Canon or Nikon? How many megapixels? To spend on camera body or splurge on lens? Everyone must have gone through their share of tearing-your-hair-out moments while choosing the “perfect” DSLR camera (Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera for the uninitiated). I know I did! Here, based on my experience and expertise, are a few pointers that helped me buy the right DSLR. Hope you find them useful too.
Let's start with the basic question: why do you need a DSLR? Are you buying it to pursue your hobby for photography or do you want to use it professionally too? Will you use the camera to capture family events and outings? Or do you want to travel with your camera? Make a realistic list of what all you want to do with your camera.
That's my next question: how much are you willing to spend? To my amusement, 70 per cent of people I ask say “Budget isn't an issue, tell me the best.” So when I suggest Canon 5D or Nikon D4S (Hasselblad to the over-enthusiasts), and then mention the prices, dumbstruck expressions greet me. Yes, DSLR prices start from Rs 30,000 and go upwards to a few or more lacs.
Canon or Nikon – the Brand Battle
Judging if a Canon is better than a Nikon is like judging whether a Mercedes is better than a BMW. Of course both have their merits and drawbacks. Therefore evaluate the features you want, and if there isn't much difference between models from both brands, go for the one which saves you more money.
More megapixels means better camera – that's a myth! Megapixels play a role in the size of photo print. Decide what you want to do with your photographs. If you want normal-sized prints or if you want to blow them up as big as posters or A2-size prints, any camera with 10–12 megapixels is good enough. For professional requirements, you will obviously need more megapixels.
When you choose a DSLR, check the formats in which you can click photographs. Is there only JPG or is Raw also available? Getting a camera with Raw format is better as you will have more control of images during post-processing without losing details.
Autofocus points (AF points) can be seen through the viewfinder of the camera as small squares in the form of brackets and a circle in between. This where the camera focuses and the image is the sharpest. Usually cameras come with 7, 9, or 11 AF points, but these days some models have 19 or even 45 AF points. Take a call on this feature based on your requirements.
Shutter speed is the range of time in which the camera clicks a photograph. Normally shutter speed in entry level DSLRs is between 1/4000 second to 30 seconds. In some models it is as fast as 1/8000 second. To go beyond 30 seconds shutter speed, camera manufactures provide BULB setting which allows the shutter to be opened till the time you keep the “click” button pressed. Keep an eye on the available ranges of shutter speed and BULB setting while comparing cameras.
Noise/Grains on Higher ISO
Sensitivity of the camera to light is measured in ISO. Range of ISO available in cameras is between 80 and 102, 400, though entry level DSLRs these days come with range of ISO 80 to 6,400/12,800. Higher ISO is used in low-light condition, so that you can use fast shutter speed. Greater ISO allows the camera to absorb more light but on higher ISO you will notice noise/grains in the photograph, which means poor quality. Check the level of noise/grain at higher ISO while comparing two cameras.
Continuous Shooting Speed
This refers to how many frames the camera can click continuously in one second. This is very important when you are into wildlife photography or sports (in short, where more action is involved). More number of clicks per second will allow you to capture the unpredictable movement of your subject in a better way.
What else to consider before buying a DSLR
When visiting a camera shop, take some photographs using the same settings across all the models you've shortlisted. Compare the result on a computer screen. You will be able to better analyze the actual quality of a picture, and thus the camera.
Evaluate the amount you are spending on the camera body. Balance out your budget between camera body and lenses. It is better to save some money on camera body if there are no major differences among available models, and invest more on good lenses.
Usually entry-level DSLRs come with kit lens (18–55mm) that is wide angle and you can't zoom much. Many camera manufacturers have now launched a combo scheme where you get one zoom lens in addition to the kit lens at discounted prices. If you can exchange these two lenses with one lens of 18–135mm or 18–200mm focal length, it will save lot of time and effort in changing the lenses.
Although the list goes on, these are the major considerations that you should focus on while selecting your camera. The first DSLR – whether an entry-level model or a high-end one – is always a prized possession. Don't hurry yourself into buying something you may regret later.