So the number one questions I’m asked via email at Click Love Grow is:
‘I’m buying a new camera, what would you recommend?’
It’s exciting right… getting your first DSLR or upgrading to something a little more serious! But its hard to know where to look for info about the camera that would suit you best!
You can turn to google for help deciding which model…but it can be so technical I’d forgive you for thinking you need an engineering degree and a dictionary to decipher it all! So let’s have a closer look, in plain English, to help you make an educated decision without tearing your hair out!
There are many brands of DSLRs, but for the purpose of keeping it simple this post will look at Canon and Nikon as they’re the two most popular brands and offer the most accessories on the market. They’re both fabulous quality and whilst I’m a Canon girl myself, I have lots of photographer friends who happily shoot Nikon.
Both makes have Three Levels:
Entry Level/ Beginner: Cheaper, lighter and easier to carry, have pre-programed AUTO functions.
Enthusiast/ Semi-Pro: Larger more robust body, better quality LCDs to review images, faster more sophisticated auto-focus system, better performance in low light, higher frames per second, more dedicated buttons for adjusting manual settings.
Pro Models: Full frame sensor, durable bodies with weather sealing, exceptional ISO performance for shooting in low light, much higher image quality.
And to help you decide which level camera and in turn which model is right for you, there are a number of questions you can ask yourself first:
1. Do I need a DSLR?
Are you interested in learning to use your DSLR in manual mode, or at least partial manual mode? Because if you purchase a DSLR and shoot only in AUTO then it may just be worth stick to a high end compact point and shoot. The benefits of a DSLR over compact cameras is that by using it in manual you have complete control over the effect you produce with your images. The other benefits are that you can also add to your kit with various lenses such as wide angle, telephoto, macro or zoom, so that you can create specific effects depending on what you love to capture.
Canon 7D & Canon 10-22mm Lens
2. What is my budget?
Ok, so being honest, your budget is likely to play one of the biggest deciding factors.. because if it weren’t an issue I’d simply recommend heading towards the high end cameras! Expect to pay upwards from around AU$500 for an entry level DSLR with a standard kit lens. Prices go up as you move into enthusiast and pro camera bodies and lenses. Enthusiast Cameras are around $800, Pro Cameras are upwards around $3000 and there are some great semi-pro options also, at around the $1800 mark… for the body only.
3. What do I want to photograph?
Have a think about what you’ll be photographing most! If you have kids and you think you’ll be photographing them indoors using natural light, then you’re going to need your camera to perform well in low light situations, and this specifically refers to how grainy the images turn out when shooting at very high ISO. If you’re upgrading because you want to capture fast sports action, you’ll need a very fast shutter so you would need to check the burst rate of a camera body (how many shots the camera can take in one second, measured in Frames Per Second (FPS)) I’d aim for atleast 5fps or higher. If you’re buying a DSLR with a view to studying and becoming a photographer, it would be worthwhile to consider your future needs as you’re more likely to outgrow an entry level DSLR very quickly.
Even more relevant than the camera body are the lenses you choose, because there are different focal lengths to suit different purposes.
Here’s a general guide on lenses and what they’re best suited for, but before you buy anything I recommend reading our post on lenses HERE)
- 12-35mm – Landscape and architecture photography, street photography
- 35-50mm – Street/ documentary style photography
- 50-135mm – Portrait photography
- 135mm-300mm – Wildlife and sport photography
Canon 5d mkii & Canon 85mm f/1.8 Lens
4. Do I need a kit lens?
Kit lenses are an inexpensive “starter” lens, and only come with entry level and enthusiast model cameras. If your budget is conservative and you’d like to try DSLR photography before committing the bigger dollars that are generally required for better quality lenses, then a kit lens is the way to go. Bear in mind if you fall in love with photography you can expect to outgrow those kit lenses very quickly.
If you choose instead to bypass the kit lenses from the get go, assuming you’ve already established which focal length you want, you’re not limited to Canon lenses for a Canon body, or Nikon lenses for a Nikon body. A more affordable option are Sigma, Tamron and Tokina which are excellent quality lenses. The first lens that I always recommend to new photographers is the 50mm 1.8 ‘Nifty Fifty‘ as it’s usually priced around $100.
Canon 400D & Canon 50mm 1.8
5. Which brand?
Generally speaking Canon and Nikon are on a par in quality, and choosing one over the other is a matter of personal taste. One thing to consider is Canon tends to have more affordable options in their lens range than Nikon. Third party lens suppliers, Tokina, Tamon and Sigma also make lenses specifically for Nikon and Canon.
That said, start as you mean to go on…when it comes time to upgrade your camera body, it makes sense to stick with the first brand you settled on, so that you don’t have to replace your entire collection of lenses at the same time.
Let’s Look at the Options:
This list of cameras is a quick guide indicating the range that is currently available on the market and where they sit in capabilities and price, from Beginner to Enthusiast to the higher end Pro models… start your research here and then compare what you think will suit you best!
Beginner ($500 – $800)
Enthusiast ($800 – $1800)
Professional (Over $2500)
Canon & Nikon also offer top range Pro-level cameras for around $5-6000 each.
Ok so you’ve asked yourself those 5 important questions, and that has enabled you to narrow the field. What else might you come across when comparing cameras?
DSLRs have different sensor sizes, depending on the manufacturer. Nikon produce full frame sensors and cropped sensors 1.5x in size, whilst Canon produces full frame sensors, and cropped sensors of 1.3x and 1.6x in size. Full frame refers to the fact it’s the same size as the old 35mm film sensors, and 1.3, 1.5 and 1.6 is equivalent to 1.3, 1.5 or 1.6 times the size of the old 35mm sensors.
This simply means that cameras with a full frame sensor generally produce better images and have better low light capability (so they perform well at very high ISO settings). The downside is they are physically larger and therefore heavier than cropped sensors, and more expensive. For cropped sensors, the main thing to be aware of is that your lenses will have a slightly longer reach due to the crop factor.
A word on megapixels
You might be wondering why I didn’t mention megapixels in the list of considerations above. I left it out deliberately, because it’s simply not that important! In the days when digital cameras first appeared, megapixels were all that because we had so few available to us (my first digital camera was 3mp!). But these days digital cameras have over 20mp available (20mp equals 20 million pixels of colour detail), and that’s already more than we need. To put it into perspective, when printing images, you want 240 pixels per pinch for crisp imagery. So lets say you want to print an 11×14 inch image.
(11inch x 240pixels) x (14inch x 240pixels) = 8,870,400 (or 8.8mp)
You can see from the above, even a 12mp camera would manage to print as large as most people tend to print for personal use. So today’s cameras that are over 20mp are more than enough for our needs and a few megapixels either way are not worth basing your decision on.
Let the Shopping Begin…
Consider this as a guide at which to start your new DSLR search. Start with determining your budget, buy quality lenses to accompany your camera, and consider what you’ll be using your camera for.. and ask yourself do you think you’re likely to outgrow a beginner level camera?
Have you recently bought a new DSLR? Let us know what you think?
Have you recently bought a new DSLR? Share your recommendations in the comments below… or ask us if you have any other questions to help you decide!