What Do I Need to Know When Buying a Digital SLR Camera

Posted on August 4, 2009


I received an email asking my opinion about Digital SLR cameras (or Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras). The emailer wanted some buying tips because one of his kids asked for one.

First, what are SLR cameras? Basically, they are better and more expensive cameras than the digital compact point-and-shoot cameras that are everywhere now. They are better because SLRs have better lenses that are faster than compact cameras. So SLRs allow you to take much better, professional-quality photos.

With that quality, there is an increased price tag. I purchased a Polaroid digital point-and-shoot for around $50 about 6 months ago. An SLR can begin at around $450 for a beginner’s camera (if you can find it discounted). So keep the price in mind when looking around.

Finally, what to buy? There are a lot of goood choices in every price range. It depends on how much you want to spend.

I just ordered a great camera that was recommended to me. It is the Canon Rebel T1i. With the lens, it costs around $800 on Amazon.com right now. Some other good models are the XSi or XTi. The XTi was a gift from my girlfriend three years ago and was a good start to digital photography. I brought it on a 3-week trip to Central Mexico and gave me great photos.

I would recommend Canon cameras generally. Canon produces quality lenses, which is the most important element of the SLR.

One other benefit to the T1i is the video quality. If you want to switch from still photos to videos, you can do that with the T1i as well.

So I would go to a store and play around with a few cameras. When you are looking around, keep the lens quality in mind. It is something you can keep for years if you spend money on a good lens now. You can always upgrade the camera body later and add the lens to the new body.

One warning: Bundles can increase the price of the camera. Retailers will try to upsell you by adding things you are not going to need (i.e. extra kits, a case, a filter). If you buy a Canon, get the basic Canon-only kit (that’s the body of the camera and one lens). That should be good enough to start you off.

A final tip from a great photo blog and podcast called Tips From the Top Floor:  Do not buy a UV filter to protect the lens. They believe it is a waste of money and will reduce the quality of the lens over time.

Conclusion: Any Digital SLR is good enough, if you are just starting out. Today, the Entry level SLRs are very good. See what you can afford and pick out what you like.
Posted in: Photography