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Handy Advice For Choosing a Digital SLR Camera

If you want more control over your photography, then a Digital SLR camera could be the device to make you snap happy.

Used by professionals but now becoming more and more popular with amateurs, DSLRs as they are also known are now far more affordable than ever before.

SLR stands for single-lens reflex and this type of camera uses mirrors inside to show the photographer exactly what is being captured.

But the best thing is you don’t need to be David Bailey to use one. So if you’re considering making the step up from a Compact Camera to a Digital SLR, here’s some questions to ask when looking for one to buy.

And if you’re looking for a Compact Camera, then we’ve a Buying Guide for that. You’ll find all you need to know right here.

What basics do I need to know?

Digital SLR cameras come in two parts – the body and the lens. This differs to your normal compact where it’s all-in-one.

Starter kits will include both pieces, generally allowing you to then buy other lenses as you progress. These can include ones with greater zooms or wider angles.

The world of lenses can get very complicated but a basic DSLR setup can be managed by anyone with a basic interest in photography and how it works.

Some may have a built-in pop-up flash but others will require a standalone one that slots into the so-called ‘shoe’ on the top.

How much control can I have over my pictures?

These type of cameras are larger, heavier to handle and come with so many different manual settings.

Without getting too complicated, you can vary shutter speeds, a process needed to take action shots, slowing them down so the final image is not blurred.

You can also manually adjust the light settings to create better photos at nightime, and play around with your focus to sharpen or blur areas of the picture.

Some DSLRs will have an optical viewfinder, allowing you to see what you’re taking without needing the screen. Others may have this as an add-on attachment or rely on the display itself.

How much money will I need to spend?

Digital SLR is all about buying more than just a camera, so a whole system including different lenses and flashes can be costly in the long-run.

An initial DSLR camera body will cost between £300 and £800, while the lenses range from £250 to £1,000. But you can step up as slowly as you feel comfortable with doing so.

These cameras are also excellent for shooting high quality high-definition video. They can be just as good as a lower-end camcorder, especially if recording digital footage for the internet as well as broadcast.

But they can only store 30 minutes of video, no matter what size of memory card you put in. This is due to rules governing what defines a camera and what defines a camcorder.

What else do I need to know when buying a DSLR?

Trying before you buy is very important here. The Digital SLR camera market contains lots of different weights, sizes and grips, so it’s best to experience the body of a camera before spending out such a lot of money.

It’s also important to work out which brand you want to buy into, as you’ll not just be purchasing the body from them but also the rest of the kit that you need as it must all be compatible. Read plenty of reviews to find out how the major manufacturers differ and how people rate them.

Each brand has a slightly different system too. For example, Canon and Nikon have image stabilisation built-into their lenses, whereas others have it in the body of the camera. Experts consider lens-stabilisation better but this makes the lenses more expensive.

There are also many small, and often very technical, differences between the brands so giving them a go first, asking advice from instore experts and checking out photography websites will help you make an informed choice.

Do megapixels and memory cards make much difference?

When you get into DSLR territory then megapixel rates range between 12 and 18MP on general consumer versions. You can find out more about megapixels in our Compact Camera Buying Guide.

Memory cards for DSLRs need to be higher capacity due to the quality of the images you are shooting. You might also find models that accept two storage cards inside.

It all sounds a bit scary…

You really shouldn’t be scared of a Digital SLR, even though they can look bulky and offer a variety of options.

All DSLR cameras still have many automatic modes, meaning anyone can take a great picture just by clicking a button. Experimenting is fun though, and this is how you’ll learn, Start with the key manual settings, such as varying the light and focus.

Is there a halfway house between a compact and a DSLR?

Yes, these are known as ‘bridge’ or ‘compact system’ cameras, for example the Olympus PEN range. These are more automated than a DSLR, but retain a few manual controls and the ability to interchange one or two lenses.

They’re also smaller and cheaper, so perfect for those who want to slowly step up from their Compact Camera but don’t want the bulk or cost of a DSLR.

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