How to Pick a Camera
Getting started in photography is a challenging task. Likely, the first thing you will have to do is to decide what camera to purchase. There are many best DSLR cameras for beginners to choose from. In this article, we will explore some solid beginner camera options. The focus will be on best DSLR cameras for beginners, which means Digital Single-Lens Reflex.
DSLR Cameras use a mirror and prism system. That allows you to see exactly what will be captured on the digital sensor, as opposed to the mirrorless cameras that are now available. Mirrorless cameras use an electronic viewfinder rather than an optical viewfinder.
Canon or Nikon
This is a big debate with camera users. Both camera manufacturers produce an excellent product. The thing to keep in mind here is that as your photography progresses, you may find yourself purchasing additional equipment. It can get to the point that switching from Canon to Nikon, or visa versa, is not cost friendly as you will can have a lot of money invested in lenses and accessories that are not interchangeable with the other brand.
While this article may be somewhat slanted towards Canon, do not read it to mean that Canon is better than Nikon, or Pentax, or whatever. The information provided here is more focused on what features to look for in a suitable camera for beginning photography rather than choosing a brand. You can read more about why I use Canon HERE.
Entry level DSLR cameras use a crop sensor. This is labeled as APS-C. What that means is that the digital sensor is smaller that the full frame sensors that are used in professional grade cameras. Crop sensors are much less expensive to manufacture, so the cameras are much lower in price. An entry level crop sensor camera will be in the hundreds, whereas a full frame camera will be in the thousands. More information on Crop sensor vs full frame is available HERE.
Many retailers will package an entry level camera in a bundle with accessories that look very appealing to a beginner. You will come across packages that look like this:
Packages like this contain what may appear to be valuable accessories. The reality is that the accessories provided in these bundles are of little value. Typically these accessories are very low quality and can create frustration in the pursuit of learning to use your camera.
A new photographer is much better off to learn to utilize the features of their camera and what the available accessories are used for, then research and find the right product. As with the camera itself, there are many choices in quality of the memory cards, filters, flashes, tripods, etc. Determine what you want to do with photography before purchasing accessories. Watch this site for future articles about accessories.
You will however want to choose a kit that includes a lens or two. These camera body and lens kits are put together by the manufacturer and are designed to work together. Understand however that the lenses in these bundles are known as “kit lenses” and will not have the same quality as the higher end Nikon Nikor or Canon L series lenses. They are more suitable to beginner photographers.
As you pursue photography, you may want to replace these lenses over time with a more quality lens. Many photographers will upgrade their lenses before upgrading the camera body. A quality lens on an entry level camera can provide excellent image quality, however, when using an entry level lens on a more advanced camera body the image quality will suffer.
Numbering Systems Explained
Canon and Nikon both use a numbering system for classifying their lines of cameras. Nikon uses a letter followed by a number that is one digit, three digits, or four digits. The one digits would look like Dx, three digits – Dxxx, four digits – Dxxx. Dx are the top of the line full frame cameras. The Dxxx line are semi-professional cameras, most being full frame with the exception of the D500 which is a crop sensor. The Dxxx series divided into thee levels, The semi-professional 7Dxxx, the basic series D5xxx, and the entry level D3xxx series.
Canon uses a number followed by a letter. One digit series looks like xD, two digit, xxD, three digit, xxxD, and four digit xxxD. The classifications generally are xD are professional level, xxD are Enthusiasts, and the xxxD and xxxxD being entry level. the 3 and 4 digit models are referenced as the Rebel series. The xD series cameras are full frame with the exception of the 7D which uses a crop sensor.
Now it gets interesting. Canon single digit series cameras quality level goes up as the numbers go down. It the rest of the lines, the quality goes up as the number goes up. Then there is Mark i, Mark ii, mark iii and so on which designate build releases. The rebel series cameras add an i to the number indicating an upgrade, for example the rebel T6 and the rebel T6i.
Entry Level Choices
The Nikon D3400 is the company’s entry-level DSLR camera. This camera is an update to the D3300, and uses the same 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor. The EXPEED 4 image processor, and allows an ISO range of 100-25600. The D3400 uses an 11-point autofocus system and can shoot continuously at 5 frames per second. It also has an easy-to-use interface. The camera has a feature called Guide Mode makes it easy to learn how to shoot in various situations. This learning mode gives explanations of some more advanced features. The D3400 does not have Wi-Fi, but it is equipped with Blue Tooth connectivity for transferring images from the camera to a smartphone, although it is a bit slow. For video, it does have full HD video capture.
Canon’s top of the line in the entry level is the Rebel T7i / 800D. For specifications click HERE.
This camera features the same 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor and Dual Pixel AF system as the more expensive and advanced EOS 77D and 80D. The T7i also uses a 45-point all cross-type AF for shooting with the viewfinder, which is assisted by a 7650-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor. A nice feature of this camera is the 3″ fully articulating touchscreen LCD. For beginners it has redesigned user interface for entry level photographers who are not ready for a full-on DSLR experience. The camera has Wi-FI, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity. For video it captures 1080/60p video. While at a higher price point, the T7i is loaded with features found in more advanced cameras. The image quality from this camera exceeds what you would expect to find in an entry level camera.
For a more affordable beginner camera the Canon T6/1300D is a very popular entry level camera. For specifications click HERE.
The Canon EOS Rebel T6 ( EOS 1300D) has an 18MP APS-C-size sensor. The image processor is Canon’s DIGIC 4+ and allows an ISO range of 100-6400. It features a 9-point AF system with a cross-type sensor at the center and can shoot 3 frames per second. The T6 utilizes a 3-inch, LCD screen along with the optical viewfinder. The T6 features many scene modes, including a Scene Intelligent Auto mode , to prevent botched pictures due to mistaken operations. The advanced shooting functions are disabled and cannot be changed when in Scene Intelligent Auto. This is a nice feature when entering into photography and you have not learned the camera functions. There are also numerous creative filters. For video, it has Full HD which can be captured at 30p or 24p. The Rebel T6 also has Wi-Fi with NFC for easy sharing via Canon’s Camera Connect app.
Clearly there are a lot of choices, so what is the difference. Looking at the two Canon cameras we see prices ranging from $369.00 to $899.00. That is quite a spread, however we are not comparing apples to apples here. The T71 is the newest model whereas the T6 was released in 2016. Technology advances very quickly in cameras just as it does in any other electronic device. For example the ISO range in the T6 is 100-6400 while the T7i ISO range is 100-25,600. Lower ISO range will limit the low light capability of the camera significantly. Lower ISO capability causes noise, or grainy images. The sensor in the T7i gives a much higher dynamic range compared to the T6. Other differences will be features and menus. The T7i has higher megapixel sensor at 24 vs 18 on the T6.
The Canon T6 is a great beginner camera. I have seen some great images come from these cameras. At an affordable price point for a beginning photographer, this camera can get you started and take you a long way. A new photographer can use a camera like the Canon T6 to learn how to use a camera and decide what their interest are with photography. There are many directions to go with photography and different cameras are more suited for different areas of interest.
The Canon T7i has more features to explore and will offer more indication of what a higher end camera can do. At the higher price point it is getting closer to the price of the xxD series cameras which are designed with more features that come with more advanced cameras.
Another consideration is purchasing a used camera from a reputable source. I highly recommend KEH Camera
for used camera gear. They are very reasonable and reputable.
for used camera gear.
Any of the cameras discussed here will do a good job to get you started creating some great images. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below about the best DSLR cameras for beginners. This is a big decision to make.
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