Musings about the importance and impact of art and art education in the 21st century.

Thinking of buying a dslr camera...advice needed!

♠ Posted by ArtMuse in at 9:10 AM

To all those photogrpahy buffs out there...I was thinking of buying a dslr camera, I'm getting board with my point and shoot. Any recomendations on good entry level brands/models? Is there anything I should be careful of when looking to purchase one? Any ideas/insights are greatly appreciated. Thanks!!
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I bought my first DSLR last January, after a LOT of exploring. My background - umpteen years ago I taught high school (darkroom) photography, but when that job was cut in 1984 I left behind having easy access to a darkroom. Over the years I switched to digital, using a Canon Powershot, which is really a terrific quality little point and shoot, but was jealous when my young adult son got a Nikon DSLR, and with the help of a gift certificate to lessen the expense, I went shopping in January.

So - I recommend you make a list of the things that are most important to you, and figure out how much you are willing to spend. My list included: lightweight, ability to set exposure manually, and a flip-out live-view screen. I didn't much care about shooting video, but I did have some other stuff I wanted to be able to do. I ended up narrowed down to the Nikon D5100 or a Canon (can't recall which one) and each had something I liked better than the other. People I asked for recommendations were 50/50 split on allegiance to Canon and Nikon. I determined early on that if I was spending the big bucks, I would stick with these two brands that were universally recommended by EVERYONE who I asked. In the end, I settled my indecision by going with the brand that had the best sale at the time of purchase, and I purchased the kit lens..

It is 1/2 year later, and I am still learning to comprehend the sometimes confusingly overwhelming menu information, but at least I rarely use the AUTO setting any more. I have learned the limitations of my lens (I had a better zoom on my point-and-shoot but I will probably buy a telephoto and also maybe a macro down the road. The telephoto will come sooner than later, so next time I photograph a SNAKE while kayaking, I don't have to get so bloody close to it...)

When shopping, ask lots of questions, and feel the cameras in your hands. Don't just buy on the internet without going into a store and actually handling the cameras and talking to people. I made my purchase locally even if it cost s little more, so that I could go to them more easily for help and advice.

A couple more things -first, the warrantee - my son purchased his camera thru amazon, and got the standard Nikon 3-year warrantee. When a part on the bezel connecting the camera to the lens broke and subsequently damaged the lens mount on the camera as well, it cost us big bucks to repair the camera even though it was still under warrantee. Physical damage was not covered. My local store offered an extended warrantee that covers EVERYTHING. If I drop it in the lake while kayaking, as long as I can retrieve it to return it it is covered. If I run over it with my car, it is covered. I wish my son had gotten this warrantee; it should have been well worth the cost.

Finally, plan to take the time to learn to use it, or don't bother to purchase. I took a class thru my dealer to help work thru the basic menus and settings, which helped even though I had a lot of prior photo experience. And it has taken a while to get over being scared of ruining something. I'm still learning to understand all the details of the menus and will probably take another more advanced class down the road.

Generally, I'm pretty happy with the camera I chose. If you read my blog you will see some of what I've been doing ith it in the past 1/2 year.

By the way, while figuring expenses, think about some of the additional costs - a tripod perhaps? A decent camera case? My favorite, a polarizing filter? A remote shutter release? (My next purchase) Lens cleaning kit? Spare battery? Memory card? The list goes on...

Hope I've helped!

Phyl, Thank you soooooooooooooooooooo much for your input. I've been getting Cannon and Nikon from everyone and the same 3 or 4 brands keep popping up. I have 2 local stores I'm going to visit to pick their brains but like you said the camera is only a fraction of the overall costs of everything. Thanks for the warranty advice too I hadn't even thought about that. Thanks again for the detailed post, I really appreciate it!

I love Nikons. I don't think I will ever choose any camera but a Nikon. I have had point and shoot Nikon cameras. I also have a film SLR Nikon. And I have my D5000 SLR Nikon Digital camera. LOVE THEM.

Jen, Thanks for the input!