How to Choose a DSLR

Introduction

I have been asked so many times about what digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR) to buy that I have decided to write an article about this topic. This article is meant to be a guide for a first time buyer of DSLR.

Most first time DSLR buyers are people who are usually upgrading from a digital point and shoot camera (P&S), and the reason why most people wanted to upgrade to a DSLR is probably because they think a DSLR will take better photos. So let’s get this out of the way first. Although technically and in general, DSLR should give better image quality than digital P&S camera, you really have to learn about photography and be able to use the camera properly before you can get better result with a DSLR than a digital P&S camera. Don’t forget the camera is merely a tool.

Budget

Now with that out of the way, let’s talk about how to choose a DSLR. The first thing to set is of course a budget. Think about how much you want to spend.  I would roughly classify DSLR into 3 level:-

The entry level costs around HK$3,000 to $5,000

The intermediate level costs around HK$5,000+ to HK$12,000

The high end can go from HK$15,000+ to more than HK$50,000

You can see the price range is very wide and without setting a budget, it would be impossible for you to narrow down which camera to buy. I have been asked numerous times before on what camera to buy and with no budget given, you can see it is an impossible task.

General Consideration

The most important difference between buying a DSLR and a digital P&S camera is that, buying a DSLR is not just buying just one camera, you are buying into a whole system. A DSLR camera system composed of the camera body, lenses, flashes, accessories like shutter release cable, remote control, battery and battery grip etc. Each camera maker makes a DSLR system that is not compatible with components from another camera maker. For example, if you buy a Nikon DSLR, you will not be able to use Canon lenses or flash units.

The major DSLR camera systems on the market are from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Four-third system (Olympus and Panasonic) and Pentax. Fujifilm also makes a DSLR that is based on a Nikon DSLR body and uses the Nikon lens mount and Sigma also makes their own DSLR.

Canon and Nikon probably have the most developed system with extensive range of lenses and accessories, each producing approximately 60 different lenses. The Sony, Four-third system and Pentax are in the 2nd tier, each makers producing around 30 different lenses for their respective system.

Ergonomics is very important factor to consider in choosing a DSLR. Everyone has different preference though. It is important to handle the camera you intend to buy. Does the camera feel comfortable in your hands? Can you easily reach the frequently used buttons and dials with your fingers while holding the camera? Does the camera feel too small or too big in your hands? Too light or too heavy? These are all very important consideration in deciding on which DSLR to buy.

So Which System Should I Buy?

Just like there is no perfect camera, there is also no perfect DSLR system. Different systems have their own strengths and weaknesses. In general most people will go into either Canon or Nikon system, since these are the 2 major DLSR systems around, but it does not mean that the other systems are bad and you will not get good results with other systems. The bad news is that, I am afraid this is a question that only you can answer for yourself. However, the good news is that, practically all the DSLR systems from the major camera makers are quite good, and you are likely to get good results with any DSLR you choose.

My Recommendation

Anyway, if you still cannot make up your mind and you really have to ask me what I would recommend, then this is what I would say…..

I personally would prefer to buy into a well developed system, so I would recommend either Canon or Nikon system.

For entry level cameras:-

Canon EOS 1100D, Canon EOS 500D

Nikon D3100, Nikon D5000

For intermediate level cameras:-

Canon EOS 550D, Canon EOS 600D Canon EOS 60D and Canon EOS 7D

Nikon D7000 and Nikon D300s

Should I get the Nikon 5000D or Canon EOS 500D?

This is the kind of questions that people asked me all the time, it could be any other 2 or 3 cameras, I just used the above 2 cameras as an example. The simple answer is, either is fine, you will get good results with either, so stop worrying whether you will pick the wrong choice. Of course there are always pros and cons with any camera, but modern DSLR between different manufacturers are very similar in their feature sets and image quality. In the end, it’s really all a matter of personal preference. Just be confidant in what you choose.

What If I Really Prefer Sony, Pentax or Olympus?

Well, just go ahead and buy what you want. There are no really “bad” DSLR on the market from any of the major camera makers. So if you prefer Sony, just buy Sony, if you like Pentax, then just get Pentax or Olympus for that matter……….

Should I Buy the Kit With The Kits Lens or……?

Many beginners have rather tight budget, and if you are one of those, your best option is probably just get the kit with the kit lens. Most kit lenses on the market are of reasonably good optical quality and are usually a good “starter” lenses.

However, if you budget is not so tight, there are of course advantages in getting the body alone with a more expensive lens with better optical quality than the kit lens.

Further Information

For information on where to cameras and lenses in Hong Kong, please visit my article in Recommended Camera Shops in Hong Kong.

For information on latest price info in Hong Kong, please visit my article on Camera And Lens Street Price List in Hong Kong.

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