Beginner Photography Tip: Choosing the Best DSLR for You

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Choosing a might seem like a simple enough task on the surface. Just find one that’s priced right and go for it, right?

Wrong…

A camera is a big investment, and depending on the type of photography you wish to pursue, your needs might require vastly different features on your new camera.

That means that there should be a good deal of due diligence on your part – researching different types of cameras and their features to determine what works best for you.

This guide is intended to help you get that process started.

Let’s begin!

Buying a New DSLR: Does Brand Matter?

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One of the first questions that new photographers ask experienced photographers is “What brand of camera should I buy?”

In many ways, brand doesn’t matter at all.

Nikon and Canon – the two primary DSLR manufacturers – both make excellent cameras throughout their price range.

But where brand does actually matter a lot is in the lenses and accessories that go with the camera.

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That is, once you commit to Canon or Nikon, and you have multiple lenses and other gear to go with your camera, it’s very expensive to switch to the other brand.

Here comes the due diligence part…

If you want to be a sports photographer, for example, you need to examine the Canon and Nikon lineup of lenses and be sure that they make a fast telephoto lens that you can use to capture the action of sports from a good distance away.

If, on the other hand, you want to be a portrait photographer, you’ll want to explore what lenses both companies offer for studio and on-location portrait work.

The good news is that both Nikon and Canon have an excellent range of lenses for all manner and sort of photography pursuits, so no matter what kind of photography you want to do, you can find what you need in the Nikon or Canon ecosystem.

Megapixels Aren’t as Important as You Think

megapixels image t or figure about a camera, the number of megapixels its sensor offers seems to be what most people focus on.

The problem with that is that using megapixels as the end-all, be-all criteria for buying a camera is simply a terrible means of making your decision.

Sure, the higher the megapixel count, the higher the resolution of the images the camera will create. However, megapixels aren’t the most important factor when determining the image quality of a camera. Instead, the sensor size is more important.

The larger the sensor, the higher the image quality. That’s why professional photographers tend to shoot with full frame cameras and not smartphones.

That’s because full frame sensors are around 36x24mm in size while even the best smartphones – like the iPhone Xs Max have a sensor that’s just 5.6×4.2mm. All that extra real estate allows the camera’s sensor to collect light information to create a more detailed image.

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But since we’re talking about entry-level cameras for beginner photographers, most likely you’ll be shopping for a crop sensor camera.

A crop sensor camera, though it doesn’t have as large of a sensor as a full frame camera, still has a larger sensor than a point-and-shoot or bridge camera or your smartphone, for that matter.

The size of a crop sensor depends on the camera manufacturer, but they’re usually in the area of 1.5x or 1.6x crop factor, meaning a full frame sensor is 1.5 or 1.6x larger.

However, even with a crop sensor camera, you’ll be able to capture higher quality images, and if you look for a crop sensor camera that has a high megapixel count, those two factors will result in improved image quality over the old point-and-shoot camera or smartphone you’ve been using to this point.

Best Cameras for Beginners: Body Only or Kit?

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Many beginner photographers opt to purchase a kit – a camera body with a basic lens like a 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 that comes with it.

And that approach is certainly fine and will serve you very well as you learn photography.

However, I’m a proponent of buying a camera body by itself and then buying a couple of lenses to go with it that add improved performance over a standard kit lens.

Here’s why…

Though an 18-55mm kit lens is a great learning tool, they typically aren’t the best in terms of performance and image quality.

Instead, if I had to do it all over again, I would buy a used camera body and two used lenses to go with it – a 50mm f/1.8 and a 24-70mm f/4.

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If you buy used gear, you can end up saving a good bit of money, and in doing so, you can get more kit.

What’s great about this approach is that you can buy a little bit more capable of a camera and get a couple of really good lenses, perhaps even for the same price (or less!) than a brand new camera with kit lens.

I think everyone should have a 50mm or “nifty fifty” lens because they’re incredibly versatile and they have a very large f/1.8 aperture that makes low-light shooting easier.

I like the 24-70mm zoom option as well because it offers a range of focal lengths that run from the edge of wide-angle up to short telephoto, that way you can tackle more subject matter with one lens.

What’s more, these upgraded lenses are lenses that you can use for years and years and years. They’re capable enough to use even for professional work, so making that investment early on will only pay dividends.

Final Thoughts

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Though this isn’t a comprehensive camera buying guide for beginner photographers, it’s a good start.

As noted above, it’s important not to be seduced by megapixel count alone, and consider the size of the sensor as determining image quality.

Likewise, since the likes of Nikon and Canon have excellent DSLR cameras at varying price points, choosing a brand – at least initially – isn’t all that important. Just remember that once you commit, changing brands is very difficult (and expensive).

Finally, price is usually the primary factor for photographers when they shop for a new DSLR.

Rather than feeling the need to buy the biggest, baddest camera, do a little searching to see what cameras represent the best value. Buying used gear is a great idea in that regard.

Don’t be afraid to take a few cameras for a test drive, either. You can rent cameras for a day or two online and get a feel for their features and capabilities without being out much money.

When you’re thinking about investing hundreds of dollars in gear, spending a few bucks to rent before you buy is a great choice.

For a few more insights on how to choose a beginner DSLR, consult the video above by Beebom

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