Thursday, September 20, 2012

My first D-SLR

I already shared the history behind my first SLR. Now I would like to share bit more details about my decision making on that matter and some basic know-hows. Nopes, I'm not going into all those technical details which one can find easily - either in the product site or in hundreds other sites.

Everyone come across the question while buying any item - which brand and which model? Camera (be it slr or point-n-shoot) is not an exception. In case of point-n-shoot cameras, the answer is not so difficult to find, but in case of a slr camera - these puzzles are bit tricky. Let's try to solve one by one.

Why D-SLR and not a Point & Shoot?

This is obviously the first question for all photo enthusiasts. A point & shoot (now on I'll address it as PS) gives limited control over a D-SLR. What are these controls and how are they important for an image quality? These controls (basic) name aperture, shutter speed and ISO (sensitivity). The combination of the aperture and shutter speed is often termed as exposure.

These three items basically decides how a picture will look like. A PS camera does not have much controls over these - there the photographer is bit paralyzed, the camera mainly decides how a image will look like and not the photographer. One can argue that, in PS camera you can control the white balance, focus method, flash, etc.; then how come the photographer is not in control? Honestly speaking, white balance is not at all important (!) and like the others. The basics of an image are exposure and ISO. In a PS camera there is very little that a photographer can do to control the desired exposure level. That is why, it is very difficult to make subject isolation in PS (everything in the frame remain focused in PS) which is easy to do in a D-SLR.

Subject isolation (background out of focus)
Subject isolation (background out of focus)
Apart from these three, there are complex controls like metering, bracketing, etc. These are advance controls. I will not discuss about these here and will keep this article simple.

Using D-SLR the photographer can capture RAW images whereas using PS one can get only JPEG images. I will not go into the details of RAW vs JPEG. Just for basic ideas - RAW is kind of negative (which you might have seen if you ever came across a film camera) and the photographer can develop thousands of positives (JPEG or whatever format) from that RAW. RAW files gives you the flexibility for thousands of option of post-processing which a JPEG cannot offer.

Come'on dude, don't tell me that a PS cam is crap and do not have any advantages! No, I'm not saying that, a PS camera comes with great flexibility to price ratio, which a D-SLR can hardly offer. PS cams are comparatively cheaper (most important point), light weight (though slr-like heavy PS cams are there now in market), one do not need to change lenses (and no need to carry lenses - so travel light), etc. A super zoom PS camera can serve all needs (be it a romantic full moon night or an adventurous day in a national park) , whereas a good zoom lens for a SLR camera comes with a high price tag. Here comes the good point of a SLR camera - inter changeable lenses. A SLR gives you the flexibility to change the lens depends on the occasion (lets not talk about price now) - be it a macro lens, ultra-wide angle lens, fast lens, super telephoto lens whatever you need just change the lens and you are ready to go. You do not need to change your (expensive) camera body every time. A photo enthusiast will land in a situation when the PS images will look flat, the desired looks/effects will not be delivered by a PS according to the demand. With D-SLR - just change the lens according to the need of the occasion and bingo! You get what you were looking for.

So, there are numerous advantages of a SLR over a PS which one can utilize over the life time of the camera. There is no doubt about the supremacy of a SLR over a PS. If you want to control the looks of your image - do not waste money on PS, buy a SLR. Maybe I dragged a bit here, but this is exactly how my friend convinced me for SLR.

Which brand?

Once you decided to buy a SLR, this will obvious be the next question in your mind - which brand? Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Olympus, which one?

My friend told me, if you want a SLR then make your option list limited into Canon and Nikon, throw out all others. One should go for such brand which has a rich history in Photography and that's obviously either of Canon and Nikon. It does not mean that brands like Pentax, Leica, Olympus, Sony - they do not have a back ground but the problem with these brands are either they are (heavily) expensive or they have a poor lens catalogue to offer. When I say poor lens catalogue - that should not be misunderstood that these brands do not produce superb lenses. These brands produce costly (but superb) lens (also costly third party) and they have comparatively less number of lenses than Canon/Nikon. In a decent price range and with a sound collection of lens (including third-party offerings) Canon or Nikon shall be the primary option.

One may ask, why should I worry so much about a lens? I already mentioned above: "A SLR gives you the flexibility to change the lens depends on the occasion - be it a macro lens, ultra-wide angle lens, fast lens, super telephoto lens whatever you need just change the lens and you are ready to go. You do not need to change your (expensive) camera body every time." So, it is important to choose the brand which has a wide selection to offer (at a decent price); and/or wide selection of third party makes.

Close focus with a macro lens
A macro shot
Note: If you wish to buy a PS, then I will suggest Sony or Panasonic. With Sony you get a lens of Carl Zeiss and a Leica make lens with Panasonic. That makes these two brands my favorites when it comes to PS.

Read more from a proNikon vs Canon vs Sony

Which type?

Based on the sensor size there are two different type of D-SLR camera: DX and FX. I'm keeping micro four thirds and the new mirror-less cameras out of discussion. Canon and Nikon do not have four-thirds, their mirror-less venture is not upto the mark yet. 

FX cameras have a sensor size of a 35 mm film, approximately 36x24 mm. That's why FX cameras often termed as 35 mm format or Full-frame camera.

DX (also referred as cropped size sensors or APS-C) camera has a sensor size of approximately 2/3 of a FX sensor - 24x16 mm. 

Sensor is the heart of a camera. Better the sensor - better the camera. Obviously the FX cameras come with much better quality than DX cameras and FX (camera body and lenses) are much more expensive than DX.

Being amateur or beginner, DX should be your choice to start with. One should not spend a heavy amount on FX in the beginning. Later in future, after getting a good grip over basic D-SLR know hows,  one can consider upgrading to a FX system. More lucidly, if your photographs start to paying you up then you can consider a upgrade. Otherwise a DX is more than enough. 

With the recent launch of Nikon D600 and Canon 6D at a price tag of USD 2,099/-, there are some discussion on air that FX prices are lowering down. But do not misguided by such discussions. D600 (body only) costs almost 1.7 times of a Nikon D7000 (one of the best DXs in market today) with a kit lens!

Read more from a proDX vs FX

Which model?

Now I know that, I'm going to buy a D-SLR camera (DX body) of Canon or Nikon. The question is which model finally? It is pointless to debate about the supremacy of Canon and Nikon. Here I took help from SNAPSORT. When I checked with them, it was quite clear for me that I will go with Nikon. They have two very good DX camera i.e. D7000 and D5100; but Canon do not have anything like them in the same price range.

Finally I made my mind for D5100; D7000 was my top choice but it was out of my budget).

Almost a year ago, when I bought my camera, Nikon's D3200 was not there. Even today when having a option of D3200, I will still prefer either D5100 or D7000. The extra mega-pixel count of D3200 failed to lure me. Apart from that, I do not see any further advantages of it above D5100. There is one more good DX body by Nikon - D90. D90 is bit costly affair than D5100 but cheaper than D7000. On the other hand, D7000 is much better than D90 in many regards. If the budget is really tight, then D3100 can be considered - it gives very good value to it's price and able to produce quality images.

Read more from a pro: D5100-01, D5100-02, D7000-01, D7000-02, D3100-01, D3100-02, D90

Which kit lens?

Irrespective of the DX body you choose, make sure that you are buying AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens along with. This is the best DX lens available at a reasonable price which will cover your regular needs.


Here I would like to conclude my article with one simple though very important statement; several version of this line you may heard already, I'm just repeating one of them: It's not the camera which captures a great picture - it's you who makes it great. Wish you all Happy Photographing :)

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