Buying a Digital SLR Camera

I went to a local camera shop to ask about entry level DSLRs. I was looking for tips to offer people about how to decide which camera is right for a beginner.

Which Digital Camera to buy?

I had already had tips from well meaning friends. The first of these was to go for a brand ending in 'on'. There are many more lenses for the Canon and Nikon ranges than for others (e.g. Pentax) because companies such as Tamaron and Sigma make lenses that fit Canon and Nikon. However, the manufacturers have not been good about allowing backwards compatability, whereas Pentax's entry level DSLR (the K200D) is compatable with loads of old Pentax pre digital lenses. Therefore there is no easy answer here.

In addition the Olympus 4/3 system cameras have a different setup (rather than being clones of the standard cameras), so they further muddy the waters. Read our Olympus e520 review

So inside the shop I asked the Professionals and was pleased by the breadth of opinion and willingness to listen to my needs (thumbs up for the Chiswick Camera Centre, 4 Chiswick Terrace, Acton Lane, London W4 5LY).

They let me look at, hold and take shots with the Canon EOS 450D, the Nikon D3000, the Pentax K200D, the Sony Alpha 200 and the Olympus E420

I spent a good hour talking about the relative merits of each and even wrote down notes to remind myself of the details. here is a table of my thoughts...

Canon EOS 450D Nikon D3000 Pentax K200D Sony Alpha 200 Olympus E420
It felt like it was made for hands smaller than mine. Comfy to hold. Nice feature set Felt heavy and solid. Comfortable and I liked the fact that it was weather sealed Nice solid grip Felt a bit light for my taste (I am sure that after a long day I would appreciate that but my insticts are to prefer a heavier camera
Great shots and 12MP as opposed to 10 made this the camera that produced the biggest pictures. Great Dynamic Range led to vibrant shots of chicswick high road on an overcast day. Antishake in camera, so almost all photos can be pin sharp regardless of lens or light conditions Lovely photos Same as the Sony. I couldn't tell the difference.
Lenses from many manufacturers Lenses from many manufacturers backwards compatability with old pre-digital lenses may prove a bonus in years to come. Sony lenses Only Olympus Lenses Only
Price: 4/5 Price: 3/5 Price 4/5 Price 4/5 Price 3/5

When it comes to build quality nobody seems to have much of an edge

Canon's EOS range have been doing good business for a number of years now and their rivals the Nikon D range also have devoted fans.

Currently 10 megapixels seems to be the standard.. If you are trading up from a 12 megapixel compact, you will doubtless worry that the quality of your new camera will be worse, not better. In fact this will not be the case. A digital SLR has a much larger sensor at the back of the camera and although the number of pixels may be smaller, each one works far better than the tiny sensors in a compact.

The second tip was that it is getting harder and harder to find second hand digital SLRs in shops. The eBay market seems to have wiped out the high street second hand camera market.

In the end I decided that either the Nikon D3000 was the digital SLR camera for me.