Items To Consider When Choosing Your First DSLR Camera

Items To Consider When Choosing Your First DSLR Camera

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Copyright stephen bowler

Maybe it’s an upcoming gift from a loved one or maybe you just decided it was time to “take my photography to the next level”. Or maybe it is another reason that has you shopping for a new DSLR. At any rate, you have started your hunt online and off and will soon be making a large investment in a camera.

Undoubtedly you have come across one of the age old debates: Canon or Nikon. As I carry a Canon with me, I get knowing looks from other Canon owners when the “Which brand should I go with?” question comes up in a group setting. They assume I will tout Canon’s superiority and Nikon’s inferiority. But that’s not the case at all.

The first thing I tell anyone looking to buy a new DLSR is to go to a store and see how they feel. Grab a Nikon and a Canon. And a Sony and Olympus and Pentax too. This is what stores are for and why they are better than just shopping online. Here are some things you should look for while handling the camera:

How does it feel in your hands?

This is one of the most important aspects of any camera. Pixel counts and auto-focus modes are great to debate, but if the camera does not feel good to hold, you will not be wanting to pick it up six months from now and you will have wasted your money on the latest, greatest Wonder Camera(tm) just because it had a lighting optimizer feature that online reviews told you you could not live without. Not only should the weight be appropriate for your build, but the grip should also be comfortable. I have talked people into ‘lesser’ cameras because they found that having smaller hands means something like a Canon T3i is more comfortable than a Canon 5D Mark II.

Can you navigate the menus?

Second on my suggestion list is to play with the camera’s menus. All manufacturers have different paths through the dozens of features packed into the electronics of modern cameras. While I have learned Nikon’s menus and can navigate fairly well, I prefer Canon’s. Sony, on the other hand, rocks the menu world for new photographers with some great contextual information. With the camera in your hand, see if you can easily change the ISO, Shutter Speed, Aperture, White Balance, drive mode (especially self timer), focus mode, exposure bias and metering. Those are some of the most used functions and if they don’t seem intuitive to you, or easy to find, using your camera becomes more of a chore. And most of us like to avoid chores.

Do you need all those bells and whistles?

Cameras are becoming more and more robust in their features. The marketing departments at each company shout these ‘must haves” to us through magazine ads and online. 4D Matrix Metering. Hypersilent focus modes. 12 frames per second. And on and on. I’m going to play the part of grumpy old curmudgeon for a moment and tell you you need to be able to adjust the shutter speed, aperture and ISO and that’s it. I know that’s simplistic, but it is true that the majority of the most masterful shots seen in the last 100 years of photography were shot without all those special modes.

Good metering is important but so is your ability to look at a scene, judge the highs and lows and shoot accordingly. All you really need is spot metering, good judgment and practice. I know that’s not as fun as having 349 metering points which handle all the thinking for you.

What I’m trying to say is, don’t get into the ‘need’ game. Admit they are ‘wants’ instead and be realistic about how much all those modes will help you. All of those automatic modes you see on top of the camera; Portrait, Landscape, Night Shot, etc… all of those can be replicated with knowledge of how to use a camera and adjusting shutter speed, aperture and ISO (and the flash in the case of Night Shot).

If you DO need some bells and whistles, write them down. The things you can’t live without. This will help you when you go to the store or ask more experienced photographers what you should buy.

How will you use the camera?

This is an important question because it helps determine a number of parameters, like price tag. Want some shots around the house of the kids playing? You don’t need a Nikon D3X, even if you have the funds to buy it. You won’t go to Camera Hell if you overspend but you can put your money to better use by not going top-of-the-line. Do you earnestly hope to make money with your camera, perhaps shooting children’s sports on the weekends? Then you will want to stretch your budget because you will want a camera that can take a bit more abuse and maybe has a faster frame rate.

Again, list the types of photography you really want to get into.

Armed with answers to these questions, you can help those helping you pick a camera because you have narrowed down what and how you want to photograph. It’s also important to have a feel for the equipment (including anticipated lenses, which another post altogether) as I mentioned and that’s where your local store comes in. I asked for suggestions of reliable and knowledgeable camera shops on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and have compiled a short list from around the USA and the world. This list is by no means complete and I will add to it as comments come up, so let me know if a store has what it takes for a referral.

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

  • I just moved to Arkansas… Bedford has several locations and I’ve been in to the Fayetteville one several times in the last 3 weeks. They’re fantastic. I’ve been shooting for several years, but if you’re looking for equipment (experienced or not) this is the place to go. They’ve been so great already I just had to give them a little shout.

