Are you disappointed with the quality of photos from your phone’s camera or want to get creative with interchangeable lenses? This easy tutorial will walk you through the DSLR or mirrorless camera buying process.
There are so many DSLR and mirrorless cameras on the market today that it is important to choose the one that best fulfils your needs.
Here are the top 3 cameras for new photographers:
APS-C Sensor with 1.5x Crop
Sony E Mount
24MP Still Resolution
4K Ultra HD Video
11 FPS Continuous Shooting
No Built-in Stabilization
APS-C Sensor with 1.6x Crop
Canon EF/EF-S Mount
24MP Still Resolution
1080p HD Video
6 FPS Continuous Shooting
Built-in Video Only Stabilization
The features from the table above in words:
- Sensor: The sensor is an electronic equivalent of film, while the crop factor relative to 35mm full-frame affects how close the subject appears to you.
- Lens Mount: The type of interface between a camera body and a lens.
- Max Still Resolution: The bigger the better but do not forget to look at the sensor size for better quality images.
- Max Video Resolution: Some other photography-specific features include: shutter speed, ISO range, light metering, focus points, auto focus etc.
- Continuous Shooting Speed: How many photos the camera can take in a second. This is more important if your style is sports or nature photography.
- Body Image Stabilization: This will help you to shoot without a tripod and still get decent quality images if you use lenses without image stabilization.
- Built-in Wi-Fi: Built-in wireless connection is a very helpful feature to transfer your photos directly to mobile, tablet or a desktop computer.
Let’s dive deeper into why I recommend these cameras for beginners.
How important is the size and weight of your camera?
It’s good to consider the importance of size and weight of your camera system, as this helps you to decide whether you should go for a DSLR or mirrorless camera system.
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 DSLR works so that when you press the shutter button, a mirror flips out of the way to reveal the sensor.
There are also newer DSLR-like mirrorless camera alternatives that uses an interchangeable lens. They are sometimes known with the term MILC, which stands for ‘Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera’.
Aside from the mirror, optical viewfinder and typically shorter battery life, mirrorless cameras are very similar to DSLRs.
And while the still image quality is the same in both mirrorless and DSLRs, mirrorless cameras are often better choices for video shooting.
It’s important to note that whilst mirrorless body manufacturers provide excellent lenses, there are much fewer choices available compared to the lenses available for DSLR cameras.
How much can you afford?
Second, it is good to consider how much you are willing to invest into your camera and its accessories.
The biggest variable that will affect 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 camera’s capabilities and the size of the image sensor. These days $500-$700 can buy you an entry-level DSLR or mirrorless camera.
If you’re hesitant because of the cost of the camera body, it is good to consider your cost as an investment.
With a DSLR or a mirrorless camera system, you are making an investment not only in the camera, but the entire ecosystem of goodies such as lenses, accessories, and more.
Your camera is able to advance with you
A good DSLR or mirrorless camera will take you anywhere you want to go with your photography. As you advance in your knowledge and understanding, your camera is ready to advance with you.
So, the last thing you should be doing is trying to jump ship every few months and shift brands, because this will only cause you to waste lots of money.
Consider accessories as well
When buying a DSLR or mirrorless camera, it is important to remember that the camera body is only the beginning of the journey. You will most likely be offered to buy the kit lens to go with your camera. Then you might want a couple of other lenses (telephoto lens, or long-focus lens and prime lens), a memory card and a camera bag as the next investments.
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.
Popular DSLR cameras for beginners
Canon T7i (800D)
After a huge success with the previous models such as the Canon Rebel T3i-T6i, Canon launched the Canon Rebel T7i (800D) in 2017.
The Canon Rebel T7i (800D) is a 24-megapixel DSLR with a maximum continuous speed of 6 frames per second.
It has a wide ISO range that tops out at 25600 with an expansion to 51200.
I own an old model, a T3i, and it is a great camera for a beginner. It takes stunning photos, just as if they were taken by a professional photographer.
I’ve also been experimenting with the Nikon cameras such as the Nikon D3400. However, please note that I have not owned a Nikon camera, so I’m unable to give a confident review on Nikon cameras.
The Nikon D3400 is a beginner’s 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.
If you are on a super-tight budget below $500, then a Nikon D3400 might be the right choice for you.
Camera technologies have significantly advanced in recent years, especially on the DSLR-like mirrorless cameras in the recent years.
When I bought a new camera for my wife, I was surprised at how far mirrorless cameras have come.
After careful research and testing, we landed on a perfect camera for new photographers who would like to have a lightweight kit:
The Sony A6300 is really small, but still has the same size APS-C sensor as the Canon T7i and Nikon D3400. APS-C size sensors create an effective 1.5x field of view (compared to more expensive and bigger 35 mm full-frame sensors).
While it is light, it feels really solid due to its magnesium alloy body.
Please note that I chose the Sony A6300 over the older and more affordable A6000 particularly especially because of its 4K video capabilities.
If you intend to use the camera only on photography and prefer buying a cheaper camera body, then the Sony A6000 is a great choice.
Here are the Sony A6300 features that me and my wife especially like:
- Small size, so easy to carry around
- High quality 24.2 megapixels APS-C sensor
- Built-in electronic viewfinder
- Really fast autofocus
- Fast (11 frames per second) continuous shooting
- Upload photos directly to your phone via the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi
- 4K video shooting capability
The downside of the Sony A6300 is that I need to use Sony’s own E-mount lenses. While Sony’s lenses are excellent quality, it limits the number of lenses I can use.
Please note that there is also a more expensive premium model called the Sony A6500.
After careful analysis, I’ve concluded that the A6300 provides better value for the money than the A6500 as there are not many differences between these two models, aside from two important differences.
If you plan to use other manufacturers’ lenses in the future, the Sony A6500 includes an image stabilizer in the body. The A6500 also has a touchscreen that the A6000 and A6300 do not have.
Normally, this does not matter as Sony’s lenses include an image stabilizer (Optical SteadyShot feature).
What is your photography style?
When choosing a digital camera and its accessories, you should 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, any of these three camera options will serve you well.
You will also need a good tripod, a polariser and neutral density graduated filters to go with it.
On the other hand, for macro photography, you should pick a slow camera with an interchangeable lens
You will also 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, with which 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.
Additionally, look for a camera in which there are no delays in between photos.
While the Nikon D3400 will let you take 5 frames per second (fps) and the Canon T7i (800D) 6 fps, the Sony A6000, A6300 and A6500 have the ability to shoot a whopping 11 frames per second.
This is ideal for sports photography.
For night photography, you will need a camera with less noise in low light, so that you can get usable images.
The Canon T7i is a highly recommended choice because of excellent performance at high ISO (100 – 25600 that expands to 51200) and long exposures. The Sony A6300 and Nikon D3400 will take good nightshots as well.
Once again, a slow camera will do just fine. Also, look for an optical or electronic viewfinder.
This feature will let you get the framing done perfectly and you will get more details than using a regular LCD screen.
The recommended choice for a family photographer is the Canon T7i. It also has a wide variety of lenses to choose from.
What’s more, 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.
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 those 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 $3,000. 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 55 to around 200 mm 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 lenses you might consider buying are a Fish-Eye or Tilt Photography lens. Lenses are another big investment, but make a world of a difference.
Read more about must-have DSLR lenses for beginners.
When you are buying a new camera, you might feel that you should delay the purchase if 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’ll have probably missed many valuable photo-shooting opportunities.
There are countless reasons why you should invest in a DSLR or mirrorless 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 truly express your creativity.
With a DSLR your photos will be filled with dense colour 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.
Now, let’s continue to see what are the popular lens options available to you.