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Which budget DSLR should budding photographers go for?

Agent001 tackles the eternal question which has haunted aspiring shutterbugs for ages. Here’s what you need to know if you are thinking of starting your own “XYZ Photography” Facebook page.

Photo Fairs are quite common in Mumbai, and with one of my friends having recently been to one, I was inundated with his questions about cameras. Needless to say, he was really taken in by all the marketing mumbo-jumbo and was all geared up to get himself a DSLR. With a click of a button he’d be able to take photos akin to the ones that the National Geographic magazine would put on its cover… or so he thought.

He wasn’t the first to come up to me to ask about DSLRs, there have been countless others including many Digit readers who’d walked the path of DSLR photography. I zoned out the moment he uttered the word ‘DSLR’. There’d be one more @XYZPhotography Facebook page that I’d have to like. One more page filled with cringeworthy templatised photos reminiscent of every other Photography page … oh the horror!

DSLR camera

If you’ve ever had someone come up to you with a buying query then you’ll know they want everything under the sun for 10 bucks and my friend was the same. While he had done a fair amount of research by himself about which parameters to focus on while buying a DSLR, there were areas where he’d misinterpreted a few things. And that was painfully evident.

I was snapped back to reality the moment he started listing out all that he wanted from a DSLR – good ISO performance, fast lens, great colour reproduction, touchscreen display, a bajillion focus points, multiple kit lens, awesome built-in flash … wait, WHAT! Firstly, no camera company in the world would ever come out with a ‘Jack of all Trades’ camera. That’s bad business for them. Secondly, I had to stop him before he got around to saying his expected price point for all these features. He was bound to quote a price under ₹30K.

DSLR camera
A DSLR cut in half

I asked him the same question that I ask most people when they come to me for camera advice – what’s wrong with your phone? Smartphones these days have really good sensors and with a little bit of good composition anyone would be able to take good photos. Digit has even published a ‘FastTrack to Smartphone Photgraphy’. It goes without saying that you aren’t going to get DSLR quality images, nope, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. I ask people to begin their photography journey on a smartphone for a very simple reason – to build interest. Every one of you know a few friends who have their own DSLRs which were only used for a month or two and then it’s left to rot in some corner.

antique cameras

In order to not be another impulse purchase it’s necessary for you to first learn the basics of photography like finding a subject and framing the same. Composition is an artform, that which makes your photo impactful. There are apps like Open Camera on Android which allow you to make the most of your camera sensor. You can play around with white balance, exposure and many more settings to gain an understanding. If, a month down the line you have retained the same level of interest then you should go get a DSLR. Getting the hang of all the parameters on your phone will help smoothen the transition to a DSLR as most newcomers tend to get overwhelmed with the bevy of controls that a DSLR comes with and lose interest.

So what should a beginner get? I’d still say, you should follow the piecemeal approach. Start with the phone till it becomes incapable of giving you the right shots, then get an entry level DSLR like the Nikon D3300 or D5300 or the Canon 1300D with a kit lens. Once you get used to the DSLR, it’ll be time to invest in more lenses. The first you’d want to get would be a 35mm prime lens which will further help you hone your composition skills. Since there’s no zoom, prime lens make you move around the scene to get the right composition. After that you’ll most likely want to get a 55-200mm zoom lens to increase the range of focal lengths for you to work on. If you get really good at photography, the first thing you’ll want to do is move up from a cropped sensor to a full frame sensor. This means you’ll have to sell off all your lenses (lenses have good resale value) and then you’ll end up getting the holy trinity – 10-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm. While a larger selection of lenses are always optimal, they’re also a pain to carry so you need as few lenses that you can carry around without compromising on your focal range. This is where the holy trinity comes into play. And if you reach this stage in your photography hobby or career, I have zero qualms of liking your Facebook photography page. In fact, I’ll look forward to the same.

This article was first published in the March 2017 issue of Digit magazine. To read Digit’s articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit’s previous issues here.

Agent 001

Agent 001