Thinking of getting into the world of “DSLR Photography”? Here’s a typical scenario. You have a compact camera and capture some great photos but want more control over its functions. It’s great that such a small unit can achieve such great results but know that that great photo could have been so much better if you could have changed the speed avoiding some blur or the depth of what was in focus.
This is a scenario that most camera owners face. I was in fact visiting New York from the UK, with my Canon EOS 50E film camera in tow and paid a visit to B&H where I purchased my first digital compact camera. Yes, it was Canon and I recollect an impressive 1Mega Pixel model.
Upgrading to a DSLR provides you the opportunity to achieve great things with you camera but buying that first camera can be daunting
What you should look for in a DSLR camera?
Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) refers to the viewing system…light passes through the lens, is reflected off a 45 degree mirror, into a glass prism and here it is turned right-way-round for viewing through the view finder.
Aside from the increased functionality that is available on the DSLR camera, probably an even more important benefit is the ability to connect different lenses. It’s only when you compare results with those off your compact that you realize how exciting your photography will become.
Canon has Entry Models right through to those for Professionals. Most now have sensors handling a minimum of 18 MegaPixels but with the new enthusiast camera – Canon EOS Rebel T6i (750D) having increased this to 24.2MP. For the professionals they will be able to achieve a massive 50.6MP with the new Canon EOS 5D S.
The The more pixels that are squeezed onto the sensor the smaller they have to be. This causes problems with “noise”, and loss of definition so we see manufacturers now going more for increased functionality. A DSLR sensor is larger than that on your compact enabling them to gather light and produce a well-exposed image. So although your compact may have a similar Mega Pixel rating the results off the DSLR will be better.
Sensor Size and Type
Of course there is more to it than Mega Pixels as DSLR’s also have different sensor sizes – the two most common varieties are APS-C and Full Frame. APS-C is the smaller variety found in beginner to semi-pro models, whereas the 35mm-sized full frame is used in pro models only. The increased scale vastly improves image quality and of course file size.
Build Quality and Weight
Canon cameras are of course of excellent construction but the materials used in the build of the various cameras vary throughout the range reflecting the likely use of the camera. These different materials obviously have a knock on effect on weight of the basic unit.
The entry models with the latest being the EOS 750D/Rebel T6i are constructed of Polycarbonate resin and weigh in at only 19.58 oz/555g… excluding the lens of course. The new Canon 70D on the other hand is a mix polycarbonate and aluminium which adds 200 grams to the weight. This is a deviation from its 50D predecessor which was totally magnesium.
We then move up to a range used by semi-pros and professionals where we see a change in construction to totally magnesium with the Canon EOS 7D Mark 2 coming in at 2 lb / 910 g – not far off double the entry level cameras . This is a camera with the smaller sensor which helps reduce the size of the camera build and this along with the speed (frames per second) makes it particular attractive to sport photographers who with a weighty lens need to reduce weight wherever possible.
Although unlikely to be a target for the new DSLR owner we should mention the flagship Canon EOS 1D X. Very much a Studio camera particularly when you learns it weighs in at 1,340g with lens.
A consideration particularly if you are to undertake sports photography is the frame rate that is achieved when shooting continuously. There is also the buffering ability of the camera which is the ability to store image before they are saved but we will concentrate here on the frame rate:
Low Light Capability/ISO Speed
If you’re likely to want to shoot in low light, whether it’s sunset landscapes or night clubs good low light performance is a must. You have probably heard of ISO but wonder what is? In the days of film cameras the coating of the films varied according to how light sensitive you wanted it to be. The lower the light level the higher the ISO rating of the film. The trade off for speed though was the quality of the final photo which would suffer from graininess or noise.
In the world of Digital SLR’s the parallel with film sensitivity is the cameras ISO setting. With a range from 100 to as high as 25,600 on the new Canon EOS 6D the ability to shoot in low light has increased dramatically and with a much reduced degradation of the image.
Many of the Canon DSLR range now come with video capability and the quality of the footage is such that these cameras are now being used to produce professional videos. Not all of the range have video though so check before you buy. A functionality recently added to some in the range, and in included in the new EOS 750D/Rebel T6i and Canon 70D, is the vari-angle screen and starting with the Canon 650D/Rebel T4i this has been taken a stage further with Touch Screen capability.
Unless you are using a Manual Focus lens you can take advantage of the autofocus capability of the EOS cameras. This has evolved much with the recent additions to the Canon range and enables the photographer to ensure a very accurately focus image. All now have a minimum of 9 Auto Focus points with the new Canon 6D pushing this up to 11AF points. We shall mention the Canon EOS 1D X although probably not a contender for many of our audience – this boosts an impressive 61 AF points.
Wireless transfer of files used to only be possible using a special add-on unit to the semi-pro and professional cameras. With the launch of the Canon 6D we saw integrated WiFi enabling you to transfer files to your PC and Smartphone and also to control your camera with a Canon App. This has now been extended to the entry level models of the Canon Rebel T6i (750D) and Canon Rebel T6s (760D).
Onboard GPS is another recent addition to some of the range and in particular the Canon 7D Mark 2 and Canon 6D. Unlike with some of the Canon Compact cameras this has not yet been included in the Rebel entry level models.
We have covered the majority of elements which might be new to you. As you browse the range of cameras it should now be more understandable.
Watch: How to Use a DSLR Camera? A Beginner’s Guide