Choosing your first DSLR

D7100 Kit

How do you choose the right DSLR.  In this post I tell you what influenced my choice and which camera I decided to buy

 

DSLRCongratulations on deciding to purchase your first DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera. There is a minefield of information on the internet regarding which camera you should buy and why you should part with your hard earned cash.  I purchased my first DSLR camera in April 2014 after reading hundreds of reviews, blogs, manufacturers datasheets and attending photography shows and exhibitions.

Now I have owned my camera for several years I can offer advice based on my experience and equipment I have purchased compared to my initial expectations and requirements.  The same question seems to appear regularly across the internet and I will attempt to answer if from a non biased enthusiasts point of view.

What is the best beginner DSLR camera?

Best beginner DSLR

Unfortunately there is no single definitive answer.  The best camera for you may be different to the next person and as such it is impossible to recommend a camera based on this question alone.  The intended use of the camera will help you to narrow down your search and guide you towards the best camera for you.  Do you plan on shooting video? Are you into sport or Motorsport photography? Do you plan on shooting in low light?  These are a few of the questions which once you know the answer will help you choose the right camera for you.

Photography or Videography

D7100 Kit

Although my main interest is still photography, the thought of a video and film making still excites me.  In the two years I have owned my DSLR I have used the video function a handful of times, not because the quality is poor, It is actually quite good.  I am just not as interested in video as I am in Stills.  When I purchased the camera I knew video was not as important to me and this had an impact on the camera models I was looking at.

Here are a few things to bear in mind.

  • DSLR’s were originally designed for photography.  Video is an after thought which a lot of users do not use.  If all you are going to do is video you will be better looking for a camera that is fully designed for this purpose.  That being said DSLR cameras are a great tool for learning and finding out if video production and film making is for you.
  • Do not expect professional quality from your camera out of the box.  If you are serious about video you will require external microphones, video lights, stabilisation kits… the list goes on
  • Zooming, panning and focusing the camera is not an easy task while hand holding the camera to shoot video.  In the early days learning to hold your new camera correctly while adjusting settings is hard enough without the added difficulties of trying to shoot good quality video.

How important is video going to be in your choice of camera?

Nikon v Canon

This is one of the most debated subjects surrounding photography.  Both

Canon DSLR Mirror Shot

are very competitive with each other and make superior quality camera equipment.  Both manufacturers produce a range of cameras suitable for beginners and enthusiasts through to high end specification cameras that are designed for professional use.  As the lens mounting systems are different it is not easy to mount lenses on each other systems.  The camera is only the start of your photography journey as you will be investing a lot of money in lenses and other equipment over the coming months and years.  As good quality lenses are not cheap I would suggest having a look at the prices for the lenses you may wish to buy in the future as there can me a significant difference in each of the manufacturers price.  If you have close friends who may be willing to let you borrow equipment in the future it is worth taking this into account when you make your choice regarding the system for you. Whichever manufacturer you decide you will not be disappointed.

Crop vs Full-Frame

Owning a full frame DSLR is the ambition of many amateur photographers. A full-frame DSLR from Nikon or Canon has a sensor that’s the same size as a frame of traditional 35mm film. APS-C sensor cameras are more popular and have much smaller sensor. To own a full frame DSLR there will be a premium to pay. The entry level full frame model from Nikon (D610)currently retails around £1000 for the body only compared to an APS-C entry level body and lens retailing around £300 for the kit. The advantage of full frame is image quality and image size however these cameras are much bigger in size and also can be considerably heavier.

New vs Used

When purchasing your first camera you have two options, new and used.  Both options have their merits and come with their advantages and disadvantages.   The cost of buying used will certainly be lower, however the condition of the camera may well be lower than that of brand new.  There are many bargains to be had on Ebay & Gumtree however do your research.  There is usually a reason why people sell equipment some are genuine some are not!

I decided to purchase new as I wanted peace of mind knowing there was going to be a manufacturers 2 year guarantee should anything go wrong.  Although I had done plenty research up to this point as I am sure you will have I felt that I didn’t know enough to risk buying second hand.

Internet vs High Street

Once you have decided on your budget and have a camera model in mind the next decision is where do you spend your money?  Some photographers are loyal to a particular shop, others are after the best deal possible at the time of purchase.  If you decide to make an on-line purchase I would suggest doing a little bit of research first.  A quick Google search will return many retailers of varying prices.  Some of these prices may be a lot lower in price than what you have seen in shops.  There are many “Grey imports” for sale on the internet at lower prices which may not offer the same warranties as UK retailers.  Please also note some manufacturers will not offer any repair work on “Grey imports” which will mean higher risk and further costs returning items foreign countries.

After visiting a few shops and also the photography  exhibition at the NEC I decided to invest in Nikon.  Comfort while holding the camera was a key factor and the feel of the camera in the hand made the choice easier.  I chose the Nikon D7100 with 18-105mm VR Lens Kit.  The camera ticked all the boxes for me and had features I was looking for.  Following two years of enthusiastic use I can say I made the right choice.  The settings are easy to change whilst out shooting and can be done easily in most cases without going deep into menus.  This was one of the advantages over the cheaper models on the market at the time.  The top display shows ISO, shutter speed, aperture, white balance, battery level, shots remaining and other useful information at a glance  The camera also has two memory card slots which can be set to duplicate images or act as an overflow.  I usually save RAW to one and JPEG to the other and should a card fail I do not loose any of the images.  The mode dial and shooting mode dial allow quick and easy adjustments between shots without going into complex menus.  The D7100 is a wonderful camera that a beginner can grow into and continue to develop photography skills over time.  This camera has since been updated to the D7200 and more recently D7500
which is slightly more expensive includes a few added features and is an amazing camera.

D7100 Rear Screen

The Nikon D7100 does not feature an articulated screen.  This was not a deal breaker for me although I can see how they are very useful when shooting in live view rather than through the viewfinder.  I have often found it difficult to capture low angles and also the sky at night from a tripod with a fixed screen which would be made easier with a rotating screen.  This is a feature I may look for in my next camera should I decide to upgrade.

I hope you have found the above information of use to you and hope you find a suitable camera for your needs soon.  I look forward to seeing some of your images in the future.

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Matt Boxley
Matt Boxley is a photographer living in the West Midlands, Great Britain who specialises in landscape, wildlife and travel photography. He purchased his first DSLR in April of 2014 and soon caught the photography bug. Matt now continually fight's the battle within himself to create the perfect picture.

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