Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Which DSLR shall I buy?

"Which DSLR shall I buy" is the most common question that newbies (from no experience or non DSLR Point and Shoot experience) ask. And very often, they want a camera that:

  1. has the best IQ (Image Quality)
  2. best prowess in shooting shots in low light
  3. can handle action / sports shots with ease

Some of them read lab reviews and are totally confused after reading the reviews because the jargon and concepts mentioned are over their heads. Others revel on the minutae of numbers, throw-away remarks by reviewers and pixel peep at sample photos that reviews have taken over and over again so that cameras can be compared. The common problem these newbies have though is, they can't make up their mind. You feel real sympathy for them. Some, however, reject your sympathy. They may nominate a champion camera and start passionate and vindicative debates about how good that champion camera is against all others. Based just on reviews and reads - they haven't actually used the camera at all.

There are now so many camera models being hawked as single lens package, dual lens package with overlaps in pricing by discounting older models, replacing the kit lens with a poorer quality one or adding a cheapie lens as a bonus, it's all purposely a mess to confound the buyer.

So friend, how now? Here are my proposed answers.

  1. Do read the reviews. Not just from one site. Skim through the details if you find the jargon dizzying or tedious. Read the conclusions. Don't read between the lines too much - the reviewers are human - they have experience and wisdom as well as feet of clay.
  2. If you are like most newbies, you will have a budget. With that budget, you can eliminate several combinations immediately. If money is no object, then nominate whatever everyone says is the best and then go to the shop, hold that combination and ask yourself whether you want to carry that bulk, that amount of money on you when you shoot.
  3. With the remaining combinations, ask yourself about lenses. The camera body is one factor but really, I would want to enjoy my photography from day one, not hope that at the end of three years, I would have bought the lenses that I could afford. I really need some reasonable lenses right now, not in three years time.
  4. Choosing lenses can take you a while - size, weight, single or two to cover the zoom range, enough sharpness, bright enough to shoot indoors or whatever you want to shoot (action). Either choose lenses to buy now or make a lens buying plan and overview the total spend now and over time. One way to hit a price bracket is for either the camera maker or the camera shop to fit an excellent DSLR body with a cheapie lens that really really degrades the Image Quality of the photo. Think about that.
  5. Next, go feel the cameras and preferably with the lenses that you want, fitted. Holding the camera without the lens you want gives you false impressions. It is very important that the camera feels right in your hands. Words cannot describe how awful it is to spend good money and carry a camera that feels really bad - and this is subjective - something you can't read from reviews.
  6. After you leave the shop, think about the brand that you are buying into. In Australia, we have competitive cars from Ford, Holden (GMH), Toyota, Mitsubishi and the European makes. Yes certainly there are differences in car models but at the end of the day , I'll bet people buy the car because of the brand or brand illusion. The same with cameras. I've seen lots of conversations about features and technical merits but I am pretty sure, people buy the brand of the camera as much as the actual model. Each camera has the brand explicitly tattoed on the body - just like the Mercedes or Rolls Royce symbol.

See, proposed answers are all about you. Because the ability to take a good shot is more about YOU than the camera.

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