General Question

workaholic's avatar

Which is the best DSLR camera for a beginner and aspiring journalist?

Asked by workaholic (194points) December 3rd, 2011

I’m an aspiring journalist (for print) looking to start taking photos to go with my stories. I don’t have any experience with professional photography, but want to get a DSLR camera for good quality pictures.

Can anyone recommend one that is not too expensive but still good quality and is suitable for a beginner? I’m a fast-learner so I’m sure I can pick up how to use it pretty quick.

Any input you could provide would be helpful, as I’m not even sure how to look for a good camera. What I’m looking for may not necessarily be what I need, if that makes any sense.

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21 Answers

bkcunningham's avatar

@workaholic, are you trying to sell your stuff to a newspaper or magazine as a stringer?

judochop's avatar

There are plenty of kick ass entry level DSLR’s and Micro 4/3 out there. What are you looking to shoot?
Often it is the lens, not the camera that you are admiring although they will go hand in hand from time to time.

workaholic's avatar

@judochop Oh I see. People, events, nature, ... anything?

Dog's avatar

This is what I use. It has been to the Florida Everglades where I spent a week in the swamps on horseback, and many other adventures. It has been somewhat abused and only needed a cleaning.

I have had my Canon Digital Rebel for 5 years and it will take amazing pix just with the standard lens. A friend has a telephoto lens and it is mind-blowing. I have also used it to photograph my art for print and products. It has done a magnificent job.

workaholic's avatar

@Dog Ah yes, that looks like something I need! I’ve heard about the Canon Rebel. I like the compact design.

jaytkay's avatar

Nikon and Canon have the widest lens availability. Especially if you want to rent – say you want an extra-long lens to shoot sports but don’t have thousands of $$ to buy one.

For low cost, a used Nikon D40 can be found for $399 US with warranty.

Recommended reading:
Ken Rockwell: Your Camera
Doesn’t Matter

Ken Rockwell: Recommended Cameras

Nikon D40 review

whitetigress's avatar

Nikon d40s biggest bang for your buck. Just remember a journalistic photo can only be adjusted contrast/brightness wise. So make sure you have your iso, aperture, shutter speed down in the back of your head. I remember when I started out I bought a Nikon D5000. I ended up getting an award from the Society of Professional Journalists Society or Sigma Delta Chi. Anyways, the point is, you can start from whatever you like. Typically in the print world you don’t shoot the photos you are writing a story about. You want to master a craft so you can focus in on that one particular subject. I’ve since moved onto a Canon 60D for my art. You can do some serious photography with the Nikon D40 body and any attachable lenses. Buy a 50mm lens for some good profile type of photos and longer lenses for more sports complex photos. Seriously hit up craigslist and search Nikon d40, I just searched my area in San Diego and saw a bunch of bundle deals, D40 bodies with up to 200mm lenses for about 350 that’s some serious quality.

Also a Union Tribune photographer came in and talked to our class at Southwestern College for the Sun Newspaper, he had a Nikon of some sort with only capabilities of like 10mp. Yet, he shoots fabulously because he’s a master of light and the face (in journalism I was taught that the key things to look for in a good profile photo is facial reactions and secondly hand gestures, that’s how to tell a story without the words) It’s more about the lenses you use as opposed to the actual DSLR body.. Good luck! Link us your blog or whatever.

Dog's avatar

Just making a note that the Canon Rebel is semi-automatic. Though it can be set on manual, it takes amazing pix without having to set the aperture etc. It has a bunch of shooting modes. I have tried them all and they are all good at what they do. I suggest what ever camera you get you read the manual to get the most of it.

Also- a bit of knowledge of Photoshop will make your photos amazing. Post production really makes the image. It is worth taking a community college course to get a feel for it. You will very likely be expected to have some Photoshop knowledge as you will be asked to edit your images to spec.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

If I was a beginner, I wouldn’t waste my time with antiquated DSLR’s.

