dslr guide

How to Buy the Best DSLR Camera: A Complete Buyer’s Guide

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If you are ready to get into the world of creative photography and you are tired of being boxed in by what the camera maker might think is the perfect camera for you, then you my friend are ready to move into the world of the Digital Single Lens Reflex camera or simply “DSLR”. What this means in easy to understand terms is that you are looking through the lens of the camera when you look in the viewfinder and not through some little approximation of what the end result will be. That means that what you end up with on your memory card is going to be cropped essentially the same as what you see in the viewfinder. However this is NOT the way it works with most point and shoot style cameras which can be off by quite a bit.

canon 30dThe cool thing about a DSLR is that you can put it in the full automatic mode and have a very upper end point and shoot camera or you can get creative and start telling the camera what you want it to do so that you will be learning about the process of photography and you will be in total control of what you are doing and the end result that you commit to the camera’s memory card.

Now certainly coming up with the “best” cameras in this particular genre of camera is not going to be an easy task and it is going to be subjective at best but let’s start off with a few rules that are good to keep in mind and then work over into the specific brands and models, shall we?

Why You Might Want to Buy/Upgrade From a Compact to DSLR

DSLR cameras are certainly not for everyone, but there are some pretty compelling reasons why you might want to make the leap.

1. Image Quality is Better — Compared to a point and shoot or compact camera, a DSLR will have substantially better image quality, due to the larger image sensor present AND the dedicated lenses. A large sensor allows for bigger pixels. Another reason DSLR’s have better quality is that they offer faster (higher) ISO speeds which means you can take better photos in low light situations. Faster ISO also means you can shoot at faster shutter speeds with less grain present in the picture. Most point and shoots offer between 100 to 6400 ISO while a DSLR might offer upwards of 12800 or more  (it doubles with each increase). DSLR’s (especially at higher ISO) will offer less grain than a point and shoot for the same ISO. You can also use high quality camera lenses that will outstrip any built-in lens that a point and shoot offers which leads to much higher quality images.

2. Flexibility –– A DSLR allows you to swap lenses to best photography any situation you might encounter. It’s true that point and shoot offers a lot of convenience (most have around a 4x Optical zoom with some having over 30x range or longer), but you can fit super telephoto lenses on your DSLR to ultra wide angle lenses for. There’s also an assortment of other accessories you might add just as a dedicated flash unit, special filters for the lenses. Basically, a DSLR gives you access to an entire system of photography. With a point and shoot, you are limited in what and how you can shoot.

3. Viewfinder — DSLR’ s offer an optical viewfinder so you can take pictures of exactly what you can see.

4. Higher ISO Range — DSLR’s give a much higher ISO range than do point and shoots. The typical point and shoot will offer anywhere from 400 to 3200 ISO (with high end point and shoots offering 6400 or more) while even an entry level DSLR might offer 3200, 6400 ISO or more. Higher ISO means you have much more flexibility in how you shoot (especially for low light situations).

5 Manual Control — One of the best features that DSLR’s offer is the ability to manually control every setting. Point and shoots usually only offer you limited control over the picture taking process. With a DSLR, you have full control over the ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, White Balance, and even how the image is processed (RAW or JPEG).

6. Depth of Field — Another feature DSLR’s offer you is control over the depth of field. This has to do with the aperture setting of the lens, but you can use lenses that have a very narrow depth of field which gives you that nice creamy blurred out background around the subject. You can’t get this with a point and shoot.

7. Lenses — This is the best feature of a DSLR. You have access to a wide range of high quality optics. The image quality often relies more on the quality of the optics than the actual DSLR, but with a DSLR, you can (if you can afford it), buy high quality lenses. If you can afford to buy the highest quality lens, do it. It will make a world of difference in the quality of your image regardless of what sort of DSLR you have. Put in a 2000 dollar lens on a 500 dollar DSLR and you can take some sweet images. Put a 100 dollar cheapy lens on a 3000 dollar camera, and your images will still be subpar.

