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Choosing a DSLR Camera

Recommended DSLR Cameras:

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Nikon D750 Nikon D7200 Nikon D3300 Sony a6000 Sony a7R II


Want to switch from a point and shoot and wonder DSLR camera best suits you? Maybe you' want to jump from film to a digital? It's never been more affordable to move up to a DSLR and start taking amazing photos. This digital SLR camera guide gets you started. And of course, please call Berger Brothers Camera to answer any questions you might have, or to talk about a purchase.

What is a digital SLR?

A digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera is like a 35mm film camera, without the film. It has a body, detachable lenses and viewing is done through a viewfinder, rather than an LCD screen. People  choose them for their more robust manual controls, though it's quite easy to use them as a point and shoot SLR too.

Will a DSLR give me better photos than a compact camera?

Better lenses, a larger sensor and better internal processing will take better photos, even when using it as a point and shoot SLR. A DSLR responds quicker, with no shutter lag. The built in flash does better flash photography. And being able to change lenses or use an external flash allows you more flexibility in getting the shot.

Which of the digital SLR cameras best suit my needs?

First, ask yourself what you want to shoot? The versatility of a DSLR camera is unlimited, from zooming in at the smallest subject from a great distance, to focusing on the subject inches away, to shooting underwater or at night. A DSLR camera can freeze the action in the fastest moving subject, be it a race car or a one-year old taking his first steps.

For portability, Olympus and Panasonic makes some of the smallest DSLR camera bodies and lenses, including the Evolt and Lumix systems. On the other hand, as price increases, so does the size, weight and durability.

You don't want a pro level camera if you just want a point and shoot SLR, but you do want the digital SLR camera best suited to your needs, now and down the line. The pros at Berger Brothers Camera are knowledgeable and eager to help you make the right choice.

What is a sensor and why does it matter?

Read any digital SLR camera buying guide and you'll read a lot about sensors. Two reasons why DSLRs take better pictures is the use of a larger sensor than a compact camera, and high quality lenses which take advantage of the camera's improved focusing abilities.
Digital images are made up of little squares called pixels, and each image consists of millions of pixels which are captured by the sensor. A million pixels equals 1 megapixel (1mp). More pixels equals a larger image, but not all pixels are created equal. Several factors go into the quality of the pixel, from the sensor, to the lens to the camera's software. Also, more megapixels lets you crop your image, without sacrificing sharpness.
Even a digital point and shoot SLR can produce prints that rival enlargements made from 35mm film. A 6 megapixel camera will make excellent 8 x 10 prints. But what if you want to crop the photo? A 12 megapixel camera will do the trick for 10 x 14 prints, which can be seriously cropped for an 8 x 10.
Usually, the larger the sensor the more and better megapixels your camera produces. Entry level DSLR cameras, like the Canon Rebel XS and the Nikon D3000 are 10 megapixel cameras, and produce excellent photographs. Perhaps you want more versatility from your lenses, or better performance in low light? A larger sensor, such as those found in the 12 megapixel Nikon D300s or the Canon XSi will give you that, as well as larger image sizes.

What is the best digital camera SLR to create noise-free photos?

High end DSLR cameras produce little or no noise (specks of color that appears in the image, particularly in shadow detail, enlargements and large blocks of color), even in low light. But low to mid priced models, used as a point and shoot SLR cameras will give you images relatively free from noise at ISO 800.

What are the best digital cameras SLR lenses?

Lenses come for every purpose, from wide angle, great for large groups of people and landscapes, to telephotos for portraits, sports and wildlife. Lenses can determine which brand of camera you purchase. Buy Canon lenses, you'll want a Canon camera body, and the same for Nikon, Pentax and other brands. You'll want to keep your lenses when you upgrade to a better camera body someday, so the choice you make now will influence your options later. Reading SLR camera buying guides, or better yet, talking to Berger Brothers can help you with this choice, and also ensure that lenses you buy now will work with the camera you buy later.

Should I buy a camera body and lens package?

Often a digital slr camera's best deal with be in packages with a lens, and may be all you need. You might also consider a combination telephoto/wide angle lens for versatility. By talking Berger, or consulting a digital SLR buying guide, you can determine which lenses you need, and you might very well find the body and lens you need in a package.
Or, to escape the high cost of camera manufacturer's lenses, there are several companies which specialize in lenses which work with most major brands. Berger Brothers feature lenses by Zeiss Ikon, Sigma, Tamron, Promaster and several others.
Another factor to consider when using zoom lenses in particular, is camera shake. A built in image stabilization system, like one found on the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II Lens can result in clearer photos, particularly in low light situations. Some manufacturers, like Canon even build image stabilization into their lenses.

