Looking to buy a camera but overwhelmed by all the choice? Our expert guide on how to buy a camera reveals 5 crucial DSLR tips covering sensors, pixels, shooting modes, interfaces and everything else you need to know when buying a camera.
Photography has reinvented itself with the arrival of digital technology. Gone are sky-high film and developing costs; in their place are minimal running costs and fast processing times.
There’s a lot to be said for the pocket-sized convenience of digital compact cameras, but for ultimate image quality, unrivalled versatility and limitless creative options, there’s really no substitute for stepping up to a DSLR.
The boost in popularity and increasing affordability of SLRs fosters fierce competition between the major camera manufacturers like Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony.
That’s great news for consumers, because camera makers are constantly seeking to improve their designs, with innovative new features, greater ease of use, and ever-increasing picture quality. But what are the key factors to bear in mind when you’re choosing a new SLR?
The advantages of DSLRs over compact cameras are many and varied – starting with the all-important image sensor. Many compact cameras may equal or even exceed some DSLRs in their megapixel count, but outright resolution isn’t the primary concern.
Image sensors in DSLRs are physically larger than those in compact cameras, giving two key bonuses. First, bigger sensors mean bigger pixels that individually capture more light. This has the potential to massively reduce digital image noise, which can give photos a grainy appearance, especially when shooting at higher ISO settings.
Second, larger sensors enable a smaller depth of field (the distance between the nearest and furthest points in a scene that can be kept sharp), enabling you to throw the background out of focus and make the main point of interest really stand out. This is especially useful in portraiture.
Another critical benefit is that an DSLR enables you to actually look through the lens when composing shots. There’s no beating an optical viewfinder that leads the eye right into the scene with perfect clarity and sharpness.
The perfect camera
Ergonomically, the larger build of a DSLR makes for much more natural and comfortable handling, while manual zoom and focusing rings on the lens enable far greater precision and control when composing and focusing.
Furthermore, buy a DSLR or a compact system camera, and you’re literally buying into a whole imaging system, with the possibility of buying additional lenses and accessories that can transform your camera into the perfect tool for any shooting scenario.
Over the next few pages, we’ll take a detailed look at the principal differences between different types of DSLRs and compact system cameras (which feature interchangeable lenses, but have no reflex mirror) so that you can make the best possible choice when picking out your new camera.
PAGE 1: Overview of how to buy a camera
PAGE 2: Body design and new DSLR features
PAGE 3: How many megapixels do you need?
PAGE 4: DSLR video options
PAGE 5: What you want in a viewfinder
PAGE 6: How fast should your new DSLR be?