Tuesday, 10 January 2012

An Essential Guide to Buying Your First Digital SLR Camera

“What should I look for when buying my first Digital SLR camera?” I hear you ask. Well, in this post I have written an essential guide for all you budding photographers out there who are looking to buy your first Digital SLR camera.

Buying a Digital SLR camera can seem quite daunting at first, with all the complicated terminology and fancy buttons, but don’t panic! This guide will see you through the step from a digital compact to a Digital SLR camera.

Firstly, what is a Digital SLR camera, and what does `SLR` stand for? It is quite simply a Digital single-lens reflex camera. This means that it uses a mechanical mirror system, along with a pentaprism to direct light from the lens to an optical viewfinder positioned at the back of the camera. If you want to learn more about how a Digital SLR or DSLR camera works, then there are plenty of websites with all the information you will need to understand the mechanics of these cameras.

The main differences between compact and DSLR cameras are the price and the ability you have to change lenses. A good compact digital camera could cost you between £40-£80, a good DSLR camera would cost you around £400-£600. As you can see, there is quite a difference in price, but trust me, if you choose the right DSLR, it will be worth every penny. The other difference between a compact camera and a DSLR is the ability you have to change lenses. A traditional compact digital camera will have a lens that is fixed to the camera; you can’t take the lens off and fix another one to the camera. However, new compact models are being released at the moment with interchangeable lenses. With a DSLR camera you can change the lens whenever you want, as you may need a different lens depending on what you are taking photographs of. For example, I have a standard 18mm-55mm lens that I use for day-to-day photography, but I also have a 70mm-300mm telephoto lens for photography subjects like wildlife. There are so many different lenses available to you once you buy a DSLR camera. However, these lenses do come at a price; photographers will always tell you that lenses are more expensive than the camera itself, this is true as prices can range from £100-£2000 for a single lens. Nevertheless, lenses are a whole new topic of discussion.

Here is a list of features you should look for when browsing for a Digital SLR camera:
  • Look at the specifications of the camera and make sure it is between 14-18 mega-pixels
  • Look to see if it has all the functions you think you will need, e.g. macro mode, portrait mode, night mode etc.
  • Make sure it has `Manual` mode; the setting where you can set all the controls yourself
  • Make sure it has a good sized screen on the back of the camera, to view your photographs on
  • See if it has `Live View` mode; this will enable you to see your subject framed on the screen of the camera, before you take the photograph
  • Try and buy a camera that comes as a `Kit`, this means that it comes with a standard lens, normally a 18mm-55mm lens
  • Make sure the camera is quite heavy, but not too heavy; this means that it is well built and will be less likely to break if you were to drop it

Now you know this, do your research! Research is so important when buying an expensive product like a Digital SLR camera. Look on lots of different websites and review sites of cameras that you might be interested in. Once you have conducted your research, choose at least three cameras that you are really impressed by. Then, print out the specifications for each camera and compare them in terms of price and features etc.

Hopefully you will now have one camera in mind. The next stage is very important: go to a shop and try it out! The camera you want may not fit comfortably in your hands, and you may find it difficult to operate. This is a very important step to complete, as you need to be able to operate your camera quickly and effectively.

With a bit of luck, you will now have chosen your first Digital SLR camera! Now, go on different websites and look at the different prices they have for the DSLR you have selected. I would strongly recommend looking at the website of your local camera store, as they are likely to offer you a better deal when it comes to buying the little extras that you may want for your new DSLR camera. Another bonus of buying from your local camera store is that if you are having trouble with your new camera, you can just pop down the road and ask them for expert advice on the matter. They are also more likely to have a better camera fixing turn-around than all these big electronic stores, where you may have to get your camera sent off and could have to wait weeks before you can get it back.

Most importantly, remember to have fun when browsing for your new Digital SLR camera, and hopefully you will find the one that is perfect for you! 

In case you’re wondering, my Digital SLR camera is a Canon EOS 500D, which I bought with an 18mm-55mm kit lens. It’s a great camera and records full HD video which is an added bonus! I would definitely recommend Canon Digital SLR cameras to any beginners to the Digital SLR world, as they are so easy to use and produce extremely impressive photographs. Please visit my other posts for photographs I have taken with my Canon EOS 500D DSLR camera.

Happy snapping with your new Digital SLR camera!

I couldn’t publish a post without a photograph, so here is an image I took for a photography competition; I won 2nd prize for this entry. I entered this photograph into the category titled, Without Words:

`Without Words` - Douglas Benge
Click on the image to enlarge it.

If this photograph isn’t making any sense to you, then read the title of the image, `Without Words`, and then look at the photograph very closely. You'll soon spot the connection.