{How To} Buy Your First DSLR


Christmas is just around the corner and with companies falling over themselves to tempt you to their wares, its a great time of year to buy a DSLR for you or someone you love.

Buy the Best Camera You Can Afford

Its easy to be swayed by the cheapest camera available.  Often DSLRs themselves provide such a major upgrade from your point and shoot that *any* dslr is better than that.  While this is very true, its also worth remembering that spending a little bit more at the outset to get a better camera is cheaper than upgrading completely when you reach the limitations of your entry level DSLR. Bear in mind that you might get a better deal when the sales start so holding out a few extra days could save you money.

Think Hard About How You Will Use Your Camera

Before you even start looking for a camera, think about how you want to use your DSLR – Mainly low light? Using for movies as well as stills? Mostly Outdoor photography?

Starting your search with a clear idea of how you want to use your camera will help you narrow your choices.  Once you have a list of features you need in your camera, a quick google will point out some of the best cameras in that area.

A great guide to buying your first (or any) DSLR from the Capturing Childhood blog

Think About Accessories

Depending on your camera, it may or may not come with a lens.  Kit lenses have a lot going for them – they are versatile, especially on crop sensor cameras indoors. However, they can cause some limitations due to their small apertures in low light.  If you have a chance to upgrade the lens, it is worth considering (we’ll be posting a guide to lenses next week).  Also, make sure you know what else you will need to buy to get your camera up and running – memory cards are rarely included.  Make sure to find out if they use a Compact Flash, memory stick or SD card.  And be sure to include that in your budget.  If you want to shoot films, you will need at least a 16gb CF card, which costs about £40.

Mirrored or Mirrorless Camera

Recently, the market has seen a rise in mirrorless DSLRs. These cameras are undoubtably smaller and lighter and have a number of advantages over mirrored DSLRs. Once again, it comes back to what you want in a camera. If you will be taking photos of fast moving objects (sporting events, children) DSLRs are a better choice as they focus better on moving objects, allow for more manual control and have very limited shutter lag.  DSLRs will also generally offer you a wider range of more affordable lenses and accessories. However, if size matters to you, go with a mirrorless, as the image quality is great without having to cart around a brick. (For a very technical look at the differences, check out Photography Life’s comparison)

Don’t Discount Used Cameras

Just like any tech, as new models come onto the market, people will want to sell off their older equipment.  You can often pick up a DSLR of an older model with higher spec than a new camera at a similar price.

If you do go down the used route (and eBay is usually the place to look), make sure that you ask about the places of known wear – the hotshoe (where the external flash will rest), the lens connections, battery connections, memory card slot and the viewfinder. If you are buying online, ensure you are seeing a photo of the actual camera and not a stock image. Also, ask about the shutter count or actuation. Digital Photography School has great info on how to find this out.

Compare Prices

Once you have decided on the model you want to buy, its important to check out a number of sites to get the best price.  Amazon is a good place to start, but note that they often do not provide the best price for high end electricals. Wex Photographic is another great place online for cameras.  Both Kat and I have bought our cameras (and a number of lenses) via Digital Rev. Based in Hong Kong, they offer excellent prices and country specific warranties (plus they cover import duty), so they usually end up being the cheapest (plus, we love their review videos). Don’t forget to check out their bundles as well, as you can often get a great deal on a lens, memory card, and extra batteries.

Want our advice on specific cameras? Feel free to ask us on our Facebook page

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