By Dr Chan Teng Heng
Moving from Compact Camera?
You probably have a compact camera or even several cameras. However, you feel that something is missing.
You feel a need for something more "professional", some photography equipment that is faster, and gives better quality pictures.
This is when you decide that you want a DSLR. However, buying one confuses you.
This article covers the range of DSLR cameras that you can choose from, and the categories of DSLR cameras that are available.
Which DSLR Category?
Although you may be familiar with your compact camera, when you move to DSLR, the same brand of camera may not feel right with you after having read other reviews on your brand of camera.
There is no one perfect DSLR camera, since each brand of camera has its own strengths and weaknesses.
We may be able to divide DSLR categories into three simple categories: the entry level, lower cost cameras, which were intended for those who plan to move from compact camera to DSLR.
Hence, many of the camera settings have pre-set functions that allow one to take pictures in several settings, like sunset, snow, portrait, sunlight, night scenes, etc. In addition it contains settings that allow you to manually change these settings.
The entry level itself contains at least three sub-categories of entry level cameras that have increasing degrees of sophistication and speed.
There are several considerations to weigh to make a decision:
Weight and size
DSLR generally weighs more than compact cameras.
The body weight and the lens weight sometimes make owning a DSLR camera a disadvantage, especially if you need to be mobile, such as traveling.
The heaviest are the high end cameras. With a professional lens, the weight may come to about 3 kg! This is a deterrent to owning a top range camera, besides being pricey.
The mid-range cameras are not light either. With the lens, especially the telescopic lens, the mid-range DSLR may weigh up to 1.5kg, which is reasonably heavy, and is heavier if you lug around the equipment over one week during traveling.
One consideration DSLR owners have to bear in mind is whether you will need the camera during stationery usage, or if you need to move around.
DSLR cameras require additional costs to acquire lenses, lens filters, camera bags, tripod and other accessories.
All in, an experienced DSLR owner may spend about an equal amount in lens, or even three times that of a DSLR camera purchase.
In the pursuit of the perfect picture, one can literally spend thousands of dollars more on DSLR accessories.
Functionality and Image Quality
We may wonder why photojournalists or professional photographers buy such expensive, "oversized" and heavy equipment.
The reasons are related to the functionality of the camera, where one can have more manual control over the settings in order to capture the best images.
For the less experienced camera person, there are also factory settings for various environment and lighting.
Today, DSLR cameras have what is known as "Live View", the same view you get from the compact cameras.
With histogram showing the right lighting, and with level meters, the more expensive DSLR cameras save you work in reducing image processing on the computer.
Hence, understanding what functions you need and you want is important.
However, for the "beginner-stage" DSLR users, they may not know what they need until they have more experience.
Insistence on good quality pictures have therefore led many hobbyists to buy the full frame cameras (Canon 5D, Nikon D700).
Those who prefer outdoor picture taking may want to go for the weather proof Olympus E3, which although not full frame, is resistant to incremental and wet weather.
Hence, deciding on the right DSLR camera takes some homework, to review equipment, and understanding enough so that you may what type of equipment is right for your needs.
Does Megapixel count?
DSLR cameras that have been recently launched have more than 10 megapixels: 12 megapixels and 14 megapixels cameras are increasingly becoming common.
However, pixel size may not mean sharper pictures. Therefore reviews of cameras are important for purchasing decisions.
Owning a DSLR means you must be prepared to set aside additional sums of money for accessories, to acquire the better lens, filter and accessories to give you the picture you require.
While generally DSLRs give better picture images, I have also seen very high quality pictures taken by compact cameras, because the photographer has the right settings for the right environment. For DSLR ownership, we therefore recommend the following:
i) Conduct extensive research on the DSLR you wish to purchase. Ask your friends who are more experienced for their advice.
ii) Re-examine your reason for owning the DSLR. What is the purpose? What type of pictures do you like? (scenery, sports, portraits, general purpose, or for travel?)
iii) Try out the DSLR in show rooms, in camera group meetings. Learn from photography forum participants
iv) Purchase a second hand DSLR as a low-entry, lower-risk way of learning about photography and DSLR. Remember that DSLR cameras depreciate very fast, but good lenses have more value in the long run
v) Make the purchase that you want.
Good luck in your first DSLR purchase.
Dr Chan Teng Heng
A Biz Professor who likes all things digital and electronics