Which SLR camera should I buy?

Which SLR camera to buy?

Camera purchase advice: The components of a single lens reflex camera

Table of Contents:

Sensor: Responsible for the image quality

Regardless of which SLR camera (DSLR for short) you are interested in, you will either be confronted with an APS-C sensor or a full-frame sensor. What does that mean exactly and what are the differences between these two sensors? Basically, this question can be answered quite quickly, because a full-format sensor is simply larger than an APS-C sensor and delivers significantly better image quality, as the individual pixels have more space and can therefore capture more details.

But is an APS-C sensor "bad"? No, not at all! Because there are still a number of smaller sensors that are used in compact cameras or smartphones, for example. An APS-C sensor is already relatively large - and large enough for most customers. Full-frame cameras are only intended for very ambitious amateur photographers or professionals, which is also reflected in the price: Nothing goes below 1,500 euros here.

Full format sensors are larger than APS-C sensors and deliver better image quality - but they are also very expensive. As a beginner, you should use an APS-C camera.

More megapixels = better SLR camera?

Megapixels. That is a term that even a novice can usually relate to. And there is still a bit of a misconception that more megapixels are an indication of better image quality and thus of a better SLR camera. In fact, the number of megapixels is relatively insignificant when deciding which SLR camera to buy - at least if you don't plan to have your pictures regularly printed on huge canvases. For example, on a normal computer screen, most will not be able to tell the difference between 20 and 24 megapixels. And in poor lighting conditions, fewer megapixels can even be an advantage!

Overall, however, you should still make sure that your SLR camera has more than 12 megapixels to offer. Everything in the range from 16 megapixels can be described as a very, very good value.

Megapixels are overrated! Don't put too much emphasis on this number, if a camera has more than 16 megapixels to offer, that's an extremely good figure.

Short Summary: It is not just the number of megapixels that is responsible for excellent image quality, the size of the sensor is also decisive. In addition, the lens also plays a very important role in image quality - it is not for nothing that lenses can cost several thousand euros. Even cheaper cameras under 500 euros usually come with very good sensors and an appealing number of megapixels. So don't worry too much here and don't let the sensor size and the number of megapixels alone influence your decision which SLR camera to buy. The big differences have to be looked for elsewhere - we will come to that now.

Big differences in autofocus!

Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time - then you don't need a single lens reflex camera for 1,500 euros.

If the DSLRs between 400 and 1,000 euros all offer a similar image quality, how can you find out which SLR camera is the right one? For example, by taking a look at the autofocus. The autofocus is responsible for how quickly the desired subject is brought into focus. This may still be relatively unimportant for a landscape or a posed portrait, but if objects are moving and you may only have a few seconds to capture the perfect moment, then the autofocus is the most important component of a camera for a short time and should also be the answer to the question of which SLR camera to buy should be taken into account.

There are various criteria that can be used to judge an autofocus: number of measuring fields (more is of course better here), speed and reliability. As a rule, speed and reliability cannot be assessed without a detailed test and even then personal feelings and the corresponding lighting conditions still play a major role, as they can influence the results. In general, however, you can orientate yourself on an extremely simple basic rule: A more expensive camera usually also offers better autofocus.

Regardless of which SLR camera you choose - if you are a beginner and only rarely want to take part in sports or wildlife photography, the autofocus of a 500-euro camera should be sufficient for you in any case. In general, more measuring fields are an advantage, and more expensive cameras always have faster autofocus modules.

Viewfinder & display

Which criteria still have to be taken into account when considering which SLR camera should be awarded the "contract"? There are, for example, the viewfinder and display. With DSLRs, the viewfinder is always an optical viewfinder, but there are differences here, for example, with regard to the image field coverage. If this is not 100 percent, then the outermost edge of the image cannot be seen in the viewfinder, but it can be seen in the later image. Cheaper SLR cameras for around 500 euros do not have a 100 percent field of view coverage in the vast majority of cases, if that is important to you, you have to dig a little deeper into your pocket. In our search window you can differentiate between “95 percent or less” (these are the cheapest models), “96 to 99 percent” or “100 percent”.