8. Higher Investment Value — It should be mentioned that DSLR’s retain much more resale value than do point and shoots. This is because point and shoots are often upgraded once (or more) a year while DSLR’s usually have a longer upgrade cycle.

Your lenses also can be used on different camera models (within the same brand of course). This means if you buy a DSLR and a bunch of lenses then decide to upgrade to a higher DSLR model, you can still use your lenses on your newer model camera.

Choosing the “Right” DSLR

Let’s look at 7 major features that you need to consider before making your DSLR purchase.

1. The Price

For most, this is the “Big One” that you will look at. DSLR’s are more expensive than compacts and point n shoots, but these days you can pick up an entry level DSLR kit for around what you pay for a high end point n shoot (about the 500-600 dollar range). You can spend 400-1000 dollars, 1000-3000 for an entry level to 3000+ dollars for a high end pro DSLR. The price depends on what features you are looking for.

dslr help

Besides the actual cost of the DSLR camera, there are other costs you will end up paying, if not right away, then eventually.

  • Lenses (DSLR kits usually come with one or two entry level lenses, but if you want to upgrade — and you will — expect to spend significant amounts of money here). You may typically spend between anywhere from $100 to $3000 per lens.
  • Batteries (extra batteries will cost you). Batteries might costs you between 50 to 100 dollars each
  • Memory Cards (some DSLR kits will toss in a memory card, but you are going to end up buying more and probably bigger ones).
  • Camera Bags (you will buy one, two, or seven. The free ones that come with your kit are very limited, so expect to spend nearly a hundred bucks or more on a good quality one with features you want).
  • Core Assessories (lens filters, tripod, dedicated flash units, etc)

2. What Kind of Pictures Do You Want to Take

Think of a DSLR as a “System

You most likely would prefer not to waste a ton of money on your DSLR camera so you need to stop and figure out what you want out of the system before you walk into a camera store and start laying down the credit card. That is because it is very easy to spend a lot of money before you know it and to end up with something that you will ultimately outgrow in a fairly short amount of time.

The first thing that you should ask yourself is “what type of photos do I take now and what do I envision myself doing with a camera in the foreseeable future?”

For most people the initial answer is going to be some scenery and perhaps some family photos. Most of us don’t see ourselves becoming the next Peter Lik or Ansel Adams. We just want to document the things that we come across in every day life. And if that is the only goal then you might well be able to stay with a point and shot camera. But the advantages of going DSLR are many.

You’ll need a different camera + lenses + other stuff depending on what you are going to use your camera for (i.e. what sort of pictures you will be taking).

So it’s important to think about what sort of photography you want to get into: sports, low light photography, landscape photography, wedding photography, macro photography, wildlife photography, fashion photography, etc. The type of photography you pursue will guide what DSLR “kit” you will need to put together.

For example:

Landscape Photography: If you want to pursue landscape photography, you’ll want a camera with great image quality, perhaps a full frame sensor, wide angle lenses, an assortment of filters, and a tripod.

Sports Photography: If you want to pursue sports photography, you’ll need to look at a DSLR that has a fast burst rate, a good monopod, and an assortment of telescopic lenses.

Wildlife Photography: You will want to invest in crop cameras with expensive long super telephoto lenses with an expensive tripod setup.

Fashion Photography: you will want to invest in a full frame camera and an assortment of expensive prime lenses and portrait lenses. You will also need dedicated flash units and expensive studio equipment to control lighting.

Wedding Photography: you will need a mix of telephoto and portrait lenses with more than one DSLR camera body (for backup).

3. Camera Size

dslr sizes

Camera size can be a big deal for many people. While you might not mind lugging around a giant DSLR camera that weighs over 3lbs, other people might not want to do so for an extended period of time. DSLR sizes vary quite a bit, so it’s probably a good idea to think about the camera size and weight before you buy anything. It’s definitely recommended to gets some hands on time with a few models you are interested — nothing can substitute for picking up a camera and holding it for a few minutes so you can get a feel how it might be after a few hours of wearing it around your neck!

