In yesterday’s post, I shared the things to look for when buying a point-and-shoot camera. Today, it’s all about DSLRs.
As I said in yesterday’s post, if a point-and-shoot is all you can afford, that’s okay. Especially with LOTs of good natural light (since that built-in camera flash is crap), cooperating children (who, unlike my children or any others I’ve met, don’t move a lot), practice, and good technique, you will be able to take decent pictures with your point-and-shoot. But… if you can save some money, you should keep your point-and-shoot (for candid snapshots) AND get a DSLR, then a prime lens…. But start with a good DSLR.
With DSLRs, it’s easier to take better pictures because there are less constraints to take the pictures YOU want to take. The sky is the limit and you are in control. You can, with a DSLR, stick to the auto settings and get pictures that are just like those that come from a point-and-shoot, but if you venture into Manual? Oh, the possibilities are ENDLESS. (This is NOT an overstatement.)
Before we get into the settings in Manual you’ll need to know (that will be later in this series), let’s start at the beginning. Let’s talk about the things to consider when buying a DSLR.
Think about the brand. When you begin your DSLR journey, you should think hard about what brand you want to “join,” since all subsequent gear you buy will be based upon your brand. The major brands or families are Canon, Nikon, and Sony.
Consider cost. My Canon is priced on the low end of DSLR cameras because it’s what I could afford. In general, your DSLR will cost a lot more than a point-and-shoot, but the results are so worth it.
Look at the menu. Your camera’s menu should be user-friendly. It should be easy to navigate and intuitive. To know this about your camera, you should first give your potential camera a test-drive in the store before buying.
Go with what feels right in your hands. You’ll want a camera that feels right in your hands, not the hands of your favorite photographer guru. Is it too heavy or too lightweight? With time, your camera will become a part of your body, so this is why comfort is so important.
Don’t pay for the kit lens. One of the first mistakes I made in my DSLR journey was spending extra money to buy my camera with the kit lens. In hindsight, I should have just bought the body. Your lens matters, a lot. It matters more than your camera’s body. Seriously.
( This one was shot with a Kit Lens (EF S18-55mm) 1/100 at f/4.5, ISO 400. It’s underexposed. To fix, and since it was taken indoors with a kit lens, I would have bumped up the ISO on this (which you can do on all DSLR cameras), but for comparison purposes of this post, I kept it at 400.)
Instead, buy a great lens. Rather than dishing out more on a new body or more for the kit lens, put your money towards a good lens. What’s a good lens? Well, a fixed 50 mm lens is an awesome start. It’s this lens, not Photoshop that I, and many other picture takers use to create that awesome buttery background effect. This lens has a low f-stop (that number that comes after F in your camera’s settings). This allows a wider aperture (opening). And this allows you to take better pictures (without having to slow your shutter speed as much) in low-lighting conditions (necessary for moving kids) and gives the soft-focus background (makes for pretty pictures). This is all geek-talk, but what it means is that prime lens are good because they allow you to capture more when you don’t have as much light (which matters if you ever plan to take pictures indoors). And, I’ll say this again and again, this is BIG for taking pictures of kids.
(Shot with 50 mm, 1/100 at f/1.8, ISO 400. Even with a lower ISO, this unedited picture is brighter because a prime lens allows via the aperture setting for more light to enter. In this shot, the focus is on the dwarf, hence the blurred pooh. )
When buying your DSLR, ask around. See what your friends and peers are using and ask them “why.” Test drive your camera before buying it and prepare to begin a very awesome journey in Manual shooting.
Do you own a DSLR? What camera do you own and how did you make your decision?
p.s. Be sure to check back next week when I’ll be talking about the camera settings that are important in P&Ss and DSLRs.