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Buying Your First DSLR Camera
TweetPosted in Articles on 08/3/2017 (updated on 04/11/2018)
When it comes to purchasing your first DSLR you’ll most likely come into contact with a huge range of camera bodies, lenses and accessories that can ultimately all end up looking the same - especially to the untrained eye.
Coupled with multiple brands, model numbers and specs, buying a DSLR may be an overwhelming experience to an entry-level consumer. With that in mind, PB Tech has compiled a beginner’s guide to buying a DSLR: covering cameras for all skill levels, what to look for in a camera if you’re just starting out, the right camera and lens models for different photograph subjects and some tips for established photographers looking to advance their tools and skill levels.
The best place to start when figuring out what camera to buy is to look at what skill level you believe you are when it comes to photography (a beginner, enthusiast or professional) and go from there.
Now, let’s break down the features of some of these cameras without getting too technical and see what might suit you best.
The perfect first serious camera, these aren't too expensive and will provide everything you need to get to know a DSLR and learn the ropes of shooting with these camera bodies. Reliable, pretty sturdy, and able to shoot with automated features that will assist in capturing high-quality images, so there’s no need to get overwhelmed with setting up your aperture and shutter speed on manual mode.
Looking specifically at the Canon 1300D also comes with a Creative Auto mode that operates exactly as regular Auto mode, except you control the extent of background blur you’d like behind your subject by adjusting a virtual slider. This is an awesome feature for beginners to get an understanding of how aperture and focal blur affects subject matter. Of course, if you’re feeling confident, you can also shoot on manual mode once you’ve mastered auto and are ready to adjust setting and functions yourself. The main menu is clear and easy to navigate with a decent LCD display screen, and you can also shoot video along with still images.
Image Credit: Jad Warde @ Flickr
The Canon EOS 750D is a great all-rounder camera for a keen beginner photographer with plans to advance to enthusiast level in the future. The camera has both manual and auto modes, as well as pre-set auto modes for Kids, Food, Candlelight, Night Portrait, Handheld Night Scene, Sports, Close-up, Landscape and Portrait. This would be a great camera for beginners wanting to shoot close-up photography such as portraits and still-life, or capture the day-to-day life around them as it unfolds.
In manual mode the 750D allows you to simultaneously adjust aperture and shutter speed, contains an autofocus system great for switching subject matter, an ISO button, and an option to turn the LCD screen on and off to your liking.
Image Credit: Jacqueline… @ Flickr
A bridge camera (baby of both an SLR and point-and-shoot), the Nikon Coolpix 900 is great for photographers that are a little daunted by the tech and specs of a DSLR, or a model to consider if you’re shopping for a younger person interested in photography and DSLRs but you don’t want to break the bank. With a body styled like a DSLR model, the hybrid produces outstanding image quality far superior to an average camera phone. The Dynamic Fine Zoom feature is one to note, with great focal length and ease of ability to find and relocate moving subject matter should it escape from the frame. The mode dial allows you to choose from a variety of automatic & manual modes, as well as space for you to save custom settings for ease-of-access. Topped off with built-in WiFi to instantly send photographs to your smartphone, the ability to record FULL HD 1080p videos and a swivelling LCD display, the Coolpix P900 is a fantastic entry-level camera to learn the basics of DSLR photography on.
Image Credit: Gladison Verzeletti @ Flickr
The D3000 range of cameras have been known across the photography community as some of the best entry-level cameras from Nikon, their tagline being a charming “Welcome to photography”.
These cameras are built for beginners with this specific Nikon D3400 DSLR model being one of the greatest in this range. Its body is smaller than standard with a chunky grip to make ease of the shooting process. Like most entry-level cameras, the D3400 dial contains the classic Guide Mode to help you identify shots to teach beginners what settings work best with different subject matter and scenes, as well as your standard advanced modes: Manual, Aperture and Shutter-priority for when you’re feeling more at ease with the camera. 10 different filters are available for both Full HD 1080p video and still image capture. The ‘i’ button on the back of the camera allows you to bypass the menu and go straight to changing key settings to suit your preferences, and the model houses a through-the-lens optical viewfinder as well as two Auto-Focus modes. The icing on the cake with D3000 range is the lens kit bundle these cameras more often than not come in, so there’s no need to pay additional for a lens to start with.
Photo Credit: Sample Image @ Nikon.com
The Nikon D5600 DSLR is a mid-range model for an entry-level or keen beginner that allows ease of use straight out of the box. With various Auto modes you can leave things up to the camera and immediately start taking great photos and videos without the learning curve – however as your skills develop, the D5600 offers plenty of room to grow with advanced modes such as Program, Manual, Aperture or Shutter Priority.
Adjusting exposure is easier than ever with a compensation button, paired with spinning of the control wheel, to help those learning get a feel of how exposure affects an image. With built-in SnapBridge technology you can use your smartphone as a camera remote to compose and snap portraits from a distance and instantly transfer photographs to a compatible phone or tablet for fast, easy sharing.
Image Credit: Wenmei Hill @ DPreview
Compact and discreet, the Canon M5 Mirrorless Camera is as good a vlogging camera as it is a mirrorless camera. While not technically a DSLR, we’ve grouped this camera into our guide for enthusiasts interested in both videography and photography. Great for travelling with its portable design and built to take high-quality photographs and video, the M5 is perfect for those wanting to film their precious moments as well as snap them. The touch-sensitive screen takes up most of the rear to help you capture HD footage and stills and is able to be tilted up, down and even face the front of the camera (great for selfies and group-shots!) Keys on the rotatable scrolling pad are customisable to suit your function preferences and ease-of access. The M5 is built with its own premium EOS-M lens mount, but photographers wanting to try out the large range of Canon lenses can rest assured – you can buy an optional mount adapter which allows you to use the full range of lenses available. The M5 is a great choice for the camera enthusiast who also loves to film life around them.
