Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How to choose your first DLSR?

Question: What is the the most embarrassing moment in your life?

Answer: Watching yourself talk on the TV!

Well, you may ask “How is this question and the answer is relevant and how is it related to the blog subject?”

Answer to that is – It is not relevant and it is not related to the blog subject :-)

Remember I told you guys in my last blog that I did an exhibition on 10th of October 09? Well, I forgot to mention a minor detail. It so happens that, in that exhibition a local TV crew were roaming about interviewing people. I did not notice them until they came to my stall and then came the most stressful moment for me. I was asked to say a few things about my art, in front of camera and with a mike in my hand! Well, I did say (or blurted out rather) something.

I had completely forgotten what I said and about that unfortunate incident until, that is, I happen to see the recording aired on the local TV station today (28th Oct 09)! Oh Man! That was the most embarrassing moment of my life - listening to myself talking in front of a camera with a mike in my hand!

Such, my dear folks, is life – sooner or later everything comes back to you!! :-)

Well, enough of nonsense -  now for some serious stuff.

How to choose DLSR if you are the first time buyer?.

3 things most important while choosing a DSLR for the first time are.

  1. Format i.e. 4/3rd (Olympus, Panasonic etc) or APS-C (Canon, Nikon)
  2. Brand
  3. Budget and Specs


A format in DSLR world is nothing but the size of the image sensor. Image Sensor is the Film of the DSLR or any digital camera and is the eye of the camera. There are number of Formats. Following figure illustrates the various formats available.

Image Source- Wikipedia

File:Sensor sizes overlaid inside.svg

In DLSR the most popular formats are the Four Thirds and the APS-C. Once you select the format you will be married to it. Because all your lenses and accessories will be of that format. So once you choose a format, you will find it extremely expensive to switch to another format. So this will be your most important decision. All decisions from here on will be based on this one particular choice. I chose to go the four thirds way. Now whether that is a good choice or not I do not know. The reason why I chose 4/3rds format is for following reasons.

  • Its an Open format, it is not proprietary like APS-C (both Nikon and Canons are APS-C, however Nikon and Canon lenses cannot be interchanged, because  as see in the above image, they implement APS format in their own respective standards so their image sensor sizes are different and hence lenses are different). This mean I can buy lenses from any manufacturer as long as it says 4/3rds without worrying about anything.
  • Secondly, its a format which closely resembles the aspect ratio of the physical photograph standard. So the there is lot less cropping.
  • Thirdly, the High Grade Pro Lenses are lot less expensive than the APS-C counterparts.

So choose the format carefully. Do research on the net. Read blogs and visit discussion forums. And once you have made up your mind, keep in mind that you will find it very expensive to change it.


Brand decision will be born out of format decision. If you select 4/3rds then you will have to go with Olympus or Panasonic (micro four thirds (MFT) a variant of four thirds but all four thirds lenses will fit on MFT with an adapter).

If you select APS-C then Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc.

Again – Once you select the brand you will be married to it. You will find it cost prohibitive to change brands, especially if its APS-C brands. With 4/3rds or MFT you can at least switch between 2 brands dealing in 4/3rds lenses and bodies. I chose Olympus for the in-body image stabilization. Which I think is great!


These 2 are directly related. More budget you have better DLSR body you can buy. But if you are a beginner what should be your budget?

IMHO (in my humble opinion) you should budget at least $700 to $800 (US dollars) for a decent body and at least 18-55mm and 70-300mm lenses (lens config may be different in different brands). Idea is that you should budget for DSLR body, and at 2 lenses – 1 wide angle zoom and one telephoto zoom. If you have more budget then you can invest in a good external flash.

Based on this you can research which spec of DLSR body fits your budget.

So the bottom Line is

  • Research on the format
  • Research on the Brand – Most important criteria is abundant availability of lenses and accessories  in your country.
  • Choose the DSLR Body spec according to your budget with at least 2 lenses
  • Order of the choices should be as above – don't for example fix a budget and then go hunting for the DSLR. Because brand that you choose will decide the budget. You can fix a range on budget though, say from $600 to $800, something like that.
  • Do not be overwhelmed by the information.
  • Read both pros and cons on format and brands
  • You first DLSR will not be and need not be a pro or even advanced armature. You need to understand the basic DSLR beast before you can graduate to higher end models.  You should not buy a higher end model unless you are convinced that you have out grown your current model.
  • Most importantly – You should know basic photographic techniques and photography basics, including but restricted to fundamental knowledge on – composition, aperture, shutter, manual control, exposure, white balance etc

I may do an edit on this post to add more – Keep watching!

In the meantime – Enjoy the Fall Colors