  • Don`t forget there are also the mirrorles cameras like the Panasonic or the Olimpus or Leika, they are smaller, lighter and they have similar or better capabilities than the traditional dslr.

  • Silvina

    Wow… big question! I’m planning to buy a good digital camera (I’m in Argentina and is veeeerry expensive to buy one) and I got tah dilema… do I need a DSRL? I thinking of something near to it but it’s difficult to decide… will see 🙂

    Love your site!

  • tony

    i come from the old school of film. trusted cameras were & are pentax K1000 & nikon FM/FM2. & sekonic and Luna pro F light meters. i have had 4 auto system cameras ( three of them nikons ) i still keep going back to the basic group. manual cameras plus my calumet cc 401. my number 1 lens was the tamron 90mm. right now i am being force to sell my babies in place of a dslr camera. photo labs are dying breed along with good film. i was at costco checking out the nikon 5100. the persons around me were looking at me if i was have sex with the camera. it felt good in my hands. my only concerns is sharpness. i worked in the photo labs of nyc for 8 yrs. printing everything around on film & paper. the only thing left from those days is b&w film & fiber base paper. a nice heavy stock for retouching dust marks. sorry for jumping of topic.

    i was looking at a price of $1,100 for the nikon d5100 and te d7100 is going for $1,500 & more. and that is not even looking at the nikon pro series. what ever camera wine up buying my selonic l-358 &l-398m are there as my lifeline

  • Wim Bos

    If you’re in the Netherlands, the shop from Foto Konijnenberg in Den Ham is “the place to go”.
    http://www.fotokonijnenberg.nl/

    They give good advice and take the time to get to know you and your needs.
    If you come during the weekends, there is a good chance you have to wait…
    So making a call to schedule an appointment is not a bad thing to do 😉

  • On any budget try and spend more money on lenses than your camera body as you will probably the keep lenses for years and renew the body many times as new models come out that are better and cheaper.

  • sumit

    I’m with TylerIngram about the question, “Do I really need a DSLR?”
    I have had to talk a few friends out of purchasing dslr by explaining to them the financial aspect of it, but then one does find a few who just want it and there is no dissuading them from buying one.
    In London, I personally end up at Jessops every time I need something. If not to buy at least to have a look and feel. So far I like the one in Ilford and Fenchurch street – friendly folks who do more than guide a chap to the right model.

  • I believe that if you are considering making a significant investment in camera equipment, whether body, lens, or accessories, it pays to rent the equipment to see if it fits all or most of your requirements. It is almost impossible for me to tell anyone which camera body to buy. The technical aspects of the equipment are available on several websites. The price range is determined by you. Beware of “pixel envy” and “lens envy” as it is easy to pay for high end equipment you may not need. Before I purchase, I rent the piece of equipment. I use LensRentals.

  • Roberto

    I’m totally NOT with Tyler Ingram about the question, “Do I really need a DSLR?”

    If a person is considering a dSLR, they’ve already crossed the required threshold of interest. Even if they never graduate from the kit lens they leave the store with, a far broader world of photographic opportunity and flexibility will forever be open to them.

    A G12/S95/LX5/P7000 is great for snapping off all sorts of great shots, but good luck coaxing any kind of bokeh out of the 1/1.7″ sensors and integrated zoom lenses. And that only gets more unlikely with the1/2.3″ sensors found in most every point and shoot these days. And don’t even talk to me about trying to get a decent photo of your kid on a swing with a point and shoot. Point and pray that it will actually focus and take the shot while your child’s face is visible is probably more apropos in that case.

    The EP/NEX type cameras might do a better job of auto-focusing, in which case they might be a viable option for those considering an SLR, but I tend to think of those mirrorless cameras in the same vein as SLRs – anyone considering one of them as an upgrade from point and shoots is probably considering SLRs as well.

    I went out on a play date with my wife and her friend one day, and snapped some shots of her child at play, on a swing, etc. – just being a kid. I gave them to her, and she asked me how I was able to get them to look that way, or in the case of the swing, at all. I told her it had everything to do with the fact the camera was an SLR, and she went out and bought one herself. She hasn’t stopped thanking me ever since. And she probably will never graduate from the kit lens that came with the camera.

    Not everyone who makes use of an SLR is an aspiring pro. Some people just want to be able to capture some special moments in their lives – with a little artistic flair – without hiring someone to do it for them.

    Oh, and I totally agree that Lens and Shutter on W. Broadway and Kerrisdale Camera on W. 41st are excellent places to shop in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

  • Showcase Video in Atlanta, GA has a great selection and knowledgeable staff.

