Buying your first DSLR (Part 1b)
Now that we have discussed about the subtle differences between two of the biggest DSLR brands in the market over here, it is time to dig deeper and understand the differences between genuine entry-level DSLRs and semi-pro DSLRs.
The market is flooded with cameras of different brands, models and more importantly, purposes. And it makes sense. To win the majority of the market share, these camera makers have to produce a specific camera for a specific market.
The categories can be divided into the following:
If you are a professional, chances are that this is a useless article for you. But for the sake of those who want to get started, I will only talk about the first three points.
Really very entry-level
If you ask me, I call this category a complete waste of time. These cameras are catered to the group of people who wants a taste of the DSLR experience yet 1) cannot afford better cameras or 2) unwilling to pay more than a certain amount for that experience.
*Edit: If you belong to the cannot-afford-better cameras category, stay tuned for my article on buying second-hand cameras.
Another group of people who would get cameras from this category are those who use it as a point-and-shoot, thinking it would yield better results than compact digicams. Well, you are wrong. For the price you are paying for these really-very-entry-level DSLRs, you can get yourself a very decent performing prosumer digicam like the Panasonic LX3 or the Canon Powershot G11.
Now we’re talking.
This is the category where most people will start their journey into photography. It is also the best-selling category for all camera makers. Why shouldn’t they? Cameras in this category perform well in terms of functionality, image quality and technical specs. In some rare instances, the technical specifications of these entry-level cameras out-perform those semi-pro cameras.
If you are looking for your first DSLR, then you should be looking for cameras belonging to this category.
Once you get the photography momentum going, you will increasingly realize that entry-level cameras no longer meet your needs. In other words, you have outgrown your entry-level cameras.
Semi-pro category is what you will be looking for. These cameras are designed to perform and its results deliver most of the time. These cameras have better build (alloy body, heavier), better auto-focus systems, better ergonomics and many more.
I personally know a few wedding and event photographers who use these cameras for their businesses in view of the poor economy.
So what’s the big deal about this article?
There are two sides to this.
But before I go any further, please understand the idea of upgrading. Cameras are units of image-capturing devices whose technical specifications are fixed just like cars. Once you get more comfortable with driving, there is a high likelihood that you will want to want to get a faster, meaner, cooler ride.
When buying DSLRs, there is always this trap set up by the salesperson to make you buy beyond what you need.
Just a month back, this customer I spoke to, was a victim to this trap. He was looking for an entry-level DSLR but wasn’t sure what to do with it. The salespeople took full advantage of this weakness and painted a false illusion about how he can become a great photographer with a better (more ex) camera. In the end, he got talked into buying a semi-pro camera. The truth is, as the customer eventually realized, he uses the camera for nothing more than just the casual holiday and family gatherings. As a result, the camera was too heavy and bulky to bring around everywhere he goes. He got an entry-level camera from me instead.
Remember, salespeople do get better commission by selling you semi-pro cameras, which cost more. Which is why sometimes it is hard to trust the words of the salesperson and you would rather ask your photo-friends who have nothing to gain from advising what camera you should buy.
And here’s the point-of-view of a typical photographer friend.
When buying your first DSLR, it is important to know what do you use the camera predominantly for:
- Casual walk-around, family gatherings, occasional holidays
- Pick up photography and shoot stuff like landscapes, birds and architecture
- Work-related like designing and documenting stuff.
I’ll make it simple here.
For those who fall into category one, go for entry-level cameras. Reason being, today’s entry-level cameras pack enough juice to deliver those needs. And the probability of you outgrowing these cameras is not high. I would estimate that about 10-20% of these buyers would eventually upgrade to semi-pro cameras.
For those who fall into category two and three, go for semi-pro cameras. Reason being, entry-level cameras just ain’t good enough for you. Trust me on that. A good 70% of the buyers who buy entry-level cameras for categories two and three, end up selling it off at a loss to upgrade.
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