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The practical dSLR buying guide

If you are planning to buy a dSLR, here are the steps that you should follow.
The first rule of buying a dSLR is do not buy a dSLR.
The second rule of buying a dSLR is do NOT buy a dSLR.
Seriously! You may think that you are ready, that you know what you are getting into. But trust me, you are not. dSLRs are not just cameras, they are relationships. And like any relationship they have to be maintained – they require time, money and effort. And much like that rebound you regretted getting into, at some point you will regret this.

These things are big, bulky, heavy and conspicuous – you will probably require a separate bag when you are packing for a trip, you will have to sacrifice underwear or deodorant (or both) on that hike, the strangers would glare at you as they would at a monkey with a camera (which you most likely end up looking like anyway), and everyone will expect each frame you click to be poetry frozen in time. You can’t carry them to the local pub; you can’t dance with them at your friend’s baraat; and you can’t take selfies with them [1].

And, boy, will you be disappointed in yourself when you look at the pictures that you have taken. When you took photographs from your iPhone you thought the only thing between you and 100 likes on Facebook was an SLR. You will now learn something your read on the internet – that the most important thing to a great photograph lies 6 inches behind the camera. And, then you will unlearn that as well. Oh, what a reality check the first 100 batches usually are.

Finally, these things are no chic magnets either. You are better off spending on a bike (or a haircut [2]). I have never had a conversation on burst rate, raw mode or dynamic range with a female [3].

So, in conclusion, strongly reconsider your decision to buy a digital single-lens reflex camera (yeah, that’s what D-S-L-R stand for). Instead split your SLR budget into two. With one half, buy the P&S with the biggest zoom [4]. You can donate the other half to me.

However, if you still wish to, here is the serious stuff.
  • Choose one between Canon and Nikon. Neither is better than the other. Yes, one has a slightly better sensor and the other has a slightly better range of lenses. But neither will you be able to differentiate between sensor quality, nor will be you be able to afford more than half those lenses. So unless someone is gifting you a set of lenses [5], just go to a shop and try out a couple of models from both, and pick one that feels better in your hands.
  • Pick a starting budget and choose your level. Both C and N have cameras in 3 broad levels – entry, mid, and high. A mid-level should suffice almost all your needs. Look for deals. A slightly older model can be a great bargain if available at a good price.
  • Be prepared to spend ~1,00,000 INR (>1,500 USD) over the next ~5 years.
  • Invest in good lenses. Remember that quality glass will far outlive the camera body, and has a much higher resale value as well.
  • Get acquainted with dpreview.com
Don't blame me if you end up hating yourself after 6 months. You were forewarned.
Happy Clicking.

Notes:
  1. I have done all these things. But each of them comes with socio-economic costs of their own.
  2. Now you know why I look like I do!
  3. I have, however, discussed female photographers with male friends. I also discussed female subjects with male friends.
  4. You can also look at mirror-less cameras - micro four thirds and so on.
  5. Like I was (Thank You Mamaji).

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