  • camerashy50

    This is another helpful article, confirming my desire to purchase a second dSLR. We have gone from ALL Pentax SLR cameras to a digital point and shoot and a Nikon dSLR. Now that we have all the lenses left over from our Pentax days, I am intrigued with the idea that I can use them on the dSLR body. How true is this, though, and are the results GREAT?

  • Howes Photography

    Another good camera shop in Massachusetts is E.P. Levine in Waltham: http://www.eplevine.com/

  • Maddmum

    Thanks Roberto. One day soon I hope to own a dSLR so I can actually take photos of my kids being kids as you say. I don’t want to be a pro, just capture the memories in beautiful way. Thanks to everyone for all the advice and tips.
    Happy Shooting.

  • Here in Chicago I can pretty much count on calumet photo to have what I am looking for in stock – and have a lot of extra gear too.

    On a separate note, I read above someone posted “if you don’t know how to use a dslr, you shouldn’t buy one” or something like that…. I totally disagree. In fact, if you are from the chicago area and considering buying a DSLR feel free to contact me at http://www.bestexposures.com for a little guidance for free. If you arent far away from Ohare airport, feel free to stop by and I will teach you some of the basics.

    Some of the photo stores have classes too – like the aforementioned calumet photographic (chicago location and Oakbrook). For about 100 bucks they fill a class of newbies and teach them how to get started.

    Jason

  • Rufi

    Dear Friends,

    Thanks for the good article. I am confused ?. I am new for DSLR camera even I cannot find enough difference between DSLR and other camera. I wanted to buy a new camera to click nature and family event picture specially. I do not know what are the features which I have to consider.
    Can anyone help me to buy a camera which will full fill my desire under price of $50 to $600. As of now I have decided to go for Nikon D5000 or Canon T2i.

    If possible please mail your reply to my id rufi_ruhullah@yahoo.com.

    Thanks

  • Henk Meertens

    hello, i have a pentax dslr, nikon dslr, sony dslr olympus dslr and a canon. i take photos with all of my camera’s. some time is a pentax better other times a nikon or canon. but what brand of camera you have the photo is not taken by the camera but the one that handles the camera. the camera capture only the photo the man or woman behind the camera composes the photo. i have seen that one has a camera from about 40 dollar or 50 euro taking better photos than one who had a camera from a price about 2000 dollar or 1600 euro

  • Tushar Shilu

    Hello
    i am confuse for selecting a first Dslr for me,,
    please guide me which is the best Dslr ???
    Nikon D3300 or Sony a58

  • Norma.D.S

    Hey Tushar, you can try this list ( https://callofphotography.com) to pick a dslr for you. According dslr is enough to take photographs but mos iportant is your skill and experience. Also it depends on what is your field of work. Anyway, best of luck.

Some Older Comments

  • Rufi April 17, 2012 12:02 am

    Dear Friends,

    Thanks for the good article. I am confused ?. I am new for DSLR camera even I cannot find enough difference between DSLR and other camera. I wanted to buy a new camera to click nature and family event picture specially. I do not know what are the features which I have to consider.
    Can anyone help me to buy a camera which will full fill my desire under price of $50 to $600. As of now I have decided to go for Nikon D5000 or Canon T2i.

    If possible please mail your reply to my id rufi_ruhullah@yahoo.com.

    Thanks

  • Jason October 3, 2011 09:02 am

    Here in Chicago I can pretty much count on calumet photo to have what I am looking for in stock - and have a lot of extra gear too.

    On a separate note, I read above someone posted "if you don't know how to use a dslr, you shouldn't buy one" or something like that.... I totally disagree. In fact, if you are from the chicago area and considering buying a DSLR feel free to contact me at www.bestexposures.com for a little guidance for free. If you arent far away from Ohare airport, feel free to stop by and I will teach you some of the basics.

    Some of the photo stores have classes too - like the aforementioned calumet photographic (chicago location and Oakbrook). For about 100 bucks they fill a class of newbies and teach them how to get started.

    Jason

  • Maddmum September 4, 2011 12:41 am

    Thanks Roberto. One day soon I hope to own a dSLR so I can actually take photos of my kids being kids as you say. I don't want to be a pro, just capture the memories in beautiful way. Thanks to everyone for all the advice and tips.
    Happy Shooting.

  • Howes Photography August 29, 2011 09:49 pm

    Another good camera shop in Massachusetts is E.P. Levine in Waltham: http://www.eplevine.com/

  • camerashy50 August 28, 2011 05:13 am

    This is another helpful article, confirming my desire to purchase a second dSLR. We have gone from ALL Pentax SLR cameras to a digital point and shoot and a Nikon dSLR. Now that we have all the lenses left over from our Pentax days, I am intrigued with the idea that I can use them on the dSLR body. How true is this, though, and are the results GREAT?

