8 Tips Before You Buy Your First Digital SLR Camera

8 tips selecting first dslr

Digital SLR (DSLR) camera is now at a price point that is attractive to people looking for an upgrade from point and shoot (P&S) camera. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax all have quality entry level DSLRs that promised great pictures. But high quality image does not come automatically with a higher-end gear. The following are 8 pointers for P&S owners looking to pick up their first DSLR.

### 1. DSLR advantages

The promise of high quality photos and the ability for creative images are the main advantage of DSLR. This is possible due to:

* DSLR allows manual control to override the automatic mode of the camera. You will have full control of how you want the exposure of your pictures, giving you creative options. Granted, a few high-end P&S compacts such as Panasonic Lumix LX3 or Canon G10 also provide such features.

* DSLR has more advanced electronics, making it easier or possible to capture fast motion pictures such as sports or birds-in-flight.

* DSLR has better high ISO performance due to its sensor. You can have acceptable images even for ISO as high as 1600. This allows for low light shooting or where exposure requires high shutter speed. Newer advanced compact such as Sony WX1 is trying to catch up by employing newer CMOS sensor design.

* DSLR provides easier control for depth-of-field (DOP) due to its larger sensor. Shallow DOP allows you to have the subject in sharp focus with a blurry background, giving highlight and contrast to subject matter.

* DSLR provides optional RAW image file meant for post processing. Post processing is akin to the darkroom in film photography, allowing you to correct, adjust or applying effect to your images. A number of advanced P&S models allow for RAW images as well.

* Lens in DSLR is interchangeable, and you have the options for high quality pro level lens which will improve the image quality of your photos.

### 2. DSLR disadvantages

* DSLR is more expensive even for the entry-level camera body and kit lens. And buying additional lens for your camera can be pricey investments. Good lens can easily cost higher than your entry-level camera body.

* DSLR is bigger and heavier. There are entry level DSLR that are rather compact such as Olympus E-620 or Canon 1000D, but it is still bulkier compared to typical P&S cameras. And lens add to the weight.

* DSLR is designed to take pictures using the optical viewfinder, and not LCD screen. Most modern DSLR comes with a Live View feature whereby you can use the LCD for picture composition, but it is meant to be supplementary and not replacement for the optical viewfinder. On some camera models, the camera can not auto-focus while in Live View mode. Pro photographer uses the viewfinder most of the time for composition, and LCD Live View is for specific applications such as studio shots, macro shots and videos.

* DSLR has more learning curve. You definitely can use DSLR as a point & shoot camera, but there are learning curve if you want the full potential. You need to lean about aperture, shutter speed and iso relationship for exposure; understand the metering of your camera; and learn about digital darkroom for post processing your images.

### 3. DSLR does not automatically produce better photos

Some first timer DSLR shooters are surprised to find that the pictures from their DSLR has ‘poorer’ quality and looks bland compared with their P&S camera. This could be due to one of the following reasons:

* You have not learn the functions of your DSLR. For example you might set the shutter speed to slow thus capturing blurry images while handheld; or you might set too high an ISO for a cleaner image.

* Most P&S cameras apply in-camera processing to produce an image that is punchy. Most DSLR however seems to be conservative with in-camera processing, leaving the post processing choices to the users. Some DSLR model will allow you to choose the in-camera processing settings for the JPG output.

Recent advanced P&S models are capable of producing image quality rivals those of entry-level DSLR, even in its full auto mode.

### 4. It is not about the gears

All entry-level DSLR with its kit lens on the market today can produce high quality images. There are learning curve to properly use a DSLR. You have not learned about the new tool if you can not get good images out of your DSLR. Buying better lens and better camera body will not help you to become better photographer. Dip into DSLR only if you have interest to learn about photography.

### 5. Get used to post processing & RAW

We recommend you learn about post processing and working with RAW file to get the max out of your DSLR. RAW file captures the data of the camera sensor, where else JPG is a processed image of the sensor data. Post processing a RAW file will give you more leeway compared with post processing a JPG file since there are more data to work with in RAW file. Your DSLR will come with bundled software for you to process the RAW file.

An alternative way is to let your DSLR output both RAW and JPG files together. And you reach out to the RAW files only for those images you need to correct.

### 6. I want video

We do not recommend you to place video an important feature when selecting a DSLR as it is not yet a mature technology as of this writing. Video in DSLR first appeared in 2008 and current implementation in entry level DSLR has a lot to improve to make it a viable alternative to camcorder.

### 7. Is brand of camera important?

Selecting a product brand is important when choosing a DSLR, as you are buying into the camera systems. The additional lens, flash and accessories you purchase in future needs to be compatible with the camera make.

Check the selection of available lens, and if there is a range of lens priced with consumers in mind. You might be surprised how expensive some professional lens could be.

### 8. Photography sites and books:

* [Dpreview](http://www.dpreview.com/)

* [photo.net](http://photo.net/)

* [Understanding Exposure by Brayn Peterson](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0817463003?ie=UTF8&tag=0289-01-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=1789&creativeASIN=0817463003)

* [Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Volume 1 & 2](http://www.amazon.com/Scott-Kelbys-Digital-Photography-Volumes/dp/0321604032/ref=pd_cp_b_3&tag=0289-01-20)