Will the lenses from my 35mm camera work with a digital SLR?

In many cases, these same lenses will work with a DSLR, with some differences. Canon's Digital Rebel XSi allows you to use nearly 70 Canon lenses.
Most DSLRs use a smaller sensor than the frame on a film camera, so images appear to have been taken with a longer focal length. To get the full performance from your current lenses, you need a full frame sensor camera like the Canon EOS 5D. Nikon offers a HSC mode to adjust for this in their D2xs line, but the megapixels jump from 12.4 to 6.8. Olympus and others have redesigned their lenses specifically for digital photography, resulting in lighter, smaller lenses than their competition, with improved color and sharpness.

Will a DSLR's flash give me better pictures if I'm using the camera as a point and shoot SLR?

One of a digital SLR cameras best features is moving the flash further from the lens, so photos appear more natural. Most have a hot shoe to allow external flashes, which lets you direct the light away from the subject, which creates more natural lighting than flashes pointing directly at the subject. Some, like the Pentax K200D also come with a PC sync socket to use a studio flash or flashgun. Still others, such as Canon EOS 7D offer a wireless option for even more versatility with flash photography, such as multiple flashes.

Does a DSLR respond more quickly than a pocket camera?

A big advantage is no more shutter lag - that pesky millisecond or so from the time you press the shutter till it actually takes the picture. Great for shooting young children, who move very quickly and don't hold a pose well. It's also handy at sporting events, concerts, pets and to catch the waves on the ocean at just the right moment.

DSLRs also shoot in continuous mode, where the camera takes photos as long as you keep your finger pressed down, or till it reaches its limits. Higher quality cameras allow more continuous mode shots, as well as more frames or shots per second (fps).

Can I view the scene through the LCD screen?

Most DSLRs let you to view the scene on the LCD screen instead of the viewfinder, as there are times when it's easier to see the screen than keeping the camera up to your eye. Also, a large, well lit LCD displays the camera's settings, particularly useful in manual modes.

Do I need to know how to operate a camera to take good shots?

Digital SLR cameras best photos are often taken in manual modes. But fully automatic mode, which means letting the camera choose the shutter, aperture, focus and flash takes spectacular shots as well. Most models have several automatic modes for taking specific types of photos, such as portraits, landscapes, close-ups, action shots and night photography.

Many DSLR cameras have multiple focus points, which makes focusing easier and allows for better automatic focusing. Check a digital SLR camera guide to see if you can manually choose which point you want to use, and also look for other automatic features such as flash and exposure compensation.

How many photos does a memory card hold, and what is RAW?

Memory cards for DSLR cameras typically come in two sizes - CF and the smaller SD you probably used with your compact camera. CF cards tend to be more expensive, and have a higher capacity. Data transfers are now about the same.

Many photographers shoot in RAW format, rather than JPEG which most compact cameras use. A JPEG image is one in which the camera chooses how the image is processed, and discards the rest of the data, for a smaller, compressed file. RAW images leave all that data intact, so using software later, you make all the choices about how your image is processed. The drawback is a larger file size and fewer images on the card, plus you have to process the image on a computer before it can be used or printed. Most DSLR cameras are capable of shooting in both formats, and some save both a JPEG and RAW image of each shot.

Do DSLR camera require special maintenance?

Since DSLR lenses come on and off, dust and dirt can get inside the camera body, and onto the sensor. Care must be taken when cleaning the sensor, as damaging the sensor means doling out a lot of cash. Sensors can be cleaned by an authorized technician at Berger Brothers. But if you anticipate changing lenses often, particularly in dusty or sandy areas, it might be worth your while to pick a camera body with a self cleansing sensor, such as the Nikon D300s or Sony Alpha DSLR-A700.

How does the camera feel in my hand?

Finally, read another digital SLR camera buying guide or two to get other's opinons, or if you're in the New York area, stop in Berger Brothers to see how a particular camera feels in your hand. The more comfortable you are with your new camera, the more you will use it.

And finally ... price!

You want digital SLR camera best suited for you, at the best price, with the right accessories. Stop in either of our stores or give us a call at (800) 542-8811 and tell us what you want to shoot, how much you want to spend, and let us give you personalized recommendations.


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