4. Think About Lenses and Brand

Remember, the brand of DSLR you buy will “lock you” into buying that brand of lens, accessories, and such. When you buy a DSLR, you are really buying a system. Some companies are known for particularly good makes of certain focal lengths. Though tedious, it might be worth your time to do some research into a camera brand’s line of lenses before purchasing a camera of that brand.

Lenses are going to be the most significant part of your DSLR expenditure with good lenses probably costing more (and in some cases, MUCH more) than your actual camera body.

For one thing, being able to change lenses will open up your scope of photography a lot. You will no longer be bound by what a camera company thinks is the best lens for you. You can make that decision and be able to purchase what you need when you need it. That way as your ability and needs grow you can purchase more things for your DSLR rather than selling your point and shoot and buying the next model up the line. In other words you can expand the system and continue to grow with your initial camera.
This is where you start looking at camera systems. In other words, you are looking for a camera body and lenses that go together and allow you to grow. If you make the right decision you can move up to a better body somewhere down the line and still use the initial lenses that you purchased.

As an example, the Canon Company has been making a series of lenses called the EF. These lenses have been their standard mount since the eighties. What that means to you is that a lens from 1985 will fit right on a DSLR purchased in 2011 and work essentially the same. What is cool about that is that there are many folks that have a Canon 35 mm Rebel in the closet with a myriad of lenses that they bought back when. Those lenses will work well on a Canon DSLR purchased today and potentially save you money in the expansion of your system. These lenses are also plentiful and fairly cheap on places like eBay so the budget can be stretched allowing you to get a better body initially

5. Sensor Size

sensor sizes

The size of the sensor plays an important role in both how you use the camera and the image quality. Different brands might have different sized sensors. To make things simple, there are basically two sensor sizes you can get in a DSLR: full frame sensors and crop sensors.

Full Frame

Full Frame Sensors are 35mm, which correspond with the original 35mm film camera sensor sizes before digital took over. Basically, with a Full Frame, you get the same wide angle field of view of the lens you use. So a 50mm lens gives you a 50mm focal length. If you want a technical breakdown, visit the wikipedia page about Full Frame.

Crop Sensor

A crop sensor is a sensor where the edges are trimmed off, leaving only the center part. Crop sensors are significantly cheaper to manufacture than full frames, which is why crop sensor DSLRs are always much cheaper than full frame DSLRs. With a crop sensor, you get the focal length multiplied by 1.X so that the focal length is always bigger. So with a canon crop sensor that’s 1.6, that 50mm lens will give you 80mm in reality.

Full Fame vs. Crop

full frame sensor

What to choose? Because of the larger sensor, Full Frame can allow for larger pixels to be captured which allows more dynamic range to be captured. This in general gives you better low light performance and lower noise at higher ISO levels. You also have a more narrow depth of field with the Full Frame (images are wider — a 50mm lens will yield 50mm not 80mm, say). The wider focal length makes Full Frame particularly good for landscape photography, fashion photography, and portrait photography.

\Crop cameras have an advantage in two areas: price range and telephoto shooting. The price of crop cameras are significantly cheaper than full frame cameras. Most DSLR’s on the market are crop cameras with only a handful being full frame. Because crop cameras multiply the focal length, you basically get a free “zoom” advantage. For telephoto photography such as wildlife photography where you need longer focal lengths, crop cameras offer a distinct advantage.

6. Upgradability

Before you buy a DSLR, it’s worth thinking about the longevity of the model. Entry level DSLR’s tend to be replaced with a newer model every year. Mid range to high end DSLR’s usually have more market longevity, being replaced by a newer model every 2-4 years. For example, the Canon 5D was in production for almost 5 years before the new model, the Canon 5D Mark 2 came out. Compare that to the original Canon Rebel DSLR series and there have been new itinerations almost every year.

You might want to stick with a more mid range / higher end model and grow into it rather than get a cheaper entry level DSLR that you will just end up replacing in 6 months to a year as you outgrow the features. Remember, it’s just cheaper to buy a model you’d buy anyways eventually, rather than buying a lower end model, reselling it later for less money, then buying the higher model.

