Before I tell you the reason/s why I had a change of heart, let me tell you about what I think about buying your first SLR, and why I think you are meant to commit the same mistakes as I did (but hopefully, not the one thing I would advise you not to buy). I bet many of you can relate to my experience.
My first SLR was a Nikon D3000. It is an entry level camera of Nikon. And these are the 3 reasons why beginners commit mistakes in choosing their first SLR, and why I think that this is a necessary stage you have to go through.
- Beginners buy the cheapest SLR because actually, the cheapest is already expensive. We’re talking about thousands of pesos here. Personally, the most important thing is that you “feel” that you want to do photography stuffs, that’s why you’re buying one. At this stage, you don’t have to know about a lot of things yet – things like ISO, white balance… Buy or borrow an SLR, take it out with you. For me, the first thing you have to learn should be the EXPOSURE TRIANGLE. That was the first I had to figure out. If you haven’t known yet, I wrote an e-Book about that topic, which you can download for free – just scroll down to the bottom (at the footer) and subscribe to my mailing list. The download link will be sent to you right after.
- They haven’t figured out yet what they want, what they really want. I bought my first SLR out of curiosity, and yes, I felt like I wanted to do it. I wouldn’t say I was passionate about it as I am right now. I would rant at how expensive those things were then, but as I went on, I came to realize how things work and finally accepted the fact that you really get what you pay for.
- You won’t need all features of the camera, at least at first. If I read a blog of a professional photographer who writes about how important the size of the sensor is for him to have big raw files for editing, I would take note of that, but unless I take and edit photos for the billboards, I wouldn’t actually want to spend too much on a sensor. I just want to take photos of random people and post them in Facebook, instagram or in flickr, that won’t need a big sensor (professional camera) to do that.
The next question would be “which entry level SLR should you pick.”
As I mentioned earlier, my first DSLR was a Nikon D3000. I bought it because it was cheaper by a thousand or so to its Canon counterpart. I wouldn’t say that I regret choosing it – as I always say, if you don’t know how to start, just go get on your feet, start walking even though you don’t know YET where to go…along the way you’ll figure things out eventually.
Why I shifted to Canon?
The main difference of entry level Nikon and Canon DSLRs is the motor in the body. My Nikon D3000 doesn’t have a motor. But I didn’t know how important that was until I bought a new lens, a prime lens 50mm f/1.8.
By the time I bought the prime lens, I already figured out the effect I wanted to see in my photos – that is a wide depth of field (that nice blur in the background, and that soft, pastel color). The kit lens couldn’t do that with an aperture of f/3.5 – 5.5, it was time to buy a new lens. You see, in time you’ll figure out what you want and how to get it. That was also when I discovered that the autofocus will only work with a motor – either the motor is in the body (SLR) or in the lens, or in both.
Nikon doesn’t put motors in their entry level DSLRs. Nikon has motors starting with the D90, which is a mid range SLR (semi pro). Whereas Canon, even the entry level cameras have built in motors.
Between Nikon and Canon back then, I chose Nikon because it was a little cheaper by a thousand pesos or so.
I learned that lenses (too) have either motors in them or non. So basically, I could still operate on autofocus with my nikon… that is if I use lenses with built in motors. And you know what, the prices are extremes. The ones with motors are very much expensive. I was bound to expand and buy more lenses eventually, so I’ve decided to buy a body with motor, rather than buy lenses with motors. It will save me tons of money.
And you know what else I learned, when I bought my Canon, it felt like it fitted my hands perfectly. It’s true, you have to hold the camera and have a feel of it, and you’ll know if that is for you.
That was a little bit dramatic, yup, but that’s how I advise my students in buying their first SLR.
- Decide what fits your budget. I wouldn’t recommend breaking your bank account just to buy one. The most important thing at this time is to learn how to operate one. The principles remain the same with high end cameras. If you can buy a more advanced camera, then good for you, but if you can’t, it’s okay, you’ll be fine, I swear.
- Research and compare the camera models’s prices in the range (entry level, semi pro and pro) that fits your budget. Stick to your budget, it might be tempting to add a little more bucks or so just to buy the model next to the model that fits your budget, but unless the camera is one range higher to the camera (that fits your budget), I wouldn’t recommend doing that. For example, your budget can buy a semi pro camera, and in this range, there are about 5 cameras to choose from, which are also ranked as to how advanced they are (as can be seen with the prices, obviously – the more expensive, the more advanced). If you can afford the cheapest in this category, then stick to it, I wouldn’t recommend breaking your bank to buy the second cheapest. I don’t think that will be worth it, unless you know exactly what you want and you know that the features of the other one is what you need (for example the sensor is much bigger and that’s what exactly you’re looking for). But if the budget fits the most advanced in the semi pro range, and you are willing (or able) to add few more bucks to get the next one in the pro range, then do so.
- Go to the store and hold the cameras. Personally, my Nikon felt very manly in my hands. When I had my Canon, it felt lighter and fitted my hands perfectly (I have small hands). My cousin on the other hand preferred to invest in Nikon because she likes the feel of it, and she got the D90 so she doesn’t have a problem with the motor. She likes the feel of her Nikon lenses too, she said it’s more crisp. My other cousin is a Sony user.
- Last and most importantly, choose the one with a motor in the body. I swear you’ll never regret that. There are good lenses that are cheap, like my 50 mm f/1.8. I bought it for Php 4,000 (1USD=50Php), but the same lens with built in motor costs Php8,000, or so, I think.
In summary, if I had one regret when I bought my first SLR, it was the lack of motor in the body. But other than that, I was so happy with my choice. I shifted not because Canon is superior to the others. I just felt like it was time for me to upgrade because I already maximized the use of my entry level camera. I am open to trying different cameras too, (and lenses!!).
So, that’s all I can write for now. Tell me about your choices in the comments and why did you choose it? Nevertheless, good luck in finding your first camera.
Next topic: The main difference of SLRs to the rest of the cameras is that in SLR, you have 100% control of your camera. I will write about this in the next blogposts.