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How do I choose my first DSLR?

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LensYews 9 1.3k 1 United Kingdom
6 Sep 2010 6:16PM
One of the more commonly asked questions by new comers to the site, this topic aims to provide the information and advice to those members to aid them with selecting the appropriate camera. The aim of this topic is not to make recommendations about specific cameras, but the selection criteria that the more experienced ePhotozine members would recommend a first time purchaser considers before purchase.

From previous forum topics the following recommendations arise:
1. All entry level DSLRs are very similar in terms of their capabilities, so its often better to go to the local camera shop and physically hold the different cameras you are considering. You may mind the one with the ideal specification, has buttons that are too small to make it usable, it might be too light/heavy, too small/large or you might be left handed and the camera built for right handed/right eyed users.
2. It may be the case a second hand camera can provide as good or even better images than a brand new one, and could be well worth considering if the budget is small.
3. If you are new to DSLRs you are unlikely to need the highest specification camera available, instead make a list of the features you really would like and use that as the basis for comparison/decision making.
4. Remember you are not just buying a camera, but will also want to consider budgeting for a camera bag, memory card(s), and lens cleaning materials.
5. Some people also recommend having a Ultraviolet or Skylight filter on the front of the lens to protect the glass on the basis, that its cheaper to replace the filter than a lens.
6. A DSLR may produce larger image files than you are used to, so you may want to consider whether your existing computer can cope with the larger files.
7. Once you have the camera, experiment, photography everything, try all the settings and when you have questions ask them in the ePhotozine forums, where someone will be delighted to help.

EPZ members please feel free to add your own recommendations for a new user selecting a first DSLR

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JJGEE 13 7.2k 18 England
6 Sep 2010 7:03PM
Item 4.

Quote:also want to consider budgeting for ... memory card(s).....

Did you ever think about budgeting for film / developing / printing / storage when buying a film camera ?

NO .... I never did ! !

So why is it relevant for memory cards ?

For me, if I was starting out again buying a digital camera I would research / investigate more closely the battery performance.
For the camera I have , the specification, manual, and the company's representative at a trade show all state around 850 exposures from a fully charged battery... I am lucky to get between 150 & 200, which is a massive difference Sad

But the handling, and quality of the lenses far outweigh the battery issue... and how often would I have used 10 rolls of film in an outing ? Probably two or three times at most in 25 years !
Overread 9 4.1k 19 England
7 Sep 2010 9:24AM
I think Lens Yew is simply pointing out that you don't get "it all in one box" with a DSLR and that other accessories will be desirable to the average person and that considering them in their budget is important (esp if you are getting them from a shop where memory cards have quite a high price mark up). Also for many people their first DSLR can be a major investment - adding in the cost of a memory card, cheap tripod, bag etc.. can be major additions the cost for them to consider.

I would also like to add to the advice above with the following:

1) Choosing the right company - as said above when you choose a DSLR its not just a camera you get, but a system. Most of the leading brands have very complete lens ranges and can do what the others can so in most cases there is no major limit - though it should be noted that some companies (eg sony) might not have as many budget options in some areas as compared to groups like Canon and Nikon.

The key here in making a choice is to first consider if there are any specific areas of photography that you are keen on getting into - be it macro, landscape, shooting your kids etc.... list them down and work out your priorities - what you want the system to do for you. You can then ask around other shooters and see what (and more importantly why) they chose their system - starting out with budget gear you won't notice a difference between the brands, but should you get hooked and start to advance you might find this process a worthwhile effort as you will be able to pick up the exact tools you need to best achieve your end results.

2) Filters for protection - this is a very grey and sticky area filled with misinformation and marketing drives. Simply put filters get a high price mark up in shops so many are keen to sell you protection filters. Everyone has their own stance on protection filters so here is mine:

a) A protection filter (often a UV filter) should never be cheap - cheap filters will be made with low grade glass and this can affect your end resulting photos. I've even known of especially poor filters messing up a cameras AF to some degree. A good quality filter will cost you money, quite serious money, but it will still be cheaper than your lens. Your filter wants to be at least a multicoated kind (more on this later)

b) Most protection filters are thin glass and as such will allow you protection from light debris - sand, salt water spray, mud etc... - they won't protect from a hard stone nor a BB bullet and won't do anything against a hard fall against the ground. In the latter cases a filter is even a problem - broken glass will cut into your lenses front element just as bad if not worse than the offending breaking object - and when dropped not only will you get shattered glass but the chance of having the filter ring dent and lock the filter onto your lens (sometimes you have to send away to get this removed as it gets locked on so tight).
Thus a protection filter is good for situations where dirt and such might get onto your lens and require quick, worry free, cleaning with a cloth as you shoot - a few scratches won't affect image quality, but most would rather they be on the filter and not on the lens!

c) Flare - low grade filters not only degrade image quality but also increase the chances of lens flare and other problems when shooting into bright light points - higher grade filters with multicoatings will reduce the chances and impact of these problems - but if you are shooting a lot of these kind of shots taking the filter off is advised (you especially notice it when people do a fair bit of night time shooting)

d) Lens Hood! - this is your true protection against harder, large objects and drops to the floor and as such should always be attached. Hoods are invaluable for a protection as well as helping to block stray light entering the side of the lens.
ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
7 Sep 2010 10:18AM
the main advice I give people is to get a cheap older DSLR (usually a 20D) and see if they actually use it.

my mate chris got one, was well excited about it, and has now used it about 6 times in a year.

had he got the 5D mark 2, he'd have a stack of money invested and depreciating fast.

As it is, he spent £180 and the bugger's still got my 50mm F1.8.... hmmm
Justin C . is a master of the 20D and has produced the most amazing work using it Smile
ade_mcfade 14 15.2k 216 England
7 Sep 2010 11:23AM
exactly - it was a great camera when it came out and still is Smile

I just bought a spare 5D mark 1 for the same reason. The mark 2 would have been nice, but I've had no problems with the Mark 1, and it's less than 1/2 price for a mint second hand one. The only debate point I had was high ISO... shooting at ISO6400 in darkish church... that would be very handy as I'm sure you know Barrie! Saves buying F1.4 lenses too Wink
roxpix 14 2.2k 11 Scotland
7 Sep 2010 12:02PM
For those considering Canon DSLRs, I have an excel doc that I drafted showing a side by side comparison of the features & specs on the 20d, 30d, 40d, 50d & 7d to cover recent APS-C sensor cameras

I couldn’t easily find anything online so used this to do a ‘hard facts’ comparison when I was considering upgrading my own 20d (there are over 100 main feature specs to compare)

Let me know if you can make use of it & I’ll send it through

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