much better experience than shooting with a DSLR because the view through the LCD and autofocus performance makes it easier and requires less rigging out.
- The lack of a mirror makes a lot of features with real-time preview possible, like watching a long exposure build and mixing and matching filters.
The newer, midrange to expensive mirrorless models have better image stabilization (IS) than dSLRs because the latest IS technologies intelligently combine sensor shift and optical IS, while (at best) dSLRs use optical combined with less powerful digital IS (but usually just optical)
While most DSLR appear similar to their all-black finish, dials and buttons, the build quality between an entry-level and pro DSLR is immediately felt when you hold them in the hand. Pro Level DSLRs are heavier and sturdier with metal alloy bodies while entry-level DSLRs have a mix of plastic and metal.
Most often, pro-level cameras have a weather-sealed body — it can be used in extreme weather, beach or snow without worrying about damaging the internal components. Entry-level DSLR sensors and other internal components are much more susceptible to damage on a beach or even near a swimming pool.
A sensor is used in digital cameras to convert light into electronic signals that create an image. Bigger sensors capture photographs that are higher in quality. There are primarily three types of image sensors used in cameras.
1.CCD (Charge Coupled Device) sensor
CCD sensors offer superior image quality with better dynamic range and noise control. They consume a lot of power. However, CCD sensors are available in very few cameras in the current market.2.
2.MOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor)
Usually, cameras with CMOS sensors are cheaper than those with CCD sensors. They consume less power. Panasonic, Olympus, and Leica use a different type of CMOS sensor technology called the MOS sensor or NMOS sensor. This sensor can achieve CCD-like image quality with lower energy consumption3.
3.Back Illuminated or BSI CMOS
These are more advanced CMOS sensors that use a different layout. They produce images with less noise and better color reproduction compared to CMOS sensors. Their performance in low-light conditions is excellent
Currently, the two main sizes of image sensors in DSLRs
.2.Cropped, APS-C, DX-format.
Sensor sizes are typically compared to a standard 35 mm film. A standard 35 mm frame or a full-frame is 36 mm x 24 mm.
What is a Crop Factor?
Most cameras have sensors that are smaller than the 35 mm film format. So any image you click with these cameras is created from a smaller area than the standard film, which is why they are called cropped sensors. When the same lens is used on two different-sized sensors, the smaller sensor will capture a smaller field of view.
The crop factor helps in understanding exactly how the field of view changes in cropped sensors when compared to full-frame sensors.
For example – the APS-C sensor has a crop factor of about 1.5x to 1.6x. A 50 mm lens on this sensor would give the same field of view as a 70 mm lens on a full-frame sensor
Which Sensor is Ideal? Full Frame or Cropped?
Advantages of Full-frame Sensors
- Broader dynamic range, better sharpness, and better low-light performance.
- Preferred for architectural photography as full-frame sensors can capture a wider angle with tilt-shift lenses
full-frame and APS-C have their own benefits, as well as some drawbacks. APS-C-sized sensors, also called DX-format or cropped sensors, are the most common sensor size found in most entry-level, mid-range, and even some professional-grade DSLRs.
This sensor size is slightly smaller than a full-frame sensor, which is based on the traditional 35mm film-frame area: about 36 x 24mm. APS-C sensors measure approximately 23.5 x 15.6mm, with some variance between manufacturers.
when you take a digital photograph with a digital camera, light enters through the lens, then hits the sensor—it’s that sensor that records the image. Sensors come in all different sizes. The sensor in your smartphone’s camera is very small, while a DSLR camera sensor is much larger.
Larger sensors are better for a number of different reasons. First, images captured on a larger sensor have a higher resolution, because a larger sensor equals a larger photo and better image quality. Bigger sensors also handle low lighting scenarios better. Even when the amount of light coming into the camera doesn’t change, a larger surface area allows the camera to collect more light. Larger sensors also make it easier to get soft, out-of-focus backgrounds.
Resolution is the most advertised feature in a camera and as by now, we all know it is measured in megapixels. A pixel is the fundamental unit of a photo. It is generally believed the more the merrier when it comes to megapixels.
the ability to shoot a burst of images quickly by just holding down the shutter release – great for sports and action photography. Burst mode is measured in frames per second, that is, the number of pictures that can be taken in one second. Some DSLRs can take as many as 10 shots per second or more. It requires a high (fast) shutter speed.
Exposure is the amount of light a camera’s sensor captures. Too much light results in a washed-out (overexposed) photo, too little light, and the photo will be too dark (underexposed).
A camera’s aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings directly affect exposure but, more importantly, they allow you to control how each photo will look. Photographers use these three key settings to get a range of effects and styles of photographs.
