Choosing the right camera is hard work, even with the internet as our savvy guide. A quick google search using the term “best dSLR camera” yielded a whopping 51,800 pages. Of course, if you qualify that with “under $1,000” the results shrink dramatically. Still, trying to decide which camera is right for you is simply not an easy task, especially when you consider the fact that what’s right for you might not be right for someone offering you camera purchase advice. We each have our own needs and wants, right?
If, like me, you’re in the market for a new camera, here is a top 5 list of things to consider before pulling the trigger:
1. How much money do you have to slap down on one of these badboys?
Even if you’re a recent lottery winner, that doesn’t mean a new Nikon D3x (at roughly $8,300 CDN for the body alone) is a smart bet. If you’re new to photography or if this is your first dSLR, you might find yourself entirely overwhelmed with such a complicated piece of equipment. Too much camera might equate to not much fun.
While establishing a budget is the logical first step to buying a new camera, it’s a mistake to think that more money equals better. That might be true for a well-established professional photographer, but for the rest of us there are other more important things to consider.
2. What type of photographs do you take: Portraits, landscape, street photography, sports, night photography, macro?
Most dSLRs are quite capable at handling all these tasks nicely, but some do a better job at specific types of photography. For instance, if you shoot a lot of dark scenes or night shots, you’ll want a camera that does well with high ISO. Or if sports is your thing, then a camera able to snap a high number of frames per second (fps) might be the call. That’s where doing your homework can really pay off.
3. What’s your experience level?
If you’re a beginner looking for a better camera, but you’re not too interested in a cornucopia of manual controls, i.e. you’ll be leaving it on auto mostly, then maybe an entry-level dSLR, or a micro four/thirds system camera from Panasonic or Olympus will suffice. If, like me, you’re intentions are to take photography courses and really learn how to get the best photographs possible out of your new camera, then you’ll want to investigate and compare the various features and manual controls offered by the top camera manufacturers.
4. Size does matter, right?
Yep, even when shopping for cameras. If you’re mostly interested in a camera you can carry around with you everywhere, then smaller is probably better. Maybe a dSLR isn’t even your best option! There are a handful of high-end advanced compact point & shoots that offer most of the manual functionality of entry-level dSLRs but with a much smaller footprint. Panasonic’s LX3 is considered by many to be an incredible camera for its size. Sure, you’re not going to get the image quality and dynamic range of a Nikon D90 or a Canon 50D, but you’ll have a camera that costs about half and is almost as portable as a pack of cigarettes, without the health risk. Other advanced point & shoots include the Canon G10 (the G11 has been announced), the Canon S90 (coming soon), and the Ricoh GR Digital III, to name but a few.
If you really want to move into dSLR country, but still want to keep it small, there is another alternative. Both Panasonic and Olympus offer micro 4/3rds system cameras that offer excellent image quality, all the manual controls you’ll need, and interchangeable lenses, but without the bulk and weight of a dSLR package.
5. Don’t be afraid to fondle!
A common question kicked about on various photography forums is, “Which dSLR should I get, a Nikon xxxx or a Canon xxxx?” Beyond the inevitably Nikon vs. Canon debate, someone always chimes in with this sage advice: Go to your local camera store and play with both cameras to see which feels better in your hands. Try the buttons and controls. Check out the menu system on the LCD display. Compare size and weight. Look through the viewfinder. Ask questions. Good advice indeed. A camera that is uncomfortable to carry and/or use risks becoming a very expensive doorstop.
Obviously, there are plenty of other things to consider, but I’m trying to write a blog post not a book. If you’re serious about making an educated purchase decision, asking questions on photography forums is a great way to get first-hand information from those who actually own and use the very product you are thinking about purchasing. Arming yourself with information is also helpful for when you’re ready to discuss cameras with the sale people at your local camera store. Keep in mind they are in the business of selling cameras, not education.
Before buying a new camera, I strongly suggest you read the following article by the folks at Digital Camera HQ: Digital cameras, the top 10 things you need to know
Over the past three month I’ve amassed a number of excellent links to camera review sites in right sidebar of my blog. While each has something to offer, here are a couple of sites I find most useful. It would be prudent, however, to give them all a quick look.
So there you have it. I hope you’ve gleaned at least some tidbit of information that will help you in your quest for a new camera. Feel free to thank me by adding my blog to your blogroll. 😉