When you buy a D-SLR, you’re choosing more than just a camera-you’re selecting a system of lenses and accessories, as well. Camera features like sensor size and resolution, metering and autofocus technology, exposure modes and so on are all important considerations; but you’ll also want to look beyond the camera at the range of additional options available for the models you’re evaluating.
If you’re considering your first D-SLR purchase, you have the best opportunity to compare camera systems, lens ranges and accessories like specialty flash. Once you invest in these extras, if you decide to switch camera brands later, you’ll have to replace some or all of your accessories to take full advantage of the new camera system. Lens mounts aren’t interchangeable between camera makers, and many accessories also are system-specific.
It’s easy to get caught up in the exciting technology, but before you commit to a particular camera and system, it’s wise to put everything into perspective vis-à-vis the types of photography you like to do most. So, let’s look at the camera features and accessories you’ll want for the best results with specific subjects.
People & Portraits
The entry-level D-SLRs have great features for photographs of people, offering Portrait modes and even “face detection” technology, which identifies human faces in a scene and adjusts focus and exposure accordingly for optimum results. Serious portrait photographers, though, may be better suited by higher-end models because of the better overall image quality and skin tones they produce.
Portraits look most natural when shot from around 3.5 to 5 feet away. If you move much closer, features will elongate; if you move much farther back, features will flatten.
A short tele lens (80-105mm on a full-frame D-SLR, 55-75mm on an APS-C D-SLR, 40-55mm on a Four Thirds System D-SLR) will produce a good head size at the ideal 3.5- to 5-foot shooting distance. So a prime lens in that range, or a zoom that includes those focal lengths, is an ideal first-lens purchase for a portrait enthusiast.
Faster lenses (ƒ/2.8 vs. ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6) will let you reduce depth of field more to really throw a background out of focus and concentrate attention on the subject. They do cost considerably more than slower lenses of equal focal lengths.
An accessory flash unit with an adjustable head and diffuser will let you “bounce” the light off a nearby wall, ceiling or reflector for soft, pleasant lighting. A flash bracket will let you move the flash off-camera away from the lens axis, eliminating red-eye and allowing you to vary the lighting angle.