  • Marc Vogel August 27, 2011 06:27 am

    Showcase Video in Atlanta, GA has a great selection and knowledgeable staff.

  • Roberto August 21, 2011 08:40 pm

    I’m totally NOT with Tyler Ingram about the question, “Do I really need a DSLR?”

    If a person is considering a dSLR, they've already crossed the required threshold of interest. Even if they never graduate from the kit lens they leave the store with, a far broader world of photographic opportunity and flexibility will forever be open to them.

    A G12/S95/LX5/P7000 is great for snapping off all sorts of great shots, but good luck coaxing any kind of bokeh out of the 1/1.7" sensors and integrated zoom lenses. And that only gets more unlikely with the1/2.3" sensors found in most every point and shoot these days. And don't even talk to me about trying to get a decent photo of your kid on a swing with a point and shoot. Point and pray that it will actually focus and take the shot while your child's face is visible is probably more apropos in that case.

    The EP/NEX type cameras might do a better job of auto-focusing, in which case they might be a viable option for those considering an SLR, but I tend to think of those mirrorless cameras in the same vein as SLRs - anyone considering one of them as an upgrade from point and shoots is probably considering SLRs as well.

    I went out on a play date with my wife and her friend one day, and snapped some shots of her child at play, on a swing, etc. - just being a kid. I gave them to her, and she asked me how I was able to get them to look that way, or in the case of the swing, at all. I told her it had everything to do with the fact the camera was an SLR, and she went out and bought one herself. She hasn't stopped thanking me ever since. And she probably will never graduate from the kit lens that came with the camera.

    Not everyone who makes use of an SLR is an aspiring pro. Some people just want to be able to capture some special moments in their lives - with a little artistic flair - without hiring someone to do it for them.

    Oh, and I totally agree that Lens and Shutter on W. Broadway and Kerrisdale Camera on W. 41st are excellent places to shop in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

  • Sandy Reich August 21, 2011 02:21 am

    I believe that if you are considering making a significant investment in camera equipment, whether body, lens, or accessories, it pays to rent the equipment to see if it fits all or most of your requirements. It is almost impossible for me to tell anyone which camera body to buy. The technical aspects of the equipment are available on several websites. The price range is determined by you. Beware of "pixel envy" and "lens envy" as it is easy to pay for high end equipment you may not need. Before I purchase, I rent the piece of equipment. I use LensRentals.

  • sumit August 20, 2011 07:24 am

    I'm with TylerIngram about the question, "Do I really need a DSLR?"
    I have had to talk a few friends out of purchasing dslr by explaining to them the financial aspect of it, but then one does find a few who just want it and there is no dissuading them from buying one.
    In London, I personally end up at Jessops every time I need something. If not to buy at least to have a look and feel. So far I like the one in Ilford and Fenchurch street - friendly folks who do more than guide a chap to the right model.

  • Prophoto Wedding Photography August 19, 2011 10:52 pm

    On any budget try and spend more money on lenses than your camera body as you will probably the keep lenses for years and renew the body many times as new models come out that are better and cheaper.

  • Wim Bos August 19, 2011 04:08 pm

    If you're in the Netherlands, the shop from Foto Konijnenberg in Den Ham is "the place to go".
    http://www.fotokonijnenberg.nl/

    They give good advice and take the time to get to know you and your needs.
    If you come during the weekends, there is a good chance you have to wait...
    So making a call to schedule an appointment is not a bad thing to do ;-)

  • tony August 19, 2011 12:34 pm

    i come from the old school of film. trusted cameras were & are pentax K1000 & nikon FM/FM2. & sekonic and Luna pro F light meters. i have had 4 auto system cameras ( three of them nikons ) i still keep going back to the basic group. manual cameras plus my calumet cc 401. my number 1 lens was the tamron 90mm. right now i am being force to sell my babies in place of a dslr camera. photo labs are dying breed along with good film. i was at costco checking out the nikon 5100. the persons around me were looking at me if i was have sex with the camera. it felt good in my hands. my only concerns is sharpness. i worked in the photo labs of nyc for 8 yrs. printing everything around on film & paper. the only thing left from those days is b&w film & fiber base paper. a nice heavy stock for retouching dust marks. sorry for jumping of topic.

    i was looking at a price of $1,100 for the nikon d5100 and te d7100 is going for $1,500 & more. and that is not even looking at the nikon pro series. what ever camera wine up buying my selonic l-358 &l-398m are there as my lifeline

  • Silvina August 19, 2011 10:49 am

    Wow... big question! I'm planning to buy a good digital camera (I'm in Argentina and is veeeerry expensive to buy one) and I got tah dilema... do I need a DSRL? I thinking of something near to it but it's difficult to decide... will see :)

    Love your site!