Image Credit: Barney Britton @ DPreview
80D – Perfect for enthusiasts, the 80D is a fast and capable all-rounder DSLR offering a variety of features and setting to keep you snapping for hours. With a sharp LCD screen that trumps most of Canon’s entry-level DSLR screens, the 80D also features a touchscreen, built-in pop-up flash, and all the regular Auto shooting modes for beginners and amateurs. For the enthusiast cracking down on mastering Manual Mode, the camera contains Canon’s more advanced operating system called the ‘Creative Zone’ which includes aperture, shutter priority and full manual mode. In its consumer-friendly fashion, the 80D offers 10 creative filters for Live Mode including Miniature (a tilt-shift effect), Toy camera (a vignette effect), Vivid, Soft, Black & White and more. For those who love capturing film, the 80D also boasts a basic in-camera movie editing feature that you can use on the LCD screen.
Image Credit: Alan Hopps @ Flickr
6D – The smallest and lightest full-frame Canon DSLR currently on the market, the 6D brings professional features in a more portable format perfect for travellers or life on the go. Boasting two LCD screens, among many features they contain a Quick Control option geared towards those still learning the ropes of tripod work, awesome VGA resolution, and the top screen houses the 6D’s main camera settings so the rear screen isn’t cluttered. The camera’s full-frame shooting experience is perfect for capturing wildlife, travel, and landscape and portrait photography. Semi-automatic and full manual modes mean this camera is geared more towards serious enthusiasts or semi-pros who already know the ropes of DSLR photography – making it a great ‘step-up’ camera once you’ve mastered entry-level models and want a challenge. The 6D has a huge ISO range, three Auto-focus modes, six pre-set options and ISO display within the viewfinder allowing you to adjust accordingly as you line up a shot. With built-in WiFi connectivity, dust-removing tech and GPS data tagging, the 6D is a great step-up camera for those advancing their photography skills.
Image Credit: Jean-Paul Mission @ Flickr
D610 – A full-frame DSLR capturing 100% frame coverage with a burst sequence of 6 frames p/s, the D610 is great for enthusiasts looking to go pro in the near future. With a solid body layout similar to that of previous Nikon makes (that will feel familiar in the hands of photographers who have previously shot on this brand), the D610 has a built-in flash, exceptional low-light performance and ISO ranging from 100-6400. Great for shooting people, landscapes and close-ups, the camera is built with Nikon’s intelligent Scene Recognition System with 3D Color Matrix Metering II. Its 2,016 pixel RGB sensor evaluates every scene you point it at, taking into account brightness, contrast, subject distance and the scene colors, all within the time it takes to press the shutter release button. Whether you’re looking to take stunning still-image shots or capture beautiful Full HD video footage, the D610 is an exceptional step-up in performance and great for the budding enthusiast photographer.
Image Credit: Erwan Le Roux @ Flickr
5D Mark IV – The latest and greatest from Canon, the 5D Mark IV carries the powerful 5D legacy as being one of the best – if not the best – DSLR camera on the market. A fast and rugged all-rounder camera found in every professional photographer’s kit, the Mark IV boasts flagship technology to capture the highest image quality possible with a 30.4 MP full-frame sensor and 4k video, an ISO range of 100-32000 in the body alone and the ability to shoot up to 7 frames per second. A swift autofocus feature, coupled with increased light sensitivity and duo screens helps you capture moments. The Mark IV is perfect for wedding and portrait photographers, nature and landscape shooters, as well as creative videographers and budding filmmakers.
Image Credit: Kevin Arthur Niode @ Flickr
A flagship DX-format camera, the Nikon D500 DSLR is a manual-only DSLR with just 4 shooting modes: Program, Aperture, Shutter and Manual. This camera model is recommended for professionals who know cameras like the back of their hand and have no need to rely on automatic modes. From busy, low-light cityscapes to thrilling wildlife scenes and fast action shots, the D500 is a professional all-rounder with a whopping rate of 10 frames p/s in continuous shooting. Small but powerful, the D500 can easily be taken on-the-go or set up outside on a tripod with a durable, rugged build perfect for outdoor photography. A 3.2 inch touch screen makes it easy to get shots from all angles and a native ISO range of 100-51,200 the D500 gives you the ability to capture beautiful images no matter what time of day you’re snapping in – and SnapBridge WiFi compatibility lets you share images anytime, anywhere, anyplace from your smart device.
Image Credit: Richard Butler @ DPreview
Hopefully this guide has shed some light on the different camera models available for different skill levels and the features of each model.
Once you have purchased your camera and have gained some experience shooting great photos, you might be interested in added additional lenses - be sure to check out our DSLR Lens Buying Guide at PB Tech if you're looking for information on this topic.
And in case anyone is curious, Digital Single Lens Reflex refers to a digital camera which has a movable mirror behind the lens, when you take a photo this little mirror flicks up to allow the sensor to capture your glorious image.
We'll continue to update this article with new information, keep your eyes on our PB Tech Tips and News for the latest!