You want control and the chance to learn how to take beautiful photos, and you’re ready to dive into DSLR cameras. Buying your first DSLR and understanding what makes digital SLR cameras worth the extra expense and effort is half the fun, and it’s a massive topic, but the basics are essential. For out infographic about the different types of cameras click here.

The Basics

The primary elements of a camera that influence your photos, and which DSLRs improve are exposure, white balance, and the quality of the sensor that captures the actual image. For our infographic about the basics of camera settings click here.

Exposure is affected by shutter speed – how long the iris of the camera stays open – and the aperture – how wide the iris opens to let in light. If the lens is open for longer with a shower shutter speed and if the aperture opens wider, more light gets in. Shutter speed also determines how long you have to hold the camera and the subject steady to avoid a blurry image. The aperture, measured in f-stops – the smaller the f-stop number the bigger the opening – also influences the depth of field, meaning how much of the shot is in focus in terms of distance from the camera.

White balance refers to the fact that “white” light has a number of different potential hues, called color temperature. For example, sunset can appear red, while Tungsten lights are an orange color, and some Halogen lights are bluer. White balance is how you or your camera adjusts for these temperatures so the colors in the picture are accurate.


DSLR cameras offer two advantages that make more sense in light of how all these settings impact your photo. First, the components of the body and lens tend to offer a wider range of higher quality settings for each of these elements. You can even change lenses to get more specific ranges of settings to achieve a desired effect. Second, you get as much or as little control over them as you want. Some digital cameras and point-and-shoot cameras offer manual controls, but many of these still rely at least partially on the camera’s sensors and don’t give you the ability to completely control everything.

Leaving behind your reliance on full-automatic mode allows you to specify how much light you want, what you want in focus, and what color and mood should infuse the light of the shot. This is important for shots in which the camera’s chip can’t correctly adjust settings to get the best outcome.

DLSR cameras also have better sensors as a general rule. They are larger, with more, better  pixels, and thus take higher quality photos with better, crisper lines and details – improvements you can see. Also, with SLR (single lens reflex) cameras the viewfinder shows exactly what hits the sensor through the lens because there is only one lens, as opposed to most compact cameras that have a separate lens for the viewfinder

Choosing Your DSLR

That’s a lot to digest but you should have an idea of the increased power and customizability you’re getting in exchange for a larger, heavier, more complicated camera. So how do you find the right one? Pros and scores of people who have become enthusiastic amateurs all say the same thing; choose an affordable body that you like when you hold it, get a starter kit with a basic lens, memory card, lens protector, charger, and case, and save your money for your first lens upgrade.

The most important thing about your camera is that you like taking pictures with it. Finding it comfortable in your hand as you shoot goes a long way to making you carry it around. Go to a store to see what cameras you like before you order online. With lower and mid-range DSLRs, the lens has a much larger impact on the outcome of your shot than the body in terms of more expensive models. So saving on an average housing to enable you to purchase another lens in the future when you have a clear idea of what you want to do is the best way to grow your hobby affordably.


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