Thursday, August 18, 2011

Your First DSLR Camera

Things To Consider When Choosing Your DSLR Camera

Have you decided it is time to take your photography to the next level? Undoubtedly you have come across the age old debate: Canon or Nikon. The first thing I tell anyone looking to buy a new DLSR is to go to a store and see how they feel. Hold a Nikon and a Canon, a Sony, Olympus and a Pentax too. This is what photography stores are for and why they are much better than just shopping online. Consider these points while holding the camera in your hands.

How does it feel in your hands?
This is one of the most important aspects of any camera. Pixel counts and auto-focus modes are great to debate, but if the camera does not feel good to hold, you will be less likely to pick it up six months from now and you might well have wasted your money on the latest, greatest Wonder Camera just because it had a particular feature that some online reviews say you could not live without. Not only should the weight be appropriate for your build, but the grip should also be comfortable. 

Can you navigate the menus?
Secondly play with the camera’s menus. All manufacturers have different paths through the dozens of features packed into the electronics of modern cameras. While I have learned Nikon’s menus and can navigate fairly well, I prefer Canon’s. Sony, on the other hand, rocks the menu world for new photographers with some great contextual information. With the camera in your hand, see if you can easily change the ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture, and White Balance, drive mode (particularly the self timer), focus mode, exposure bias and metering. Those are some of the most used functions and if they don’t seem intuitive to you, or easy to find, then using your camera becomes a bit of a bother. And most of us like to avoid problems.

Do you need all those bells and whistles?
Cameras are becoming more and more robust in their features. The marketing departments at each company shout these ‘must haves” to us through magazine ads and online. 4D Matrix Metering. Hypersilent focus modes. 12 frames per second. And so on. But in reality what you really need to be able to do is be able to adjust the shutter speed, aperture and ISO and that’s it. I know that’s simplistic, remember that the majority of the most masterful shots seen in the last 100 years of photography were shot without all those special modes.
Good metering is important but so is your ability to look at a scene, judge the highs and lows and shoot accordingly. All you really need is spot metering, good judgment and practice. I know that’s not as much fun as having 349 metering points which handle all the thinking for you.
What I’m trying to say is, don’t get into the ‘need’ game. Admit they are ‘wants’ instead and be realistic about how much all those modes will help you. All of those automatic modes you see on top of the camera; Portrait, Landscape, Night Shot, Sport Mode, Macro etc… those can all be replicated with knowledge of how to use a camera and adjusting shutter speed, aperture and ISO (and the flash in the case of Night Shot).
If you DO need some extras, write them down. The things you can’t live without. This will help you when you go to the store or ask more experienced photographers what you should buy.

How will I use the camera?
This is an important question because it helps determine a number of parameters, like price tag. Want some shots around the house of the kids playing? You don’t need a Nikon D3X, even if you have the funds to buy it. You won’t go to Camera Purgatory if you overspend, but you can put your money to better use by not going top-of-the-line. Do you truly hope to make money with your camera, perhaps shooting children’s sports on the weekends? Then you will want to stretch your budget because you will want a camera that can take a bit more abuse and maybe has a faster frame rate.
List the types of photography you really want to get into.
Then armed with your answers to these questions, you can help those helping you pick a camera because you have narrowed down what and how you want to photograph. It’s also important to have a feel for the equipment maybe try a few different lenses on the camera and see how it feels that’s where your local camera store comes in, don’t be afraid to ask the salesperson any and all of these questions after all it is you who is purchasing the equipment and it must feel right for you


  1. Awesome post learning a lot thanks for sharing.Question how to stop the blur in photos when children move??

    Always Wendy

  2. What camera do you own? that will give me an idea what to tell you.
    If you have a point and shoot camera with shutter speed adjustment dial in a fast shutter speed say 1/500 of a second or faster that will freeze all motion.