So you want to buy a digital SLR camera

  • Image credit: Gregor Halenda
  • Image credit: Gregor Halenda
Date:31 December 2008

The digital era has created a new, growing class of consumer-grade digital SLR (DSLR) cameras.

Single Lens Reflex (SLR) is a complicated term for a complicated machine. It refers to the prism and flip-up “reflex” mirror system that allows users to accurately focus and frame their shots directly through a camera’s optics, rather than through a separate view finder. Until recently, most SLRs were the province of pros, requiring experience and training to master. But the digital era has created a new, growing class of consumer-grade digital SLR (DSLR) cameras that are easier to learn and use, yet still deliver pro-level photos. These days, the most complicated aspect of DSLR cameras is figuring out which one fits your needs.

1. LCD display 7

Like most digital point-and-shoot cameras, digital SLRs have LCD displays – the largest of which are about 7,5 cm, measured diagonally. Older model DSLRs didn’t let you preview your shot using the LCD. Newer cameras with “live view” functionality leave the shutter open and allow light to bypass the reflex mirror. With most of these cameras, users have to choose between framing shots with the LCD or the viewfinder.

2. Sensor

DSLRs have image sensors that are 10 to 20 times the size of sensors on point-andshoot cameras. This gives DSLRs far superior light sensitivity, which is arguably more important to overall image quality than megapixels. Most DSLR cameras can vibrate the sensor to remove dust particles that often enter the camera when changing lenses.

3. Memory

CompactFlash memory cards used to be the data storage capacity kings, but the far more popular Secure Digital High-Capacity (SDHC) format now has cards with up to 32 GB, and newer DSLRs are trending toward it.

What do you get for your money?

> Budget

Price range: R4 900 to R6 500 Good for: The casual photographer who wants an easyto- learn SLR.

What to expect: These camera kits should offer at least 10 megapixels and a 63 mm to 69 mm LCD screen. They are generally light on fancy features.

> Mid-level

Price range: R7 400 to R15 000 Good for: The advanced hobbyist who wants near-pro features.

What to expect: Kits in this range offer 10,2 to 12,2 megapixels and 63 mm to 69 mm LCD screens with live-view mode.

> Pro

Price range: R30 000 to R90 000 Good for: Someone who makes a living at photography.

What to expect: When youfre spending lots of money, look for a “full-frame” sensor that has the dimensions of a 35 mm negative, plus “movie mode” and burst capabilities of five to 10 frames per second.