This is NOT a all inclusive shopping guide. We do not promote any store, retailer or brand over another. Choosing your brand is a personal thing.
So you want a DSLR. Maybe you see everyone else using one, or you want to start nature watching, maybe you just had your first kid/grandchild. Whatever your reason, you are shopping for a DSLR. This is a high dollar item, you want to get it right. But it can be very confusing. We hope this guide will help.
Chose your brand:
Nikon, Sony, Canon, Minolta, Pentax... What brand is best? Can I compare these?
Lets face it, they are all about the same. Look at what your friends have. This can be a big influence on your brand choice. If your friends all shoot Canon, they can help you learn to use a Canon, and you can share and trade accessories. Try your friends' cameras. Each manufacturer has their own
style, menus and button placement. It is much easier to play with your friends' and families' cameras, than the display model at the store. If none of this influences you to pick one brand over another, good for you. That leaves you more options at the store.Choose a price range. $tick to it.
I am not your accountant. I am not going to lecture you on money management. My point is you are not just buying a camera. You need the camera, lens, memory and case. Maybe you want two cases or an extra lens, spare memory, extra battery, external flash, tripod... There is no end of what you can get. So pick a total price range, decide what accessories you want to start with, then shop. Look at package deals (Add the prices and make sure it is a deal), these can group required items together at a reduced cost.
Take your time and shop.
Read online reviews, ask questions, go to stores and touch and feel. When you go to the store be honest, tell the salesperson what you need and how much you are willing to pay. Remember, the guy at BestBuy is probably not a
professional photographer. Matter of fact, they probably don't even own a camera not in a cell phone. They read about them... in the sales guide the store gives them... maybe. If you want good information, go to a camera store. Your local camera store might be a few bucks more, but you are paying for the knowledge and help. (I hope the Geek Squad doesn't put out a hit on me.) Look at the packages on line. Amazon usually lists great package deals.
Decide what you need.
You have seen what is out there and how much it cost. But what suits you. Remember why you are buying this camera. What you are going to do is key in picking the right gear.
How many megapixel? Do you need a 18 megapixel Canon Eos T2i? Or a 6 megapixel Nikon D40? The companies want you to think you need a 1000 megapixels, but you don't even know what a megapixel is... I am not alone when I warn you of this dirty trick. Ken Rockwell has a much better rant about the megapixel myth. But I will keep it short and simple. You want to email pictures, post them that Face-Space-Book-Page thing, and print one or two around the holidays. Right? For a standard 4x6 print, a two megapixel camera will work, that is well more than you need for email too. I don't think anyone sells a 2MP camera anymore... The point is don't let the sales staff push you into the highest megapixel model because it is better. Do NOT compare your 12 megapixel point-and-shoot to a 12 MP DSLR. That is apples and oranges. If you plan on shooting semi-professional and doing lots of post processing then you are reading the wrong guide. :) If you honestly plan on editing and printing most of the pictures, you are in the minority that will benefit from higher megapixel. Major cropping demands high megapixel sources. Most entry level DSLRs are in the 8-12 MP range, that will be good for almost everyone.
One lens. Two? 18-55mm what? Start off with what you want to do. Do you just want something better than your point-and-shoot to take some family
pictures? Or are you trying to catch your kid playing baseball? Or both? I am not going to go into detail about all the number here, just the basics. 18-55. This is the focal length or easier to think of: Zoom. The 18 is the shortest zoom the lens will do and the 55 is the longest. This lens is a good indoor and portrait lens. Something in the 200 to 300 is
a great telephoto lens to capture the little ones on the sports field, or that sparrow on the fence. The other notable feature for first time buyers is the diameter of the lens. Bigger is better, but you pay for it. A 18-105 is a great all around lens. It is a great lens if you are buying only one. If you are going to buy two most experts would recommend something like a 18-55 for indoor work, and 55-200 for outdoor.
Memory is cheap. Buy two cards. I would not recommend any camera that does not use SD memory. Most users should not exceed 8 GB cards. Buy a pair of 4 GB SD memories and you should be happy.Flash. The built in flash works, pretty much. If you need better indoor quality buy an external flash, but this can wait.Tripod. Get one. Not the cheapest one in the store, these are not going to hold the weight of a DSLR. Go one more expensive and you will be good.
Filter. BUY ONE FOR EVERY LENS. These things cost
about $15 and will save your lens. When you scratch the filter toss it and
get another. Get a generic UV filter. They are sold by the diameter of the lens. Don't get confused. The filter may be 67mm, that is not the same as the 18-55mm from above. The lens will be marked with what size filter it takes. Most lens caps are marked on the inside as well.Bags and cases. To each their own. Make sure it is padded and big enough for what you are buying. If you have two lenses and a flash, you need a bag that will hold it all. Three major categories here are the traditional shoulder strap,
back pack, and 'purse style' bags. The traditional classic camera bag is great for holding everything and protecting it. Easy to store and carry. Back packs are better for travel and outdoor/nature stuff. The 'purse style' is a secondary case, it wont hold much, and is not the best for protection, but will let you carry your camera and small lens with ease.
Price compare and buy.
You know what you want. Shop around see who has what and for how much. Most users will not need to get the highest end stuff in the store. Balance your features with quality. (Not manufactured quality but image quality) Most of us will never notice the difference between a $5000 200mm lens with a 2 max aperture and the $250 one with a 4 max aperture. (Aperture has two features in photography. The lower your max the less light needed for a good picture. The Higher your minimum, 22 is average, the more of your picture is in focus) You are better getting the two lenses you need than one high end model. Most DSLR users will never reap the benefits from the high dollar lens anyway.
Buy online if you need the best deal. Buy from your local camera shop if you want service, knowledge and help. Sometimes your local camera shop is the online store and will match the online price.