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Camera Buying Guide : Features to look for, before buying a new camera

There are a whole lot of cameras available today from major brands like Canon, Nikon, Sony and Fuji. while which brand to go for is a personal choice but you can take a conscious decision based on the features you are getting on the models offered by these brands.

All these cameras have their strengths and weaknesses but we will discuss the same in another blog. If you are going to buy just one camera, consider the following.


It goes without saying that More is almost always better. At least 12 or more. Almost, because you need to explore other aspects as well. As we moved into the digital photography era, the need to blow up and make enlargements has gone down. Most of people are more inclined towards social media posts, which do not need more megapixels beyond a point.

However, If you are a commercial photographer, go for the highest number as this is the first thing any prospective client asks for. If you are seriously venturing into photography, go for the maximum your budget allows. Today, when i look back at old photographs shot with a 6-megapixel camera, which was the highest back then, these appear quite a blur. With the advancement in technology, the resolutions of our computer monitors has also increased, making the 6 megapixel resolution quite outdated on these high-resolution monitors.

Sensor type and Size

Bigger the sensor size, better it is in a lot of ways. while comparing the two models, look for the sensor size first and opt for the one with a bigger sensor even if it has lesser pixels. When more pixels are fitted in a smaller sensor, their individual size is also smaller where as when less pixels are accommodated in a larger space, their individual size is larger and has more surface area exposed to getting and registering the information received. Cameras with bigger sensors have more dynamic range and this leads to much better photographs especially which are demanding in nature.

You dont have much choice in terms of the sensor type as a particular brands maybe using either a CCD or CMOS sensor. However, in more modern times everyone has shifted to CMOS.

Zoom Range

Not really a direct concern when exploring a DSLR camera but these often come bundled with a lens. So compare the cameras independently and compare the lenses independently even if you buy them bundled together. We always get fascinated by more numbers. Bigger the zoom lens better it is, is not true and it depends solely on your utility. Especially, if your purpose of buying a new camera is more towards the every day use, you might need more of a shorter focal length instead of a longer focal length. so you need a lens which is even shorter than 24mm and not something which is longer than 200 mm. Brands usually advertise advertise their lenses as 5X, 10x, 20X and so on without mentioning the value of X. Because most of the cameras still come with a smaller sensor size, having a narrow angle of view is anyways not a problem. If you have a particular focal length, you will get a narrow angle of view on a small sensor as you would have got on a full frame sensor. so, if the sensor size is smaller, especially in the case of compact cameras, you will anyways get more X and this works great from the perspective of selling.

Also lenses with less range are better technically unless you need more focal lengths in a single zoom lens for a particular reason.

Metering Modes

More options are better. Multi-pattern, center-weighted and spot are the general metering patterns used by different cameras and brands may name them slightly differently.

Lower versions of camera models generally do not have Spot metering which allows you to read the light reflected from a small narrow portion corresponding to the focusing point in your frame. Now that everything is digital and one can quickly see the actual shot, the moment it is clicked, it may not be a big drawback.

If your work involves around more of natural light you may have more dependence on the camera's metering system. But if you are going to be almost confined to the studio setups, you will be shooting on the manual mode anyways with external strobes not synched to the camera's metering system.

ISO range

The lower the starting range better is the picture quality. Having 50iso is a good option. having a higher iso is helpful only in low-light photography with relatively lower quality

Flash sync

Higher is better as you get more flexibility while shooting outdoors with flash. all cameras synch with the Flash at 1/60th of a second. Modern cameras are able to synch even at speeds of 1/250th of second as default synch speed. This is especially useful when using the flash outdoors for fill-in or for any other creative reasons. Besides 1/60th of a second you also get 1/125th sec and 1/250th sec to work around with. This allows more flexibility as you are able to adjust the exposure by opening up the aperture even more in broad daylight. If your correct exposure was let's say, f 5.6 at 1/60th of a sec, You can set it at f4 with 1/125th sec or f2.8 with 1/250th sec. The change in shutter speed won't affect the exposure on the subject as that is being taken care of by the burst of flash but it will influence only the background. In some cases you intentionally want to under-expose the background to get deeper saturated colors, especially the sky or simply create a day to Night effect.

