Selecting the Best Entry Level DSLR Camera
If you're just starting out in photography, things can be a little bit overwhelming. Today's photography market is flooded with advertisements from Canon and Nikon and Sony...the list goes on. What's most important is that you stay loyal to one brand. If you choose Canon as your manufacturer of choice, understand that accessories you buy will only be designed to fit Canon camera products. You'll have to make an early choice and stick with that brand or you'll waste a lot of money down the road. Choose carefully.
The important thing to consider is that you will be learning the basics here so get a camera that best suits your needs. What do you enjoy doing most? Some photographers love to travel and others just need a camera for their son or daughter's sporting events. For some, size of the camera and ease of transport are big elements. For others, display screen and button configuration will be the key purchase decision. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. You're looking to spend around $400-$600, nothing more.
The most important thing to consider when buying your first DSLR is the option for Manual mode. Manual mode allows the photographer the ability to adjust things like aperture, shutter and ISO. Manual mode will be the area where you will truly learn how to take beautiful pictures. Without it, you'd probably be better off just using your iPhone.
There are other elements to consider when you are looking to purchase your first DSLR. Most modern DSLR cameras have different shooting modes like Sport, Wildlife, and Portrait. You'll want to make sure that you have a nice variety that suits your photography preference. In a pinch, these automatic modes will make all your camera decisions for you and allow you to literally just point and shoot. The camera becomes much like your smartphone in that regard but with a much better camera lens and a significantly larger sensor; allowing for vibrant colors and impeccable sharpness.
Once a brand selection has been made and you have identified what style of photography appeals to you, it's time to look at the lens. Oh yeah, that. You mean that thing that's attached to the camera body is important? Afraid so. The camera lens is what allows the light into the camera body which exposes the photograph. For this reason, you will have to buy a lens when purchasing a camera body. The two are almost always sold together in the form of a kit. After you've built up a nice collection of photography accessories, you may want to consider purchasing a DSLR camera body by itself. But for new photographers, look for a lens that will offer you a wide variety of options when taking pictures. Things like auto-focus ('AF') and Image Stabilization ('IS') are mandatory. These will allow for your images to be in focus and clear when you are shooting.
The last bit to consider in the lens is the zoom length. 18-55mm is industry standard when purchasing a factory lens kit from either Nikon or Canon. However, some manufactures will offer a longer length option such as 24-105mm or 24-70mm. Take into consideration that the longer the mm distance the further you will be able to zoom in on your subject. While this sounds great in theory, image clarity will be reduced with longer zoom lenses. The best way to take a picture of something that's far away is to "zoom with your feet". As in get up and walk or run to your subject. For this reason, we suggest purchasing the industry standard 18-55mm lens for your first DSLR.
The SD Card
The SD card slot in most DSLR cameras is an industry itself; containing dozens of different brands and memory sizes and speeds. Do not over-examine this. Just ask yourself a simple question. Pictures or videos? If you see yourself only shooting still pictures, a 16gb SD card will suffice. There should be enough storage in this SD card so you can go out and shoot all day come home and upload your images without having to invest too much money upfront. If video is going to be your primary focus, an SD card with a minimum of a 32gb and preferably 64gb of memory is much more suitable. Video takes up far more storage space than pictures. If you're unsure, go with a size that is slightly larger than you think you need. It is extremely frustrating to run out of memory and it always seems to happen when you need it most.