The shutter speed setting controls how long the shutter stays open, allowing light to pass through the aperture and reaching the image sensor. Shutter speed is measured in seconds and fractions of a second: 1s, 1/2s, 1/4s, 1/250s, 1/ 500s, etc.
How does it help?
How does it help?High shutter speed can capture images of moving subjects, freezing a moment of action in the photographs. For example, a photo of kids playing cricket or football or a photo of galloping horses.
Different Shutter Speeds
High Shutter Speed
- A faster shutter speed, like 1/2000s, will freeze the action of the object, reducing unwanted blur in the image.
- Ideal for sports, action and wildlife photography.
Slow Shutter Speed
- A slower shutter speed, like 1/4s, will capture the subject’s movements and result in blurring of the image.
- Ideal for capturing images of streams and waterfalls.
Aperture and Depth of Field
Aperture refers to the opening of the lens which allows light into the camera. The amount of light entering the camera can be controlled by changing the aperture size. Typical examples of aperture ranges are f/1.6, f6.3, f/10, f/22.
The aperture measurement is indicated by the f-stop or f-number. A higher f-stop number (F/22), indicates a smaller aperture opening, and lesser light passes through the lens. In such cases, the object and background will both be sharp. This is called a larger depth of field as both object and background are in focus.
Alternatively, a lower f-stop (F/1.8) means a larger aperture and more light passing through the lens. So the object will be sharp and the background will be blurred. This gives a shallow depth of field.
Note – Depth of field refers to the distance (depth) between the nearest and farthest objects that appear to be in focus in a pho0tograph.
The megapixel myth
The physical size of the sensor matters more to image quality than the number of pixels on it. The number of pixels along one side multiplied by the number of pixels on the other side gets you a megapixel count. Cameras with more megapixels produce higher resolution images, so you can print bigger photos or crop without ruining the photo. Megapixels are not as important as sensor size in determining image quality. That 42-megapixel smartphone still isn’t going to beat out a DSLR, even if the DSLR only has 16 megapixels
the camera with more megapixels will have a higher resolution. Keep in mind that a higher resolution doesn’t necessarily mean better images. Cameras with high megapixel counts are more prone to noise at high ISOs, although many modern cameras have high megapixels with excellent noise reduction.
Wireless connectivity built into your camera used to be a rare bonus, but now most DSLRs come with Bluetooth, NFC (near-field communication), wi-fi or all three for transferring photos and videos wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet. The best DSLRs also come with built-in GPS, which is handy when traveling, as it helps you remember specifically where shots were taken.
Some cameras come with GPS features that track the exact location of each photo, allowing you to create a visual map.
A DSLR has a fixed number of autofocus points. Typically, the higher the number of autofocus points, the better, faster and more accurate the autofocus is. Entry-level DSLRs usually have between 9 to 11 focus points, a mid-range DSLR has around 45 to 51 focus points while a pro-level DSLR can have over 100 autofocus points. Using manual focus, you can keep the exact area you want to have in focus on a Pro DSLR enabling a soft background blur or bokeh effects.
The NFC (Near Field Communication) feature provides you with an added advantage of one-touch wireless connectivity with compatible smartphones and tablets. A connection is activated automatically when the mobile device touches the DSLR, allowing for the immediate image or video sharing between devices.
UNDERSTANDING DSLR LENSES
A DSLR is as good as the lens you use with it. You can even get amazing results with an entry-level DSLR if you are using the right type of lens. By default, most consumers use DSLRs come with 18-55mm lenses which are ideal for amateurs and newbies. There are different types of lenses available depending on what kind of images you want to click.
- The landscape is shot with a wide-angle, about 18mm.
- Portraits are shot at a normal angle, about 55mm.
- If you plan to shoot nature, wildlife, or sports, look for a lens with a telephoto zoom, about 70-200mm range.
A prime lens has a fixed focal length (50mm, 85mm, etc.) with a high aperture value (f1.8, f1.4, etc.). These lenses are ideal for shooting portraits or product images where you need the subject to have sharp details while the background is blurred.
For users who like to travel and want to shoot objects from a distance, a zoom lens is ideal. In a zoom lens, you get variable aperture — the more you zoom, the smaller is the aperture. Since there is the number of elements involved in a zoom lens, it is heavy to carry and also suffers from loss of image quality compared to a standard or prime lens.
Wide-angle lenses are ideal for shooting landscapes and architecture. These lenses are similar to prime lenses in terms of image quality but have a variable focal length starting at 24mm onwards. Since it has a wide-angle lens, resulting images have a curved effect on the edges. This can be desirable in some cases.
Purchase a camera bag to protect and store your DSLR camera. Your camera is an expensive investment and deserves to be protected.
Get a back-up battery just in case.
Your camera will come with a battery, but it is helpful to have a second battery as a back-up. They are particularly helpful when traveling.
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