Update: I have since then upgraded my camera body to a Nikon D7100. It’s considered a good medium-budget SLR but honestly, I do miss my D90. They don’t make camera like that any more.
Actually, this post should rightly be titled how I chose my SLR. I have been getting tons of questions from you guys about my new camera – a Nikon D90 – the type of lens I got, price, where I bought it and most importantly, how I came to the decision.
It was easy, really.
Step 1- Canon vs Nikon
When I started blogging, I bought a very very basic Nikon point and shoot (P&S) camera – the Nikon L10. It was 5 megapixels and had a 3x optical zoom (although I hear these numbers actually mean nothing), it still gave me good pictures. So my mind went and made itself up thinking “Nikon rocks!”.
Then I became a Canon girl. It wasn’t a conscious decision but I wanted a high-end P&S that will see me through until I saved up for an SLR. I decided on the Canon SX10 IS. I instantly felt the difference between that and the basic model. The pictures suddenly started looking better and it was great.
I wanted an SLR and I wanted a Nikon one. Somehow it was etched in my mind that Nikon is better than Canon so I was stuck on that decision. That’s the first decision you will need to make. I honestly don’t think one is a better brand than the other, for most of the Nikon models out there, there’s usually a Canon counterpart.
Step 2 – Price
Decide on your budget. You will most likely go over it by a little but have a rough range that you wish to spend on your SLR. This will directly influence the specs of your camera, especially the lens. My budget was about 1800 SGD / ~1400 USD.
Step 3 – Lens
There are a few ways to go about this. You can decide to invest in a cheap body and better lens. Or, you can go for a decent body and decent lens (both mid-range). Going for an expensive body and basic lens is not a good idea when you are starting out, I don’t need to tell you that.
Most SLRs come with a kit lens. The D90 which I got comes with an 18-105mm Nikkor lens. Its important to understand what the numbers 18-105 mean. It basically stands for the zoom capacity of the lens.
Another whole different topic is prime lens. They are fixed lens, so you can’t zoom with them. However, they are considered superior in terms of clarity. They are also lighter, cheaper, and easier to carry around. Depending on what your primary subject(s) will be (family, kids, food, beach, portraits, etc), you need to pick out the right lens. Along with the D90 kit, I picked up a Nikkor 50mm 1.8 lens, especially for low light and food photography. This lens has a large DoF and so creates a wonderfully sharp subject with a blurred background, the ideal situation for food photos and portraits. You can see the first few pics taken with this lens in my Garlic Rolls Recipe page.
I researched a lot before deciding on what to buy. A few things I did (a lot) are:
– write to fellow food bloggers and friends who had a Nikon SLR, particularly a D90. Sig helped a lot with my questions and sent me Amazon links to make it super clear what exactly she was talking about.
– search for particular lens names and camera models on Flickr. You can see example shots taken with the lens you are interested in. This is immensely useful since it gives you an idea of what the lens is capable of. Of course, post-editing and expertise come into the picture too, but its still a useful thing to do. I pored a lot over the Nikkor 50mm night shots search results.
– research online of course. Some useful sites that explain concepts are DP Review and Ken Rockwell. You can also go through Flickr Forums. One conversation I found very useful is whether the 50mm lens does good landscape shots too. The lens are not ideal for landscape so its better not to buy that as the only one with your camera body.
– go to shops, hold the camera, try some test shots, see how it feels in your hands.
This post is getting too long so if there’s any other info you’d like, you can leave a comment on the Facebook page or email me.
And btw, an SLR is totally totally TOTALLY worth the investment. Whatever people say, its just not possible to get the same quality with a P&S. If you are still undecided, I would say, Go.For.It 😉
Disclaimer: I am not an expert in this subject, just wanted to share my experiences during the hunt for the perfect SLR. I am super happy with the D90 so far. Also, I only considered Canon and Nikon as possibilities, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at Sony or Olympus or whatever. I just wasn’t interested, that’s all.