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Advice DSLR Cameras Filmmaking Lenses

DSLR camera guide: What to look for when buying a DSLR?

When choosing a DSLR camera, most flock to the amount of “Megapixels” and then base their entire DSLR purchase on this. This shouldn’t be the case! There are far more important features that you need to look into before buying your next DSLR camera. In this article, we will breakdown the key features and what to look for. This will help you decide on your next purchase and take into consideration price, technology and features – to ensure you make the correct decision.

The sensor size

Sensor Size

This is actually extremely important. Forget the megapixel count, the sensor size is what you need to be looking into when searching for your latest DSLR camera. The sensor size comes in two main formats, APS-C or Full frame sensors.

The APS-C sensor stands for an Advanced Photo System type-C, it’s smaller than the Full frame sensor and is equivalent to an aspect ratio of 3:2. There are three digital image formats to this sensor: H (high-definition), C (classic) and P (panorama). These are classed as cropped sensors as all three are smaller than the original APS format.

You will find the APS-C sensors will make use of the central aspect of the lens, allowing them to be lighter in weight and generally a cheaper option. It’s the most common sensor found in DSLR and Mirrorless cameras.

The Full frame sensors are usually used in professional DSLR cameras, usually for photographers and some filmmakers. The reason these are in the DSLR’s are due to the full use of the lens and the focal length stays the same. These are found on the more expensive cameras a professional photographer will use.

However, this doesn’t mean the Full frame sensors are the best – because of the larger sensor size and a much greater price tag. It all depends on what your goals are and the kind of films you are looking to produce.

To be honest an APS-C format is more than appropriate for most filmmakers. You can create a cinematic worthy film with an APS-C sensor – combined with some colour grading, you’ll have no problem. Remember it’s also the quality of the story, and some filmmakers have made incredible films on their mobile phone.

READ MORE: The 5 best DSLR cameras under £1,000

Video Capability

Video Capability
Video Capability.

DSLR’s are great at capturing video and can produce some quality footage. The most important thing to look for is the frame rates – the higher the frame rates the better. Something else to look at is the audio, how good the microphone is and the external microphone setup.  Also, check out the audio recording control that will help compliment the footage whilst in Post-production.

READ MORE: How to get that cinematic feel in Adobe Premiere Pro 

The video and image quality

Detailed Lens
Image Quality

The main factor of this is the image sensor, however, this is when megapixels come into it. The way megapixels work is, the higher the megapixel the higher the resolution, however, most cameras have enough to cover the projects of most independent filmmakers – so it’s not actually anything you need to even worry about.

One feature that adds to the quality of the camera is the ISO sensitivity, you want this to be pretty high. A high ISO sensitivity allows you to capture everything that you see naturally. Having it 1600+ allows you to capture photos and videos without additional lighting or a flash. A high ISO allows you to process more natural footage ideal for editing in post production.

Speed and focus

DSLR’s are designed to shoot at an extremely fast rate – they have the ability to shoot incredibly fast frames from the second you switch it on. You will want to check out the FPS (Frames per second) rate especially if you are looking to shoot sport or some fast action shots.  A high burst rate will help you capture the movements to perfection.

Even if you are not looking at shooting sport, having a high FPS rate will allow you to shoot clear and crisp scenic shots, which will allow you to choose which frame looks best – it’s also good for when you are filming to have a higher FPS to capture crisp footage.

When choosing your DSLR, you will want to have a look at the AF (automatic focus) system. Having a good autofocus system will allow you to capture some great moving shots, and will allow you to shoot dynamic short/feature films by yourself. Having the autofocus will also help when framing for integral shots – what do you want to focus on to show the audience it’s of importance?

READ MORE: 9 essential film lighting techniques every filmmaker should know

Framing images

DSLR cameras will all have an image viewfinder. The viewfinder will give you more clarity, especially if there is additional light. The main aspect of the viewfinder you want to look for is the coverage percentage – look for around 97%-98%+.

When looking for the LCD screen to help frame your shot, look for the one that has the most dot in your price range. This isn’t as essential as other features, but the higher the dots the clearer. The LCD screen will help you to frame shots correctly and clearly.

READ MORE: 6 essential camera angles to tell your story

Which brand DSLR should I buy?

This and the megapixel questions are always the first anyone ever asks us. The answer to the question above is: It doesn’t actually matter – there’s no right answer here. The best way to look at it is your budget and requirements and work towards the specs that fit best.

Once you have decided on the key aspects of the camera that fit your filmmaking style you can narrow down the brands to your budget.

READ MORE: The must have DSLR cameras For 2020

Additional features

These are non-essentials, nice to have features.

  • Extra auto settings.
  • Built-in effects.
  • Resistant metal casing.
  • Built-in wifi.
  • GPS.
  • Dynamic range sensors.

To quickly sum up the above. When looking for your next DSLR camera, firstly look at what you need it for, the key features and your budget range. We hope this guide was useful, please follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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