Choosing your digital SLR camera

Dr Nicholas Posner explains the features to bear in mind before you decide on a digital SLR camera.

A large number of highly technical and supremely capable SLR (single lens reflex) cameras have now entered the consumer price range. Some might think that, because most compacts have a wide zoom focal range, there is no need for the extra bulk of a camera with changeable lenses. Even with an SLR, the zoom replaces many lens changes.

But digital SLRs are still worthwhile for the viewfinder, shutter-lag, external flash and performance at high ISO ratings. Here are some points to consider before you buy one.

  1. Image quality If you are using a film SLR do not be concerned that switching to digital will mean any loss of quality. Many professionals have switched completely.
  2. Changeable lenses It may be possible for you to use your old lenses on a digital SLR made by the same manufacturer, although the effective focal length will be increased.
  3. Viewfinder With most SLRs you compose the photograph by looking through the viewfinder rather than a screen on the back of the camera.
  4. Shutter-lag The time between pressing the shutter and the picture being taken. Once the bugbear of digital photography, this is all but eliminated on the latest SLRs.
  5. External flash If you need this, then an SLR is an absolute must. The latest cameras from Sony and Nikon offer wireless triggering and control of a powerful flash that can be placed anywhere in the room.
  6. High ISO rating This is where SLRs come into their own, giving good quality in low light at high ISO sensitivity ratings. I find first-class, smooth results are possible even at ISO 1,000.
  7. Dust removal system A great enemy of SLRs, when the lens mount is opened, dust marks on the sensor will appear as huge blotches on pictures. Some SLRs have dust removal systems but nearly all need a precarious clean after a year or two.

Dr Posner is a GP in Newcastle upon Tyne


Nikon D80 - £523
Staggeringly good value for a professional standard camera.
In my opinion this is the one to buy.
(Prices are from and are for camera body without lens)


Nikon D40x - £419
An entry point for using Nikon's wireless flash system.


Sony alpha - 100 £390
This has image stabilisation, a rarity in an SLR body.


Canon EOS 400D £437
The most popular SLR series, it has a built-in dust cleaner.


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in