View Full Version : How to choose the right DSLR?

08-03-2011, 12:07am

I am looking to buy my first DSLR camera. Previously I've only ever used a Canon Point and Shoot camera. I'm feeling a little daunted by all the information on this site (in the New to Autophotography section etc). What is the best way to figure out the best camera for you? I'm scared of going into a camera shop and getting talked into something and wasting money.

I want something versatile, my preference is for landscapes, moving objects (I have young nieces and nephews) and macro shots. My budget is between $1500-2000.

Also what other kit do I really need - I know I need a proper lens (recommendations welcome) and a camera bag - is that it?


08-03-2011, 1:44am
For what its worth stear clear of those shops that sell everything from HiFi to Bedroom settings [you know the ones I mean].
The real photographic outlets employ 'photographers'; and they all started off knowing little or nothing, so dont be afraid to call in and ask questions.
Providing they aren't flat out with lots of customers, they are normally only to willing to let you try different cameras.
Give them an idea of what you want to spend and what you want to photograph.
Depending on which brand you choose your budget should provide you with a good starter kit, i.e. body and lens.
The more popular brands seem to be Nikon and Canon, thats not to say the others arent worth considering.
Happy shopping.

08-03-2011, 5:22am
There is no 'right' DSLR, it hasn't been manufactured yet! All DSLR in each category (consumer, semi-pro and Pro level models) do the same things, they function in fairly much the same way (different buttons, menu's etc across brands), but if you compare technical specs across the brands in around the same price brackets, you will find they are mostly on par with each other.

Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax and Olympus are probably your five main choices, which you choose is really just personal, not something others can advise as a definative answer, all are good, all offer good lenses, all take good photos.

There are pro's and con's for each, but most arguments about which brand end up coming down to people telling you the brand they have is the best, when there is really no justification for that, other than personal choice. In the past some brands were better for some genre, because they had a better lens line-up for specific shoots., but that gap has narrowed and could be deemed almost non-existant now.

The one thing that could be considered is ergonomics, some camera brands will feel better in your hands than others, when you hold one, the button locations etc 'feel right', and as most brands keep a similar ergonomic design an layout across their model range, it is worth getting a hold of the different camera's on offer, in your price range, and seeing if any feel good, or feel uncomfortable. This is a small part of choosing a camera brand/model, but a camera that feels 'natural' will get more use than one that feel uncomfortable.

Be asssured you really cannot make a wrong choice, cause all of the main brands are good.

08-03-2011, 6:03am
I will always recommend that you choose Nikon or Canon, just because of their domination of the market leading to online and book resources, accessories, lenses etc...I'd also buy second hand at first. A body maybe two years old, eg a nikon d90, a tamron 28-75 would do nicely for all those subjects. A bag, a tripod, and if you ave change a sb-800 flash.

08-03-2011, 2:48pm
Thanks very much for your help!

08-03-2011, 3:38pm
Of course if you want to "future-proof" your purchase with a budget like that you can't go past the Pentax K-5 because it has the best performing sensor of any of the major brands currently on the market. That would be my choice if I had your budget, even though I agree with some of what kiwi has suggested. Mind you, if you buy the Pentax you're sure to have more left over than a competitive Canon or Nikon which means better glass, accessories, etc. :p

08-03-2011, 4:13pm
A lot of the responses you'll get here are of the Holden v Ford type.

Really the choice, as rick said, is down to personal preference.

Certainly Nikon & Canon have the largest share of the market and up until about 12 months ago there was a bit of a gap between those 2 and Sony, Pentax Olympus in the ancillary/accessory markets.

Whilst I can't speak for Pentax or Olympus, that gap has basically disappeared for Sony which is the brand that suited me the best ( and I'd guess for at least Pentax as well).

I notice in another thread you referenced something your Husband had purchased for you, so I guess your of the female persuasion.

This probably suggests that the ergonomics that Rick referred to is more likely to be important than for those of us with big mitts.

Go to a reputable Camera store and try them, see how they feel in your hand, and how easy it will be to reach the relevant buttons. As you gain experience you'll start to "touch type" generally with just the right hand

11-03-2011, 3:09pm
Budgeting in a good, dedicated external flash unit is a wise move.
You'll be surprised by how often you will use it, and how good it will make your indoor photographs look.

All the major brands are very good, and in SLR's, there aren't many, if any, bad cameras, so the advise of seeing what feels good to you is the most important thing.
Because, once you start with one brand, it gets expensive to change brands later on.

11-03-2011, 7:54pm
Do you want to catch up for some local help?? If so send me a PM message and I can go with you to a couple of good shops in Perth, you should hold and feel them, don't go by brand (Except buy CANON) only joking, There are some great shops in Perth and some very average ones. If your around the Mandurah way, give Stu Symmonds for Quality Camera Sales a call, ((Look under site sponsors tab above)) he's in Mandurah area, top bloke, great gear Canon and Nikon. (don't buy Nikon)

But go for what feels right in your hands not your pocket do to speak. Do you want video, FPS, what will be it's main use ??? Blah Blah Blah.

Some good info above, but yes Canon and Nikon would be the pick + may-be Pentax, but the third party market favours the CANNIK market heavily.

Have Fun.

Good budget you've got to get started.

12-03-2011, 11:40am
Yeah, I'd go with WhoDo's recommendation.

K-5... and add to that a Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6(Landscapes) a Tamron 28-75/2.8(for the kiddies images) and any macro lens as you require. Tamron does some OK close up images, and does well from f/4 and smaller in such use, but is not Macro.

Good macro lenses can be had for very good prices, if you are open to secondhand goods(Tamron 90/2.8 is a classsic).