  • Cristian Wrbka August 19, 2011 06:42 am

    Don`t forget there are also the mirrorles cameras like the Panasonic or the Olimpus or Leika, they are smaller, lighter and they have similar or better capabilities than the traditional dslr.

  • Brandon August 19, 2011 05:49 am

    I just moved to Arkansas... Bedford has several locations and I've been in to the Fayetteville one several times in the last 3 weeks. They're fantastic. I've been shooting for several years, but if you're looking for equipment (experienced or not) this is the place to go. They've been so great already I just had to give them a little shout.

  • Noor Al-Shaikh August 19, 2011 05:29 am

    In Toronto, Ontarion Canada , Henry's Photography is a great place for selection and professional advice.

  • Sandy Reich August 19, 2011 05:12 am

    I have also found Adorama in New York City to be a reliable, reasonably priced and professional photography store with which to deal.
    Additionally, KEH is a very reliable source for used equipment.

  • Paul White August 19, 2011 04:24 am

    Add Competitive Camera in Dallas to your list. They are the most knowledgeable I have found, have the absolute best stock and generally beat all prices.

  • Mark August 19, 2011 03:14 am

    @selena... Try out a Canon 7D with an EF 500mm L series lens that together actually weighs in at a little over 10 lbs at the start of the day!!!!

  • Peggy August 19, 2011 03:11 am

    Do you have any suggestions for camera shops in the Memphis, TN or northeast Mississippi area?
    Thanks.

  • RJ Daniels August 19, 2011 02:33 am

    Hey!

    I've been a point-n-shoot photographer for a long time now (four years). I've always been hesitant to actually go out and make the investment- questioning whether I'm actually going to use the camera or if it's going to end up at the back of my wardrobe after 5 months.

    I've decided to make the investment! and this e-mail was perfectly timed. :)
    Great advise!

  • Selena August 19, 2011 02:28 am

    Thank you for a great article. I'd also like to mention that good camera shops will have dozens of cameras and lenses for rent. It may be worthwhile to shoot with a camera and at the end of the day if it still feels good in your hands it may be a good choice. Cameras and lenses have a way to feel like a 10lb weight after a day of shooting :)
    I'd like to give a shout out to George's Camera and Video in San Diego, and in Albuquerque, a shout out to Camera and Darkroom on Central Ave.

  • Rob Wilson August 19, 2011 02:28 am

    The guys and gals at this place are excellent. Solid advice and very good photographers in their own right.
    http://mikescamera.com/

    Located in the Denver area.

  • Carol Miller August 19, 2011 12:51 am

    I photograph homes for our real estate business. I use a P&S Kodak (v570) with a wide angle lens, and it has been more than adequate for my needs thus far. I'd like to take the quality up a notch, though. Should I invest in a dSLR and a good wide angle lens, or should I spend my money and effort on photo software for enhancing the photos I take with a P&S?

  • Brooke Pedersen August 19, 2011 12:46 am

    The Camera Shop in Lansing, MI

  • Maximo Almonte August 15, 2011 11:10 pm

    Totally agree with this article. Thanks for putting this up. I still remember how I wanted to start shooting events and family portraits. I always wanted a 50D for this type of work, but because of budget constrains i went for the canon rebel t2i with kit lens and tele lens. What a big Mistake as soon as i opened and took a feel at the camera. it felt ackward, my hands felt like i was over gripping the camera, the lenses were funny in the sense of the material, it felt really light. I was actually buying this camera out of other people review online and didnt take the time to go to the actual store. I was only looking for the pixel count, the ease in navigation, and other feautures that in the end didnt matter. So that was money wasted, I returned it to the store and was submitted to the restocking fee they charge. Now i have a 50D with me all the time and i tell you this camera sure surpases the latter in so many things.

  • julsky August 15, 2011 05:53 pm

    Wow pentax as cover photo!
    Great read! I really agree with this article, my first dslr was a 550D(t2i) but felt really small and light for my hands, so i traded it with a pentax k10D w/ grip which was just big enough for my fingers. It didn't have 63-zone metering but it had spot metering :D

    *pentax fanboy here xD

  • Allan August 15, 2011 12:47 pm

    Grand Rapids, Michigan has Norman Camera. Very knowledgeable staff and great service.