Go SLT and get to where camera technology should have been ten years ago.

Sony a65

I was a news stringer for 7 years. I’ve been a working professional photographer for over thirty years. SLT will replace SLR just like SLR replaced Rangefinders.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Or forget mirrors altogether and just go with the NEX-5n or NEX-7.

There is no need for a beginner to start with out-dated technology.

workaholic's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Thanks, but is it really antiquated if so many people are still using it? I want to take a photography course and all of them are offered for people using DSLRs. Are SLTs easier to use? As a total noob, I don’t know the difference between the two.

jaytkay's avatar

Calling SLRs obsolete is hyperbole. A good SLR you buy today is not going to become unusable compared to newer cameras

SLTs have a non-moving mirror. The photo is taking through the mirror.

Shooting through an extra layer of glass is problematic. It cuts the light 20%, which would be a detriment for low-light shooting. And its simply an extra layer to degrade the image. SLT-type cameras were tried and abandoned forty years ago by Canon.

SLRs have a mirror which snaps up out of the way while the photo is taken.

SLRs have a bit more shutter lag (delay after you hit the button) than SLTs, but they have a “sports mode” which will lock the mirror up for multiple shots.

All types have their advantages and disadvantages. Claiming that one type is “THE” option and others are inadequate is silly hyperbole.

whitetigress's avatar

@workaholic Don’t go for the Nex5 or Nex7. SLR’s at the moment are still sharper than SLT. Perhaps one day SLT’s will be the next thing, but at the moment The mirrors of SLR are far more superior in absorbing light and producing overall resolution. Remeber the smaller, the smaller the battery, and hence the “smaller” the battery life. I feel SLT’s are more for the “normal” every day person with automatic settings, as to where SLR’s are meant more for human control.

This guy is the best camera reviewer on YouTube by far in my opinion Search through all the cameras you might be interested in.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Certainly the traditionalists will defend their traditions… expected.

@jaytkay “Shooting through an extra layer of glass is problematic. It cuts the light 20%, which would be a detriment for low-light shooting.”

It is accounted for with spectacular efficiency. Perhaps you’ve not read the latest tests on a65 and a77 with latest firmware. We shouldn’t base our assumptions on first generation a33’s and a55’s. The technology has improved to equal or better specs than anything available. The 24mp puts it even farther ahead of the competition. The unique peeking focus another giant leap forward beyond prisms and mirror systems.

@jaytkay “SLT-type cameras were tried and abandoned forty years ago by Canon.”

It’s come a long way in forty years. But even Canon could see the advantages as far back as that. There is no comparison between the old and new technologies. Such statements are fanboy ad-hoc.

@jaytkay “SLRs have a bit more shutter lag (delay after you hit the button) than SLTs…”

And much more vibration too, evening out any perceived image quality loss that isn’t there in the first place. SLT’s are much more reactive than any SLR could ever be. All Sony’s have image stabilization built into the camera body… not the lenses, like all CaNikons are. This means that EVERY lens is image stabilized, including wide angles and vintage glass. The Sony IS system doesn’t move the viewfinder around either, challenging the photographers preferred cropping whilst causing sea sickness like CaNikons do.

@jaytkay “SLR’s… have a “sports mode” which will lock the mirror up for multiple shots.”

Try shooting sports blind.

The a77 provides full view at 12fps at 24mp. Now that’s a sports camera dream.

Plus, the SLT design allows full contrast detection AF for all video modes… whereas all CaNikons and everyone else has to settle for the slower barely adequate phase detection AF for video. There is simply no comparison.

@whitetigress “Don’t go for the Nex5 or Nex7. SLR’s at the moment are still sharper than SLT.”

Nex5 and 7 are not SLT’s. They are EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens).

The a33, a55, a65, and a77 are SLT’s. The NEX5 and 7 can accept the LEAE-2 adapter and become SLT’s if desired.

