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How to Choose Your First DSLR Camera

In this post, you will learn how you can choose your first DSLR camera that will meet all the requirements that you may have with your current level of expertise.

There are so many DSLR Cameras on the market today that it is important to choose the one that best fulfills your needs. Many people a quite confused with the DSLR basics, so the purpose of this guide is to help you to get started with the world of DSLR cameras.

What is a DSLR camera?

The term DSLR camera stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera. A DSLR is composed of two separate pieces of equipment; a digital camera body and a lens. The body is a very important part of the camera because it is what records the image and saves it to the memory card.

The technology behind DSLR cameras is truly remarkable. If you want to take professional looking photos then a DSLR is the right camera for you.

Determine your budget

The biggest variable that will help you choose what camera you end up buying is your budget. The price of a DSLR body can range from $400 to over $15,000 depending on the brand and quality.

The price is directly dependent on the cameras capabilities and the size of the image sensor. These days $500-$700 can buy you an entry level DSLR Camera.

The second step is to compare camera brands and models. The major things to look for are the cameras Mega-pixels, Shutter Speed Range and what lens it comes with.

Also consider what accessories you might need such as a camera bag, spare battery or memory card.

Make a list of requirements

Make a list of requirements before you head out to the store to check the lot of DSLR cameras that they stock.

Ensure that you do not visit a store with several pushy salesmen compelling you to buy a specific camera.

As a matter of fact, a small store that lets you thoroughly test the various models will be your best bet.



Consider camera body as an investment

When buying a camera body, it is important to look at things such as how many mexapixels it has and what its fastest shutter speed is. The digital camera body is one of two components that make up a DSLR.

If you’re hesitant because of cost – think again. A good photographer needs a good camera. It’s just that simple. Remember that your DSLR is a tool, and like any tool, you need the best to do the most. Consider your cost an investment.

With a compact, it is normal to flip from brand to brand every two years. However, with a DSLR, you are making an investment not only in the camera but the entire ecosystem of goodies such as lenses, accessories, body, third party licenses and more.

Your DSLR need to able to advance with you

A good DSLR will take you anywhere you want to go with your photography. As you advance in your knowledge and understanding, your DSLR is ready to advance with you.

So, the last think you should be doing is trying to jump ship every few months and shift brands because you will be wasting a lot of money that way. Most budding photographers are often in a quandary when it comes to deciding between a Canon and Nikon; after all they are the strongest brands in the market.

Consider accessories as well

When buying a cheap DSLR cameras, it is important to remember that the camera body is just a beginning in the journey. You will need couple of lenses, memory cards and a camera bag as the next investment. The features and accessories of a DSLR offer endless possibilities that will keep up with your own creative flair.

Canon and Nikon are leaders, while Sony is a distant third

So, while there will not be a significant difference in the features of the camera, it is recommended that you stick with a company that is going to be around in the future. Given that factor, the three likely contenders are of course Canon, Nikon and Sony coming in at a distant third because you will not be able to find everything that you need from them.

Walk into the store armed with a list of the features that you need and ask the sales people to show you the crop of latest gadgets that have all the attributes you need. Alternatively, you might want to do your homework online and check out various cameras that suit your requirement before heading to the store.

What is your photography style?

When choosing a camera and its accessories, pick one that has all the features that you will need for a specific type of photography.


If you are interested in landscape/seascape photography, pick a camera which has a decent wide lens angle and perhaps the feature to change the lens as required. You will also need a good tripod, a polariser and neutral density graduated filters to go with it.

Macro photography

On the other hand for macro photography, pick a slow camera again with interchangeable lens; in this case, you will need a dedicated macro prime lens.

Action and sports

Action photography calls for a fast camera, so look for features such as a faster focus, so the camera can focus better and with superior accuracy and no shutter lag. In cameras that have this feature, there is no delay between pressing the shutter release button and clicking the actual picture; this means that you will be able to capture the action without missing a thing.

Also look for a piece in which there are no delays in between pictures. While many cameras will let you take at least 3 frames per second, some other top of the line models will also have the ability to click a whopping 8 frames per second. These are ideal for sports photography.

Night photography

Night photography including scenic images: For night photography, you will need a camera with less noise in low light, so that you can get usable images.