  • Martin August 15, 2011 12:15 pm

    I should mention Quality Camera in Mandurah, Western Australia. The owner, Stu, provides outstanding service, and will always try to make sure he is selling you what you need, not necessarily what you want ;-)

  • Rex August 15, 2011 11:57 am

    I can recommend iphoto (Lords) in Singapore. They always provided excellent service (and price).

  • Rick August 14, 2011 03:58 am

    How you're going to use your camera is probably the most important consideration. If you're buying a DSLR and you're not sure how you're going to use it, you may want to reconsider why you're buying it in the first place.

  • zahra navazi August 14, 2011 03:13 am

    dear peter, first of all thank u for the tips. I have a dilemma here! my brother wants to buy me a new camera, but i cant decide between Nikon D300s and D90. i must say that it is my first professional DSLR and i'm planning to become a photographer n look at it more professionally than taking some pics around the house. i want to work on portrait, outdoor shooting and fast moving objects or people!!!
    i think now u know what my question is. waiting eagerly for ur reply. thx

  • Steve Rubelmann August 14, 2011 01:55 am

    Great article! I almost never use all this stuff in my EOS XSi (what I could afford, and I am happy with it). I always wished Canon had been able to manufacture a digital back for my old A1. I would never have purchased anything else.

  • James Callaway August 14, 2011 12:18 am

    Camera Stop in Plano Tx. is great.

  • Bastien August 13, 2011 06:22 pm

    Any good address in San Francisco?

  • Peter Roelofs August 13, 2011 05:18 pm

    I live in Holland, and I am very pleased with 'Kamera Express', which has a store in Rotterdam as well as in Amsterdam. You can also order online with them and they give great service!
    I will be in Chicago soon. Does anybody know a good store there??
    Regards, Peter

  • Nick August 13, 2011 01:03 pm

    Don't forget about Green Mountain Camera in Waterbury, Vermont if you live this area. (I'm probably the only one here from Vermont)

  • Kim August 13, 2011 12:47 pm

    I bought my first SLR from Kerrisdale Cameras, in BC... It's a good little shop.

  • Chris August 13, 2011 11:58 am

    i live in the UK and i just wanna say i think Calumet is very good over here(well my local one is), very helpful really know their stuff and willing to let you test before u buy(instore) unlike a few shops i've been to.

  • Shawn Cavanaugh August 13, 2011 11:57 am

    Very cool that Arlington Camera in Texas made the list. They are extremely knowledgeable and don't try to pigeon hole you into a particular vendor. They have pretty much every vendor out there. For me, frame rate was important to me so at the time of purchase after reading several reviews/websites/and user feedback I settled on the Sony A55. Not too expensive and does everything I need. Now I need to start saving up for some lenses ;-) (70-200G 2.8).

  • Martin August 13, 2011 11:03 am

    While you mention it very briefly in the last paragraph, I think it's important to consider the lenses and other accessories available for the camera you're buying, as you're buying into that "family" of lenses and accessories.

    Someone buying their first DSLR shouldn't necessarily look at the specifications of camera bodies from different manufacturers to determine which one to purchase, as the specifications change from year to year as manufacturers release updated camera bodies.

    Instead, look at the lenses available for each brand (and to a lesser extent, also look at other accessories, such as flashes, etc). Once you decide which lens series you want to use (based on lens price, features, range, availability, etc), you then pick a body to suit those lenses, based on your budget at that time.

    Camera manufacturers typically release updated bodies every 18 months or so. Updated bodies will have better performance and additional features that make them desirable. You can always upgrade to a higher-spec body and/or newer model of the body at a later date if/when your budget can handle it, or when you want more/better functionality in a camera body.

    Read more on this at http://martybugs.net/blog/blog.cgi/gear/bodies/ChoosingACameraBody.html

  • Akin August 13, 2011 07:22 am

    D'ont forget Pentax: a lot of compatible, old, good, and very cheap lens with stabilization.

  • scottc August 13, 2011 05:24 am

    Great points to consider, and a cool reference list for shopping.

    I'd also suggest a few fine points, especially if purchasing a second DSLR. Viewfinder coverage and availability of a battery grip were two big items guiding my second purchase, which turned out to be a used camera of a semi-pro Sony model that's hadn't been produced for 3 years.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/5108211290/

  • Amy August 13, 2011 05:13 am

    I'd be interested in reading a companion Lens article, if it will be written or already exists. After a new camera body and lens, Other Accessories would be great to read about as well.

    I've really enjoyed many of your latest articles as well! Thank you.