So, if your budget allows, go for this feature as it is very use full for all the photographers using synchronized dedicated flashes

Shutter speeds

Higher is better. look for 1/8000 but at least 1/4000th sec. More professional cameras would have a relatively higher Shutter speeds. This helps in better exposure handling in bright outdoor sunlight as you can open up the aperture more and still allow lesser light to enter by shifting to a higher shutter speed. You get the flexibility of one additional stop. (Steps in photography are called stops and every stop is half of the next one or double of the previous one.

Inbuilt Flash

Most pro cameras would not have one. If you are a pro/serious amateur, you would certainly need an external flash as well. For an amateur, this is an added feature.

However, if a particular model does have an inbuilt flash along with all the pro features, there is no drawback as such. While travelling, one uses the most preffered camera for shooting during the day. Towards the night as you spend more personal time with your family you may want to add a flash for your personal pictures instead of just pushing the ISO too high. Instead of carrying around a large flash I use a small portable flash for this purpose to avoid lugging around the extra weight during the day. Now, that the low light quality of modern cameras has improved a lot even at higher ISOs flash may be skipped altogether but thisis more of a personal choice.

Screen size and resolution.

It does help in better evaluation of photographs as you click but its role is limited to that only. It does not affect the image quality in any way. Many times, you will notice that the images shot with your mobile camera appera better beacsue they are concentrated towards making better screens. A good mobile is a lot about the quality of its screen so their efforts are always to enhance and show the image at its best.

On the other hand the concentration of a camera, especially the more professional one is on the overall image quality in all technical aspects. Quality on its inbuilt screen is not the priority but to offer an irnage with a good dynamic range which has a lot of flexibility to be tweaked. A bigger or better screen should not be a top priority but now with advancement in technology, most cameras do have a good screen as the basic standard.

In the nutshell, both the screen size and resolution are independent of the image quality and have no connection with the sensor size and its resolution.

Camera Body built quality

Cameras with Better build and weather sealing will of course be more expensive. If you are an amateur and intend to use the camera mostly indoors unlike in sports, wildlife or journalism, you may go for a model with more features than better construction. These cameras are meant for photographers who have no choice but to use there camera's in harsh conditions. A sports photographer shooting a mountain bike rally has no choice but to shoot in those conditions and cant settle for any equipment which is unable to withstand this environment. Sometimes, such cameras which are targeted at wildlife photographers, may have a very fast burst mode and the ruggedness but not a very high resolution. If you are a fashion or an Advertising photographer, you may prefer a higher resolution more than the ruggedness of the camera body as you may almost be working in a controlled environment.

Lens compatibility

Small sensor cameras can take in lenses for large sensor but not vice versa. If you are planning to hire the lesnes once in a while, do keep in mind that there will be more easy availability of lenses of better known brands. Also check the brand which your friends circle is using as you can always share some of the lesser used lenses. To cut on the cost, you may also opt for lenses made by third parties like Sigma and Tamron. However, they do make good lenses as well and some of their premium lenses may be even more expensive than the mainstream camera companies.

with a limited budget in hand, you should know if you should be more inclined towards buying an expensive camera or an expensive lens. They both go hand in hand. If you are investing in an expensive professional camera you must match it with a good-quality lens as well otherwise you will not be able to utilize the full potential of the camera. After all, the light is going to go through the glass of the lens before it reaches the sensor. If the quality of the lens is not good enough you can't expect the camera to perform well. The capability of the camera to focus fast will hold true only if you have a fast lens to match that speed.

On the other hand if you work in more controlled environment, you will benefit from a good lens when attached to a weaker camera body. It will help you achieve better results as you would have got with the combination of a cheaper camera and a cheaper lens.

