Wednesday, 20 March 2013

How do you decide which DSLR to buy next?


The BIG question I always hear is, "So who makes a better camera? Canon or Nikon?"

When you think about it, it could be like asking someone, “So who makes the better hamburger? McDonalds or Burger King… or maybe Wendy’s does?”

If you are a gear head and partial to one camera over the next, this article is probably not going to be for you… I respect your in depth knowledge greatly... but a Canon techie patriot will have mostly bad things to say about Nikon and vice versa and I am not going to take this article in that direction... This isn’t a comparison of sensor capabilities, high megapixel counts that will cause the average person to go out and buy a new computer to be able to edit their photos, nor is it a comparison of noise capabilities of the freakishly used, extremely high ISO that the average shooter will never shoot at… this is for the amateur photographer that really struggles with the purchase decision of their first or second entry level or mid level DSLR.

Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to shoot with a variety of cameras. In the Canon line-up I have shot with the Rebel XSi, the 7D, the 5D MKI and 5D MKII and 5D MKIII. In the Nikon Line-up I have shot with the D600 the D300 and the D7000. In the Olympus line-up I have shot with the E420, E520, E30 and E3. And in the Pentax line-up I have shot with the K30, the K5 and the K7. So I have run the gamut a fair bit and tried most cameras in real world settings.

I found features in every one of these cameras that I really liked… and some that I didn't like. One camera had too many features buried in menus, one was too heavy, but most did exactly what i needed... and in fact, photos taken by each brand of camera have found their way into reputable magazines, or showcased on some camera manufacturer sites, or hanging in businesses or purchased from stock photo sites... a good photograph isn’t made by the expensive camera, a good photograph comes from the 6 inches behind the camera, “You”.

The reality check is that for beginners, and for those entering into the phase of intermediate level photographer; you are still learning all the functions of the camera and you are still learning composition and mastering the basics… picking the right camera is about picking the right camera for where your skill levels will be in two years. Once you master that camera... upgrade and go through the same learning cycle again.
 
But it is true that some manufacturers have better features than others, the sensor size will matter for the elimination of digital noise in low light and it will have an effect on the length of the zoom in your lenses. A crop factor sensor amplifies the length of your lens, where as a full frame camera does not... a 300mm lens on a 4/3rds camera is in effect a 600mm and a 300mm lens on a full frame camera is 300mm. There are pluses and minuses to both, but until you can understand that, well, I would stay away from buying that full frame camera for now... The megapixels will also matter if you are printing larger photos and you want to keep the resolution. It will also help if you are cropping and want to still have crisp photos. The bracketing possibilities will help you ensure you are properly exposing every shot you take. Even the cameras ability to fire multiple channels of flashes simultaneously at different powers will matter if you get into taking photos of weddings, studio work, product, etc.

Even the longevity of the company should matter to you. I shoot Olympus, and I have since I was 13… right now the future of Olympus is in question and I am faced with making the uncomfortable decision of making a complete shift and purchase a complete line-up of a second set of camera gear. This decision is going to run me close to $15,000 and I am flip flopping like a fish on the dock on which way to go… just ask my friend Gary Simmons... LOL
So after you are bombarded with advice, look at what the PRO’s use, you have read review after review, and so on… at the end of the day your decision is a personal one. It comes down to a few basic factors…
~ How much can you afford right now?
~ How good is the warranty and extended warranty offered by the retailer?
~ What is the trade in policy by the retailer you are buying the camera at?
~ How easy is it going to be for you to upgrade your camera in the future without purchasing new lenses?
~ How expensive are the lenses of the camera manufacturer you are considering?  
~ What feels comfortable in your hands?

If you are a family photographer and have no aspirations of selling photos or running workshops, well any entry level camera will do the trick and any reputable retailer will steer you in the right direction.

But if you have aspirations of getting creative and want to learn the art of taking photos like the masters before us... well, as I write this in December of 2012, my personal advice for the amateur photographer is to look at two cameras… both feature rich that you can grow into. They have a good balance of megapixel size, sensor quality, quality of the body, longevity and can produce award winning images…

The Canon 7D… it’s a little long in the tooth as it has been around awhile… but as Canon recently launched the full frame, entry level, 6D and about to launch the 7D MKII, the price will drop to clear them out… you will be able to pick up a crop sensor camera that a lot of PRO’s use as their second camera… and a lot of experienced shooters use as their primary camera. The 7D MKII might also be well priced as Canon will probably keep it under their 6D full frame camera... I would go MKII if you could afford it.

The Nikon D7000… it has not been on the market all that long, but with the recent launch of the D7100 and the D600, an entry level full frame camera, Nikon has been lowering the price of that camera to start to move them again. I have seen it advertised for under $900 with free camera bags and memory cards just to sell them. Just a year ago this camera was well over $1300.

With either of those cameras you will walk away happy with your purchase and own a camera that will produce excellent images now and for many years to come. Both cameras are extremely feature rich and offer you the opportunity to grow into them before you even have to consider to upgrade. You can also purchase most lenses in each manufacturers line-up to be used on those bodies.

If you looking for a camera, I wish you luck in your decision…