How to Choose Your Digital SLR Camera
By Phil C. Stone
Buy a digital SLR camera and you’ll soon be taking great shots regardless whether you’re an expert or a novice photographer. The SLR designation represents “single-lens reflex” or a design that uses a mirror and prism system to allow the photographer to see what he is capturing.
SLR technology has been around since the 1880s with the first camera sold to consumers in 1949. Today, SLR technology and digital photography are one, allowing you to take your photos and quickly upload them to your computer.
If you’re shopping for a digital SLR camera, there are several things you should consider when you weigh your purchase. Comparing similar cameras from different manufacturers is a start, but there is much more to consider before you decide on the one that is right for you.
1. Dimensions – When moving from a standard point and shoot camera to a DSLR, you’ll quickly notice that the latter weighs more. Sometimes a lot more depending on the camera’s dimension. Make sure that you’re ready for the added weight as some photographers are uncomfortable with carrying around anything but the lightest camera.
2. Megapixels – The more megapixels the better, right? Not so fast. Most DSLRs comes with 10 or more megapixels, certainly sufficient for your needs. Even 6 to 8 megapixels may be enough to handle what you’re trying to accomplish. Thus, if you’re comparing a 15 meg camera with a 10 meg, the former will cost you more, but not deliver much more in photo clarity — so save your money.
3. LCD Monitor – Many cameras come with LCD monitors, providing a clearer and better way to capture your subjects. You’ll want a monitor that is large enough to view through and one that clearly displays information including the playback feature.
4. Frame Rate – If you plan to take several pictures of your subjects within seconds, then frame rate or frequency is important to you. Some cameras take pictures every two or three seconds before reloading. Others offer more frequent picture taking or have a “sport mode” where you can take numerous photos per second. Never settle for a lower frame rate if you need to take plenty of action shots.
5. Mode Choices – With the previous point, you learned about sport mode, but there are other modes typically available on DSLRs. Manual, custom and video modes are common on today’s cameras, with some equipped with file modes that allow you to produce RAW and JPEG files. The quality of RAW and JPEG are nearly the same, but RAW requires proprietary software from the camera manufacturer which isn’t always available or updated, while JPEG or JPG compresses files while retaining picture clarity.
6. Brands – At one time, camera brands were a big deal. At least to photographers. You were either a Nikon fan or a Canon fan, but not both. However, there are other brands worth your consideration including Fujifilm, Olympus, Casio, Sony and Panasonic. Unless you’re brand loyal, consider what the others have to offer as you may save yourself some money.
7. Warranty – Beyond the camera essentials is the warranty itself. A standard warranty may keep you covered for as long as one year and retailers may try to talk you into an extended warranty. That extended warranty will cost you and may cover you for just two years. When the time is up, you’ll need to renew it for a fee. Also, what is being covered? Are you getting sensor cleaning or lens cleaning? How often? Most extended warranties aren’t worth the price — you would do better to pay for repairs or cleaning yourself.
With any DSLR, you can expect to pay from $500 to well over $1,000 for your purchase. Make sure that you’re comfortable with your purchase and consider buying a kit that includes a camera bag, a recharger, a memory card and lenses. Typically, the package will come in cheaper than buying each item separately.
Phil C. Stone writes for Henry’s Canada, Canada’s largest independent camera store. Henry’s sells digital cameras and over 15,000 other photography products in stores across Canada, the Henry’s Outlet Centre and online.