I originally wrote this post back in 2007. Certain links have been updated so that they point to the Internet Archive.
If you’re getting into photography, you might have already noticed some of the limitations that you must work around to use your digital camera on a daily basis. Most “consumer” and “prosumer” cameras lack manual adjustments, and their small sensors might prevent you from taking quality pictures in anything but ideal conditions. Modern digital single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras are able to overcome those disadvantages, as well as many others. For the enthusiast, there has never been a better time to buy one.
There are more options, and they aren’t quite as expensive anymore.
Not long ago, a good digital SLR would have necessitated an expense of a few thousand dollars. Today, with an increased demand for single-lens reflex cameras, it’s much easier to get your hands on an outstanding machine. Online vendors now offer the Canon Digital Rebel XTi ($653, body only), Nikon D70s ($777, includes 18-70mm kit lens), and Sony DSLR-A100 ($800, includes 18-70mm kit lens) for well under $1,000. Make sure you pick up a high capacity CompactFlash card, such as the Sandisk 4 GB Extreme III, and a spare battery. You’ll find that both are essential accessories on an extended shoot.
Sensor size matters.
What good is a 10 megapixel compact digital camera if it produces grainy, unusable images? Sensor sizes, described further in photographer Sean McHugh’s excellent writeup, can directly affect the outcome of your photography. Cameras with larger sensors — including, of course, most digital SLRs — typically produce less noise, even at relatively high ISO speeds.
Wear different lenses for different occasions.
You wouldn’t wear a bathing suit to a fine restaurant, so why restrict yourself to the monotony of a single all-around lens? With a digital SLR, your lenses are each part of an interchangeable system, which allows you to select the lens that is best suited for your particular application. And, when you finally decide to upgrade your SLR camera body, you’ll be capable of transferring your lenses.
Shoot in RAW and adjust your picture later.
Most compact and enthusiast digital cameras can shoot in JPEG, but few are capable of shooting in RAW format. In fact, Canon recently deleted that very feature from a number of their compacts. While JPEG is suitable for high resolution imagery, RAW format captures more information and offers photographers the ability to go back at a later time to adjust properties such as contrast, exposure, and white balance, all without sacrificing image quality.
Article Image Credit: “My Canon 5D” by hansel5569. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.