5 Questions to Ask Yourself When Buying a DSLR

DLSR camera

Are you thinking about buying a DSLR?

Many parents buy a DSLR around the time of the birth of their first child. In fact, I was one such mom almost five years ago, so I know that making such a purchase can be overwhelming and daunting, especially if you are not that familiar with what all the technical specs mean.

To help you out, here are five questions you should ask yourself when buying a camera.

1) Are you sure you want a DSLR?

A DSLR is a “fancy” “big” camera with interchangeable lenses. It’s the type of camera a professional uses and will give you the best quality results.

However, to get those results, you have to know a little bit about how to use the camera. Most parents who buy a DSLR never learn how to “get out of auto”.

As a result their photos end up looking not all that different from what they would have gotten on a point-and-shoot.

Learning how to use your DSLR doesn’t have to be hard (hundreds of parents have learned through my workshops) but if you’re not committed to doing it, you may as well get a nice point-and-shoot or the latest iPhone – there is no shame in that!

2) What is your budget?

Ok, so you do want a DSLR but how much do you want to spend? This is a personal decision I can’t advise you on except to say, consider how serious you think you are going to be about photography. If you have always loved photography, took classes in college, shot on an SLR way back when and can’t wait to get back into it, chances are it’s worth investing a little more. Or if documenting both the every day as well as the special moments in your family’s life is something you know is going to be important to you, it’s likely that an investment will be worth while.

However, if you’re not so sure, there is nothing wrong with starting at a lower budget and giving it a try. Even entry level DSLRs these days can give you great, professional looking results.

Here’s a rough idea on what you could expect to spend right now:

$400-700 – entry level
$800-1200 – mid range
$1500 – higher end without going pro, you’ll get a really great camera at this price

3) What features are important to you?

This may be hard for you to answer without really knowing what to look for, but here are some ideas.

The most important thing to look for as a new mom is ISO. The higher the ISO capabilities of your camera, the better it will function in low light without a flash. Believe me, this is going to be important when you want to capture your adorable new addition trying first foods or taking first steps indoors. Even entry level DSLRs offer up to ISO 6400, but many cameras now have expansion capabilities beyond that. (Note – you will need to learn how to get out of auto in order to take advantage of this.)

Other things to consider include the importance of video, or whether you want a swivel LCD screen.

A lot is made of resolution, but unless you know you want to blow your photos up large (eg 30×40) most DSLRs now offer more pixels than you need.

Another topic you may come across is full frame vs. crop sensor. Full frame cameras are heavier and more expensive and, for most parents, overkill unless you are going professional or want to be at that level, or can easily afford it. The price ranges given above are all for crop sensor cameras. If you have a little extra money to spend I would consider going for some really great lenses.

4) Which one do you like best?

I’m a big fan of touching and feeling several cameras in person at your local camera store before deciding which one you like the best. Probably you’ll be deciding between Canon or Nikon and each has its pros and cons, so unless you already have a collection of lenses for one or the other, or a friend who shoots one or the other who will help you learn your camera, as a beginner you can’t really go wrong with either brand.

Ask questions at the store too. An experienced sales person will know the ins and outs of various models and be able to help you.

5) What accessories do you need?

I strongly recommend that you purchase a “fast” lens to get the best quality photos. The best lens you can buy for the least money is the 50mm f/1.8 – the results will be far superior to the “kit lens” that comes with the camera. In fact, you might want to skip getting the kit lens altogether although a lot of people like the zoom capabilities starting out. (Again – you’ll need to learn how to get out of auto in order to take advantage of a fast lens.)

You also should get a UV filter for any lens you buy to protect it, and a camera bag that will make it comfortable and easy to take your camera with you. I’ll be making more accessory recommendations in future blog posts.

So that’s it! Have you decided? If you want help getting out of auto on your new DSLR, check out my Stop Missing the Moment workshop. The workshop includes my “get out of auto cheat sheet” to get you started so you can make the most out of your new DSLR!