I want to learn photography. Which DSLR camera should I buy?
So you want to buy a DSLR camera. Good! Photography is wonderful recreation. It’s a tool through which you can connect with, and learn more about yourself, other people, nature, wildlife and places etc.
I recommend Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras more than other brands, because:
- A wide variety of third party lenses and accessories such as speedlights, triggers, remote controls and extension tubes etc. are available at reasonable prices
- Both Canon and Nikon have optical viewfinders rather than electronic viewfinders. This is especially important when it comes to using a flash and studio lights
Before we look at camera models, let’s go through some frequently asked questions:
What’s a full frame DSLR? And what’s “cropped sensor”, APS-C and DX format DSLR?
The size of the electronic sensor of a full frame camera such as Canon’s 5D Mark IV and Nikon’s D810 is almost the same as that of a single film negative produced by a 35 mm format analogue camera i.e. 36×24 mm.
APS-C format DSLR cameras (also referred to as “cropped sensor” and “DX format” for Nikon) have sensors that are smaller than full frame sensors. APS-C sensor sizes range from 20.7 × 13.8 mm to 28.7 × 19.1 mm.
Some of the advantages of full frame DSLR cameras are:
- Better handling capabilities due to strategic positioning of buttons and dials on the camera body
- Better image quality, especially in low light at high ISO sensitivity
- Depth of field can be used more effectively
- More durable because they are built better
- Weather and dust sealing
Photography enthusiasts having a limited budget will look at APS-C format DSLR cameras. This blog post will help you identify and categorise APS-C format DSLR cameras.
Why do some APS-C cameras cost more than others?
The more money I pay, I expect:
- Better image quality in low light
- More focus points
- Faster autofocus
- Better handling due to strategic positioning of buttons and dials on the camera body
- More frames per second in the continuous shooting mode
How much do the above factors matter?
The image quality in low light is always something to look at. However today’s cameras, even entry level cameras perform far better than DSLR cameras did say 5 years ago.
The number of focus points, autofocus speed and frames per second are crucial for wildlife photography.
Which kit lens(es) should I purchase along with my camera?
The 18-55 mm F 3.5-5.6 lens is the most popular kit lens across Canon and Nikon. 18-55 mm is the focal length of this lens. 18 mm produces a wide field of view, and as we move along to say, 24 mm, 35 mm and 55 mm, our field of view narrows down i.e. we zoom in.
I recommend the 18-55 mm lens for you.
Some cameras come with the 18-105 mm, 18-135 mm, or the 18-140 mm kit lens. In the end, irrespective of which kit lens you opt for, I will strongly recommend that you purchase a 50 mm F 1.8 lens along with your new camera and kit lens.
Canon offers a two-lens deal with some of its cameras. For example, you can purchase the Canon EOS 1300D with an 18-55 mm and an additional 55-250 mm lens for not too much money. If you are interested in wildlife photography then you must note that I find that 250 mm is inadequate for bird photography, however it can be useful to make photographs of tigers, elephants and rhinos etc. from close proximities. Nevertheless, aspiring wildlife photographers will need to look at other options.
The smaller and lighter 18-55 mm lens is easier to handle, especially in low light.
Learn how to use your camera in the manual mode first, and use it regularly for at least 3 months before purchasing additional lenses. By this time, you will have a better understanding about your favorite subjects, for example, portraits, landscapes, nature & macro, and wildlife etc., and you will be in a better position to decide for yourself which lenses will serve you best.
I don’t plan on becoming a professional photographer. I want to make some photos of my kids at home and when we go on holidays. Which camera should I buy?
Everything in photography is a compromise. The more money you pay, the better your camera will be. There’s no end to it. So, work out your budget first, and then purchase the best camera that fits the bill.
This list of Canon and Nikon cameras are for a person on a budget:
Canon DSLR Cameras from entry-level to semi-professional cameras. Please note that when you see multiple options in a single row, for example, 700D, 750D and 760D, the camera that’s mentioned the last is the most recent. In this case, Canon’s 750D is the latest camera in their league of 3-digit DSLR cameras. Please continue reading for updates on cameras launched after the 750D)
Canon 70D / 80D
Canon 7D Mark II * The 7D Mark II is presently Canon’s flagship cropped sensor camera body.
September 2017 update: In 2017, Canon launched the 800D and 200D which are entry-level cameras with a significant design change (they’re smaller and lighter), have 45 autofocus points and an autofocus system that’s comparable to their professional camera bodies.
Nikon DSLR Cameras from entry-level to semi-professional cameras. Please note that when you see multiple options in a single row, for example, D5200, D5300 and D5500, the camera that’s mentioned the last is the most recent. In this case, Nikon’s D5500 is the latest camera in their 5000 series.
Nikon D500 * The 500D is presently Nikon’s flagship professional cropped sensor camera body.
Nikon users can also consider the 35 mm F 1.8.
Additional reading: 5 accessories that you must purchase along with your DSLR camera | The best SD Card for me