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DSLR guide

From OCAU Wiki

Back to Photography - Camera Selection

This section will attempt to cover the frequent "which DSLR should I buy" questions that appear in the forum. For compact (point and shoot) cameras, see the Compact camera guide.

For some high-level info and resources, see Camera Selection.


Which DSLR do I need?

The first thing to note is that the camera you use will only have a limited affect on how good your photos are. The main determinate of a good photo is the photographer - the technology is just there to make your life easier. Image quality means very little if the photographer was unable to find an interesting subject and compose and expose the image well.

The next thing to note is that pretty much every DSLR on the market is quite capable of capturing very high quality images. There are no bad DSLRs, however some might be more suited to you than others.

When buying a DSLR, keep in mind you are buying more than the camera itself - you are also buying into the system that the camera is part of. This includes the lenses and associated accessories such as memory cards, flash units, triggers etc. You should also take into consideration this support system when making the initial investment into the body, and ensure it meets your style of photography.

Hopefully the information below will help you make your decision. Of course you're welcome to ask any further questions in the forum.

Camera Manufacturers


Canon are the main market player, and have been for some time. They have the widest choice of sensor formats, bodies and lenses available, and are generally considered to have the sensors that produce the highest image quality, especially at high ISO levels. This higher image quality may nor may not be noticeable when the images are printed.

However, there is a price premium. At a given price point Canon DLSRs usually have less features than their competitors. For example, features like spot metering and weather seals that are available on entry and mid level Nikon and Pentax bodies are only available on high end Canons.

The main argument for buying Canon seems to be the upgrade path and lens selection. With SLRs, the investment you make in lenses soon eclipses the cost of the body, and Canon are currently the only manufacturer that produce full frame DSLRs. If you see FF in your future, its well worth considering starting with Canon so you don't have to start your lens collection from scratch (NB, Canon EF-S lenses will not work on FF bodies).

Third party lenses are available for Canon from Sigma, Tamron and Tokina.


Nikon are the second major player in the DLSR market. They're known for their ergonomics, build quality and flash performance.

Third party lenses are available for Nikon from Sigma, Tamron and Tokina.


Pentax are relatively new to the digital scene, but have a long history in film SLRs. For a long time their prime lenses have been considered some of the best ever made. Currently the Pentax range is priced very competitively and have features that are usually only found on higher end models. For example, the mid-level K10D is comparable to the Canon 30D, but it priced similarly to the entry level Canon 400D.

One of the primary features of interest in the K200d and K20d, is the weather sealing, which is only typically offered on the higher end DSLR's from other manufacturers.

Pentax has used the same lens mount for decades, so there are plenty available on the second hand market.

Third party lenses are available for Pentax from Sigma, Tamron and Tokina.


<under construction>

Sony acquired the assets of Minolta camera division during 2006 and took over the Minolta A-mount wich means that Minolta and Konica-Minolta lenses will fit the Sony cameras.

Alpha was used by Minolta for their cameras in Asia, in North America they went by the name Maxxum and in Europe Dynax.

These are the digital cameras avalible for the α-mount [alpha]

Sony Alpha 100 [2006, 10.2 MP] - second gen. 5D
Sony Alpha 700 [2007, 12.24 MP]
Konica Minolta 5D [2005, 6MP]
Konica Minolta 7D [2004, 6MP]

unreleased anounced products: Sony Alpha 900 [Flagship camera to be released in 2008]

There are currently 22 original Sony lenses and 3 Carl Zeiss,
third party lenses available from Sigma and Tamron.

For more info on lenses: Dyxum Lens database Lens database by Michael Hohner


<Someone who knows about Olympus should put something here>

Uses "4 Thirds" sensor which produces images with 4:3 aspect ratio, rather than the usual 3:2.

Not many third party lenses available.

Popular Lenses

Here is a list of the popular lenses from each manufacturer.feel free to edit


Wide Angle Zoom lenses

  • EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM (only works on crop bodies like the 300D, 350D, 400D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 60D and 7D)
  • EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM (fantastic on full frame bodies like the 5D and 1Ds series. On crop bodies, this becomes a standard zoom lens, and is arguably too expensive for that use.)

Standard Zoom lenses

  • EF 17-40mm f/4L USM (standard on a crop body; wide angle on a full frame.)
  • EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8L IS USM (one of the best lenses available in the EF-S lineup - not cheap, but well worth the cost if you can afford it)
  • EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
  • EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM (replaces the 17-85mm IS)
  • EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II
  • EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5–5.6 IS
  • EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM (possibly too long at the wide end on a crop body, but an excellent lens nonetheless)
  • EF 24-105mm f/4 IS USM

Telephoto Zoom Lenses

  • EF-S 55-250mm f/4–5.6 IS
  • EF 70-200mm f/4L USM
  • EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
  • EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM
  • EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM



