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A DSLR – or Digital Single Lens Reflex – camera comes loaded with more advanced components and versatility than your typical point-and-shoot camera. Its basic physical design has remained nearly unchanged for more than 50 years, but both entry-level and pro-grade DSLRs are becoming less expensive and come loaded with functions that are easy to learn and use.
If you’re new to the world of digital SLR photography, you’ll discover almost immediately with advanced features and functions comes a higher learning curve but you can be sure that your photo skills will reach new heights as you get to know your DSLR. Have a look through our handy guide and review some of the basics, as well as some things you should consider when shopping for a camera.
Before you purchase a DSLR, you should consider what you’ll be using your camera for: are you simply looking to shoot better everyday shots? Or are you looking to go pro?
If you’re new to the world of digital photography, an entry-level camera might be your best bet. Most models feature preset scene modes just like you’d find on a point and shoot so you can set it to match your environment and capture brag-worthy photos. And when you’re ready, switch to manual mode and really get to know how to control the types of photos you’re shooting. These types of cameras are often less expensive and made of plastic, which makes them lighter and more compact than a pro DSLR. You can still look like a pro – and shoot like one – without the hefty price tag.
If you want to be a professional photographer or you just want total control, a pro-grade DSLR is the ideal companion. These cameras give you advanced features with fewer automatic modes so you’ve got the freedom to play with settings for truly personalized shots.
Pro-grade models are usually a bit heavier than entry-level ones, because they’re built for more rugged situations. Magnesium bodies and weather sealing let you take these cameras out to play in just about any environment to capture professional-looking photos.
No matter which camera model you choose, there are plenty of common features you should consider when shopping for a DSLR.
The sensor in your digital SLR works just like the 35mm film in non-digital SLR cameras. Just like film, sensors are sensitive to light, and once you press the shutter the sensor will convert an optical image to an electronic signal that gets recorded to your memory card.
All DSLRs feature a CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) sensor that’s great at rendering colour information even in low light. They use up very little battery power and are designed to run at extremely high speeds which is great for burst shots and HD video capture.
Digital pictures are made up of thousands of tiny squares called pixels. Many people believe that the more you have, the better your camera will perform, but that’s not necessarily the case. A megapixel (MP) is one million pixels, so if your DSLR can shoot 10MP, it has the power to produce pictures made up of about 10 million pixels which is great for producing gorgeous colour or black-and-white prints up to 13” x 19” in size.
In every camera, you’ll find a dedicated chip that works to convert the raw data from the image sensor into a colour-corrected image. Every DSLR comes equipped with its own brand-specific image processor, but all of them perform the same function.
The LCD screen on your point and shoot camera is the place you’re most likely to compose images, but on a DSLR the LCD screen is typically used to view camera information. Once you’ve snapped a shot, you can review your images complete with details such as resolution, aperture, spot metering, and shutter speed.
Many of today’s models now offer a Live View feature, so you’re able to use the LCD screen rather than your camera’s viewfinder to compose shots. Some DSLRs with this feature also have a screen that you can tilt and swivel to capture those hard-to-get shots.
A lens mount allows you to attach a variety of lenses to your camera. Most lens mounts are designed to be compatible with all the lenses of your camera’s specific brand so you can buy a new camera and keep using those older lenses.
Usually located on the top, a mode dial is used to change the settings on your camera. Select an icon or AUTO setting to let the camera choose all the right settings for your situation, or choose one of the manual settings for greater control.
A common feature in almost all digital cameras today is the power to record HD videos. With the simple push of a button, you’ll capture footage that looks true to life.
No matter which type of camera you choose, there are lots of accessories to choose from that will help you shoot better and be prepared for any situation.
Ask most DSLR owners and they’ll tell you that in most cases, the body you choose to snap shots with doesn’t necessarily matter. Choose a less expensive camera that has all the features you’re looking for and then spend more of your money on what really matters: lenses.
To get the shot you really want, you’ll want to pick up a lens that’s suited to your shooting needs. And there are plenty of types to choose from:
To save your photos and videos, you'll need a memory card. These small cards are like portable hard drives, letting you to store digital files and transfer them to other devices, like your computer. The most common type of memory that's used by DSLRs is an SDHC card, but there are some models that use Memory Stick Pro or Pro Duo cards or Compact Flash cards.
If you don’t regularly upload your photos to your computer, there are memory cards with built-in Wi-Fi, such as Eye-fi, that can wirelessly transfer photos for you. Like Wi-Fi cameras, these cards essentially give you unlimited storage. Simply turn on your camera when you’re near a Wi-Fi hotspot and the card will automatically upload your photos to your computer or favourite online site.
So, how much storage space could you need? The chart below shows how many photos and videos you can fit into different storage capacities. These numbers are approximations only and will vary across memory card brands:
Every DSLR has a hot shoe mount that allows you to attach an external flash. Adding a flash will allow you to alter existing light or add it where you might not have enough of it. It can also reduce shadows, enhance skin tone and prevent red eye.
Attach a filter to your lenses and it will help protect it from scratches and dust. Choose a specialty filter and you’ll be able to improve your photos too.
Common filter types include: polarizing, neutral density, diffusion, and UV filters.
For outdoor shots, a lens hood can help reduce the glare and flare that’s caused when light hits the front of your lens. A lens hood will help you capture photos with richer colours and deeper saturation. Plus, a handy lens cap will keep your lens safe from dust, nicks and scratches.
If you’re looking to add a bit of artistic flare to your photos or extend the range of your existing lens, a lens adapter is an easy and affordable solution. Common models include telephoto, wide-angle, and fisheye adapters. And just like a lens adapter, you can attach a lens converter directly onto your camera or the lens, and it will give you more creative possibilities. Get closer to your subject or fit more into the frame in every shot.
Your camera and lens might come equipped with image stabilization capabilities, but for truly flawless shots – especially at night or for fast-moving subjects – a tripod is key. It’ll ensure you’re able to snap blur-free photos with every click.
This accessory attaches to the battery compartment and provides a cassette to hold additional batteries, which helps to increase the battery life of your camera.
With so many accessories to take with you, a camera bag for your DSLR, lenses, memory cards, and battery pack is ideal. Most bags feature plenty of customized compartments for all your items, so there’s a home for everything that will keep it secure until you need it.
Best Buy carries a wide selection of DSLR cameras, lenses, and accessories to suit your picture-taking needs. Check out your local store and discover the photographer within.
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