I‘m not a camera expert. Like with most of my geeky pursuits, I’m self-taught in the basics of photography. And I mean the basics – my knowledge is fairly surficial at this point. It would be easy to say I bought the Canon XSi because it was the most popular DSLR on Amazon.com – and it would be partly true. However, I spent several months doing my homework. Here’s what I learned:
1. Size only sorta matters: We’re talking megapixels here. Anything 6 and above would be better than my 3MP point & shoot. But really, anything over 10 is overkill for the average home photographer. I learned to choose features over megapixels. At 12.2 MP, I got a bonus with the Canon XSi – but those RAW files are HUGE! Make sure to pair an appropriately sized memory card with your purchase!
2. Brand is important: I quickly narrowed my choices to Canon and Nikon. Not because they’re the “hot” brands, but because brands with a large user base means more support, tutorials and tips on the web. Not being an expert, I wanted to know I could always find one. I always fancied myself a Nikon girl, but after reading about some of the limitations of the D40 and D60, I didn’t feel Nikon was really paying attention to my demographic.
3. Know your needs: I built my search around one particular need – taking indoor photos of squirmy children and pets. My old P&S took amazing outdoor photos, as I imagine many can. However, much of our daily life is within the confines of home. I wanted to capture those moments the best way possible. When reading reviews of cameras and lenses, I paid particular attention to comments on this issue. In particular I looked for low light performance and auto-focusing ability. It’s all to easy to convince yourself you need more camera than you really do or can really afford. Find the best camera for your budget and your needs.
4. Make a wishlist, but be flexible: I had originally been looking at the Canon XTi. However, no local stores carried it anymore. I wanted to hold my prospective new camera in hand. In the end, the larger LCR, having an Image Stabilized kit lens and Live View features sent me to the XTi. However, I didn’t realize how easy it would be to transition to using the view finder, even while wearing glasses. As many have said, Live View should definitely NOT be an important factor in your DSLR purchase. This feature is not for casual users, but I am looking forward to being able to shoot from my laptop!
5. Understand your skills: I’ve never had a manual film camera, so I have no experience getting a crisp manual focus. Plus, my eyesight is not so dandy. While I’m getting adept at using the view finder with glasses, I would not want to manually focus with it. On top of all this, manual focus is not always the right solution for snapping the ever changing emotions of kids. My point here is that I chose Canon over Nikon due to the lower-end Nikons lacking AF ability with many of the moderately priced lenses. I knew I wanted a 50mm prime AND auto-focus, but I was not willing to shell out $400-500 for it.
6. Look long term: I had my FujiFilm S5000 for 6 years – and paid ~$600 for it back then. I knew this DSLR would be a very long term investment. For this reason, I chose to go with a newer model that I could grow into, one with some of the latest features that I may not yet appreciate.
If you’re a DSLR owner, what factors were important in your purchase? If you’re still researching, why features are important to you?