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What should I look for when shopping for my first DSLR?

I want to buy my first camera. My priorities are both - photos and videos (as i have lost my handycam). I have selected three cameras - Sony SLT A35, Canon 550D, and Nikon 3100 but I am confused among them. Checked the features theoretically of all three. Can anybody give me an advice on that?

  • I'd say - D5100, if you can afford it. And here are compared the two models, you're asking for: snapsort.com/compare/Canon_EOS_550D-vs-Nikon_D3100. – Kiril Kirov Jan 11 '12 at 8:08
  • @jitesh: you might have better luck asking specifically about some of the features you are confused about. Right now, the question is hard for people to narrow down to answer in a useful way. – mattdm Jan 11 '12 at 21:14
  • Been reading for info about Sony SLT models. Today i'd be comparing Sony A37 and Nikon 5100 as these both have nice video shooting abilities, especially a plug for external mic. Personally, i like electronic viewfinder of the Sony. See snapsort.com/compare/Nikon-D5100-vs-Sony-SLT-A37/specs – Esa Paulasto Mar 9 '13 at 21:18

As many have said, those models are more or less equivalent photographically. Once you buy into a brand you will quickly get tied there because of lens, so it is worth it for you to check out the difference between lens lineup.

The main difference which should concern you is that the SLT-A35 is not a DSLR. It is an SLD with a translucent mirror and, unlike DSLRs, can perform Phase-Detect Autofocus while shooting video. What this means is that while the other cameras on your list (and all other DSLRs) become rather slow at focusing during video, the SLT-A35 keeps focusing quickly and continuously during video recording. Now, if you are serious about video, you should learn to focus manually but it takes a lot of practice, otherwise the fast video AF of the SLT-A35 should be the deciding factor for video.


All modern DSLRs are wonderful - probably you will be happy with any camera on the list.

You can choose based on what camera feel better in your hand, based on some specific feature you want or based on price.

As others have said the Canon 550D is a slightly "higher" model than the Nikon 3100, it has more features, better video and is fully compatible with all Canon lenses (The 3100 will only auto-focus with lenses that has a motor in the lens, this is not an issue with Canon because all Canon lenses has in-lens motor).

I have no idea about the Sony model.

BTW: I have the 550D and I love it.

  • What about the Sony model? – mattdm Jan 11 '12 at 11:49
  • @mattdm - I've updated the answer to say I don't know anything about the Sony model, the truth is I've never even seen a Sony DSLR, they are not very popular around here. – Nir Jan 11 '12 at 17:04
  • It's not an SLR. – mattdm Jan 11 '12 at 18:06
  • @mattdm - well, that's a proff I don't know anything about the Sony cameras. I didn't even know its an EVF camera. Good thing I didn't write anything about it in my answer :-) – Nir Jan 11 '12 at 18:52

I have no idea about the Sony either but between the Canon and Nikon you listed they are not equivalents by any means.

The 3100 is Nikons current 'entry level' camera - roughly analogous to Canon's 1100D. The Canon 550D is more akin to Nikon's 5100 - it is a mid level prosumer camera - and a very nice one at that! You could indeed think of it as the little brother of the Canon 7D - just without the magnesium body, advanced AF system, and a few other bits - but it's the same 18mp sensor, same iFCL metering, and so on.

Out of the Canon and Nikon, I'd definitely go for the Canon - and I don't say that just because I am a Canon shooter myself. Nikon is certainly a great make and the photos that camera will take are not to be sniffed at.. But out of the two, the Canon 550D is much more highly specced.


Because it's your first camera you shouldn't be worried the incamera focus motor, because you don't have legacy lens. Most of the new lenses come with the motor inside them.

I own a D3100 and I thought a lot between D3100 and D5100. I chose to buy the D3100 and save the money spared with that decision to buy better lenses in a near future. D3100 records at least 720p (I think it goes up to 1080i but check it out @ dpreview.com).

Both D3100 and 1100D give u plenty of room to grow. Remember lenses are more important than cameras. Just choose which brand is more likely to fulfill your needs. (in my humble opinion, nikon has cheaper cameras, more expensive and better lenses, I like that trade-off)


The Canon 550D is a good option, the Nikon 3100 does not have the focus motor inbuilt, hence it will not work the autofocus on those lenses which do not have the inbuilt autofocus motor in them.

Canon 550D has better video capabilites as compared to the Nikon 3100.

I have no idea about the Sony SLT A35.

You can use dpreview.com for further reviews about all three cams.

  • Or google "model vs model". I love snapsort.com :) – Kiril Kirov Jan 11 '12 at 8:27
  • Does the Canon 550D have the focus motor built in? – Unapiedra Jan 11 '12 at 10:29
  • 2
    No Canon cameras have built-in focus motors, because all of their lenses do. There are an increasing number of Nikon lenses with a motor; for many users, this is a non-issue. – mattdm Jan 11 '12 at 11:45

You are better off, going into a shop, getting all three cameras together, and playing with them in your hands.

See how they feel to hold, work out which cameras shutter release is in the right position for you, which is more comfortable to hold, find out where the shutter speed, ISO, and Aperture controls are and work out which cameras controls are easier for you to use.

Go through the menus options and see which one you prefer.

Camera choice is very subjective and it is really down to you to decide not this Q&A website.

Side by side there isn't a huge difference. The Sony is a better value camera, but the range of lenses available is a big let down, apart from the AF Zeiss lenses.

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