Choosing a DSLR camera

As frequently asked questions go, this is the most frequent when it comes to DSLR photography: Which DSLR camera should I buy? It seems like an innocuous question but the implication is that a better camera will get you better pictures. After all that seems like common sense, right? Common sense also says that you get what you pay for, right?

My recommendation is to buy the cheapest starter DSLR camera you can find from a top DSLR vendor. I am partial to Canon mostly because I own Canon gear. Canon and Nikon are the top two DSLR vendors for good reason. As of this writing the Canon EOS Rebel T2i is the latest entry level model offered by Canon which I highly recommend.

There are other more expensive cameras offered by Canon but for a beginner it is probably best to stick with the entry level model. So why go with the entry level model when there are other more expensive models?

  • The original Canon Rebel, which was a digital SLR revolution when it released, had 6.3 megapixel resolution. The Canon Rebel T2i has 18 megapixel resolution! And this is the entry level camera too. The megapixel race does not matter anymore for most of us.
  • There is some subtle difference in image quality between the entry level and the more expensive models but you will be very hard pressed to notice it.
  • The camera is only the first equipment you will need to invest in for good DSLR photography. You will also need to invest in good lenses, a flash, memory cards (SD & Compact Flash), tripods, polarizers and filters and that is just for regular non-studio photography. The money you save by buying an entry level model is much better spent on DSLR accessories.
  • As I mentioned in the previous post, the most important factor in taking good pictures is the photographer, not the camera. More expensive cameras sport additional features but for a beginner they are simply esoteric and only tend to confuse you more.

So what exactly do you get if you decide to spend more money and get a higher end camera? Let’s use Canon as an example again. The next step up from Rebel T2i is the Canon 7D. The resolution and image quality that you get from the 7D is exactly the same as the Rebel T2i. The Rebel series has a polycarbonate shell where the 7D offers a more rugged magnesium alloy body. The 7D also offers more focusing points and a higher frame rate for shooting continuos still photos. Will it matter to you as a beginner? Hardly. The size, weight and build quality are the most noticeable differences you will find. The 7D sells for roughly twice the price of Canon T2i. The 5D mark II is the next step up from the 7D and it does offer more resolution but that is not why it is so much more expensive. Where the Rebel T2i and 7D sport APS-C sized CMOS sensors with a 1.6X field of view crop factor, the 5D sports a full frame 35 mm sensor with no crop factor. There are several advantages and disadvantages in working with a full frame camera. I will explain the differences in an upcoming article. Suffice it to say that if you are a beginner you will not even appreciate the difference. While there is a slight difference in image quality and resolution, you will hardly notice it on a computer screen or regular sized prints.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record let me restate that spending more money on your DSLR will not get you better pictures. We definitely live in very interesting times where even the entry DSLR has such amazing image quality and features. In the next post I will tackle the next most common DSLR question: Which lens should I buy?