On a personal level, being in the process of switching systems (see my last post for the details) has gotten me to start thinking again about the process that I’ve gone through twice now in choosing a DSLR system. If you’re in the position of either choosing your first DSLR or have been using a DSLR, but contemplating switching systems, here are some of my thoughts on the matter.
First of all, no one DSLR system is going to be right for everybody; each system has it’s strengths and weaknesses. Companies like Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sigma all make great cameras and lenses. You just need to figure out which system will best meet your needs as a photographer.
While this list of questions you’ll want to ask yourself isn’t exhaustive, for sure, I think it’ll start to point you in the right direction of which system will be best for you.
1. What is your experience level with photography and cameras? How important is ease of use to you? Do you want just a basic camera to get you started, or do you want a camera you can grow with?
2. What type of photography do you intend to do with this camera? Kid pics? Great vacation pics? Specialized types of photography like flash photography or macro photography? As I mentioned before, different systems have their strengths, so choosing a system that will allow you to best do the photography that you want to do will save a lot of frustration in the long run.
3. Where do you want to go with your photography? Are you content with just getting great snapshots of your kids and vacations or do you plan on making this a serious hobby beyond just the snapshots? If you’re already a hobbyist photographer, do you have thoughts of someday going professional?
4. What kind of budget are you looking at to start with? Even if you’ve done your homework and have planned out what you want to have in your camera bag, but feel a little down because you can’t afford to buy everything you want right away, don’t fret. All you need is one body and one lens to get started; you can add more lenses and accessories as you get the money. Also, keep in mind that you can save some serious cash by buying gently used bodies and lenses off of reputable dealers and individuals. On the other hand, just because you have a bunch of cash to blow on your new DSLR and lenses doesn’t mean that the most expensive ones will be the best for your situation, either.
5. Relating to question #2, once you’ve figured out where you want to go with your photography, as you look at each system, what types of lenses and accessories does each offer? While having a wide variety of lenses and accessories to choose from is a good thing, that alone should not be the main determining factor. While more serious enthusiasts and professionals may need to have a wide variety of lenses and accessories at their disposal, family snapshooters don’t really need that; any of the DSLR systems offer good quality basic lenses and accessories that will do the job.
Now you may be thinking–where do I go to learn more about DSLRs and figure out what it is that I really want or need? Excellent question–I’ll give you some resources below that will get you started.
If you’re debating on whether or not you really need a DSLR to begin with, Adorama has an excellent article that will help you determine whether or not you’re ready for a DSLR. Once you’ve determined that you do need or want a DSLR, they have another excellent article with suggestions for starter DSLRs.
Seeing about picking up or subscribing to some photography-related magazines, as they are good sources of information for gear information and reviews. Out of the major ones, Popular Photography is my favorite general photography magazine.
Since you’re already on the web reading this, go check out some photography-related forums. Almost every brand has a specific forum covering their gear. Browse, read, sign up, and ask questions. Photographers tend to be a pretty friendly bunch and are willing to help newbies. Here are some that I know about:
- Pentax: http://www.pentaxforums.com
- Canon: http://photography-on-the.net/forum/
- Nikon: http://www.nikonians.org/
- Olympus/Panasonic (4/3rds system): http://forum.fourthirdsphoto.com/
A few good general ones for all brands include:
For reviews, I like:
Another excellent resource is the people you know. Look around in your circle of family and friends–do you know anybody who is currently using a DSLR? If so, talk to them and ask them about what they like and dislike about their own gear. If you’ve got a local photography club in your area, that’s another excellent source of information, as you’ll generally have a wide variety of people doing all different types of photography with different cameras and systems all in one place.
While this list of resources isn’t anywhere near exhaustive, hopefully it’ll be enough to get you started on your search to finding the best DSLR system, camera, and lenses to fit your wants and needs.