A DSLR’s resale value drops sharply when the newer model is released, so keep in mind getting a higher end model means you can always resell it for good value in a few years time, provided the replacement hasn’t been released. You won’t have nearly as much time to resell an entry level DSLR for full value, as the new model will be released each year.

7. Features

There are some important features to look at when considering a DSLR. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the features present on your average DSLR, but rather an overview of some of the more important ones. Each manufacturer may throw in a slightly different set of features (or even new ones) depending on the model.

1. Megapixels

First up is the Megapixel. Camera advertisers like to toss these around as sales pitches. The higher the megapixels, the better the camera, right? Well, yes and no. Megapixels alone don’t make the camera. As a rule of thumb, yes, the higher the megapixel count, the better quality image you will get — but there are a LOT of other features that make a big difference in the quality (and usability of the camera). Really, for the average person and the average picture size, you won’t notice one single difference between a 12 megapixel image and a 21 megapixel image. The only time you will is if you zoom crop or blow up your image to huge proportions. Since most of you won’t be printing out billboard sized photos, you don’t need some of the ginormous 50+ megapixel offerings you can find for some cameras these days (in 2015).

For average sized pictures of mom and pop you can’t tell. If you are printing out Billboard-sized photos, then yes, you want high megapixels.

Simple right? For a point ant shoot in 2015, anything 16+ megapixels will have you covered. For a basic entry DSLR, 16 + megapixels will do you just fine. If you are buying a pro-grade camera, then you will want something that’s 30+ megapixels. Some of the newer mirrorless cameras and DSLR cameras have 40 or 50+ megapixels.

2. ISO Ratings

ISO nowadays refers to the digital camera sensor sensitivity. Pre-digital days, it used to refer to the sensitivity of the actual film to light, with the higher ISO film being more sensitive and could thus be used where there was less light.

Most DSLR’s have good ISO ratings for general photography, but some of the more expensive DSLR’s feature very high ISO ratings, which is important for low light photography.

The higher the ISO of your sensor, the better your camera will perform in less light. This is where DSLR’s completely outstrip point and shoot and compact cameras as DSLR’s always have higher ISO settings. Cheaper point and shoot cameras might have anywhere from ISO 1600 to 3200 while the more pro-grade compact point and shoot might go all the way up to 6400.

The higher the ISO setting, the more grainy the image will be. DSLR’s vastly outperform Point and Shoots and Compact Cameras with image quality at higher ISO levels. This means you can use a DSLR to take much higher quality images at lower lights than you can with a point and shoot/ compact camera, even at the same ISO levels. The DSLR will also support higher ISO settings than a point and shoot.

This is the scale:

  1. 50 (lowest setting)
  2. 100 (regular setting — no loss of image quality)
  3. 200
  4. 400
  5. 800
  6. 1600 (image degradation present)
  7. 3200
  8. 6400
  9. 12800
  10. 25600

DSLR cameras now may go all the way up to 6400, 12800, or higher.

3. Aperture

This is dependent on the actual lens. It’s referred to as the F stop and the lower the number denotes the wider the lens opens. Wider means more light is let through the lens meaning you can take pictures at even less light. F Stop is the single determining factor in the price of the lens, with lower F Stops being very expensive.

The F Stop really depends in the size and make of the lens, with longer telephoto lenses having higher F stops while smaller lenses can have lower F stops. You can, for example, buy high quality image lenses for a steal at certain F stops. Canon makes what’s called the “Nifty Fifty” 50mm lens which has an F stop of 1.8 for about 100 bucks US. Drop down to a 50mm F/1 and you pay thousands of dollars.

The wider the aperture (lower the F Stop number) the more narrow the depth of field will be. Low F Stops gives that blurred background look that portrait photographers find so appealing.

4. Maximum Shutter Speed

This refers to the fastest shutter speed allowed by the camera. Cameras with really fast shutter speed are great for action photography where you need to capture split second moments (sports game, for example).

Shutter speed, in general, is really a feature you will have to learn to balance with Aperture and ISO, but it’s not really a “selling point” for any DSLR and you won’t base your buying decision on this. As a note, the slower the shutter speed you take a picture, the more “time” you can introduce into the photo. For example, at a slow shutter speed, you can give water a silky look — very popular for water, sea, or waterfall shots.

