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How do I Choose the Best Digital SLR Camera?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 17, 2024
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A digital SLR camera is a camera which uses a single-lens reflex to allow light to enter the camera, and uses a digital storage medium. They are preferred by professionals migrating from film to digital, and by those beginning a professional photography career, as they allow for faster, higher-quality shooting than point-and-shoot digital cameras. Choosing the best digital SLR camera can be a daunting task for those unfamiliar with the language of SLRs, and with a wide range of prices, it can be difficult to know what features one needs.

One reason the digital SLR camera is preferred over smaller digital cameras is that the sensor size of the camera is much larger. The sensor of a digital camera is essentially its film, and is the area on which the light hits and exposes. A larger sensor not only allows a greater quality of photograph, but also allows the photographer to get an angle more similar to a traditional 35mm film camera, and a similar depth of field range. A smaller sensor takes a smaller photo, acting like a telephoto lens, and making it more difficult to get wide-angle shots. The difference between the image size taken with an SLR camera and a 35mm camera at the same distance is called the multiplier, with true SLRs ranging anywhere up to a 1.6 multiplier.

Another reason the digital SLR camera is preferred over smaller digital cameras is that they have removable lenses. This allows for a much higher level of quality in the lenses a photographer uses, and allows photographers a greater range in functionality, with everything from extreme wide-angle and fisheye lenses to long zoom lenses. Because lens quality is such a key factor to getting good photographs, and because the makers of many of the best lenses are camera manufacturers, one of the biggest decisions to make when buying a digital SLR camera is what lens set one wants to be locked into. For example, if one purchases a Canon digital SLR camera, one will then be using primarily Canon lenses, along with a few third-party manufacturers. If, on the other hand, one purchases a Nikon digital SLR, one will only be able to use primarily Nikon lenses.

Although the lens set and the sensor size are two of the largest decisions when buying a digital SLR camera, there are a myriad of other statistics that can influence one’s decision. For action photographers, for example, the frame rate might be paramount to all other concerns, and cameras that can shoot twelve or more frames per second for long periods of time might beat all other options. For those who shoot indoors often, a camera with low noise at a high ISO might be the most important factor. And, of course, for those on a budget it might make the most sense to buy a low-level digital SLR that comes pre-bundled with a kit lens for a price not much more expensive than higher quality point-and-shoot digital cameras.

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