Once again, a slow camera will do just fine; also look for an optical view finder that goes through a prism or mirror before getting to the lens. This feature will let you get the framing done perfectly and you will get more details than using regular LCD screen. You will also need interchangeable lens as a 70-90 mm will work fine but a prime will give you spectacular picture quality.

You will also need to remember that when purchasing a camera, the auxiliaries such as lighting kits, tripod, reflectors, different types of lenses etc will also need to be added to your budget.

Read more about popular photography styles from this comprehensive guide.

Go for comfort

Comfort with the gadget should be an extremely important consideration, how the gadget sits in your hand and how easily you can reach the controls should be the decisive factors. The top makers of DSLR cameras include Canon, Olympus, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Sigma.

You will find that no one brand is better than the other. As a matter of fact, if you look at two cameras of the same range, there will be a striking similarity in their features regardless of the brand.

Finally the features in words

With all the above aspects taken care of, look for the following basic features in a camera:

  • Resolution: The bigger the better but do not forget to look at the sensor size for better quality images
  • Burst mode: How many photos camera can take in a second. This is more important if you style is sports or nature photography.
  • Anti shake: This will help you to shoot without a tripod and still get decent quality images.
  • Other features: Some other photography specific features include; shutter speed, ISO range, light metering, focus points, auto focus etc.

Picking the right DSLR camera will take patience and possibly several visits to the store.

Finally, when you are buying a new camera, you might feel that you should delay the purchase as there is a new camera model coming in the next few months. There is always a temptation to wait for the next better release.

However, the best camera is the one that you are carrying with you. This means to say that by waiting for the next model, you might get some new features, but you have probably missed many valuable photo shooting opportunities.

So, what are great beginner cameras?

Canon T5i (700D)



The Canon Rebel T5i (700D) is an 18 megapixel DSLR with a maximum continuous speed of 5 frames per second.

It has a wide ISO range that tops out at 6400 with an expansion to 12,800. Compared to the predecessor Canon T2i (550D), T3i, T4i and T5i models have a high resolution live view screen that can be swiveled out, down, forward or as a fixed rear screen.

Nikon D3300



The Nikon D3300 is a beginner’s level camera. It has 24.2 effective pixels, with a guide mode that displays instructions for the most basic camera operations for shooting, playback and editing. The camera’s guide mode has assist images that make this camera easy to understand and operate.

The camera has a scene auto selector built in so that when live view mode is enabled in Auto or Auto flash off mode, the camera automatically analyses the scene for you and selects the appropriate shooting mode from portrait, landscape, close-up, or night portrait.

Lenses make it unique and versatile

After deciding on which camera body to buy, the second part that makes up a DSLR is the lens. What makes it so unique is that you can change lenses based on what you are using your camera for. From lenses made specifically for portraits; to lenses made for action sports, you can always find a lens to fit your shooting needs.

Lenses start at $100 and go up to well over $1,000. Of course the more you spend the better quality of lens you will get. Which lenses you choose to buy is up to you, just remember that it is an important decision to get that perfect shot that you are striving for.

Even if your camera came with one, you might consider investing in an additional one. A general rule of thumb is that you should start with a standard zoom lens such as the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom Lens.

After that you can invest in either a Portrait lens or a Telephoto lens, which is great for capturing action shots up close and personal. Some other fun lens you might consider buying are a Fish-Eye or Tilt Photography lens. Lens are another big investment, but make a world of a difference.

Read more about must have DSLR lenses for beginners.


Once you buy your camera and lens you need to educate yourself on how to use it and all the features that it has. The best way to do this is utilize all the available resources around you. From your instruction manual to online websites; you can learn a lot before you even start shooting.

You will find many useful articles from my DSLR tutorials archive.

I would also suggest looking into taking a photography class at your local community college. Lastly, a lot of times libraries have a ton of books to read on photography, which can be very informative. Make sure you utilize all your resources to become a skilled photographer.


There are so many reasons why you should invest in a DSLR camera. From the pure power of a DSLR camera, to the settings that allow you to dictate how the photo will look; it allows you to express your creativity.

With a DSLR your photos will be filled with dense color and crispness that is unmatchable with any other camera. Lastly, they are fun to shoot with. Whatever your reason, you should get a DSLR camera today.

What’s next

In the next step, let’s start your digital SLR research to see what are the popular DSLR options available and how the features compare to each other.