If you have decided to step up your photography game from your mobile phone or point-and-shoot into something more capable, you have certainly been overwhelmed by this question, and rightfully so. Each one of the major camera manufacturers, provides both DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) and mirrorless cameras; followed by a slew of models in each of those families. So, which DSLR should you buy in 2018?
The first question you should ask yourself is whether you want to go the DSLR or the mirrorless path. And there’s no right or wrong here, especially if you are beginning. Both camps have very capable players, and you can find excellent devices. The manufacturer lineup though will change a little bit: some excel in the DSLR camp, others in the mirrorless.
But here, we will be talking DSLR.
Scroll at the bottom of the page for the final recommendation. But I do encourage you to take the journey, because you will find some useful bits of information, and it will not take you long to read it all.
DSLR major players
It might be just my limited exposure, but I doubt anyone would fault me when saying that the two major players in the DSLR space are Nikon and Canon. They are reputable, reliable, have been around for decades, provide a healthy lineup of camera bodies, lenses and accessories. They have a huge following of competing fan bases. And are always being cheered or booed depending on what you are talking about. In other words, they are both very successful companies.
The unfortunate consequence of this success, is the large lineup of cameras they provide, pretty much at every price level. However, the good news is that, no matter what you pick (within reason), your camera will last you several years before you will find it lagging behind your growing skills. Let’s try and make some sense of their complex numbering schemes.
In both camps we can find four segments: entry-level, basic, semi-professional, professional. Going up in level, increases the technological capabilities of the camera, like noise handling and auto-focus accuracy and speed, but also its resistance to wear and abuse due to inclement situations, where build quality and weather sealing become crucial. Think of war zone reporters or National Geographic explorations type of situations.
Nikon model numbering
This might still be a simplified view, but starting from the entry level, going up, we have:
Four-digit models (D3xxx, D5xxx, D7xxx)
They all have cropped sensors (APS-C, 1.5x). Within this group, we can further distinguish:
- entry-level D3xxx series
- basic D5xxx series
- semi-professional D7xxx series
Three-digit DSLRs (D2xx, D3xx, D5xx, D6xx, D7xx, D8xx)
These are considered semi-professional, and can have either APS-C of full-frame sensors. Within this group, there is still a distinction between:
These distinctions are less marked here, but one way to look at it is to the check about the AUTO mode: if it’s there, then the camera falls into the enthusiasts camp.
One-digit DSLRs (D2, D3, D4, D5)
These are top-of-the-line full-frame cameras. The higher the number the newer.
The more digits there are, the closer the class to entry-level. Within a group, higher first digit elevates the rank. Higher number after that generally means newer model.
Canon model numbering
The strategy here seems to follow these rules:
xD model names
These are the top-of-the-line full-frame cameras. Strangely, the higher the model number, the less advanced the camera. So the 1D is the most advanced, professional-grade DSLR. Canon uses the Mark x convention to represent successive updates of the same model. So for example, Mark III is a newer and more advanced model than a Mark II.
xxD model names
These are the semi-pro/enthusiast cameras. In this range, higher number means better or newer.
xxxD model names
These are the entry-level cameras, also known as Digital Rebel. Also in this range, higher number means better or newer.
Models with fewer digits are more sophisticated than those with more digits. Except for single digits, the higher the number, the better.
What to buy
No matter which one of these two you end up purchasing, you will not be disappointed. Each come with their perks and quirks, so my ultimate suggestion is to go to a store and hold one of each in your hands, and see which one you like most. I know. The ultimate decision residing in an irrational instinctive feeling seems quite unconventional. But you want to tap into your artistic side, after all. Right? :-)
Something though that everybody agrees upon is that lenses are more important than camera bodies. And while you can start with the included kit-lens (typically an 18-55mm) you will soon enough want to upgrade to something different. But that’s for another post.
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- Featured image by chuttersnap on Unsplash
- These articles have been instrumental in writing this post: