Here are some specific features to look for in a digital SLR camera body.
*Depth of Field Preview button. In my opinion, this is essential.
*High ISO noise reduction.
*Full range of shutter speeds, from 30 seconds and bulb to at least 1/2000 second.
*Spot meter capability.
*Full range of exposure mode options, including manual, aperture priority, and shutter priority.
*Continuous auto focus and focus tracking.
*Capability of using a cable release. This reduces photographer-induced vibrations.
*Multiple focus and spot meter points.
*Motor drive. Most new cameras can achieve at least three frames per second.
*Custom function capabilities that allow you to configure the camera for the way you like to work.
*Built-in or add-on vertical grip with shutter release. This feature makes holding the camera in vertical orientation much more comfortable and makes working in the vertical orientation easier and more efficient, particularly for photographers with bigger hands.
*The camera body feels right. This is very subjective. You should hold the camera in your hand and decide if you like the way it fits.
What haven’t I talked about? Sensor size for one. Most cameras costing $500 or more have very high-quality sensors that deliver more than enough information to make large prints. You can see a break down of common sensor sizes in the comments section of Part one.
I haven’t talked about battery life, since most modern cameras have batteries that last a long time. I haven’t covered other technical or specialty features because frankly, if you’re reading this with interest, it’s probably because you’re new at this. That means you should stick with the basics for now. Later on, you’ll know what to look for when the time comes to upgrade.
Should you buy Canon or Nikon? Olympus or Pentax? Any current, brand-name camera system on the market today will give you good results. Some things to take into consideration when choosing a brand are availability of lenses. Someday, you may want to add to your collection. Also consider things like image stabilization, ruggedness, custom features, and how easy it is to use.
What are your friends using? If many of your friends are using Canon, and you buy Canon, you’ll have a ready-made “technical support” group (as well as sources for borrowing lenses.) Likewise, if all your friends are using Nikon, buy Nikon for the same reasons.
There are lots of choices out there. If you stick with big brands that offer large lens lines, you’ll be fine. Don’t agonize over this decision. Remember, you can’t go to the store where Stephen King buys his pens, and expect to write great novels. You can’t go to the art supply store where Van Gogh bought his paints and brushes and expect to make great paintings. And you can’t expect to buy cameras with secret powers either.
Photography is about having a vision, a good eye, passion for the subject, great light, access, storytelling and heart. The camera equipment is just a tool designed to help capture the rest. I don’t know a single professional photographer who’s ever told me an editor refused to buy an image because the photographer used the wrong camera. It’s your eye, your vision, your ability to tell a story with the camera and your desire that matter most.
Now just go out and buy the camera, whichever one it is, and start shooting. Good luck.