DSLR 101 Buying Guide: What to Look For

DSLR 101 Buying Guide: What to Look For

Every year, camera companies launch new, bigger, better models with more bells and whistles.

Some are good, some are gimmicks and others are just plain garbage. Don’t get caught up in the fever.

DSLR 101 Buying Guide: What to Look For

The most important thing to look for when buying a DSLR camera, or buying one for a family member (Christmas is coming) is knowing how the user intends to do with it.

I bought my most recent DSLR camera in 2011. I was still with the newspaper, doing a lot of freelance photography work (action sports for parents to have printed, tournaments, events) on the side and wanted the best camera I could afford.

This is the list of what I wanted: shoot full high-def video, fully manual shooting options, external flash capable, all my old lenses needed to work flawlessly with it and I wanted it to be robust and heavy. Yes. Heavy.

Needed to Re-use My Lenses

Because my old lenses had to work, I was locked into the brand. It only made sense since I had invested a lot of money in lens. There was no reason to start buying a new lens collection.

But here’s where it gets tricky. Some companies *cough* Nikon, have several series types of lens, some of which are only fully compatible with the 4-digit camera body models.

Some lenses work perfect with all the bodies. So, make sure you do your homework if you already have lenses you want to use.

Most of new-ish cameras that have been released this decade will shoot HD video so that was pretty easy to find.

Finding a camera that will shoot fully manual isn’t as easy as it sounds. A lot of the entry level models seems to be getting out of that option, instead opting for a series of pre-programmed functions instead.

Settings Options

Use the face for portraits, horizon for sunsets etc. This may be what you want, and bless you if it is. But I want to be able to manipulate my camera so I take pictures of what my eyes see, not what the camera is actually seeing.

Many great photos have been taken by deliberately under or over-exposing to darken or lighten the subjects and settings.

Having the ability to add an external flash is important to a lot of people, myself included. I love my external flash. My camera has the hot shoe option for flashes up top, but it also equipped to sit in a studio with the umbrella lights.

This is unnecessary obviously for most people but it was included by my “friends” at Nikon so I was stuck with it.

Weight can be an Issue

The weight requirement was purely psychological. I grew up with film cameras that had weight. They felt “real.” There was metal in them.

I am not a fan of the plastic-feeling new camera that feel like there is nothing in my hands at all. I also chose a model I can fit my hands around.

By comparison, my wife doesn’t like my camera because it is too big for her hands and she complains about the weight.

We need to find her a smaller, lighter, more entry-level model to suit her camera needs. But, it needs to be compatible with my lenses.

We have listed her wants and needs, compiled a budget and have a model a mind. She’s held it, tried it in the store and knows it is the right one for her.

Thankfully, the auto-lens, with the focussing motors built it, will work for her. Then, I’ll finally stop hearing “I can’t work your camera,” or “I guess I’ll just have to use my camera-phone.”

But more importantly, she will have a camera of her own. And I can help her learn to take the photos for her own posts.

Do you have any camera stories – please share them below.

Check out our Camera Series Its Not The Camera, It’s YouKnow Your Flash and How to Use It, and The Whole Picture – Composition, 

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