  • Elle C August 13, 2011 04:59 am

    You can add Lens and Shutter in British Columbia as well, there are locations in Vancouver , Victoria, Abbotsford and Kelowna. Great staff, great service.

  • Kim August 13, 2011 04:28 am

    Milford Photo in Milford, CT has some of the best lines and service for DSLR cameras!

  • Ed Letts August 13, 2011 04:26 am

    In NJ we have a great store in Fairfield. http://www.uniquephoto.com Very knowledgeable staff and lots of stuff to choose from. They offer some very good classes too. I highly recommend "Understanding Your DSLR" for newbies. I took it right after I purchased my camera and it was a great start.

  • Steven August 13, 2011 04:24 am

    Service Photo Supply Inc. is perhaps the best retail camera store I've ever visited. It is located in Baltimore, Maryland.

  • Tony August 13, 2011 02:57 am

    Excellent sources in Ontario are Henry's and Vistek Both stores have excellent knowledgeble staff.

    They have helped me in the past. If you live around Arnprior, ON go to Moto Photo in the mall

    just my 2 cents

  • Nermal August 13, 2011 02:45 am

    Consider who else will be using the camera. I know how to use my camera, but I also know I have to hand it over to my friends in more casual situations. Good metering and autofocus are important for those situations because I can't tell someone to meter and focus, recompose, and then release the shutter.

  • Yacko August 13, 2011 02:37 am

    Jessica Says:

    " I wanted to know what are your thoughts on refurbished camers’s??"

    Refubs from a quality manufacturer are fine. I'd trust Nikon, Canon and Apple refurbished equipment. They are probably not broken items returned and remanufactured. All Apple computer items I have purchased were refurbished. All such items were as clean room pristine as new and functioned perfectly.

    As for Canon, my Canon story. I bought a Canon TX1 point and shoot refurb from either Adorama Camera or B&H Photo (can't remember which) in NYC, for a specific purpose. It worked fine out of the box and continues to work perfectly to this day. Perusing a forum in which TX1 enthusiasts were trying to get a handle on the run of serial numbers by reporting their own, someone remarked on the unusual one in a review (I think at dpreview.com) which could clearly be seen in the photos accompanying the review. No conclusions were drawn by the forum participants but they did think it was odd. Anyway, I looked at my serial and realized it lettered the same prefix and the suffix was 4 numbers off the one in the review. While I can't say it with certainty, it is likely my refurb and the others that were sold from that batch were ones sent out as review units for various publications and whatnot, certainly used but used sparingly. And when they went back they were examined and spiffed up to match the same quality as brand new.

    So, again, I would not hesitate to buy a refurb from a quality manufacturer, either directly or from a reputable camera store.

  • Rob August 13, 2011 02:23 am

    Helix Camera in Chicago West Loop all the way. Dont go to Central Camera in the loop, they are snotty bastards. Helix has everything and the people there are super friendly. I went in looking for a white backdrop once and told them the savage paper number and they asked a couple questions regarding what lighting i was using and instead recommended another white that wouldnt look blue with my day light balanced strobes. They could have easily just gave me what i asked for and shoved me out the door.

  • Yacko August 13, 2011 02:14 am

    Adorama Camera 42 West 18th St NY - http://www.adorama.com

    As safe and reliable as B&H Photo. Twin powerhouse franchises in NY B&H and Adorama. Both do photo equipment but B&H extends to pro audio while Adorama is deeper in office equipment.

  • Marcos August 13, 2011 02:10 am

    Personally I'd add a step in the process of looking at post processing, and how the user is going to use the images (i.e., print sizes and web use). It costs money and time to do post processing and get the most out of the camera. That should be added to the budget as well as the evaluation on what DSLR to buy.

    Other things:
    1. If you are going to get into buying interchangeable lens, reflect on who do you know with camera gear and what brands and lens selection? Aside from getting good personal recommendations, you can have an easier or less expensive time buying the same brand and trying/borrowing your friends'/family's gear.
    2. If you buy expensive camera gear, does buying a separate personal article insurance to cover the camera makes sense? I got a policy that covers $6000 worth of camera gear with zero deductable, includes breakage, theft, and acts of god (but, not war zones) for $100/year. Sure beats touching the home owners or renters insurance. DSLR kits can still easily hit $1000+.
    3. Consider size and weight of everything you will be carrying in the camera bag. Buying one super zoom over two lens might make more sense to some people who aren't used to dedicated a lot of carry-on luggage space for camera gear.
    4. Find out how easy it would be to reset all of the controls to a known state or the way you want to use the camera. I remember an old Minolta 35mm film camera that allowed you to reset everything very quickly as a major selling point. Might be important at the beginning when the kids get a hold of the camera...

