Choosing That First DSLR Camera

Are you going to buy a new camera for someone on your Christmas list? Or maybe one for yourself? I know that all the options out there can be overwhelming when choosing that first DSLR so I thought I would put together a few ideas to keep in mind while you’re shopping. After all Christmas is just days away!

First of all what the heck does DSLR stand for anyway? Well; the SLR part stands for single lens reflex; this basically means that when you look through the viewfinder you will see exactly what the lens of the camera sees. This happens because of a series of prisms and mirrors. Pretty cool stuff! And as for the D? That just means its digital as opposed to film.

Now I’m sure everyone has heard of megapixels, and they can be a bit confusing. A pixel [picture element] is a unit of color on a computer display or in a digital image. It’s not really a physical unit with a set size as it’s size depends on your image’s resolution [the size of the camera’s sensor]. Think of it like one piece of a puzzle or one small tile in a large mosaic. More megapixels doesn’t necessarily mean your images will be better, it basically means that your images can be blown up to a larger size. I have recently written a post about megapixels and your welcome to check it out if you want a little more information.  Really a 10 megapixel camera is a great place to start and may be all you end up needing.

Something else to think about is the ISO.  ISO stands for International Standards Organisation refers to the “norm” for sensitivity of film. 100 to 200 ISO is less sensitive (and the standard used by most people) and 1600 ISO is very sensitive to light. The term is the same for digital it just refers to how sensitive the sensor is instead of film; and can be adjusted by the photographer. The higher the ISO capability of your camera the better you can shoot in low light. If you only shoot outdoors on sunny days you won’t need to worry too much about the ISO. If you shoot in low light situations than you may need your camera to have the ability to get to a higher setting. Keep in mind that with higher ISO comes more noise so take that in to account as well.

Do you also want to shoot video? There are DSLRs out there that can do this. That’s something else to think about.

Look at the FPS (Frames Per Second). If you are shooting a lot of sports or fast moving wildlife you might need a faster camera; say one that can shoot up to 8 FPS. If you’re shooting still life or landscape a slower more normal range of 2 or 3 PFS might be all you need.

You might want to consider the size of the LCD screen and whether or not you want “live view” [using the LCD screen to view your subject and frame your shot] as your point and shoot most likely had; or if you simply want to use the viewfinder. My Canon 7D has the ability to use “live view” but I have actually never used it; I enjoy the viewfinder so much more.

Something to think about when picking up that first camera is that you are not only getting a camera; you are getting a brand. What I mean is if you buy Canon then you will need lenses and other accessories for Canon and if you buy Nikon or Olympus you’ll need accessories and lenses made for those. So take a little look around at the cost and quality of all those extras too. Read a few reviews and take your time choosing your brand. Even if you end up ordering online, go to the store first and check them out, just see how it feels in your hands. Some cameras have controls that are easier to get to than others, some have menus that are complicated while others are easy to navigate, and some cameras are just plain old heavy! Once you make the investment you really don’t want to change; unless you absolutely must. All this gear, from camera body and lenses, to battery grip and speedlights, adds up; and Canon mounts don’t fit Nikon and Nikon mounts don’t fit Olympus so you’ll want to stick with the brand you choose for sometime to come.

Speaking of all those extras… well that could be another post for another day. There’s a lot of gear out there to choose from.

To get started pick up that first DSLR and a basic lens. You’ll soon be hooked and your wish list of lenses and accessories will grow as you learn what type of photographer you want to be.

While I can not give suggestions about Sony, Olympus, Pentax, or Nikon [I haven’t used these to any extent; I’m a Canon gal.] I have added a short list at the bottom of this post with a few Canon DSLRs that might be good for a beginner.

Happy shopping and don’t let it overwhelm you; have some fun while you dig around! Oh and pick up a good sturdy well padded bag to protect your new investment.


Canon EOS Rebel T3i -excellent noise profile,  18 megapixel CMOS sensor, 9 autofocus points, ISO up to 12800, 3.7 fps,  weight 18.2 oz, average price $500

Canon EOS Rebel T4i – touch screen, 18 megapixel CMOS sensor, 9 autofocus points, ISO up to 25600, 5 fps, weight 18.3 oz, average price $750

Canon EOS Rebel SL1 – a good size for smaller hands, smallest dSLR available, 18 megapixel CMOS sensor, 9 autofocus points, automatic face tracking technology,  ISO 100-12800, 4 fps, weight 13 oz, average price $500



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