DSLR cameras: Everything you need to know

When your compact camera just isn’t giving you the flexibility and quality you crave it’s time to upgrade to a DSLR. Find out what you need to look out for…

05 Jul 2015

When your compact camera just isn’t giving you the flexibility and quality you crave it’s time to upgrade to a DSLR. Find out what you need to look out for…


Dslr Cherry Blossom

In a nutshell: start basic, then work up to full control of ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

Digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras give professional photographers and experienced amateurs complete control over their photography.

But if you’re just getting started you can use the many automatic settings that come on DSLRs ’til you find your feet.

When you’re ready, take full control of aperture and shutter speed with the manual setting.

Top tip: Used to framing your pictures on a compact?With a DSLR with a ‘live view’ LCD screen you don’t need to look through the small viewfinderwhile adjustingyour manual settings.

Large image sensor = better pictures

Big Ben

In a nutshell: Captures the light in the camera and turns it into an image - the bigger the sensor, the more light is captured.

A major advantage of DSLRs over other cameras is that their image sensor is larger, resulting in a better picture. Sometimes a DSLR camera’s sensor can be as much as 25 times larger than a compact digital camera. A large sensor lets in more light, just like the retina of your eye, which results in higher definition and better quality.

It also gives you a faster ISO for higher quality, less grainy pictures.

The megapixel myth: The myth of the higher the megapixels the better the quality is unfounded. While a 16 megapixel compact camera is good, if it has a small sensor it won’t produce the same level of quality as a 14 megapixel DSLR.

Top tip: Buy a DSLR with a self-cleaning sensor.You’re less likely to get dust on the sensor when you change lenses. The image sensor is highly sensitive and the smallest speck of dust can appear as a grubby splodge, ruining your perfectly framed shot.

Wide ISO range

DSLR Backpacker

In a nutshell: How sensitive your camera is to light – affects shooting in the sun or in poor light

Th higher the ISO, the higher the camera’s sensitivity to light. Most DSLRs have a wide ISO range making them highly adaptable to different lighting conditions.

If you’re shooting in the sun a low ISO such as 100 will give you the highest quality image. On the other hand,if you’re in dark conditions and unable to use a flash or you’d rather not, then choose a high ISO setting such as 3200 which will help to reduce any blurring from shaky hands.

Interchangeable lenses


In a nutshell: Different lenses can affect the look of an image, the zoom range and the maximum aperture.

When you buy your first DSLR it’ll come with a standard 18-55mm zoom lens or similar. This is a great all-rounder as it’s versatile. They have the equivalent of a 3x optical zoom abdf usually a good maximum aperture of f/3.5 at 18mm for low light. Once you become familiar with your camera you can consider one or two more lenses to increase your creative options and vary picture styles.

If you talk to any photography expert they’ll always say the same thing – it’s the lens not the camera that makes the picture. For a second lens, it is common to consider a telephoto zoom lens, which will allow you to get closer to your subject, without moving towards it. Another great choice is a standard prime lens, which usually come with a maximum aperture of f/1.8. This means they will be great for low light shooting, and for making the background out of focus, great for portraits.

Lenses are built to last so as long as you buy lenses which fit your camera brand you can be using your lens for years to come, even when you’ve upgraded your old DSLR to a different model.

Find out more about the many different types of lenses.

View our range of DLSR cameras.

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