Making that decision can be nerve racking. If you are a beginner or seasoned Pro the decision on what you purchase is very important. While having the latest is what everyone desires. It may not be the best choice for you.
First things first: (all this based on my knowledge of Nikon) Canon provides the same comparable models; I just don’t know their latest equipment.
Determine your need
Do you want a camera that you can carry around, that is perfect for those quick moments where you need to take a photo?
-Then a point and shoot compact Digital camera will be your best choice. I have one that I carry with me at all times, a small Coolpix S series camera. It’s perfect. Fits in my purse, great for nights out with friends or attending events where I don’t feel like carrying my DSLR.
I recommend to anyone that may be looking at a DSLR, consider your skill level; this is very important because it will help you decide what is going to work best for you. If you are looking to get into photography and you want something more than a point and shoot, look at beginner DSLR cameras like the D60, D40, this will give you the basic features but allow you to shoot in Auto if all else fails. Understand the amount of photos you will be able to take in a single second is minimal, especially when using the pop-up flash.
The step up from that is the D90, while it has auto, it has more manual controls needed for greater image control. There are some added benefits to shooting with the D90 over the D60, older lenses can be used. The D60 is limited to the latest AF-S lenses. Auto focus and metering will not work correctly if you use an older AF lens on this model. If you have older lenses then the D90, is a better choice over the D60.
If you are a beginner or have some understanding; before you spend the 2k, on a D300 or more on the D700, D3 or D3x. TAKE A CLASS!!!!
Do not make this purchase unless you can be confident you will understand the equipment. If you do not know what aperture, shutter, depth of field or ISO is… TAKE A CLASS!!!
If you do not, you will not only regret your purchase, you will loose money and time trying to learn all that you can with out the understanding of how the camera actually functions, which is VERY important as each photograph has varying lighting conditions, unique shooting conditions, that with understanding comes the confidence.
Anytime anyone has ever asked me about their camera choice, that they want to learn about photography, I recommend they spend @$200 on a used film camera that allows you to shoot manually, and take a beginner photography class at a local community college. While this may seem archaic, you as a photographer will learn so much more which will carry over to when you are ready to make that “BIG” digital purchase
What are you going to use the camera for? Occasional shooting, possibly the kids playing sports etc.; as you increase in the model, the more you can do, but the more complicated the camera can get. I do not recommend anyone purchasing a D3, unless that has an understanding of Nikon digital equipment and what shutter, aperture and depth of field mean.
If you are a pro, then you know what you want. Your choice is FX or DX.
The skill level from beginner to expert is as follows: (current cameras)
D3000 > D40 > D5000 > D60 > D90 > D300 > D300s> D700 > D3 > D3s > D3X
Many pros use the D300, because of the 1.5 factor, which is important if you are a sports shooter. Having that increase in focal length is a huge benefit. Or they have stayed with the D2x.
Do not buy a D40/D60 model expecting to make money as a “Successful” photographer, while some images will probably work, understand that as a “Professional” photographer, you are being paid to capture those moments, you are being paid by the client to provide them with quality images. Don’t blame the equipment when you are getting under exposed, over exposed, blurry images. 9 out of 10 times, it’s not the camera, it’s the user that is making the mistakes.
FX vs DX:
FX = Full Frame (D700, D3 and D3x)
DX= Digital Frame (D40, D40x, D50, D60, D70, D70s, D80, D90, D100, D200, D300, D1, D1x, D1h, D2h, D2x)
For film shooters, this is easier to understand, FX frame has the same size sensor as the 35mm film plane, DX frame is a smaller sensor, with a 1.5 increase on lens focal length.
FX; shooting with a 20mm lens, like the film cameras, it is a 20mm lens
DX; shooting with a 20mm lens, is like shooting with a 30mm lens (a 1.5x increase in focal length)
What can you spend vs. what do you want to spend.
Digital camera a lot like cars, decrease in value each year. Technology advances so quick with digital that models that are 2-4 years old, are not really worth 1/4th of what you originally paid. My first digital, which only had 6 megapixels, was $2500, without the lens. I sold it for $400 (very sad). My D300, without the lens was nearly $700 cheaper, had better image quality but will probably turn into a paperweight or backup once I replace this a couple of years down the road.
New models for top end DSLR’s are produced on average every 18-24months.
If you don’t have the money but really want a certain model, don’t settle, SAVE! It is important to pick the camera that is best for you, if you chose to step down because you don’t have enough money but you need a camera now. Rent one, save for what you want. Most large camera companies do not offer an upgrade program. So realize what you purchase will be it, no chance to trade-up, and you probably will not get what you paid for if you decide to sell later.
Research, research, research!
This is very, very important and why I said it three times. Research online, look at specifications, what will the camera come with (accessories etc), some dealers offer packages. Go to local dealers, play with the camera, hold it, and shoot with it. Does it feel good in your hands?
Once you choose the model, you can then price online, but be aware of import/gray market vs. authorized. Key; if it’s too good to be true more than likely it is not an authorized product, which will not have the manufacture warranty, nor will it ever be able to be service by the Manufacture. (Please see my previous blog on Gray Market: http://thirdiblog.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/buyer-beware/)
Feel free to comment, send a message if you have any questions on this or if you are unsure and want advice on which camera is best for you.