So, you learned the basics of focus, framing, and zoom, and you’re ready to switch from point and shoot to an interchangeable lens camera. (There are a lot of advantages to an interchangeable lens camera, not least of all the interchangeable lenses!) While by no means comprehensive, here’s what you need know about interchangeable mirrorless and DSLR cameras as well as lenses before you make the switch.
Interchangeable lens bodies accept interchangeable lenses (well, duh – just making sure we’re on the same page). Interchangeable lens cameras have larger sensors than point and shoot cameras, and therefore create higher quality images. There are two types of interchangeable bodies: DSLR and mirrorless.
DSLR stands for digital single-lens reflex camera. It reflects the light coming from the lens through a prism (or a series of mirrors) into the optical viewfinder. When you press the shutter, the mirror flips up so that the light passes directly to the sensor instead of the viewfinder.Unlike a point and shoot, DSLRs let you see the picture you’re going to capture without lag. (Point and shoots and mirrorless cameras use sensors that have to transfer that data to a digital display). DSLRs are bigger than point and shoots – and mirrorless cameras, for that matter – because they offer larger sensors with better image quality. We recommend the Nikon D3400 or Canon EOS Rebel T6 as good starter DSLRs.
Unlike DSLRs, mirrorless cameras don’t have, well, mirrors. Rather, the sensor is exposed to light all the time, which creates a digital preview of the image on the electronic viewfinder or LCD screen. If you use a point and shoot, then you’re already using a mirrorless camera. However, photographers usually refer to interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras as simply ‘mirrorless.’Mirrorless cameras are smaller than DSLRs, but feature the same size sensors, which make them great for travel and street photography. However, some photographers argue that mirrorless cameras have weaker autofocus than their DSLR counterparts, as well as shorter battery life. For mirrorless users just starting out, we recommend the Canon M50 or a Sony a6000.
Kit or ‘starter’ lenses come with the camera body. While they’re fine to get started, kit lenses are usually slow with poor image quality. Instead, we recommend picking up one of the following interchangeable lenses to go with your DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Standard lenses typically range from 35mm to 85mm – i.e. mid-range focal length. They create images that appear natural because they feature an angle of view that is roughly the same as the human eye. They are the most popular type of lens, as they can be used for snapshots, portraits, landscapes, etc.
Telephoto is a long focus lens that brings far objects closer. Unlike a point and shoot zoom, which enlarges portions of the image, a telephoto lens magnifies the image. Typically, telephoto lenses lenses are 100mm and greater. As a rule, the longer the lens, the greater the magnification of the image.Wide Angle
At 24mm to 35mm, wide angle lenses capture a wider field of view and more of the scene in a single shot. Landscape and architecture photography often seek wide angle lenses.
Macro lenses focus from infinity to 1:1 magnification, which means that the image reproduced on the sensor as the same size as the image in real life. Photographers use macro lenses for up close photography.
Taking the jump from a point and shoot to an interchangeable lens camera is no small feat! Choosing between a DSLR and mirrorless, and then picking out your interchangeable lenses, there are quite a few new considerations. We recommend starting with standard lenses before you branch out. Between mirrorless and DSLR, it’s all about what you want. If you want smaller, go with mirrorless. If you’re looking to get started with longer battery life and faster autofocus, DSLR is for you.