Digital SLR cameras represent the ultimate in image quality and performance. Their large sensors give them a fundamental technological advantage over most fixed-lens cameras. As such, all DSLRs produce excellent quality images. In fact, they have so for a while now and this can be used to your advantage while shopping for a DSLR.
Newer models have so much attraction for their latest bells and whistles that they drive the price down of older generation SLRs quite rapidly. As the demand for newer models increases, that for the older ones decreases. Camera stores then feel pressured to lower the price of older units to avoid being stuck with unsold units. While a DSLR can seem expensive to some, lenses generate far more revenue, so buyers of DSLRs are almost always important future customers.
Now ask yourself: What matters the most in a camera besides image quality? The answer is simple: The ability to let the photographer capture a desired shot. A camera does this by a combination of controls, ergonomics and certain fundamental features. Newer improved technologies help but they have far less impact these basics:
- Dual Control-Dials: The reason that advanced DSLRs have dual-control dials is to let the photographer work faster. This decreases the change of not being able to set the camera to desired settings on time.
- More External Controls: Just like dual-control dials, each button and dial avoids a slow trip through the menu system. Being able to adjust EC, FC, ISO, WB, etc quickly improves your changes of capturing a moment.
- Weather-Sealing: Bad weather happens but also provides opportunity for dramatic images. If a camera cannot handle it, it wont get those photographs.
- 100% Coverage Viewfinder: Professional Digital SLRs have a 100% coverage viewfinder so that the photographer can see exactly what is captured, thus avoiding undesirable elements to appear in images.
How does one get these fanastic features while paying less? Simple: By considering discontinued models which are still available new from may retailers and even used from reliable sources. As a lucky coincidence would have it, cameras with those features are built tougher and have more durable shutters.
The rewards are great and the savings are tremendous, but looking for such models requires a little more work since they are not generally available. The first step is to identify which DSLR model would satisfy your needs. Depending on how hard you look and what you need, you will find savings such as these:
- A Pentax K20D for $550 USD. Dual control-dials, awesome ergonomics and weather-sealing. The Nikon D7000 is the cheapest current DSLR to offer all that but costs more than twice as much!
- Similarly to the K20D, an Olympus E-3 goes for $650 and adds a 100% coverage viewfinder. You need almost twice as much money to buy the same on a current DSLR.
- A Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D for $250 USD. Dual control-dials and external controls for everything. Uses the Alpha mount acquired by Sony, so you wont run out of lenses to buy. A Nikon D90 comparatively cost three times as much.
- Only need weather-sealing? Look for a Pentax K200D available for less than $400 USD. No other entry-level weather-sealed camera was ever made.