This article is for the person who want to upgrade to a digital SLR (single lens reflex, commonly known by it’s acronym, DSLR). I assume you’re the one who’s purchasing the DSLR, and the one who’ll use it. This article may also represent a decent gift giving guide.
HOW TO CHOOSE A DSLR
The type of DSLR you select will hinge on a few key factors. Your decision should be based on the type of photography your most apt to be regularly doing. You should consider the type of photographer you are right now, and what type of photographer you aspire to be. And, of course, you need to consider your budget. Like most consumer goods, budget weighs heavily in the decision making process.
What kind of photographer do you aspire to be?
Casual? Carry it with you all of the time? May like to go pro at some point? This will factor into the buyer’s equation and affect the choice you should be making.
If you think you’ll pretty much stick with the type of photography you’re doing right now, remember that when you’re making your camera choice. There’s probably no real need to stretch and get more camera than you need.
On the other hand, if you’ve got bigger photography aspirations take that into account. You can get a lot more camera for a moderate jump in investment.
What kind of photographer are you right now?
If you’re like most people considering the purchase of a DSLR, you’re a casual shutterbug, a hobbyist. But you’ve decided to kick it up a few notches and crave the added quality you know you’ll get from a DSLR camera. But there are different levels of casual photographers.
Consider what kind of photographer you are most of the time and let that carry the most weight in your DSLR camera decision-making process.
Ready to drop some serious coin on a new camera?
Because you’ll need to be if you’re going to get outfitted with the gear a pro totes around. You know that. That’s no surprise to you, right? I hope not! But much like the seriousness factor, described below, there are varying degrees of how much one can invest in camera equipment. Whatever the story, there’s also a budget factor. And it’s not necessarily a coefficient of wealth.
Factor One: Camera Budget
Whatever your story… rate your frugality on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 = minimal budget (frugal, frugal, frugal) and 5 = large budget (buy once, cry once mind set).
Factor Two: Seriousness
On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being most serious (aspirations of going pro) and 1 being least serious (keeping it all casual), rate your seriousness factor. Are you a 1, 2, 3, 4, or a 5?
Now find yourself on this DSLR buyer’s graph
CIRCLE A BUYERS
Circle A is the person who scored 4 (high) on the seriousness scale and 5 (high) on the budget scale. This person would probably be best suited to purchase new photo gear and is definitely a “prosumer,” and maybe even a pro, or at least has aspirations of making professional-quality images.
CIRCLE B BUYERS
Circle B is the person who scored 3 (moderate) on the seriousness factor and 4 (high) on the budget scale. This person should get a mid-level body and couple of good lenses.
CIRCLE C BUYERS
Circle C is the person who scored 3 (moderate) on budget and 1 (low) on the seriousness scale. This person should buy a normal DSLR camera body and upgrade their kit lens.
How bad do you want a nice [camera] body?
Are you in Circle A, in the upper right quadrant? Then you probably value a high-end camera body that will keep pace with your vigorous photography demands. You may already realize that you’re going to take your camera everywhere, and that means out into the elements. You therefore value higher quality weather seals on your camera. You may also want a nice camera body if you find yourself in the lower right or upper left quadrants.
But the camera body is only part of the picture. A pro camera body doesn’t guarantee “better” pictures. For example, an entry-level camera body equipped with a professional-level lens is capable of producing very high quality images. Honestly, the entry-level DSLRs have exceptional processors and sensors and are more-than-capable of producing exquisite digital photographic images.
It’s said that the photographer—the artist behind the lens—is the one who creates the jaw-dropping photo, not the camera, or the lens.
So if you’re on the fence, go for the nicer lens and hold back on the body. If you already have a camera and a kit lens (the lens that came bundled with the camera), read my blog post: Ready to upgrade from your kits lens?
Do you want your [camera] body to be full-figured?
The higher-end DSLRs are equipped with full-frame sensors. Check my blog post about the difference between a full frame (FX) sensor and a cropped frame (DX) sensor. If you’re in left-hand quadrants it’s not that big of a deal.
How sensitive do you need [your camera] to be?
Here’s the short answer about DSLR sensors
Full frame sensors are relatively new to the DSLR world. Most pros are going with full frame sensors because they a.) come on the highest quality cameras, and b.) pros benefit from the extra edge they get by capturing the maximum amount of frame, without a crop factor. Also, higher end DSLRs tend to have the ability to shoot in lower light (higher ISO) without compromising too much on quality.
Cropped frame (DX) sensors don’t mean you’re forced into a significant compromise in quality. In fact, they’re excellent and have some benefits over full frame (FX) sensor bodies.
If you’re in the left side of the quadrant, consider a modest to moderate investment in the camera body.
Shell out for the best lens you can afford
Regardless of whether you’re going to go pro, invest in the best quality glass you can. If you’re in the left-hand side of the quadrant I recommend buying one high quality versatile lens (in addition to, or besides your kit lens). Then rent additional lenses when you need them.
I’m an advocate of renting high quality “glass” (glass is photographers’ slang for high quality lenses) on the occasions when you know you’ll be out there doing serious, no kidding around photography. The rest of the time you’re probably safe using the kit lens that comes with the camera. Renting lenses will save a bundle of money in the short and long run. You can rent a nice lens 20 times before you’ve come close to breaking even on how much you’d have to spend to purchase that same lens outright.
You’re ready to buy your DSLR!
I hope this article has helped with your decision-making process. Read lots more, and check out D-Town TV for some inspiring videos on equipment.