5. Burst Mode

This refers to how fast your camera can take pictures in a row. DSLR’s do vary quite a bit in the number of frames they can shoot per second as well as how many images they can shoot with a single burst.

If you are wanting to take photos of action events (sports, cars, and such) where there is fast motion, it’s better to have a camera with a very fast burst rate. You simply hold down the shutter button and your camera will quickly take a stream of photos. This allows you a better chance of capturing the perfect “moment.” DSLR cameras with faster burst rates tend to be more expensive and this is a feature present in the PRO grade DSLRs (usually those cameras that cost 2+ thousand dollars).

6. Anti-Shake

Some cameras have built in anti-shake technology which allows compensates for vibration. This allows you to use slower shutter speeds while hand holding the camera, meaning you can shoot in lower light situations with more flexibility.

Some manufacturers build anti-shake technology into lenses (not the bodies) as is the case with Canon. Still, it’s nice to have this feature built into the camera body itself, though it’s by no means an essential feature.

7. Dust Protection

This technology adds an anti static coating to the camera sensor to prevent dust particles from sticking. It may also incorporate some sort of sensor vibration on turning on or off of the camera to prevent dust from sticking to the sensor.

The end result of this technology is that you will have less dust spots in your images and you won’t have to manually clean your sensor (as much). It doesn’t outright prevent ALL dust particles from sticking to your sensor, but it does help.

8. Connectivity

Newer DSLR’s may feature Wi-Fi/Blue Tooth technologies to sync your camera to your computer. All DSLR’s will have USB support so you can directly attach the device to the computer to transfer images. You can also simply remove the CF or SD card from the device and manually extract the photos from the card too.

9. Flash

Lower end DSLR’s will usually have built in flash. Most higher end DSLR’s won’t offer flash, but simply a hotshoe where you can attach dedicated flash units. On-camera flash tends to be pretty lousy in terms lighting.

10. Semi-Auto-Special Modes

Most DSLR’s will allow you to switch between Manual mode, Automatic mode, and specialty modes. This gives the photography the ability to tinker with all the settings (Manual mode), one or two of the settings (Aperture mode, Shutter Speed Mode, ISO mode), or simply just use the DSLR like a point and shoot (Automatic Mode).

Most photographers will want to use Manual mode on a DSLR (which is sort of the point of having and using a DSLR), but if you find yourself using these special modes on your point and shoot, you may well use them on your DSLR too. Some higher end models might not have some of the specialty modes.

11. Weatherproof Bodies

High end DSLR’s will sometimes be weatherproofed. This means they are sealed and can take SOME moisture (light rain, etc) without damage.

12. Exposure Comp

Another common feature that lets you automatically adjust the exposure of each shot.

13. Auto Bracketing

A feature that allows you to take multiple shots at one go. For example, you might set up your camera to take 3 different exposures per “shot.” This feature is VERY useful if you want to pursue HD photography. Canon cameras allow 3 different exposures while Nikon allows more.

Should I Buy Top of the Line or Bottom of the Line?

This is a question that once again only you can answer. If you plan on a lot of traveling and mostly doing the point and shoot and fully automatic mode, go for the lower end of the line. You will get more for your money and it will be lighter and easier to carry around. The top of the line will be considerably heavier but ultimately more durable.

For many this question is a lot easier to answer than you may think. Ask yourself one question. When you have the photos taken, what are you going to do with them? If you traditionally simply email them and occasionally print out a 4 by 6 and very rarely an 8 by 10 photo, then you can certainly get by with a lower end camera – perhaps for the rest of your life.

However, if you print out large files or you like to crop and mess around with the files and make them look better, then you want a better body, better lenses and more mega pixel resolution so that you have as much to work with a s you can get. The more editing and printing you do, the more resolution you need o have at the onset if you want to be happy. Yes, you can get a high mega pixel entry level DSLR but the image quality will suffer because theses cameras interpolate – or electronically enhance – the image file to arrive at the 12 or 20 mega pixels and that is going to hurt the image. The upper end cameras do not do that. It is a little more intense than that explanation but that will give you the gist of it.