I'm not too sure on the exact prices of the cameras, but a D7000 could easily be substitued for the K-5. In the long run, I don't think it makes a lot of difference, they're both very good.. I think the K-5 has a few advantages in features over the D7000 tho. According to the Grey market prices, the D7000 seems to be about $200-300 cheaper than the K-5.

13-03-2011, 12:18pm
Hi there!

This was exactly the issue that I went through when trying to decide. There are SO many aspects you could consider, right down the Megapixel size, ISO range, etc etc. In the end, you will do your head in trying to compare.

I agree that the most important thing is that you love your camera, and that you want to use it every day. Therefore to me, the most important criterion is that the camera you choose fits nicely in your hands and that you like the controls and the menu system. True, Canon and Nikon are the most popular and probably the best, but you can take fantastic photos with pretty much all cameras.

But ergonomics, menu system, and button controls will determine how much you enjoy picking your camera up and going out for a day of shooting.

It's a good place to start anyway.

As for lenses, it depends on your needs but an 18-200mm lens is the most versatile way to start. You'll barely need to change lenses, until you start wanting to be more creative and 'precise' with your images.

Hope this helps.


15-03-2011, 8:36am
This is a great thread.

I am very new to photography and have heard that Canon and Nikkon are the best cameras, but when you are new to it all you want to make sure that you are spending your money on something that is worth it and will still be good when you start to get better. Thanks to all who have posted such good info on buying your first DSLR.
[edited to fix typo]

15-03-2011, 8:58am
Go into a large camera store and try out all the cameras you have in mind. See which ones feel best for you. Read lots and lots of reviews online. They will point out strengths and weaknesses in all models. After you narrow it down to one or two, ask here again about personal experience. I'm sure we members have just about all makes and models covered. Boest of luck.

15-03-2011, 9:17am
This is a great thread.

I am very new to photography and have heard that Canon and Nikkon are the best cameras, but when you are new to it all you want to make sure that you are spending your money on something that is worth it and will still be good when you start to get better. Thanks to all who have posted such good info on buying your first DSLR.
[edited to fix typo]

Just to clarofy this, all DSLR's these days from Pentax, Sony, Oly, Nikon, Canon etc are all about as good as each other feature for feature for each price point

I recommend Canon or Nikon as overall though they dominate the market, so, there will be more like photographers, many more resources, gadgets, lens choices, etc etc etc, not becuase in itself the bodies are better, that's only part part of the overall system equation.

31-03-2011, 12:10am
And to to top it off, join a club; there are lots of them here in the West....;)

01-04-2011, 4:40pm
I'd say Pentax K7 or K5, they're small with good features.
Canon/Nikon small ones are toys, you can't get features til u get the big ones.
I'm assuming u don't have giant American hands.

As for which one is right for you, unfortunately you usually only find out AFTER you invest a little into it, unless u have a friend who can tell u the true differences. It's really hard, cuz there are 'limitations' of certain brands that you would NEVER know until you hit it 3yrs down the track, or there's stuff you thought couldn't be done but u find out actually half the brands can while the rest can't. eg there's a lot of limitations in wireless flash, but you're not going to know whether that's important to you at all for probably a few years!

02-04-2011, 8:17am
I agree with many of the points above, Canon, Nikon are the market leaders with a wide variety of lens and accessories. The newer Pentax's also look to be very good. Don't know much about the Sony's but they don't seem to rate as well as the other three. Any of the Canon or Nikon camera's produced int he past 3 years will be very good. All models these day's have a high ISO range with good noise control (Nikon a little better than Canon here) and high megapixel resolution which is handy for cropping (Canon better than Nikon here). Have a look at models in the store. I chose a second hard mid-range Canon a dew years ago (40D) which was quite cheap at the time. Things I found important were the ease of camera controls, robust camera and high frames per second shooting.

In terms of lens', if you are taking pics of children, you will often find yourself inside with lower light levels. I would choose a wide to medium zoom and low constant aperture. The Tamron 18-55 F2.8 is a very nice mid range lens that I used a lot with my kids. It has a sufficiently wide aperture (F2.8) which combines well with bumping the ISO a bit in low light. The Canon nifty fifty F1.8 is a very cheap lens and not as wide - but it produces some superb images in low light. Outside, as McMahong suggested an 18-200mm lens is very versatile in higher light levels. For macro, the Tamron 90mm is a great lens.

03-04-2011, 12:06am
My advise is to find comparable cameras in your price range. Take a note of the makes/models and go into a store and have a play with each one, see how it feels in your hands. I'm a Nikon girl because Nikon is what felt good in my hands. Once you know what body you want, have a look at lenses and do your research on the kit lenses, as you may decide to buy body only and then your choice of a better lens

03-04-2011, 4:50am
Another way to do it is to search on Flickr pictures taken with the camera of your choice and the lens of your choice and compare the results there... But i also cannot agree more that is it important to go to the shop and have a feel. I see you're in WA... if you are in Perth metro, Camera Electronics is pretty helpful when it comes to customers as they are quite knowledgeable. Camera solutions in the City is also helpful. Other than that, i have not found others were as helpful.
My first camera was a Canon 400D and while hunting for my first DSLR, i did not have the advice that you now have because i hadn't stumble upon this forum... and i didn't have friends who were into photography... so i simply bought the camera based on recency.
But the 400D felt like a toy camera in my hands... so after 2 years.. i decided to start from the very beginning... and with the same advice as you are given now... i have swapped over to the Nikon D200 and have not looked back since.
So really, will you come over to the dark side? kekeke...
My camera body is second hand... Camera electronics do sell second hand camera gear... if you want to go have a look and need some moral support... let me know... i could come with you ... just drop me a PM...
Good luck!