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How to find the right DSLR camera

By TechHive Staff | Dec. 10, 2013
We explain the differences between the most popular types of cameras and help you pick a winner.

Electronic viewfinder Found on many of the compact interchangeable lens cameras, these viewfinders take up less space in a camera, which mean a smaller and lighter body. They are projected video feeds, and as such can have low resolutions. They also don't show you the full dynamic range of the scene, making it harder to make creative decisions about how you want to expose your shot. They also have a slight lag time which can be a deal breaker for sports photographers. What they can do is overlay more information and show a preview of what an image will look like with your chosen aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings.

For a more expansive look at the pros and cons of optical and electronic viewfinders, check out this comparison.

Flash When buying a camera, you'll want to know what type of flash it has and how much control it gives you over flash settings. Some DLSRs have a small built-in flash, some have a hot shoe mount—a bracket that lets you attach an external flash to the camera, and some cameras have both. If a camera has a mount but no flash, check to see if an external flash is included as part of the kit or if you'll need to buy it separately.

A built-in flash is extremely handy to have, but it's not going to be as high of quality as an external flash. If you plan on using a DLSR camera for casual photography or if traveling light is important to you, a built-in flash will be useful. If you're an advanced photographer who wants to greatly improve the quality of your flash photography—and aren't concerned about the heft of the camera—take a hint from the pros and choose a camera with a hot-shoe mount. This way you can attach external flashes, which throw light wider and farther than built-in flashes can, producing more-consistent light. They also raise the flash head above the lens, which helps reduce red-eye. (Forget about using a camera's red-eye mode for this—it'll be more annoying than useful.) Some external flashes even have rotating heads that let you bounce the light off of ceilings for a diffused, natural look. Finally, external flashes don't drain your camera's batteries, as they run on their own battery source.

Make sure the camera you buy gives you quick access to different flash modes, including On (which forces the flash to fire even if the camera detects enough light—useful for back-lighting situations), Off (to prevent your flash from firing even in low-light situations), and Slow-Sync (which is also sometimes referred to as Nighttime mode). This last mode is particularly useful as it tells your camera to use a slow shutter speed in combination with the flash, thereby preventing background detail from getting washed out. If you don't find this mode in the Flash settings, take a look at the camera's preprogammed modes. Some cameras also include a nifty Flash Exposure Lock (FE Lock) feature. This lets you tell the camera what the most important aspect of the scene is and then provides just enough flash to illuminate it.


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