*Post Updated: Friday, December 1st, 2017
We wrote about some tips when it comes to buying a DSLR camera a while back, but things have changed and evolved a bit since then. Here’s the 2018 guide to purchasing a DSLR and 5 things you need to consider!
1) Full-Frame vs. Crop-Frame Sensors
Simply put, a full-frame sensor is larger than a crop-frame sensor by approximately 1.5 times, therefore allowing your camera to see more! The photo below, created by the Canadian Photography Learning Centre in Alberta, illustrates how much a full-frame and crop-frame sensor camera would see if both cameras were the same focal length, and location.
You can clearly see that a crop sensor camera captures a smaller image, but how much does this effect? A full-frame sensor often offers a bit more sharpness and will allow for you to capture more of your subject/landscape/background. Most professional photographers do own and use a full-frame DSLR (such as a Canon 5D MKIV), however, it is not a necessity; crop-frame sensor cameras (such as the Canon Rebel series) are now very well built and have amazing picture quality. The only major difference is how much you see through your camera.
The difference between a crop sensor and full-frame camera can be hard to tell at times. Here are a few sample shots from WayHome Music & Arts Festival, which was shot by one of our staff with a Canon T5i crop-sensor DSLR.
2) Mirrored vs. Mirrorless
Many companies have been releasing a number of mirrorless cameras over the past few years, so what is it and what’s the difference between mirrored and mirrorless? When you press down on the shutter button on a mirrored camera, you hear a click from the curtains closing and a mirror flipping to reflect the light to capture the image. Below is a video from The Slow Mo Guys showing us how the mechanics of a mirrored camera works. With advances in technology, the motion of capturing light is more digital now, not requiring as many moving parts to capture the image.
You probably already own a mirrorless camera and you didn’t even know! All cell phones use mirrorless technology to capture photos. Both mirrored and mirrorless DSLRs are fairly similar is most other aspects. From our experience and other reviews, mirrorless cameras offer a very similar level of sharpness as a mirrored camera and it is generally an easier camera to shoot with as it is lighter, and more compact. Also, mirrorless cameras have more user-friendly functions such as additional picture/colour profiles you can set, offer much better auto-focus capabilities (many mirrorless cameras offer an impressive amount of auto-focus points and speeds) and is generally amazing for videography (many have capabilities to shoot up to 4k resolution and at higher frame rates as well).
To a certain extent, your lenses are more important than your camera body! Your camera body does control the exposure (ISO) and how quickly the camera works to snap a photo (Shutter Speed), however, your lens will dictate the sharpness and overall photo quality. Think of it like contacts/glasses for your camera; the nicer it is, the better your camera can see! Lower-end lenses are typically made of plastic and are not as sharp, but with that said, make sure you do your research because there are a number of small differences between lenses! The Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM, also known as a “nifty 50”, is a great example of a budget friendly lens (under $200) that offers great picture quality. Lenses are a great investment and you’ll most likely change your camera body before needing to change your lens!
Each camera company makes their own set of lenses and there are a number of third party options that are just as good. Lenses are be categorized into 2 groups: Prime and Zoom. Prime lenses have a fixed focal point and these lenses usually offer lower apertures (to allow more light in and give you a blurrier background) and a sharper image. Zoom lenses allow you to change your focal length easily and offer a lot more flexibility. Below is a chart of the different lens types there are and what they are typically used for; each lens type will have prime and zoom options available for purchase!
|Focal Length||Lens Type||Common Subjects|
|8mm – 24mm||Ultra wide angle (fisheye)||Wide panoramas and skyscapes, artistic|
|24mm – 35mm||Wide angle||Interiors, architecture, landscapes|
|35mm – 85mm (50mm common)||Standard||General purpose|
|85mm – 135mm||Short telephoto||Portraits, candid|
|135mm – 300mm||Medium telephoto||Close sports, action|
|300mm+||Super telephoto||Far sports, wildlife, nature, astronomy|
There are a number of accessories you can get for your camera and here’s a list of a few suggestions:
- Remote Trigger (very useful for long exposure shots)
- Extra Batteries & SD Cards (always, ALWAYS bring backups; you’ll thank us later)
- Camera Bag
- Lens cover
- Camera Rain Cover (useful for all the travellers out there!)
- DSLR Camera cleaning kit
5) Test it before you buy it!
Try out different camera bodies! You won’t know which type/brand of camera fits your needs unless try it out. Most major DSLR brands are more or less the same, but there are slight differences in terms of functions, ease of use and picture quality. As a note, purchasing a brand that is more widely used could help in the long run as it will make buying, selling or even upgrading your equipment a lot easier.
Test your lenses! Testing out different lenses is very important! Every lens has its own characteristic, so make sure you head over to your nearest camera store to try a few out before making a decision. Only you will be able to tell if you like shooting with that lens or not!
If you are buying any equipment used, be sure to check for any dents and scratches! Even the smallest scratch (especially on the lens or sensor) can make that piece of gear useless. For a great place to do research and read reviews on various camera equipment, feel free to visit The Digital Photography Review.