“Good day shopkeep! I’d like to purchase your finest 12-megapixel, weather-sealed, DSLR with a metal chassis, full-frame sensor, pentaprism viewfinder, and live-view. I’ll be shooting some action shots, so a shutter that can hit an 8000th of a second would be preferable, and 8 fps would be ideal. Also, what do you have for fast lenses?”
I peddled cameras for years when I was younger at a number of different shops, and I rarely had customers come in who knew exactly what they wanted. Most of the time, I’d get something along the lines of, “I want a good camera” or “My Uncle has a Canon, and he loves it!”
Unless you shoot for a living, or you’re an advanced hobbyist with a specialized interest, chances are that you may have fallen behind with what’s happening in the world of photography. The whole industry has gone crazy with innovation since the advent of digital technology, which has only led to increased frustration and confusion from the average consumer. Historically speaking, if you bought a Pentax KX in 1975, then returned in 1984 to buy a Pentax K1000, you’d be able to effortlessly make the switch without having to learn about a hoard of new features and developments. Compare that to the Kodak DCS330 released in 1999 and 2008’s Nikon D3X and the similarities are few and far between. More seems to happen over the course a year now, than it did over a decade back then.
Buying a DSLR can be difficult, but it shouldn’t be joyless. As real estate agents, you have the advantage of using your camera for both business and pleasure. Your camera will assist you with marketing listings, while also capturing many of life’s best moments; thus, making an informed decision is imperative.
There are a number of features that have become almost irrelevant for DSLR buyers. Megapixel quantity, for instance, has become inconsequential in recent years as the hardware has become so overstuffed with resolution, that it’s hard to find a camera under the 10MP range. Frame rate, processing speed, and focus accuracy have advanced to a point where the average user will have little to no problems, regardless of choice. Added perks like live-view, and large LCD screens were great selling points for a while, but are now common practice in DSLRs. Today, you might be swayed by new HD video features in select cameras, but this technology too will soon become part of the industry standard.
A major problem for consumers today is that new, cutting-edge technology is always pending release. The common inclination is to wait for the latest and greatest camera to come out, but in reality, there’s always going to be something better just beyond the horizon. Quite simply, if you’re waiting for the latest camera, you’ll always be waiting.
Currently, I see only three main variables that need to be addressed before purchasing a DSLR:
1) Camera Construction: All cameras are not made equally. Camera chassis materials range from ultra-strong, magnesium shells to basic plastic frames. Only some are manufactured with weather seals to protect them from moisture and condensation. The weight and durability of your camera should reflect your specific styles and needs. If you’re hard on your gear, and you want to shoot in a variety of conditions, then make sure you get a camera that can take the abuse. On the other hand, if you’d prefer a lighter-weight camera, and you take good care of your gear, then you will have appropriate options, and you can save some money.
2) Sensor Size & Image Quality: Most DSLR cameras use APS-C or DX sensors to capture the image. These sensors are far better than the ones used in compact cameras and provide superior results, especially in situations involving low light. Full-frame sensors are better yet, but they do cost more. Essentially, the larger the sensor, the larger the surface area of each pixel; meaning improved accuracy in color and detail. Reducing noise that results from shooting in low light, and/or at high ISOs has become a major obstacle for leading manufacturers to overcome. All DSLRs can shoot great photos in good light, but the most notable differences arise in environments that are less than perfect. Image sample galleries, and camera comparisons will help you eliminate options.
3) Lenses: Arguably, the lenses you choose are more important than the camera body itself. Fast lenses (or those with apertures of f2.8 or lower) with good glass will do more for your photos than a few additional features will any day. Ten years from now, if you choose to upgrade your camera body, you’ll likely transfer your lenses over to the new camera. In other words, lenses tend to outlive camera bodies, so get good ones right from the start.