Which DSLR should I buy?

I’m a photographer and a technology junkie. So I’m often asked which digital SLR camera to buy. This post is the answer to that question. The answer is probably not what you think.

Usually people want a straightforward “Buy model number XYZ” answer. While it isn’t that simple, if that’s the advice you’re looking for, you can stop reading after this: Buy an entry level DSLR that fits your budget. Go with the company that most of your friends have. At this price and spec point, no matter which company you choose, you’ll have a competent camera capable of delivering terrific images. There isn't really all that much of a difference between the brands, especially in the entry-level models.

At a more professional level, I’d say choose either Canon or Nikon: these are camera companies that have invested billions of dollars in optics and digital imaging research. Either Canon or Nikon. Leica if you want to spend money. I wouldn't seriously look at another brand in the full-frame or crop sensor space. The new Sony mirrorless is being talked about a lot, but I have no first-hand knowledge, other than the fact that all my photog friends that have them, love them.

I shoot Canon. They have a good sales network and really good service in Delhi/India. If you develop your interest further, Canon L series lenses are among the best lenses in the world. Canon also has free training camps several times a week for people who want to learn more about digital photography in Delhi, and if you're a first-time purchaser of an SLR I suggest taking a few afternoons out to take advantage of them. Having said that, I must add that every Canon model has an at-least-equally-competent Nikon competitor, and everything I’ve said about Canon thus far, is equally true for Nikon.

Here are the details and my real advice:

First of all, I'd suggest you introspect and assess your reasons for buying an SLR in the first place. I'm going to recommend that you don't. Most people are buying SLRs these days because they think they will get better photographs. This is not necessarily true. An SLR camera can produce spectacular results in the hands of a skilled photographer, but often mediocre or downright bad results when used by someone who doesn’t know how to use the camera.

I guarantee you will tire of lugging around this monster camera all the time and taking pictures will slowly become a chore, rather than the pleasurable recording of a memorable moment. You will use 5% of the camera's features and are therefore paying for what you won't use – 99% of your pictures will be in 'Auto' mode, where the camera decides your settings for you. You will own an SLR camera, but will use it like a point-and-shoot camera. Total overkill, and using an SLR like this does not ensure quality photographs.

With an SLR you’re often likely to miss the shot, because pulling it out, turning it on, focusing and choosing your settings just takes more time than taking a point-and-shoot out of your pocket and squeezing off a few shots.

Also, an SLR camera really comes into its element when you start changing lenses. And this is where your commitment comes to the test. Good lenses are expensive, very often costing more than your camera. When you get to the top end, you can buy cheaper cars.

Are you sure you want an SLR?

There are many non-SLR cameras that will give you fantastic results. There are also many that are crap, but do a little homework and you'll get a really good camera. Don't make the mistake of thinking you're getting less camera. Just because they're not SLRs doesn't mean these are not good cameras – a good point and shoot will cost quite close to what an entry-level SLR will run for.

I have several SLRs, but only carry them if I'm on a shoot or am going somewhere and intend to do some interesting photography. For daily walking around, I use my iPhone or a Canon M6 (see picture).

So my advice is to get a point-and-shoot that is in your budget, learn how to use the camera manually, with and without flash, and spend some time deciding if you want to take your photography further. THEN go in for an SLR if you still want!