"What brand of DSLR should I purchase?"
We all face that moment of truth at some point -- when we struggle between what we want to say and what we are expected to say.
I recently had one of those moments -- a client asked me which brand of DSLR she should purchase. I gave my usual advice about sticking to Nikon or Canon. Another gentleman asked what I thought about Sony DSLRs. He was holding one at the time. I paused and gave a stock answer about Sony making DSLRs that get pretty good ratings. Its Alpha A55 SLR was named "camera of the year," by Popular Photography magazine last December.
I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but here's what I wanted to say. Don't buy any more Sony DSLRs! And if you have one, for God sakes sell it while you still can! I have a graveyard of Sony crap that is useless because Sony pulled the plug right after I invested my money. MiniDisc anyone? This is what Sony does. They jump into a market or product with great fanfare, and if it doesn't pick up right away, poof! It will be gone.
Stick with Nikons or Canons
For the last 50 years, Nikon and Canon have owned the SLR market. Today, they combine for 75 percent of the digital SLR market, according to technology marketing research firm IDC. That ain't changing anytime soon. People who own Nikons or Canons aren't ever going to sell their gear to buy Sony cameras. Sorry. Not gonna happen. Sony won't increase market share with existing photographers.
The best Sony can do is pick off a few new photographers who don't know better or don't mind being novel. Will a sliver of the DSLR market be good enough for Sony? I say nope. They'll get bored and dump their DSLR line. You'll be stuck with a camera that Sony will sell off to some other company. Twenty years from now, my Nikon lenses will still work with Nikon's latest offering. I'll bet my MiniDisc your Sony camera will be orphaned. Buy your stereo from Sony and your DSLR from Nikon or Canon.
"Should I buy a Nikon or Canon?"
This is a debate for the ages. It's like Mac vs. PC, Ford vs. Chevy, Great taste vs. Less filling.
You can argue either side of the Nikon vs. Canon debate passionately and most camera owners often do. It really comes down to preference more than anything else. The camera lines are fairly evenly matched. Whether you start with a Nikon D3200 or Canon EOS t4i, you should be able to produce quality images without the camera getting in the way. The sibling rivalry continues all the way up the line to the Nikon D800 vs Canon 5D Mark III or Nikon D4 vs Canon 1DX. A decent photographer should be able to use either option and create magic.
Just because there is parity, doesn't mean you should take this decision lightly, however. You will want to upgrade your camera body about every three years. Once you start investing in lenses, you will hang on to them forever. When the investment in expensive lenses begins, it is much less practical to switch brands.
I shoot with Nikons primarily, not because there is anything wrong with Canons, it's just the brand I've used for more than 20 years. I get the opportunity to work with a lot of Canons when I teach, so I'm comfortable with most of the product line. I still feel most at home with a Nikon in my hands.
Sometimes it comes down to seemingly small things like button placement and menu organization. Don't downplay these decisions. These are the quality-of-life options that will most impact your daily shooting workflow.
If you can, you should probably rent both and see which feels most comfortable for you.
And so the Completely Biased Camera Buying Guide begins
There, I said it. And now that I'm in a venting and truth telling mood. Let's talk about all the other gear you might be interested in purchasing.
I'm working on a camera buying guide that answers all the questions you have been asking me. It is the truth as i see it, not the fake impartial dribble you find in most store-based buying guides.
I'll post my advice on this blog as I finish each section. You tell me if they answer your questions, or if you have follow up questions. I'll update the post. When I think we have covered most issues comprehensively, I will wrap it all up in a report I can give away.
Next up: Should I buy a point and shoot or DSLR?