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3 Simple Steps to Buying a Digital SLR Camera be it Nikon, Canon or something else...

Updated on June 17, 2015

Getting started

I've been in and out of photography for a very long time. I started out back in the day - the analogue days - with film and did all the darkroom development processes you read about now like it was last millennium - oh wait, it was...

Having lost all my equipment 5 years ago, I decided to call it quits. During the last year with my family growing up and speaking with some travel photographers I was bitten by the photo-bug again. So I decided to get myself back in the game and started looking for a decent set of gear to get the cobwebs dusted - here are some of the main steps I took to get setup.

Step 1: Area of interest.
Are you interested in portrait, landscape, street, architectural, fashion, wedding, travel or something else the list goes on. Each of these areas have slightly different equipment requirements so you need to take that into account. The basic rule holds true though - that's the 'Get a decent body, but save your money on the best lens you can afford!" rule. You can upgrade your camera body later but the lens is something that will take you forward in your photo-adventures and you do not want to skimp on picture quality. Most DSLR cameras available in the pro-sumer range are very good, of decent price and they all have the features you would need to get started. All have interchangeable lens and feature outstanding photo and video quality to a point. If you are serious in taking this step you need to have full manual control to slow down and really "create" your pictures rather than "taking" your pictures - part of the learning/initiating process!

Step 2: Your budget.
Figure out what you can afford on your DSLR setup and stick to it! Easy - right? Not quite...Depending on the type of photography you are interested in you will need slightly different lenses and even extra equipment e.g. flash gear that on camera or off, reflectors, tripod(s), computer HW and SW for photo processing etc. so it adds up pretty fast. Though some equipment can be used in different areas e.g. a fast lens for street, wedding, fashion, portrait photography; wide-angles for architectural, interior design, fashion, travel, and landscape photography etc.

Do your research and set a budget!

Step 3: Where to get the equipment.
Kits versus separate body and lens mix. Kit lenses, those that comes with the camera are usually ok - they do the job and captures the image you want at Aunt Sally's 70th birthday party - an excellent kit lens is few and far between. Here again you need to do your research on the brands, body/sensor size and lenses you want to take on you adventure. My example: I want to get back into street photography and portraiture. I wanted to get the maximum sensor size I can but not maximum megapixel size, I want a prime/standard lens with a fast enough aperture for low light - street lighting - as well as the ability to control the depth of field for portraits. Brands I did not really cared about - though I have used Nikon and Canon equipment in the distant past - but I did care about the availability of excellent lenses and the camera's ability to use older lenses so this brought me back to Nikon and Canon. Yes, for street photography there is another brand - Leica - that created "street photography" but on my budget I couldn't even afford a camera case in that line up. So back to Nikon and Canon it is. I have had a bit more experience with Nikon so I decided to go with them instead of Canon. If you are seriously into sport photography, videography + photography you may want to go try out a Canon.

Try before you buy! If you are still unsure about the type/brand/size etc. you can spend some of you budget on renting the equipment for a couple of days and test driving the setup to see if it's what you wanted. There are a number of site on the web that does this as well as the bigger photo stores in the bigger cities!

You have decided on the make, model, and lens(es) you want - one more step before you go hand over your hard earned/saved/borrowed cash! If you are set to buy "NEW" goto sites like B&H or Adorama - I prefer the latter and go for it. If you have done your research and may have gleemed into previous years DSLR models you may have noticed the BIG price drop on the generation -1 or -2 prices - granted they are not brand new but you can be compensated by other ways interms of features, sensor size e.g. going from an APS to an FX, etc. With your short list on camera and lenses you should look into Amazon Used sections and also eBay - here I prefer Amazon. I've been actively buying and selling on both but - let's say - have found Amazon to be much more business like and secure/trustworthy. Oh yeah - I ended up with a lightly used Nikon D700 with a similarly lightly used Nikkor 50mm F1.8 both of which I am very happy with and re-learning the joys of photography!!


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