What’s The Best DSLR Camera Brand?

canon vs nikon

A loaded question, and the subject of many endless internet debates. The answer is that it depends on the person. A more relevant question would be “what is the best brand to start out with.”

A lot of the answer to this question is going to depend on the amount of money that you are looking to lay out on your new camera system when you walk in to make the purchase at the store.

The only company out there that cans say that they have not changed lens mounts from 35 mm format to digital is Canon. They have fairly well become the standard camera of the industry and you can buy them anywhere. They are available as Wholesale clubs, Super Centers and Electronic Super Stores as well as camera stores. One advantage is that the camera system will allow you to grow and expand as your needs change without much hassle.

Another company that is phenomenal when it comes to optics and the current systems that they offer is Nikon. The Nikon Company has long been one of the premier optics companies and you find Nikon cameras owned by a lot of professionals. That is because your end resultant image is only going to be as good as the glass that is in the lens.

All of that being said, there are a lot of trade offs in both companies. IF you want high quality glass as opposed to lower quality glass or plastic, you will pay a lot more for it and it will also be a lot heavier. That is why most companies offer the entry level camera and a professional level.

There have been some remarkable improvements in technology now in photography and Mirrorless cameras are a viable alternative to DSLR’s, offering the same features but in a smaller frame. Some of the major mirrorless camera brands are Sony, Fujifilm, and Olympus.

My recommendation, if you think you will be serious about photography and want a DSLR over Mirrorless, is to stick with either Canon or Nikon. The reason is that these are the two biggest camera companies in the world, they both offer a HUGE assortment of lenses that you can keep reusing as you upgrade cameras. There are other companies that delve into DSLR, but they don’t have the best lenses that are found in the Canon and Nikon lines.

Canon DSLR Guide

Currently Canon offers several cameras that I would place in the top ten for feature verses value so let’s start there shall we?

Canon Bodies start at the upper end at around Seven Thousand dollars. This is out of the range of most people that are looking to get in to photography unless they are going to be making money at it. They also start at the entry level point of about five fifty for the Rebel XS kit. As you would suspect there is a huge difference in the two and for the purpose of this article I am going to concentrate on what the average consumer might like to have in a camera.

The Canon XS is the entry model, it is small and lightweight and the kit comes with the body and all of the things that you need to get started except the memory card. It is a great little starter camera which gives you 10.01 mega pixel resolution which is great for almost anything short of doing extremely large prints and includes Canons 18-55 mm lens which has become the industry standard for camera kits. It is slightly small on the screen size coming in at 2.5 inches but that will help you extend your battery life as well so it is a good thing and a bad thing. It will not do any sort of video but is rather dedicated to still photography.

The Rebel series, while often getting a bad rap from the professionals is a decent line that gives a lot of bang for the dollar and gives the learning photographer a lot to use as they as they learn their craft.

My next most favorite kit in the Canon line up is the Canon T2i kit. It gives you pretty much everything that you have in the XS kit and ups the mega pixel resolution to 18, a faster drive motor for capturing more shots in rapid succession and a three inch LCD so that you don’t have to squint to get to see the menu options or the photo after you take it. You also get full 1080p HD Video capability so that you can use it to record great video as well as still frame photography. This makes it a great dual purpose camera and it comes in at a suggested retail of around eight hundred dollars.

The camera that I would consider to be the top of the line for anyone that is serious about photography but not wanting to invest the cost of a used car into their hobby would be the Canon EOS 60D. There are features here that will make your life much easier when trying to use the camera as a photo enthusiast. For one the three inch LCD swivels so that instead of being stationary on the back you can position it to the side or front facing depending on the situation and need.

This is the beginning of the professional line at a price point of one thousand dollars without a lens and so even here you will be getting close to fifteen hundred dollars but you will have a camera that is capable of full resolution video and a blazing 5.3 frames per second shooting time on the still photography end so there is very little that you can not capture in the realm of image photography.

