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WHAT IS THE BEST ENTRY LEVEL DSLR FOR ME?


WHAT IS THE BEST ENTRY LEVEL DSLR FOR ME?

by: Hoan K. Trinh

December 30, 2011

Image

My first DSLR, a Nikon D40.  Quite a few of the photos on

my website below was taken on this very camera.

 http://hktphotography.zenfolio.com/

WHAT IS THE BEST ENTRY LEVEL DSLR?

So, you have decided that your photographic needs had exceeded the capability of your IPhone or point and shoot camera and will require the purchase of a DSLR camera.  It could be that there is a new baby in the house and you want capture to those first moments in a more meaningful way.  You can be that world traveler who wants to have photographic proofs as well as memories of all the places that you have been too.  Or you can be like me who was just very interested in photography and took photo of everything that move or do not move and was getting sick of using a point and shoot camera.

To simply put it, different people have different photographic requirements and there are a variety of DSLRs out there to serve all needs.  A photo enthusiast who likes to mess with his or her camera settings will have different preferences from someone who is just as happy putting their camera on “automatic” and fire away.  As with any big purchase, you also should know how much use you are going to get out of it to make it worth the investment.  Thus, it is important to know how much you really love photography and decide how often you are actually going to pick up your camera once you purchased it.  There is no point in buying the best of the best if you are only going to touch the camera once a month, rest assured that the lack of practice will surely outweigh any advantages given by the top of the line models.  I have seen a lot of DSLRs sitting on the shelves with very little use, in those cases, any particular DSLR model would have suffice.  A nice point and shoot and little photography course at the local community college will probably get you better results and probably make an overall better investment.

Before I actually go into details with my recommendations of which DSLR to get based on a particular use, I must say that no DSLR, and I mean none….absolutely none of the DSLRs of any grade will have a significant impact on the quality of your photos.  If you put your DSLR on automatic, they will look very similar across the board regardless of the camera.  So with that out of the way, no one will have to worry about getting a “bad” DSLR, they are ALL capable of producing stunning images in the right hands.

FAMILY AND BABIES SHOOTER

Now, for those who decided that they are getting a DSLR simply because they just wanted to capture picture of their kids and haven’t really give much thought about photography otherwise.  Well, you have easiest choice, just get the cheapest camera from any brand; they are all good enough.   If you really want to save money, just get a used DSLR from previous generation such as the Nikon D40, D80,  D3000, Nikon D3100 or the Canon T3i, T2i, T1i, XS  or Olympus E420E520 or Pentax K10D or K20D.  All of these cameras offer very user friendly controls and does not required any particular level of photographic experience to use.  Also, they are fairly cheap, when buy used, the prices of these older generation DSLRs are quite often cheaper than the new high end point and shoot camera.  Olympus and Pentax tend to be considered good values for their entry level and mid-leveled DSLRs so it is worth taking a look at what they have to offer. While I stated that any DSLR would do for someone who simply wants to capture images of their new family member, keep in mind that the two biggest companies in the DSLR market, Nikon and Canon, have the biggest selection of lenses and cameras should you want to upgrade to more professional models at a later date.

Notice I have yet to say a word about megapixel?  For 99% of the application out there, especially for baby pictures, megapixel does not matter.  Anything with 6 megapixel and above is quite sufficient.  I have made 20×30 in print from a 6 megapixel file and it looks great!

TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY 

For those photographers who do not particularly care about camera setting, however, love to take photographs of places that you have been to, your choice of camera is not particular tough either as all cameras are not drastically different when they are in the automatic setting.  If your travel a lot, it is important that you take into account size and durability of the camera.   While I am no expert on Olympus and Pentax, their brands are known to be overly built for their prices.  Since Olympus does use a slightly smaller image sensor which mean that Olympus cameras are often more compact than the rest which might be an important advantage for those who travel a lot.   It is also important to note that Sony’s NEX and Olympus’ Pen series of camera provide excellent image quality in a very small package making such a system quite convenient for traveling.   The ergonomic of shooting from such a small set up such as the Sony’s NEX and Olympus’s PEN series might not be up to the task for professional use, however, they should make be perfectly fine for traveling where the emphasis is not on the actual photography.

PHOTOGRAPHY ENTHUSIASTS

For those photographers who has been practicing their photography for years on a point and shoot camera and your creativity is being limited by your equipment, well, your choice of DSLR need to be thoroughly research as different DSLRs have different strengths and weaknesses.  I have stated above that any camera put in automatic mode will render similar results, but for those who like to play around with their camera settings, they would certainly appreciate the minute differences between the various cameras.  Buying a DSLR is not about the DSLR itself but you are buying into the whole system of lenses and flashes.  Therefore you really need to consider the lenses as well as other accessories offer by the various company before making your purchase.  It is common knowledge in the industry that Canon and Nikon have the widest selection of lenses as well as camera bodies which make upgrading fairly easy as you progress with your photography skills.  That is not to say that other camera companies do not make good cameras, however, their choices of cameras and lenses are more limited and if you ever want to upgrade to more professional equipment (aka $3-5,000 camera bodies), Olympus and Pentax simply do not have any at the moment.

Since the photographers in this category have a wide array of requirements and preferences, I can only give general recommendations based on my own experiences.  First, I am a Nikon shooter but I have use Canon (borrowed) before also, however, it is fair to say that I am Nikon biased. Generally speaking, if your interest in photography involved more studio or landscape work, Canon is probably a better choice given the megapixel intensive nature of their cameras.  The entry level Canon T3i offer 18 megapixel which is more than anything Nikon has to offer, even though that advantage is waning with recent introduction of the Nikon D5100.  Having such a large amount of megapixel will cost the T3i its high ISO low light performance, however, that would not be an issue with studio or landscape work.   Landscape photographer could always use the extra megapixel for their enlarge prints.   If you are more a candid, sport, or portrait photographer than I would argue that Nikon is the way to go due to the ergonomic of their cameras, even the entry level ones.  By ergonomic, I mean that the positions of the buttons on Nikon cameras allow you to change your settings much more quickly, giving you a better chance to capture those fleeing moments in photography.  For examples, on Nikon camera, the speed dial use to control the camera shutter speed is controlled by the thumb, which allows you to change your shutter setting without taking your index finger of your shutter button.  Such a feat cannot be done on the Canon T3i since the speed dial is control by the index finger.  The ISO button on the Canon T3i is also misplaced making changing the ISO a clumsy two hands, camera off your eyes affair.  Even on my old entry level Nikon D40, I could change my shutter, aperture, and ISO without ever taking my camera off my face.  While I found the Nikon ergonomic better for me and my style of shooting, it is purely my preference, and for those photo enthusiasts looking for their first DSLR, you really need to go to the local camera store and pick up various cameras to see how they feel in your hands and if you can be comfortable with the controls before making the purchase.

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