If you followed Guide No.1, you should have an idea about the lenses you might use, and narrowed down your first DSLR choices. Now, what about all those gizmos?

Bell & Whistle A – Megapixels

The big number one photographic sales term in this day and age is ‘Megapixels’. Lets discount the myth.

More Megapixels does not mean better quality images.

What more megapixels does give you is larger prints.

Most people will print up to A3, mainly at A4 and smaller (if you print at all in this age of the digital camera), so megapixels should not be of a great concern. Do not let megapixel count sway your decision. Most DSLRs are from 6mp and nothing new is under 10mp, which is more than enough.

You can also use a program like Adobe Photoshop or other cheaper alternatives, which are able to enlarge images without a large loss of quality (depending on enlargement size, billboard size might be a problem).

My advise is to do some research and have look for yourself at some images taken by those cameras you are thinking of buying. Most DSLRs are coming very close in terms of image quality. Only a very keen eye will tell the difference in prints at A4 size.

Finally, another corporate trick is quoting the total number of pixels on the sensor. This is misleading. Look instead for the effective pixels that are used. This is a more accurate representation of camera’s highest resolution.

For example, my D300 maximum resolution is 4,288×2,848 pixels. Multiply these numbers together you get the effective pixel count of 12.2 megapixels. Printed at 300dpi (dots per inch) standard, it creates a print size of 14.5×9.5inches or 36.3×24.1cm.

And remember, more megapixels does not equal better image quality.

Bell & Whistle B – Integrated Cleaning

One problem that you will find when owning a DSLR is dust on the sensor. This usually comes from frequent lens changes.

The Integrated Cleaning removes dust at the click of a button, without having to expose the sensor and blow or clean the sensor manually. This is no big deal. It is handy, but it should not be a deal breaker. I have this function in my D300. I have used the self cleaning unit twice in six months. One of these times, it failed to remove the dust, forcing me to resort to the age old process of exposing the sensor and using a blower to remove the dust.

Note that the integrated cleaning system only removes dust, not dirt. It’s not really cleaning, it’s a form of shaking.

This gizmo is nice to have, but it is far from a necessity. Most newer budget DSLR’s from mid 2007 have an integrated cleaning system anyhow.

So when the salesperson tells you it has in integrated cleaning. You say, ‘that’s nice, don’t they all these days?’, politely.

Bell & Whistles C – Frames per second

Frames per second is what it is, the amount of images the camera captures in one second. Usually quoted in RAW, but sometimes it refers to the amount of JPGs it can capture. Keep in mind the format quoted when this figure is given.

Unless you are going to be shooting sports or wildlife, this is a totally useless feature.

If you are going to be doing this type of photography, then by all means, get the best ‘Frame Per Second’ model. When you take into consideration this feature, check the image quality achieved at high ISO settings. A high ISO will allow you to use this feature to it’s full capacity in low light situations

Bell & Whistles D – Live View

Live view is the ability to compose using the LCD monitor. With no doubt you will have used this feature, as it is common to all compact digital cameras. You see on the back of the camera on the LCD screen, what you are taking a photo of.

In DSLR technology, Live view is very new, and does not work as well as it does on compact camera’s. Most manufacturers methods are nowhere near perfect, and are only really useful when composing using a tripod, and when there is a good amount of light. Even then, focusing is not speedy and usually involves the view blacking out. Unless you will be composing landscape or still life photography, this feature is mostly useless.

Most DSLRs have very good viewfinders which will be more than adequate.

Most new DSLRs have the Live View feature. I believe the Sony @350 has the best live view function to date, due to the speed of Auto Focus compared to the competition. Just this month, Olympus and Panasonic have also announced a Micro Four Thirds System DSLR body in development, which, it is claimed, will feature the most useful live view facility on a DSLR to date. So keep an eye out for future announcements by these two companies in regards to Live View functionality.

If you have anything further to add, or if you believe something needs correcting, please comment and let me know.

Next month i will look at handy features.