@whitetigress “at the moment The mirrors of SLR are far more superior in absorbing light and producing overall resolution”

An SLR mirror has nothing to do with image quality or resolution.

Do yourself a favor and check out any of the SLT viewfinders… even the first generation a33, and a55 have a viewfinder which is nearly three times larger than any APS-C SLR design. It’s brighter and has numerous focusing aids that SLRs cannot provide.

The a65, and a77 viewfinder is 3 million pixels and extremely large. All of the SLT’s, amateur or pro have viewfinders that are the same size at the most expensive FF CanNikons available. No more tunnel vision for APS-C SLR’s.

@whitetigress “I feel SLT’s are more for the “normal” every day person with automatic settings, as to where SLR’s are meant more for human control.”

The Sony Alpha SLT’s have all the manual controls available and even more manual features like peak focusing and level gages built right into the bodies.

@workaholic “Thanks, but is it really antiquated if so many people are still using it?”

Sitting next to a hybrid car, or electric, or hydrogen powered vehicle… my gas powered car is antiquated by comparison. And though my guzzler will be around for a while, make no mistake that it will be replaced by better technologies in the not so distant future.

@workaholic “I want to take a photography course and all of them are offered for people using DSLRs.”

If your instructor doesn’t allow EVIL or SLT cameras, then he shouldn’t be instructing. I’m sure they’d accept a Leica Rangefinder, and that’s not DSLR either. Neither is Fuji X100. Be the first to show him the new Sony tech and you’ll be teachers pet. Chances are the teacher is at the store buying one right now.

@workaholic “Are SLTs easier to use?”

Odd to answer this question. The controls and features are the same. But SLT and EVIL systems can make many standard operations more efficient and easier to access than with SLR’s.

With SLR’s you have to remove your eye from the viewfinder and check the back LCD for exposure/color test.

With EVIL and SLT, you preview the shot, exactly how it will be, before it’s even captured right inside the viewfinder without ever having to remove your eye from the shooting position. You can preview photos inside that finder without the sun reflecting on the back LCD panel. You get a histogram on a live image. You see the actual changes made during all settings including ISO, Color Temp, shutter speed and aperture adjustment.

The sweep panoramic mode will make giant panoramics right inside the camera without having to stitch them together in photoshop later.

There are crazy advantages to the newer technology.

Look, when digital cameras first came out they were rejected by togs under the “That doesn’t look like a real camera” line. Manufacturers listened, and eventually created DSLR’s that perform exactly like the film cameras from more than a decade ago. But nothing has really advanced since then… it’s all been playing catch up to the dogma of what once was.

They’re even designing some cameras to look like old rangefinders now. The only thing that’s changed is that they are digital instead of film. No real advancements in camera functionality have evolved.

But now that they’ve succeeded in duplicating traditional SLR designs, in spades, we are finally able to pursue intelligent camera evolution to where it should have been going all along. Real beneficial features are arising from this. Alas, there will always be those who cling to the old ways. To each their own.

jaytkay's avatar

Whatever. Pros are not flocking to the Sony for the supposed SLT advantages. When you need to rent/borrow a lens and/or body, you will find a Nikon item available. Maybe a Canon. Never a Sony.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@jaytkay “Never a Sony”

Sony Equipment for Rent…

Source 1

Source 2

jaytkay's avatar


OK, Sony rentals exist. But they are a small fraction of the available equipment.

And some Sony fan at “SonyAlphaRumors” really likes shooting Sony video with his Sony camera (but we were not discussing video).

And Sony is selling a lot of consumer cameras. Which is not relevant to working journalists.

bkcunningham's avatar

I personally wouldn’t invest a great deal of money in a camera if my goal is to be a print journalist.

workaholic's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Thanks for your detailed answers. I will look into the different types. Gotta say I’m a little overwhelmed with all this info from everyone, but it helps loads!

@bkcunningham You’ve got a point. Though I think I want to look into it as a hobby as well.

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