4 Crucial Factors In Choosing Your DSLR Camera

By David Fleet


I'm often asked for a bit of advice on choosing a DSLR camera. As a professional landscape photographer I've made use of a fair bit of equipment, and have a clear idea of the key considerations to have in mind.

One of the biggest pitfalls in selecting a camera is to be lured in by lots of brilliant features, without giving much though to the most important part of the equation: what you will need from the camera.

Many people seem to assume that, ideally, they would just get the 'best', most recently released camera. But since that's usually unaffordable, they'll go for the most expensive one that falls inside their price range!

Well folks, there really is no such thing as the 'best' camera. Sure, there are some magnificent pieces of kit around, that are capable of incredible things. But every camera has its own strengths, and the 'best' one is the one with features that match your needs.

So, below are a few of my thoughts on MP's, the handling of a camera, the role of lenses and understanding your specific requirements. There are, of course, lots more things that could inform your choice of camera. But these areas should provide a really useful starting point for your thoughts.


1. Megapixels (MP's) - The More The Better?

what is a megapixel what is a megapixel

'Pixilation' occurs when there are too few MP's to view an image at a certain size.

Megapixels are important. They determine the resolution of an image. But, in the past, camera manufacturers have placed an inordinate amount of emphasis on increasing MP count, overlooking other, often more important factors.

Manufacturers still seem to give the impression that you should be updating your camera almost on an annual basis, so as not to miss out on the latest features!

canon camera reviews
The Canon 40D produces fantastic results with a 10MP sensor.

But the truth is that most modern DSLR cameras, whatever the MP count, are more than capable of creating stunning images if used well. Even my relatively old backup camera, which is a Canon EOS 40D , is well able to produce cracking landscape shots in its 10MP sensor.

So what's the benefit of choosing a DSLR camera with more MP's? Well, it gives you greater freedom to crop images in post-processing and to create larger prints of your photos.

That said, the majority of DSLR's are capable of turning out top quality poster sized prints now. A 12 MP camera can produce professional quality, saleable images at A3 (16.5" x 11.5") size.

In addition, there's the possibility of using software techniques (interpolation: where Photoshop ads extra pixels to the image) to enable you to create large prints. So there's certainly no need to be drawn into the MP race, especially if you don't often print your images or create huge prints for sale.

If you do intend on selling large format prints, or selling your pictures as digital downloads from a major stock agency, then it could be worth choosing a DSLR camera with more MP's, like the Canon EOS 7D or 5DmkII . These cameras retain outstanding image quality at larger print sizes.


2. Weight and Handling - Crucial Points, Often Overlooked

When choosing a DSLR camera for personal use, factors like how it feels in your hands are often more important than number of megapixels.

The bulk of a pro camera may make it less than suitable for many users.

Consider whether the bulk and weight of a full-frame professional model DSLR is something you really want to be lugging around with you all day!

Would you rather something that you can whip out as and when you want to? Perhaps a 4/3 camera body would be a preferable solution.

I often take trips with the primary purpose of getting some great photographs. So in these cases it makes sense to take my whole kit bag of 2 camera bodies, several lenses, filters tripod and so on.

But if I'm just heading out into the hills around my home for pleasure, the most suitable camera for me to take is my Panasonic G-3 compact system! It's incredibly lightweight, but good enough to ensure that I'm able to capture a salebale image if that once in a lifetime opportunity comes along.

So really what I'm saying is that choosing a DSLR camera always comes down to your specific needs and circumstances. It's about finding the best match. Yes, having a brand spanking new Canon E0S 1DX would be great, but are those 12 frames per second really worth the money when you spend most of your time shooting landscapes!?


Read my reviews of popular compacts, Canon DSLR's and Nikon DSLR's!



3. Lenses Hold The Key

dslr lens
Here's a quick crash course on choosing the best digital camera lens for you...

A very important consideration when choosing a DSLR camera - and one that it's easy to miss for beginners - is which manufacturer has the lenses that you think will be most useful for your photography.

Both Canon and Nikon have some stunning lenses in their respective line ups. In fact, this is one of the chief areas where these 2 big manufacturers really pull away from the rest.

So, if you like the look of all the lens options that Nikon and Canon present, it might be a good deal easier in the run for you to stick with them.

Of course, if you feel a kit lens will be sufficient for your purposes then this doesn't apply. But you never know, once you start using a DSLR you may well want to learn more and more!

Just to underline the importance of lenses: if you asked most pro photographers what is more important to them, their camera or ther collection of lenses, I'm fairly confident the majority would say it's their lenses.

There's the added point that lenses tend to hold their value better than cameras. If you invest your money in high quality glass (lenses), you should be able to recoup a good deal of your money when selling it at a later date.


Forget The Camera - Think About You

So, I hope you're getting the idea that it's pretty much a waste of time and money to automatically go for the most expensive camera you can afford. You need to find one that will serve your purposes.

From a landscape photography perspective, I don't think you can go wrong with any of the latest consumer level DSLR cameras from Canon and Nikon.

In fact, as I mentioned earlier, the new range of compact system cameras from the likes of Panasonic and Olympus can produce images as good as most people will ever need.

If you're harbouring plans to become semi-pro or professional, I would still recommend starting out with a consumer level DSLR and honing your technique and skills before investing in a pro model (by the time you've learnt to get the most out of it a new pro camera will have come out anyway!).

Where Next?

Why I Love My iPhone 4S iSight Camera!

A Guide To Digital SLR Camera Bags

10 Compact Camera Specifications You Should Understand

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