The 10 Best Entry-Level DSLRS
Why buy a DSLR? If you have ever taken a picture and wondered if you could have done better than the auto settings or broken a shot down to composition and light, then you are ready to take the plunge into DSLR photography. Not only do these cameras deliver a big step up in image quality from compacts and bridge cameras, they offer far more manual control. Of course, the ability to change lenses to tackle a wide variety of projects makes them far more versatile too. It’s easy to spend a lot money on a DSLR, but entry-level models can give you nearly everything a professional photographer has at his or her disposal for little more than the price of a premium compact camera. Remember, professional digital cameras were shooting 8 megapixel files only a few years ago. Now you can get a 20 or 24 megapixel camera and not break the bank. Obviously, the more features you want, the more you’ll pay, but bells and whistles is not really what photography is about, is it?
Even at this level, there is some variation, particularly at the extremes – low light or frames per second, for example. And you may want to bear in mind availability and quality of accessories and lenses. Nikon and Canon have long had good reputations when it comes to glass. Other manufacturers can compete on single lenses, but the big two offer a wide variety, particularly in the used market, and that may be a factor in how you choose the body. Again, the type of pictures you want to take could also influence your choice. Some support WiFi connectivity, which is useful for studio or fashion work, some push their FPS, making them good for sport or action. Most here are an evolution of classic SLR technology, whilst Sony are exploring other ways of catching the light.
Either way, the fact that you have downloaded this PDF means you are ready to push the boundaries of your photography. Here is a list of the key performance specs you should be thinking about…
Megapixel ratings are the number of million pixels a camera can capture in a single shot. The cameras here can all take pictures between 16 and 24 megapixels. that means files sizes between 45 and 70 megabytes if the pictures are uncompressed. Obviously, these sizes can have implications in terms of storage and editing. But it could also slow the processing down, which could mean that the camera can’t achieve a very fast burst of frames, or that it can’t sustain them for very long.
The sensor in a DLSR is the equivalent of what used to be film in a 35mm camera. The sensor is exposed to the available light when you click your shutter. It and other components capture and store this data. Because it’s the sensor that’s capturing and storing your images, this is the most important spec you’ll want to consider. The higher end D-SLRs have full frame sensors, which means that the camera will produce an image the
same size as if it were 35mm film. The entry level D-SLRs have smaller (APS-C) sensors, which means that there is a crop factor. However, APS-C sensors are significantly larger than what’s available in a normal point-and-shoot camera. While smaller sensors struggle with capturing enough light, larger sensors are able to accommodate lower light situations. this in turn allows more flexibility in shooting and gives better control over depth of field.
Crop factor refers to how a Full-frame lens is magnified when attached to APS-C-based cameras. For example, if you use a 28mm lens, it would be magnified (depending on the crop factor) to produce images as if they are shot on a 36-45mm lens. In other words, subjects are zoomed in a little bit more. While this isn’t such a big deal, you should be aware of it, especially if you’re a landscape photographer who takes a lot of wide images. While a good 28mm lens would look wide enough on a 35mm film or full frame camera, it might be insufficient on a DSLR with an APS-C sensor. The manufacturers produce lenses for full-frame cameras and for APS-C cameras. So it is worth checking thoroughly what sort of lens it is before you buy.
A camera’s image processor takes the image just shot and formats it into something that can be stored on the memory card. Consequently it can affect the camera’s performance in different ways. The speed of the processor will affect how quickly your camera boots up and how quickly you can shoot your frames (affecting burst speed). How it compresses your images will affect the quality of the shot when it is opened up in editing software or for printing. For example, compressing your pic into Jpegs reduces the number of colors in the re-opened image. Of course, this becomes less relevant if you’re shooting RAW images and not Jpegs. Raw images are completely unprocessed – just stored. This is great if you want to process the images yourself, later. However, uncompressed images take up a lot of memory. Generally speaking, the big companies try to improve the processor every couple of generations, as they know it is an important factor.
The term ISO is a throw back to the days of film.The huge advantage of digital is that you can change the ISO whenever you want, taking account of lighting conditions. In the days of film, the highest “usable” ISO was about 1600 and that was used for night sport. Now many DSLRs have astonishingly high ISO sensitivity settings—perhaps up to ISO 12,800 or even 25,600 and the quality is surprisingly good. The quality of the sensor will influence at what point noise will become an issue (noise is the grainy effect you see in low light images). Whilst any DSLR will handle the upper reaches of the ISO range better than a compact, or point and shoot camera, thanks to the bigger sensor, if low-light shots and fast action are important to you, a DSLR with good quality high-ISO settings is a must.
Not all “HD video” is the same. Similar to megapixel counts, “720” and “1080” simply refer to the number of horizontal lines the video footage will scale to on an HDTV set. The actual video quality depends on a lot of separate factors: the recording bitrate, the quality of the lens and sensor, the frame rate of the video capture, progressive versus interlaced video (don’t go near interlaced if you can help it), file compression, and other variables. Video performance is hard to generalize across the board; it depends on the individual camera.
LCD screen size and resolution: Compacts have led the drive to get rid of optical viewfinders and DSLRs often offer both a viewfinder and a LCD screen (which may be essential for shooting video). Most DSLR LCDs measure 3 inches or so on the diagonal and are great for reviewing photos and performing basic shot composition. However the screen will drain the camera’s battery faster, and a sharp, high-resolution LCD can make image quality look better than it actually is. Some DSLRs have LCD screen that are articulated, and so will tilt up and down and to the side. They are especially useful for shooting video.
Autofocus points are what the camera uses to focus on a subject. DSLRs will offer a choice of number of focus points. There is nothing wrong with leaving the camera to focus automatically on the minimum number of focus points, particularly if you have a single subject or shooting something static. However, if the subject is moving around, or there are more than one of them, the camera can become confused, or simply not take the picture you are hoping for. That is when multiple focus points becomes an advantage.
Having many autofocus points opens up the camera’s capabilities because it can function in different ways depending upon settings and camera features:
• You can select a single AF point (get precise with exactly which point you want to use, without recomposing at all).
• You can select a group of AF points (a group of AF points means you don’t need to be as precise in your selection/aim, and that if the subject moves within the group it’ll still maintain focus).
• You can let the camera choose which AF points to use (it’ll try to get the most area in-focus at once).
• You can track subjects as they move across the frame (as the subject exits one AF point or group of AF points and enters another, each point will keep the subject in focus).
The reason some cameras offer more focus points (after all, why might you want more than, say 11?) is that, if you are photographing something very fast and very small (a butterfly in flight, say) then there is a danger that the subject will fly between the camera focus points and confuse the camera. This results in the AF system “hunting” all over the place for something to focus on. A larger number of focus points allows them to be packed more densely, so that a moving target moves smoothly from one point to the next, without falling into a gap and confusing the camera.