Step 1 – It’s a Question of Feeling: The first thing you need to do IS to rush down to your local photography store! Yup! You gotta take those cameras for a test drive. Ask to see the various models and hold them. Feel them in your hands. Look through the viewfinder, press the buttons, take a few shots, drop them check the build quality. You want to purchase a camera that just feels good in your hands. If not, you won’t be shooting much, trust me on that.
Step 2 – What Will You Use It For?: Do you really need to get a pro body like the Nikon D3 or the Canon 1Ds Mark III? Yes they look great and are the best in class but do you really need that level of technology? Ask yourself what you’ll be using the camera for? Is it just for family photos and holidays? Will you be shooting sport events for your local paper? Will you be shooting weddings and barmitzvas? This will affect which camera you’ll actually need versus what you want.
[singlepic=283,200,240,,left]Step 3 – Lenses: The next thing to look at is the lens system. Remember that your camera body will change as technology gets better but you’ll most likely be keeping your lenses. So look at the lens choice you’ll have with the various companies. I can tell you right now that you’ll get the biggest variety with Nikon or Canon but that doesn’t mean companies like Sony, Sigma or Pentax won’t have all the lenses you need. Also take into consideration that 3rd party companies like Sigma, Tamron and Tokina make lenses for most big brands like Nikon, Canon, Pentax or Olympus.
Step 4- Upgrades: As mentioned before, your camera bodies will change over the years and your shooting objectives might as well. So make sure you choose a company that upgrades their bodies frequently. Also, since your needs might change, you might want to consider a company that has more than one available DSLR body. The more bodies they produce, the more chances you have of choosing the right body for your specific needs.
Step 5 – Can I borrow your 70-200mm pllllllllllease?: Do you have friends or family members that already own a DSLR body? Is your soon to be best buddy neighbor VP of Sales at Nikon? Then you might want to consider buying into the same brand to save you some serious cash. Unless you keep on dropping finding technical problems with their equipment, you can build a nice network of photographers ready to share their equipment. So availability is something to consider.
[singlepic=307,200,200,,left]Step 6 – Sensor Size: Both Canon and Nikon now have bigger sensors in their flagship pro bodies (the size of standard 35mm negatives). Bigger sensors means 2 things. First, they can cram more pixels on it like the 21 mp Canon 1DS Mark III. Second, they can have bigger pixels which translates into better image quality in low light situations like the 12 mp Nikon D3. The question you need to ask yourself is if a bigger sensor is really important for the type of photography you do or intend to do.
Step 7 – LCD view: The more recent DSLRs now have a live view option. What this means is that you don’t need to look in the viewfinder to see what your looking at. Like a point and shoot, you just look at your LCD screen to frame your shot. This can be practical in some situations like when you’re flat on your stomach trying to capture the morning due on a blade of grass.
[singlepic=321,200,240,,left]Step 8 – Memory Cards: This might or might not play a part in your decision making but it’s good to know. You have SD cards and CF cards. Most lower end DSLRs use SD cards now just like most P&S cameras. Upper end DSLRs use CF cards. There used to be a big difference in data transfer speed between the two (CF cards being faster) but not so much anymore. So maybe if you have a ton of SD cards from your P&S, it might play a role in your DSLR purchase.
Step 9 – Sensor Cleaning: Since DSLRs have interchangeable lenses, this means that every time you change your lenses you expose your sensor to dust and other goodies. This means you’ll eventually get what is known as sensor dust or sensor spots on all your photos. You can remove them by blowing air directly on the sensor but sometimes that won’t cut it. You might end up having it professionally cleaned with an authorized technician (been there, done that). Most new models now have a self cleaning sensor and it works really well! Before getting my Nikon D300, I had it in my routine to always blow air on my sensor before every shoot. It was a hassle I could have done without. I purchased my D300 in December 2007 and I haven’t seen seen a sensor spot yet! Hourray! 😀
Step 10 – Price: I can’t write this article without mentioning price. Your budget plays a big role in your camera purchase. You have to ask yourself why you’re buying a DSLR. Is it a business investment or for personal use? What is my actual budget? Remember that you’ll have to purchase at lease one lens, a camera bag, an extra battery (strongly recommended) and probably a new memory card so make sure that you budget that in. I would also suggest that you give yourself a yearly budget for camera accessories. Trust me, you’ll want to add to your initial equipment as you get familiar with your camera and want to explore your creativity. You might read an article on how to use neutral density filters or SB-800 off camera flash techniques. You can easily go overboard financially if you don’t set a budget.
This tutorial is also a Knol