Which DSLR to Buy?

If you are somehow more interested in photography than what normally others are, then you have probably asked yourself such a question. Please note the phrase, more interested than others! It really helps to clarify the first point of mine which is if you are NOT interested more than others in photography, there would probably no rational justification and also no practical advantage to buy a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera to record your precious moments. In such a case, a much cheaper point and shoot digital camera which would probably be far more convenient to use than a DSLR will suffice your needs. So please consider the point and continue reading this if you really feel some passion deep inside (even little) when you think of photography!

Now back to our primary question, which DSLR to buy? If you briefly search the crowded market of DSLRs today, you can distinguish some major classifications (classes). To generally define the classes I should say the Consumer Class, the Prosumer Class and the Professional Class.

The Consumer Class is the cheapest group. The cameras in this class usually (almost always) have smaller and lighter bodies, are equipped with a (mediocre) kit lens, the bodies are of less durable material and design, the viewfinders are more cramped, the processing speed and hence the continuous image taking performance are lower and the sensors (the heart of your digital camera) are of smaller size.

The  Prosumer Class, which lay somewhere at the middle of the line, is designed for those of more serious attitude toward photography and also those professionals who look for a back up camera or extra mobility of their gears. Members of this class benefit from more rugged bodies compared to the consumer class cameras. They usually have more direct controls and dedicated buttons and switches to tweak the ever rising options of DSLRs and hence make the life a lot easier to adjust camera functions in the field. The prosumer cameras can be bought with or without kit lens. The kit lens is usually of medium build quality and offers acceptable to good images. The processing speed and continuous image taking ability of these cameras are usually much better than their sisters in consumer class. The sensor size of these prosumer bodies are almost always the same as the consumer class cameras. The prices as it could be guessed lay somewhere in the mid range.

The professional DSLRs are those which are designed to fulfill the back breaking demands of professionals. They are made to be durable, rugged, reliable, fast, accurate and able to deliver high quality images. Of course these are all desirable to any photographer but to have them one should bear the costs. The costs are the fancy price tags (may reach 8000 $), the heavy weight (body is almost always more than a kilo) and the bulky body. These cameras are usually weather proof with lots of direct controls, large and bright view finders, lots of processing power, sophisticated focusing systems, state of the art technologies of the manufacturers and of course larger sensors. In a word, they are the flagships of the manufacturers’ production lines.

It should be noted that there are several cameras in each manufacturer’s production line. This is mostly because of the heated and competitive DSLR market today which forces companies introduce several mostly similar models in order to stay fresh and interesting in the market.

So as now you have some general view of the main categories of DSLRs today. Here is my advice. If you are interested in photography but you have not got experience in more serious manner of image taking, if you are not really accustomed to framing, editing, technical terms like diaphragm opening, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, depth of field, lighting and its rules and so, then it is suggested to buy an entry level (consumer class) DSLR to firstly judge your interest and its level and second get familiar and convenient with the mentioned terms, controls and adjustments.

Of course if you have got the money and spending some few hundred bucks does not bother you, you may by one of the prosumer DSLRs first hand. But my advice is that the prosumer cameras are for more serious photographers, those who have had some few years of experience in SLRs and have developed some skills in at least technical aspects of photography and now feel the needs for more rugged and faster cameras to suffice their demands.

The professional bodies as the name implies are for those who earn a living by photography (or at least photography is one of their most important passions). Otherwise you should be probably one of the millionaire kids to buy an 8000 $ camera to just start experiencing photography! I do not elaborate the reasons of why to buy a professional level high end DSLR here as if you were on a level to really need such a camera you wouldn’t probably read this post and instead would search crazy detailed reviews and technical comparisons out there on the net!

Anyway my friend, if you are new to photography era (which in case I should sincerely congratulate you as the journey would be unexpectedly rewarding and creative) you are advised to buy an entry level DSLR. Nowadays they are really reliable, advanced, properly equipped and affordable and in the meantime are able to produce brilliant images. But remember the camera will be ultimately a tool, like all the other photography gears, what is the most important in producing good images is the one behind the viewfinder which is you, your passion, your interest, your creativity, your skills and your art and please bear it in mind nothing good in life achieved easily! So be interest, passionate and persistent and you will be the good photographer!

To put an end to this here I list some Canon DSLRs classified roughly in the above mentioned classes (some are discontinued but could be bought second hand really cheap). Please search for other brands like Nikon, Pentax and Olympus on the net (the price tag will be a good indicator of the class).

Canon Consumer DSLRs: 350D, 400D, 1000D, 450D, 500D, 550D

Canon Prosumer DSLRs: 30D, 40D, 50D, 60D, 7D

Canon Professional DSLRs: 5D, 5D mk II, 1D, 1Ds, 1D mk II, 1D mkIII, 1Ds mk II, 1Ds mk III, 1D mk IV

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.


Total comments: 2
By NewsieGal (Jun 16, 2012)

I am interested in what you call a prosumer camera. I have been out of photography for a decade, and my last camera was the Nikon N90S, which i loved. I am a hobbyist who wants minimum size with maximum quality (including plenty of depth and max size of images before interference is noticable). Price is not a factor, and I don't care about video. Preferably interchangeable lenses for future growth, but I am open to a fixed lense of sufficient quality. What would currently or in the near future recommend? Thanks!

By Oussouye (Dec 22, 2011)

Out of Video the 350D is still a must and now very cheap (as a prim or secondary camera).
Cheap with video is the 1100D not listed here.

With more money to spend then definitively the 7D!

The XD ... if you want to buy them... then you know what you do :-)

But never forget the lenses will drive your photo quality, not the body.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
Total comments: 2