  • RangerPaul August 13, 2011 02:09 am

    What about full size sensor vs crop sensor?

  • Erik Kerstenbeck August 13, 2011 01:58 am

    Hi

    I would suggest to rent a camera and test it before making an investment. For example, this picture was taken by an old Nikon Point and Shoot, but still great quality! Try before you buy!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/the-beer-garden/

  • SalukiJim August 13, 2011 01:32 am

    Creve Coeur Camera in St. Louis

    They were very helpful and patient (I was in the store 2 hours!) while I chose between Canon T3i, 60D, and Nikon D7000. Answered all my questions without pushing me towards one model or the other - or one brand or the other. And brought out alternatives to what I was looking at as well.

    Every time I've been there, I remind myself, This is why I don't buy cameras at the local big-box store!

  • Jessica August 13, 2011 01:23 am

    Get information!! I am looking to get a new camera every soon. I wanted to know what are your thoughts on refurbished camers's??

  • Paul Howard August 13, 2011 01:05 am

    McBain Camera in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada (www.mcbaincamera.com) is awesome. They've also talked me out of more expensive gear in favour of something that was less expensive and worked better. I also love The Camera Store (www.thecamerastore.com) in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Very knowledgeable folks and extremely helpful.

  • Ella August 13, 2011 01:04 am

    (not sure if my previous comment was submitted properly). Fantastic article! Thank you. I'm in Canada and a fantastic store is Henry's (located in Ontario, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.....but I'm sure they will be expanding). So hopefully you can add that to your list. They are very reputable and popular, they have their own school of photo imaging, and they sponsor/run a huge photographic, video & digital imaging show twice a year. I've purchased my Nikon D90 as well as a few lenses and equipment from them.

    www.henrys.com (& the link to their digital imaging show is www.imagingshow.ca)

  • GradyPhilpott August 13, 2011 12:50 am

    I think the most important question the buyer must ask himself is will his interest in photography grow.

    If a person jumps into the world of dSLRs, then the answer is almost always, yes.

    Those who are less sure are probably more interested in a fancy looking camera.

    It is my observation that cameras, like stereo components, computers and such, come with features bundled and one cannot pick and choose the features they prefer.

    If one is interested in fancy alone, then an entry level camera will do.

    If one wants to grow as a photographer, then buying one with features that one does not yet understand is probably the best route, because eventually, the user will want to know.

    Also, the size of the camera tends to be associated with the price and the features, so that if the buyer has large hands and buys a camera that feels good in his hands, he's likely to have to buy an expensive camera that has a lot of features, whereas a person with small hands who buys a camera that feels good in his hands is likely to buy an entry level camera, because the are getting really small, relatively speaking.

    My advice is to eschew cameras for beginners. Buy a camera that will deliver the goods as your skills advance. Almost all consumer oriented cameras can be used as point and shoots, so the fear of a too-complicated camera is almost completely irrational.

  • TylerIngram August 13, 2011 12:50 am

    Oh in the Vancouver, BC area for camera shops there is:

    BeauPhotos (on west 7th)
    and
    Leo's Camera on Granville Street

  • TylerIngram August 13, 2011 12:47 am

    What about the question prior to "What dSLR do I pick?" should be, do I really need a dSLR?

    It's a big gripe of mine when I see hundreds of people buying into a dSLR only to keep the kit lens forever. Never buying any accessories or new lenses etc. Why bother buying a dSLR then? Just because you _think_ they take better photos? There are P&S cameras (like the Canon G Series) that does better jobs than the low-end SLRs like XT2 and such.

    If you are going to pick up a dSLR. Look to see if any of your friends shoot with dSLR and if so, which brand. I bought a Canon XSi in the beginning because it was on sale. All my photog buddies were/are shooting Nikon, but I really wanted to start shooting with an SLR.. If I had a Nikon, I could have borrowed their lenses which would have been more fun. I could of had a much bigger variety of lenses and accessories to use if I went with the brand my buddies were using.

  • Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Kimberly Gauthier Photography August 13, 2011 12:45 am

    So cool that two local stores made it first on the list. I frequent them both often.

    This is such a great list of things to consider. My top two are how it feels in my hands and where the controls are; if I can't easily and quickly make adjustments, then it's not the camera for me.

    Thanks for sharing your tips. I'll be sharing this with my readers today!

    Kimberly

  • Maretta Stiles August 13, 2011 12:33 am

    Samy's Camera, Pasadena California (not the Hollywood location however). I never feel rushed or pressured to buy or upsold. All the sales staff are quite knowledgeable and helpful.

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