My friends often ask me for help to decide which camera they should buy. So I decided to write this blog on how to select a camera and the things to look for in a camera body. We will focus on DSLR cameras but some of the concepts are universal and shall be applicable on any camera system. 

1. Decide on your budget

Many times we tend to overlook this factor and only come to realize that it is expensive when it comes to paying to bill. A major consideration is to be sure if you want to buy your camera with some professional aspiration which means you plan to make money with your camera or, you are buying to take pictures of friends and family, probably do some travel photography. Most camera companies have segmented their products into three categories; professional, semi-professional or serious hobbyist, entry level. As the technology & competition is growing fast, the distinction between these segments is fading away. Professional camera body costs about INR 2 lacs and above ($2000+), semi-pro camera body will cost about INR 80 thousand and above and entry level body will cost below INR 80 thousand range. So first thing would be to write down the amount that you are willing to shell out. 

Nikon D3400 Nikon D5 Canon 1300D Canon 1Dx 
Rs. 26,000/- Rs. 4,30,000/- Rs. 22,000/- 4,45,000/-

2. Set your priorities right

When someone asks me for advice on buying a camera, I ask them what kind of photography do you want to do with it and they, more than 50% of the time, reply "everything"! You must look back at saying "jack of all trades but master of none" and that's exactly what happens with our expectation for a DSLR camera to do everything. If a camera claims to do everything then there are some compromises somewhere in the system. If you are interested in venturing into bird photography and think that buying expensive gear will put you on top of the game then you are clearly not thinking through. The most important thing for venturing into bird photography would be to buy a guide on birds, read about their habitat, learn about their names and habits. If you are interested in street photography and are considering expensive equipment that draws lot of attention then it is not advisable. So write down the kind of photography that you actually foresee yourself doing in immediate 6 months from the time of buying your camera and proceed with that. 

3. Sensor Size Matters not the Mega pixels

When you look at an image that is clicked with a DSLR and compare it with a mobile phone camera or a point and-shoot-camera then there is a clear difference in the quality of the image which is clicked with a DSLR camera. This difference arises basically due to bigger size sensors of DSLR cameras. So even if a mobile camera boasts of 20 MP camera, it will not produce images comparable to an image taken with a 16MP DSLR. Mega pixels only define size of the recorded image that can be printed. Bigger the sensor size better will be the quality of images. Bigger sensors are also difficult to manufacture which makes bigger sensors more expensive.

A professional camera has a 36mm x 24 mm sensor, this size is referred to as 'Full Frame' because the size of the sensor is equal to the photographic film which was used earlier, more in the pre-digital era.  Nikon's Full frame cameras come with a branding FX. Medium format cameras are very expensive and have sensors bigger than full frame. At lower end sit prosumer and entry level DSLRs with a smaller sensor than full frame. So now, make a list of cameras with relatively larger sensor size and which suits your budget. 

4. Weight & Size

This parameter is often overlooked but it is very important as it affects your mobility. A Nikon Full Frame with a 70-200mm f2.8 will weigh about 2.3 kilos (5lb)! Imagine you are out with your family on a trip and this 5lb machine is hanging on your neck for more than 4-6 hours. Also, when you walk around with such bulky gear then you draw a lot of attention. Weight is also affected by % of metal & plastic in the body. If you wish to buy camera body for mostly studio use then you can buy heavier equipment without worrying about it too much. 

 Nikon D3400 645g or 22.8 Oz Nikonn D5 1400 g or 49.91 Oz Sony As7 II 627g or 22.11 Oz

5.  Dynamic Range

Dynamic Range means the range of tones from blackest black to whitest white that your camera can capture in a given lighting condition at optimum settings. Camera with higher dynamic range will produce more lifelike images. There is also a technique called HDR (High Dynamic range) where camera takes three (or more) at under exposure (to get highlight details), normal exposure (to get mid-tones) and overexposure (to get shadows) and then merge these three into one image with the help of software. So you need to be looking for higher DR value.

Canon 5D Mark-IV Nikon D5 Nikon D810 Canon 1Dx 
DR - 13.6 EV DR 12.3 EV DR 14.8EV DR 11.8 EV

6. High ISO Performance

This is another important factor to be taken into consideration. It's not just how high a camera's ISO can go but up to what ISO camera  can maintain an acceptable image.  Higher ISO enables us to shoot in poor lighting situation. So look for a camera that can retain the quality at higher ISO.

ISO 1192 (print worthy quality) ISO 2434 (print worthy quality)

7. Fast Auto Focusing System

A crucial factor which will affect your results from your camera. DSLR cameras boast of number of AF points. More number of AF points is better. The thing that you need to pay attention to is the number of Cross Type points which are mostly not advertised but makes a huge difference in speed of auto focusing. So let's say there are 21 AF points then there may be only 1 or 8 Cross Type AF points. More the number of cross type points better would be the speed of auto focusing.  There are certain AF points which are designated as f/8 points, these points are the ones which are active while using a 2.0 Tele-Converter. So make sure there are enough f/8 AF points if you plan to use tele-converters. So look for more number of cross type AF points.

Auto Focusing speed also varies from lens to lens.

Other factors which may affect your shooting experience or image quality are Metering system, number of shots per charge of battery, sales after service, etc. Also, try buying from an authorized showroom only. Hope you find this blog helpful. Don't forget to leave your comments below.

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