Despite their declining popularity, budget entry-level dSLRs are still being made today and refuse to die.
It’s funny that they’re still around in a time when mirrorless cameras have become the immediate top choice for most consumers who are just diving into photography.
Considering that mirrorless cameras are far more advanced, feature-packed and extremely portable for beginners, not to mention smartphone cameras have vastly improved over the years, it’s all the more obvious that entry-level dSLRs should easily be seen as obsolete tech.
I mean, if you do plan on getting a dSLR, you might as well go all out and get a mid-range or semi-pro model, right?
Unless of course you’re strapped on cash, as neither a mid-range dSLR nor a typical mirrorless camera are considered ‘budget friendly’.
While I do embrace technological progress, a part of me feels some form of nostalgia when looking at entry-level dSLRs in a camera store.
These cameras used to be everyone’s ‘first’ dSLR, in a time before mirrorless cameras even existed. And they worked just as well.
In fact, compare an entry-level camera from 10 years ago with a 2016 release and you’ll notice that they’ve really come a long way.
Take the Canon EOS 1300D for instance, an entry-level camera which was launched back in April. The 1300D uses a Digic 4+ image processor, the same powerful chip used across Canon’s semi-pro and mid-range dSLRs.
It has an 18 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor and a 9-point autofocus (AF) system. A decade ago you’d be hard pressed to find an entry-level dSLR with a sensor that’s over eight megapixels or more than five AF points, and you weren’t even able to crank up that ISO up to 6400.
And let’s not forget that back in the day, an entry-level dSLR with HD video shooting capabilities, Wi-FI and NFC is unheard of.
Of course, all this doesn’t sound at all impressive when compared to a mirrorless camera like Sony’s new A6300 or the entry-level A5100, which have similar, if not better, specs in a much smaller and lighter package.
But regardless of what mirrorless camera manufacturers try to convince you, smaller isn’t necessarily better.
For most mirrorless cameras, shrinking the camera body means taking out some ergonomic features that makes a dSLR’s design and handling far superior. Some dials and knobs, for instance, had to be moved to the cumbersome on-screen menu for the sake of slimming down the camera.
Ever wondered why professional photographers and enthusiasts still prefer bulky mechanical dSLRs with loads of knobs and dials?
As much as how I get all hyped up with the shrinking of tech, I still find cameras with some weight to them a joy to use; that firm grip and stability, that quick access to various camera settings via physical buttons and switches, the satisfying sound of the shutter release. Heck, I absolutely miss looking through an optical viewfinder to frame my shot.
Also all that new tech in a small body do take a heavy beating in battery life, especially as mirrorless cameras can only house a small battery, so dSLRs have the upper hand for longer photography sessions or travel photography.
Another advantage of dSLRs is that you’ll have access to a wider range of lenses, lighting equipment and accessories. Mirrorless cameras are still playing catch up.
This means that if you are really serious with photography and want to experiment with various shooting styles, you have a far better chance of achieving your goals with a dSLR, although the lines are already starting to blur between dSLRs and mirrorless in this regard.
But what could really make entry-level dSLRs more enticing today is price. Because mirrorless cameras are still considered new tech (like smartwatches and virtual reality goggles), they cost a lot more than an entry-level dSLR like the Canon EOS 1300D.
The Canon 1300D is priced at US$550 (around B$750), and that’s bundled with an 18-55mm kit lens.
Meanwhile, a two-year-old Sony A6000 mirrorless camera (body only) is currently on sale for around B$850. Throw in an 18-55 E-mount lens and that’s another B$400 out of your bank account.
Now I may sound crazy for trying to convince anyone to buy an entry-level budget dSLR over a mirrorless camera in 2016, even if translates to a lot of savings when you do.
But when you’ve put a lot of thought into it, all those added features you pay extra for, such as rotating touch-screen LCD displays and geo-tagging, don’t really matter in photography.
Having a mirrorless camera doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll take better photos than the 1300D. You can still take amazing looking pictures with a $700 camera. All the principles still apply: lighting, angle, composition, etc.
In the past, photographers have long survived with film and none of the high-tech stuff, so what makes picking up a 2016 entry-level dSLR any different?