  • Pentax SMC-DA 14mm f/2.8 ED [IF]
  • Pentax SMC-FA 20mm f/2.8
  • Pentax SMC-DA 21mm f/3.2 AL Limited
  • Pentax SMC-FA* 24mm f/2 AL [IF]
  • Pentax SMC-FA 31mm f/1.8 AL Limited
  • Pentax SMC-FA 35mm f/2 AL
  • Pentax SMC-DA 40mm f/2.8 Limited
  • Pentax SMC-FA 43mm f/1.9 Limited
  • Pentax SMC-FA 50mm f/1.4
  • Pentax SMC-DA 70mm f/2.4 Limited
  • Pentax SMC-FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited
  • Pentax SMC-FA 100mm f/2.8 macro
  • Pentax SMC-D FA 100mm f/2.8 macro
  • Pentax SMC-K 135mm f/2.5
  • Pentax SMC DA* 200mm f/2.8 ED [IF] SDM
  • Pentax SMC-FA* 300mm f/4.5 ED [IF]
  • Pentax SMC DA 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 ED[IF] Fisheye
  • Pentax DA 12-24mm f/4 AL ED [IF]
  • Pentax SMC-DA 16-45mm f/4 ED AL
  • Pentax SMC-DA 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 ED AL [IF]
  • Pentax SMC-DA* 50-135mm f/2.8 ED [IF] SDM
  • Pentax SMC-FA* 80-200mm f/2.8 [IF] ED


Standard Zoom Lenses

  • 12-24mm F4.5-5.6
  • 17-70mm F2.8-4.5 DC MACRO
  • 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC MACRO
  • 18-50mm F3.5-5.6 DC
  • 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG
  • 28-70mm F2.8 EX DG

Telephoto Zoom Lenses

  • 70-200mm F2.8 DG MACRO


  • 17-50 f/2.8
  • 28-75 f/2.8
  • 18-200 F/3.5-6.3


  • 12-24 f/4
  • 16-50 f/2.8

Do I need a Full Frame DSLR?

The Canon section mentions that one of the advantages of going with Canon is that you have the option of upgrading to a full frame body in the future. But will you ever need to?

A full frame DSLR is one that has a sensor that is that same size as a 35mm film frame. Most DSLRs have what is referred to as a 'cropped' sensor - one that is smaller than 35mm film. Different cameras and manufactures have different crop factors, the most common being 1.5x and 1.6x. That is, the sensor is 1.5 times smaller than full frame (or 2/3rds as large).

A lens will not change how it delivers light based on the size of the sensor, so in effect the only difference between FF and cropped sensors is that the cropped sensor picks up less of the area of light delivered by the lens. This gives the impression that cropped bodies are zoomed in compared to FF, however this is not the case - they simply have a smaller Field of View (FoV). Changing focal length (ie zooming) not only affects the FoV, but it also the Depth of Field and perspective.

There's a discussion in this thread about why people have, or would, choose to buy a full frame DSLR. In summary:

  • FF cameras are high-end, and hence come with many features unrelated to the sensor that are useful, such as in-built portrait grips, weather seals, better viewfinders etc.
  • At a given megapixel rating, a larger sensor should produce less noise. People certainly claim this as an advantage, however some tests seem to disagree.
  • Many people noted that FF allows you to get closer to your subject at a given focal length, and hence allows you to produce a shallower DoF. This is particularly desirable for portraits.
  • Most FF sensors have a higher resolution than most crop sensors, so there are advantages if you plan to print very large images. This is not always the case though, for example the Nikon D2X (1.5x crop) has a very similar resolution to the FF Canon 5D.
  • Many people bought FF cameras because, basically, they could. They have the money and like to buy nice things - no technical reasoning behind it.

The major downside to FF is cost. The cheapest FF body on the market currently is the Canon 5D mark II, which is around $3,200. For that price you could buy a mid range body and some very nice glass. FF bodies also require more expensive lenses in order for the image to maintain quality at the edge of the frame.

Unless you are a professional photographer with specific requirements (and if so, I doubt you'd need this guide!) its fairly unlikely that you will need a FF DSLR. Of course if money's not a problem, there's no real downside.

If you think it's likely that on day you'll need or want full frame, Canon is currently your only option. If you buy a cropped Canon body and plan to upgrade to FF, keep in mind that only EF, not EF-S, lenses will work on your FF Canon.

New or second hand?

If you don't mind buying second hand, you can grab some real bargains. It also means that you can get a DSLR for the same price as you'd pay for a new high-end point and shoot.

The Marketplace subforum of the Photography forum is available to members who have been registered for more than 3 months, and there's always lenses, bodies and accessories being bought and sold.

Local vs Imported

Most DSLR manufacturers only warrant the product for the country it is sold in. This means if you purchase your DSLR locally from an official retailer then you will be covered by the full Australian warranty. Importing a DSLR or purchasing from a grey market importer means that you will not have an official warranty within Australia. (Although in the rare case that the grey market retailer offers their own warranty it will not be a manufacturer warranty)

Why grey market?

This option is usually quite a bit cheaper then the locally available and warranted version.

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