Any of these three cameras will make an excellent starting camera that will carry most folks well into the photography journey. The big decision for you, as the ultimate consumer would be the amount of photography you intend on doing with this camera and if you envision shooting any type of video at all.

There are many models in the Canon line between the entry point and the top of the line and every one has to be sure what they ultimate goal for the camera and its use will be before they lay out hard earned money on the camera. If money is not the deciding factor then I would certainly say that going for the top of the line or on of the assorted professional level cameras such as the 50D, the 60D, the 7D, the 5D mark II, the 1D mark III or 1D mark IV or the top of the line 1Ds mark III will certainly give you a long life and phenomenal photographs that will be unparalleled by anything else out there on the market and the interchangeability of lenses and accessories in the Canon system is second to none in today’s market.

Nikon DSLR Guide

Next let’s look over the Nikon line of products. This is considered to be the “cool” line of professional and semi professional cameras and you have no doubt see at least one commercial on television featuring Ashton Kutcher as the spokes person for the Nikon line of DSLR cameras.

If you’ve been following along to this point you will see here that the Nikon line starts at a little less money with the entry level D3000 coming in at five hundred dollar and the top of the line D3X topping the scales at Eight Thousand dollars. So let’s take a look at these and figure out why you may or may not want to get one of these cameras. I will forgo the upper end and concentrate on the more readily affordable cameras that Nikon offers which will be more in line with what the masses can truly afford and enjoy. If money is no object you will certainly not go wrong with one of the top of the line cameras.

The D3000 is a great starting point camera. It offers many of the same features as the Canon which is fifty dollars more. It is three frames per second on the recording speed and it also gives you a full 3 inch LCD which is something that you don’t get with the Canon and it makes a world of difference when setting options on the menu or reviewing photos after you shoot them. It is 10.2 mega pixels which, just like the Canon leans that you can do up to a 10 by 20 print or some editing of the image and then printing off an 8 by 10 which looks good and sharp. The problems that you will find are that not every lens that Nikon offers is going to work here. While that is not necessarily a huge negative point, it is something that you need to be aware of. If you don’t want to get into a situation where you end up having to replace a lot of things down the line if your needs grow, it might be a wise choice to start a little higher up the camera line to help ensure the compatibility of the accessories. It is a great kit for someone that doesn’t see themselves going much beyond point and shoot fully automatic shooting or maybe a little of the manual modes.

A much better choice in the Nikon like would be the recently released Nikon D5100. It gives you a lot of whistles and bells for the money. There is a full 16.2 mega pixel resolution which fairly well removes any limitations that you might have placed on your work from the standpoint of picture size, and the camera also offers full HD video capability at 1080P resolution so you can capture full frame, full motion video with ease.

In addition you have the ability to swivel the screen so that you can put the LCD where it will do you the most good and not where the camera has to be. It gives you a lot more ability to make the camera work for you rather than the other way around. It gives you the industry standard three inch LCD so you can get the most viewable area for your dollar.

For the average consumer that is doing photography as more or less a hobby, the best buy for the money is going to be the D7000. It is 16 mega pixels and gives you all of the many things that you will find on the professional level cameras and still allows you to stay semi low cost. This goes in at around twelve hundred dollars.

It’s a very stout camera and weighs in a little heavier than most of the consumer models, but keep in mind that the heavier it is the more durable it is going to be. That means that it is going to stand up a little better to the uses and the camera will give you a much longer life span so that means that you are going to be investing in something that is going to give you a very good life span if you treat it with a little amount of care.

What’s the Bottom line?

I have to interject some personal feeling here because I have never been one that likes to buy something that is outdated. That is why I tend to lean towards the Canon product. It allows me to use the lenses I was familiar with from back when I had my first Rebel in the 80s and I have a reasonable amount of confidence that anything that I buy for the system I am using now will be able to be used when I upgrade to another model in the line. That allows me to be more confident about spending several thousands of dollars on lenses.

If I was unsure of whether they were going to be compatible in a couple of years I might think twice about investing my money. But since I know that what I buy today has a good likelihood of being usable in four or five years, I don’t let the buyers remorse sneak into the equation.

