Buyer's guide - Digital SLR (DSLR) cameras
With their fast autofocus systems, broad range of lenses to suit all occassions and rapid shooting modes, the digital slr camera remains the definitive choice for professionals and enthusiasts. Here’s a quick guide to some of the key features to consider when choosing a DSLR:
- Sensor Size - DSLR cameras typically use one of two sensor sizes, APS-C or Full Frame. The more common APS-C size are smaller than 35mm film, which results in images which appear to have been taken with a longer focal length (typically 1.5 or 1.6x longer). This means that telephoto lenses appear to have more reach, a welcome bonus. On the other hand the crop factor means your wide-angle lenses will no longer offer anything like a 'wide' field of view. Fortunately there is a huge range of dedicated wide-angle lenses for smaller sensor DSLRs available. DSLRs with full frame sensors have big, bright viewfinders and since there’s no crop factor they’re often chosen by photographers who are upgrading from film who own expensive wide-angle lenses. The larger sensors also mean full frame cameras can produce the very best results in very low light and at higher ISO levels. On the downside, full frame cameras are bigger than APS-C sensor models, and although prices have come down significantly in recent years, they're more expensive too.
- Speed - The autofocus performance and continuing shooting speed of DSLRs improve as you step up the range. Entry models typically capture up to 5 frames-per-second. More advances models will offer faster speeds, with professional models offering up to 10 fps, perfect for sports and wildlife.
- Size, weight and durability- The environment in which you wish to use your camera is a key consideration. If you’re going to be shooting in damp, humid or dusty conditions, you’ll need to select a model with some degree of weatherproof sealing. If you’re not keen on lugging a heavy camera with you, there’s a range of compact, lightweight models that you take with you anywhere, so you never miss a moment.
- Screens - DSLR cameras have rear LCD panels for viewing your results and for Live View shooting. Screens vary in size and resolution, with higher resolution screens giving a more detailed view of your shots. Articulated screens are increasingly popular and make shooting from awkward angles easier, whilst some can be folded in towards the body when not in use, for added protection.
- HD Movie Recording - Most DSLR models offer HD movie recording, enabling you to capture superb video footage as well as stills. Entry models will offer a limited range of adjustments, whereas higher end models allow a choice of frames rates, manual control of audio levels and additional microphone inputs.
- Low Light Performance - Developments in image sensors and image processing mean that cameras can deliver unprecedented results in low-light. Entry models typically offer a range up to 3200, which can be extended to around 6400. High end models offer mind-boggling options in excess of 200,000, capturing results beyond what you can see with the naked eye.
- Ease of Use - Entry level models offer a wide range of intelligent scene modes and on-screen feature guides to assist new owners to get the best results. Higher end models allow individuals more control over all aspects of the camera, with increasing customisation and flexibility.