A viewfinder with an image field coverage of 100 percent is a plus - but not a must, as it is very expensive.

Often times, even the little things can make the difference between a good and a very good camera; So pay attention, for example, to which SLR camera has a touchscreen or a foldable display and which does not. A touch-sensitive screen can make it easier to use, while a foldable display can be beneficial if you have to hold the camera above your head and can no longer look through the viewfinder. However, some photographers do not find these two functions particularly important.

A touchscreen and foldable display can definitely be beneficial, but not all photographers need these features. Decide for yourself!

Video functions

Another area is the video functions: Only very few single-lens reflex cameras can record 4K videos these days, but you should, for example, pay attention to whether a camera records full HD videos at 60 fps or only at 30 fps can. At 60 fps you can take nice slow motion pictures, at 30 fps not. A connection option for an external microphone is also an important feature.

Do you love to record videos? Then pay attention to which SLR camera “Full HD with 60 fps” has to offer. A connection for an external microphone can also be very valuable.

Burst speed

If you want to play with blurring in your pictures, there is really no way around a SLR camera.

The burst speed is the number of pictures the camera can take per second if you keep the shutter button pressed. This can be a decisive factor in different situations, for example when a child jumps off a swing and you want to capture the perfect moment in the air. If only three pictures are taken in that one second, the likelihood of a good picture is of course relatively low. At eight frames per second, you have a better chance of getting the perfect picture. The speed of the series image plays an important role when it comes to the question of "which SLR camera is the best".

The burst speed can be very important in some cases! The more frames per second a camera can shoot, the better.

WiFi for fast image transfer

In the past, you had to insert films into cameras, which then had to be laboriously developed. At some point they started to insert memory cards into the mirror reflex cameras, on which thousands of images can be saved. And the next step in the “evolution” of the cameras was integrated WLAN, with which images can be transmitted wirelessly to a tablet or smartphone. A must for some photographers, others can do without this function without any problems - no general purchase recommendation can be made here!

Integrated WiFi can be useful - but in our opinion it is not a must. But that is very much dependent on the individual requirements.

Weight, battery life & case

If you are often out and about in nature and bad weather conditions cannot prevent you from going on excursions, then the question "which SLR camera is right for me" is quickly answered in this regard. Because in this special case you should pay attention to which SLR camera is weatherproof or at least very robust if you have a corresponding budget (our tip: take a look at the cameras from Pentax!). Weight can of course also be a factor if you are often on the move, as can battery life. If in doubt, you can always get a spare battery here.

Cheap cameras up to 750 euros are usually not weatherproof, so you would have to look around in higher price regions.

Further features and conclusion

So, now you know the most important components of a DSLR and we hope that you already have a more concrete idea of ​​which SLR camera you want to get yourself. Of course, there are numerous other details that must be taken into account - these include, for example, the ISO range (which defines the light sensitivity of the sensor, a larger range is generally a small advantage here) or the shutter speed.

Our tip:

Now fill in the search window as detailed as possible, but do not provide any information in areas that are unimportant to you. You can then compare the cameras that meet your requirements using our ratings, which we have published on the detail pages of the individual cameras, and you should also refer to our camera comparison. There you can see at a glance how the various SLR cameras differ from one another.

Specific examples and camera buying tips

Finally, let's get a little more specific and go into a few examples and scenarios so that you can find out even better which SLR camera is best for you:

  • Are you a beginner and have discovered photography as your new hobby? → Buy an entry-level DSLR from our list of the best up to 500 euros.
  • Do you prefer to look straight through the viewfinder when taking photos? → Do not attach too much importance to a touchscreen and a foldable display.
  • Does it often matter to you that you have to capture a perfect moment (because you want to take photos at weddings or want to do street, sports or wildlife photography)? → Make sure that the autofocus is slightly better and that the continuous shooting speed is not too slow. In this case, you will probably not find what you are looking for in the price range up to 500 euros ...