How to choose an SLR camera – Acronyms and nomenclature

Technical specifications of a reflex camera

So that you do not get confused with so many new names and acronyms that you may not know, I have prepared this summary with the most important specifications that you should know and take into account when buying a SLR camera .

First of all remember that the photos will be taken by you, not the camera, so I recommend you take a tour of the photography tutorials collected to learn about composition, light, focus, express ideas with photos, etc.

  • The megapixel refer to the maximum resolution that has the sensor that mounts the camera. Megapixels measure the number of dots in a photo. Do not get obsessed with this number, having 50 megapixels at first will only help you print a photo and hang it from the Empire State Building, now the important thing is the sensor and the lens. A bright lens, with low f-numbers like f / 2.8 will allow you to take photos in difficult light conditions without losing quality.
  • The ISO sensitivity . The higher this number on a still camera, the more light the camera will capture in less time, that is, you can shoot at faster speeds in low light and thus avoid “shaky photos.” You should know that if you increase the ISO sensitivity too much, you will lose sharpness and noise will appear (similar to the grain of analog photography). Current cameras do better noise management but even from 800 ISO you can start to see it in the price range of this page focused on beginners.
  • Burst shooting . They are usually specified as fps (frames per second), this characteristic is important when taking action, sports, wildlife photography, etc. The more photographs our camera shoots in a second, the more chances we have of taking home a good photo, since the action usually lasts very little time.
  • Video quality . Most of today’s cameras record at Full HD 1080p quality. 4K is still not too important in the entry-level range, it is more focused on professional jobs in which the person editing the video has a computer and monitor capable of reproducing this demanding video quality.
  • Diaphragm . Have you noticed numbers of this style f / 2.8, f / 3.5, f / 5.6, etc? These numbers refer to the maximum lens aperture that the camera includes. The lower the number, the brighter the target. If in some camera you find two f numbers together, for example f / 3.5 and f / 5.6, it means that the lens has a different aperture depending on the zoom you do on it.
  • The mm. The lower this number, for example 28mm or 55mm, the more field of view that lens will capture. If instead it is a high number such as 105mm or 200mm, we will have less field of view and the lens will capture much more distant objects. It is important that you choose your objective well according to the type of photography you want to take.
  • Acronyms IS and VR – These are the stabilization systems that Canon and Nikon use, they refer to the fact that the lens that comes with the camera has an image stabilizer. A recommended option if you plan to record video with your camera.

What the abbreviations of digital SLR cameras mean

If you are thinking of taking the step and getting started in the world of photography or want to change cameras, I am going to explain point by point what you should know about  how to choose a SLR camera wisely.

When you go into an online photography or physical store and see the great repertoire of models out there, going crazy is easy and making a bad purchase too. So I think it is essential to understand the acronym of a camera.

To explain I have chosen a ” Canon 700D” , a great camera to get started in photography , the specifications are the same for all, so you can see more models in the article on buying a reflex camera.

I will analyze the specifications of the image, so you can go comparing:

  • Brand : This depends on your personal taste, it is like Apple and Windows, you will find defenders of Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc. who would shake the hand with which they hold the camera for their brand. My recommendation is that if they use a specific brand in your circle, you may want to be one more, so you can exchange lenses and accessories when you go out to photograph.
  • Model name : We will focus on the lens that the kit brings.
  • EF-S -> This type of lens will only be used for APS-C cameras (in which the sensor is smaller than in Full Frame ), at the moment this is not important if you are starting, so this kit is a good one option.
  • 18-55mm -> It is a great focal range , you have 18mm which is a good angle for landscape and 55mm for portraits and more distant subjects.
  • f / 3.5-5.6 -> Refers to the maximum aperture  of the lens, it will vary between f / 3.5 and 5.6 depending on the focal length you use. It’s great to get started, although in poorly lit scenes you will need a tripod or buy a flash .
  • IS -> Lens with stabilizer , it will be of great help when you use the 55mm, it eliminates the vibrations generated by bad support. Within the normal of course, do not think that your photo will be stabilized if you run.
  • STM -> “Stepper Motor”, has a silent approach that you will appreciate when recording videos
  • Compatible devices -> SD, SDHC, SDXC, type of memory cards you use, in this case it is like this one, one of those recommended in the post ” Basic photographic material ” or the latest Sandisk Cards
  • Continuous AF -> Continuous autofocus   in videos, this option is very useful, the camera will continue to focus on the subject while recording. In photography mode you have the AI SERVO mode available
  • SpeedLight Transmitter -> A great feature, your camera will be able to communicate with an external flash without the need to buy other accessories.
  • Optical Image Stabilization -> Stabilized lens .
  • Optical sensor resolution -> 18 megapixels, this part is important too, it indicates the megapixels of the camera. At 18 you really have plenty to get started.
  • Shutter speed max. -> 0.00025 seconds is the maximum shutter speed at which the shutter opens and closes, great for action photography.
  • Shutter speed min. -> 30 sec maximum you can leave the shutter open. If you need more you can use the BULB mode and a cable release, the shutter will open until you stop pressing the shutter button.
  • Opening min. 5.6 -> The minimum aperture of the lens, the manufacturer indicates 5.6 because it is the aperture that you will find in its entire focal range, although as we have seen previously you can use 3.5 in some mm.
  • Min focal length -> 18mm is the maximum that the lens covers, as you can see, a great wide angle lens.
  • In this section, the important thing is the video capture resolution , 1080p Full HD is currently the best option, do not be obsessed with the 4k fashion, surely you do not have a monitor that reproduces it or a computer capable of moving such heavy files. Believe me 1080p on this type of camera is excellent quality.
  • Flash modes -> Automatic, manual with red-eye reduction included; the flash will fire only when you think the scene needs it, or you can activate it yourself.
  • Type of lens included in the kit.

Another important factor to take into account is the file format that the SLR camera will provide, in this case:

  • H.264 -> is the video format par excellence along with MOV, in this aspect you will have your backs covered.
  • JPG and RAW -> ESSENTIAL that your camera shoots in RAW and also gives you the option to use JPG.
  • It is important to check if the camera records audio , although the quality is not very good, when we start it is an aspect to take into account. These types of built-in microphones are used as a ‘guide’ to synchronize the audio from an external microphone with that of the camera or the image with the sound.
  • Autofocus refers to the lens.

 The Canon 700D  also has a touch screen that according to your tastes can be interesting.

Last notes before buying a SLR camera

  • Buying a body and lens kit is a good option if you start from scratch, if not, the lenses that come with the kits tend to go small in a very short time. I will prepare a post on alternative objectives to those of the kit, even if you make a greater outlay it will be worth it or think about fixed objectives .
  • Think about the photography you are going to take, there are kits that include an 18-200mm or 18-105mm that cover more focal range, or a 55-250 in which you will lose angle. Although you should know that the sharpness will be affected and it will probably also be less bright, you will have to assess that.
  • If you buy the kit and eventually the lens falls short, you can sell it on second-hand forums, there are many people looking for this type of lens and they sell quite well.