There is a polar opposite to that feeling that many of my colleagues favor. They are of the opinion that if they buy what they need today that they are not going to need to upgrade or change out in the future. My issue with that train of thought is that what happens if your body breaks or gets stolen? IF they new cameras do not support your lens mounts and or the many accessories that you have purchased for the camera then you are back to square one and will be spending a lot of money on redundant gear.

Now I understand from a person I know at Nikon that they have pretty much committed to maintaining the current lens mount system for the foreseeable future. But I am still a little leery about investing given that they have changed mounts before and left many people with a large stock of lenses that were of no use to them when they went to upgrade. I actually had a Nikon and was in that boat and that is why I opted to go with Canon as my tool of choice.

Certainly there are other fine choices out there by companies like Minolta and Sony. The big problem that you will find is that these are quite proprietary and as a result he lenses are liable to be much more expensive and will be harder to find. It also means that the quality of the lenses, with the exception of the Carl Zeiss lenses which Sony uses, will run the risk of being a lower quality than those offered by either Canon or Nikon.

The one thing that you can also keep in mind when looking at the various makers of Camera bodies out there is that there are many, many makers of lenses that will fit specific lens mounts. So if you love the phenomenal optic characteristics that you will find with the Zeiss lenses, you can certainly get that quality in a lens that will fit your Canon or your Nikon or your Minolta. All that it takes is a fat wallet. A basic 85 mm lens for a Canon EF mount in a Zeiss lens will easily cost more than most of the mid level kits and below. In other words, the lens alone can cost you fifteen hundred dollars. The advantage is that you will have some of the world’s best glass making your photographs simply stunning. The bad part is that your wallet will definitely feel the pinch of the cost of these lenses.

Final Thoughts on Your Decision

While no one can make the decision for you, I have given you some guidelines that should help to point you in the direction of the best choice for your particular needs.

You need to not mail order the camera, at least not until you have physically gone to the store and put your hands on the real thing. That is because even though they are all shaped very much the same, they are going to feel uniquely different in your hands. And since the idea is to get something that you will use, you need to make sure it is comfortable to hold and use or you will regret the purchase.

A lot of people like a lighter camera body and some, like me, prefer something with a bit more substance to it. I personally want to feel the weight of the camera while I am using it. I don’t light the lighter cameras because they feel like toys. I do have a Canon XSi that I keep as a back up that I use if I am doing a long hike or something because it is lighter, but I personally can see the difference in the quality of the photos that are produced from that as opposed to my 1Ds. As well I should because there is several thousands of dollars difference in cost between the two.

Remember to have a firm grip on what you want the camera to do and where you want to go with it. A sales person can only guide you in the right direction if he or she has all of the facts.

The questions that you should be able to answer are when are you likely to be taking the majority of your photographs? Also, what are you going to be taking the most photographs of? This will allow the person to guide you towards the right speed lens for your needs as well as the right focal length to capture the images that you will be shooting the most.

These questions alone will help assure that the camera that you end up with is going to be the best suited to your needs and thus allow you to get the most use and longest life out of the purchase.

So the main thing is that if you are totally honest about your needs, skill level and expectation s on the camera system that you are purchasing, any competent sales person is going to be able to steer you in the direction of the best DSLR for your particular needs. But please remember, most of these sales people are working on a commission base so they will attempt to get you to purchase things that will give you a lot more than you might need. Being forewarned and having a basic knowledge of the product will go a long way towards getting you the best DSLR for the money and not get ripped off in the process.

Remember that if you try and make the sales person think that you know more than you do there is a strong possibility that they will do whatever they can to get you to purchase more camera than you need. And this might not even be with malice. But if you act like you know a lot about cameras and photography in general, they may assume that you are a more advanced user than you are and assume that you would be less than happy with an entry or mid level camera.

Based on the options out there today, there is no one camera at the same level of that of another manufacturer that is going to be significantly better or worse than the competition. The advances are so huge that as long as you are using a name brand, there is no bad product on the market.

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