Do not forget, that the price of a camera body depreciates whereas the price of a good lens does not change much with time. Over a period of time you will be able to sell your camera at a very throw-away price as it gets outdated but you will still be able to get almost the same original price for your lens as there is not much of a change in the series of lenses. Effectively, you won't really waste much money when you upgrade any lens.

Movie recording

Photography and videography are getting more and more seamless. DSLRs are becoming an integral part of filmmaking, especially with independent filmmakers who have budget constraints, and hiring a mainstream camera dedicated for filmmaking becomes out of reach. If you have even a slight inclination towards videography besides Photography, opt for the DSLR which is good at movie-making as well. opt for 4K recording feature if it has one. Prefer the one which has RAW shooting capability as you have far more flexibility with exposure and all other parameters during the editing of your videos.

Shutter life

Most professional cameras have a good enough shutter life. Yes, your shutter has a life. The shutter is tested to perform as committed for a particular number of clicks. Beyond this number it may not remain consistant and lose pace with the shutter speeds and other associated parameters. It may just stop functioning suddenly after completing this cycle at any point of time. Pro camera bodies do have a cycle of around 300000 cycles.

If you are a casual shooter, you may not really need to bother about it as you anyways may not be shooting that much. Most cameras do have a cycle of around 150000 cycles at the least.


Cameras with their own battery systems are better as compared to the ones using AA /AAA lithium batteries.

Sensor Cleaning

This is a must-have feature and almost all modern cameras have this inbuilt feature with different technology and nomenclature. "The sensor is vibrated to shake off the dust". This is basically a way of removing the dust that may settle on the sensor. Earlier cameras did not use to have these features and the sensors had to be cleaned manually with specialized tools made for this purpose. It was a tedious process and often not very satisfactory. However dust proof the camera maybe it still would let the dust go in especially while changing the lenses.

File formats

All DSLRs in general would have RAW format as well besides JPEG. This RAW format would be different in different brands and you will need their own raw converting software or you may use certain third-party software like Lightroom etc. It contains all the raw information that went on to make the image. so this has far more flexibility and is open to changes as compared to the universal JPEG format.

Recording media

The camera ideally should have more universally accepted recording media type like the easily available Secure Digital memory cards.

Overall System cost

Consider the overall cost of owning the camera system and not just the camera. Lenses have both expensive and cheaper versions of the same or similar focal lengths and you may gradually add these as your needs grow. so even if you are not buying everything now, take into account the overall cost of ownership of a particular camera system.


Do check out the reviews of the camera you are planning to buy. This will give you some idea about its performance. It's difficult at times to understand the background of the photographer who is commenting on the issues with a camera so use your own discretion as well. But this will give you an overall opinion.

If you are a casual buyer and buying a new camera to be used as a hobby, you may be making a one-time investment and should plan it based on the budget you have in mind. On the other hand, if you are investing as a professional or a serious and committed hobbyist, you will be committed to the whole system offered by the brand. consider the long terms investment here as you will soon be adding more lenses and accessories to your system and you grow in your career. Some companies offer cheaper cameras but their lenses and other accessories turn out to be more expensive in comparison.

Companies classify their cameras as Amateur and Professional series but you do not have to strictly follow the same. You may be an amateur but still, be demanding enough to buy a more expensive professional camera. If you can afford to go for a better camera as it is much more easier and convenient to shoot with professional bodies as compared to amateur ones. Pro bodies have shortcuts and every switch and button is placed at where it works the best for the photographer. Not always but in Amateur bodies, you may need to work your way around by going through one or more settings to achieve something. On the other hand, even if you are a professional but mostly confined to controlled situations shooting basic products in the studio for eCommerce, you may simply invest in a good basic camera and recover your costs faster.

Now photography equipment is quite easily available on rent and you have the option of hiring the same before actually investing in it as this will give you a hands-on experience and you won't have any regrets later on.

In the end, do not forget that it is you the Photographer who creates an image and not the camera. It's only a tool to realise your vision and a better camera makes it easier.

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