Narrowing Down The DSLR Choice

Today I want to answer a question that I got asked from time to time:

What DSLR should I buy?

Though I’m not a fan-boy of any brand I can easily narrow the DSLR choice down to two brands. Canon and Nikon. One of the most important reasons is that there is such a lot of good glass available for this two brands.

Of course we all know that this are not the brands who deliver medium format camera’s but this post and video is about DSLR’s (even though Hasselblad, Phase One a.s.o. are DSLR’s as well). Not to mention that the latter are just too far out of reach for most people, especially if they are just starting out or not yet even sure why they want to have a DSLR in the first place.

Please note that everything I’ll say and write right here is my own opinion and doesn’t necessarily matches yours. This are just my two cents.

After being asked that question I often ask back: Why do you want to have a DSLR?

You see, you have to dig a little deeper and I think it’s wise to think twice. If someone tells me that he doesn’t have any ambitions to really get into photography and isn’t interested at all in the knowledge necessary, I recommend buying a point-and-shoot. There are a lot of very sophisticated point-and-shoots out there. If your only reason for a DSLR is the mirror and that someone told you they make better images because of that, don’t bother burning your hard earned cash for something that will gather dust somewhere on the shelf.

If you can say ‘yes’ to the following statements your choice should go out to a point-ant-shoot instead of a DSLR

  • You plan always to shoot in auto mode a.k.a. the green button mode. (In my opinion DSLR’s shouldn’t have a full auto mode at all).
  • You don’t give a bLeEp about depth of field (DOF) or worse don’t even want to know what that means.
  • Not in a hundred years you want to learn the exposure triangle so that you finally know what you are doing.

It’s very likely that I just saved you a couple of hundred bucks. If so I can give you the number of my bank account so you know where to send your donation.

But OK, let’s narrow it down even further. But first think about this: the fact that you can’t afford something doesn’t mean that it is expensive.

In comparison to Nikon, Canon has a very well organized numbering of camera models. The hierarchy is very clear. Nikon has made a little mess of it and things are not as clear as they could be anymore.

Straight to the point there are entry level cameras on the Canon-side. We consider every camera with 3 digit’s or more in its name a entry level camera. Yes, even if you have to work two or three weeks in order for being able to purchase one. The fact that we can barely afford something doesn’t mean that it’s professional stuff. Savvy?

So the Canon 550D, 600D, 700D a.s.o. are all entry level camera’s. They are superior to the 4 digit models like the 1000D and the 1100D. I don’t want to mention the 100D here (ooops, just did it) as I wouldn’t even bother glancing at a DSLR with the main purpose of being small.

Even though I loved my 400D back in the days I couldn’t do a step back. What I want to say is that I wouldn’t consider any of the camera’s I just mentioned. I explain why in the video above. Please note: this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider one of them.

Nikon also handles the hierarchy of the lower the number the better the camera but shot in it’s own foot somewhere in between. I guess nobody can exactly say where it went wrong. Anyway, the D3200 and the D5200 and all of the brothers and sisters in that range are entry level camera’s. If you like it or not. I can remember I offended somebody a couple of weeks ago by saying this truth. There is, however, an exception to this rule: the D7000 and the D7100 are the prosumer models. As I said in some way or the other Nikon messed up with the numbering. The last models mentioned have a magnesium body and are more sophisticated than the others.

For more advanced users Canon has a 2digit range. In this range you’ll find the 40D (an oldie from back in the days but I saw some impressive work coming out of those), 50D, 60D and recently (at the time of writing this) the 70D.
By the way: none of the professional DSLR’s has a flippy-flappy-screen like the 60D, 70D or some models on the Nikon side. Don’t ask me why but I guess because they are not really meant for heavy duty.

The upper class on the Canon side starts with the 1digit models. Here the Canon 7D is the prosumer model as it’s housing a APS-C sensor. It’s in the range of Canon’s upper class because of the very sophisticated AF-system, magnesium body and more professional features.

The professional range starts on the Canon side indeed within the 1digid range. Here we have the 5D models as the Mark II and Mark III and of course the 1D models. The last one is the 1Dx and the 1Dc (c stands for Cinema as it has 4K video).

Nikon’s professional range has the D800 with the megapixels of a small Hasselblad (36 of them) and the ISO-monster D4 (whats a direct counterpart to Canon’s 1Dx). The D4 has half of the megapixels of the D800 but more than double the price tag. If you still believe that megapixels are everything you should stop listening to uncle Joe.

I hope you enjoyed the video and knowing how I tick on that matter helps you a little to narrow down your choice as well.

Oh yes, my next body will most likely be the Canon 5D Mark III.


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