Beginner Vs More Advanced DSLR Features: Specs That Matter

You've had your DSLR for a while now and your photos have never looked better. But as your skills progress, you need a camera that can grow with you. Here are some of the features in intermediate and advanced cameras that will take your shots to the next level.

We’ve already talked about upgrades and accessories you can buy. Here we look at when it makes sense to step up to a better camera.

Bigger Bodies, Better Controls

More advanced DSLRs like the Canon EOS 70D, Nikon’s D7100 and Sony’s SLT-A77 are generally slightly larger than their entry-level counterparts, and this is a good thing.

Being bigger means they’re easier to hold, with larger hand-grips and more contouring for your fingers to brace against. Heavier construction makes advanced cameras more solid, more resistant to dust and water, and more durable over time.


If you buy an intermediate or advanced DSLR camera, there’s another big difference that you rarely hear about. These cameras have larger, brighter, clearer viewfinders that more accurately depict the photo you’re about to capture. You have to see the difference to appreciate it. Look for something with frame coverage as close to 100 per cent as possible. Advanced cameras also have intelligent viewfinders that show more information and let you adjust settings on the go.

If you like adjusting your camera’s settings while you’re taking photos, changing to a more advanced DSLR gives you a big advantage -- as part of a wider range of more useful controls, you’ll get a second control dial, usually on the top or rear of the camera, easy to access with your thumb or forefinger. This second control dial means you can change two settings -- like shutter speed and aperture -- simultaneously, giving you more control over how your photos are exposed and captured.

Better Imaging Sensors And Autofocus

More advanced digital SLRs use either APS-C or full frame imaging sensors, where entry-level models are restricted to APS-C only. If you buy a more advanced camera, you’re guaranteed a higher quality imaging sensor, which means better pictures -- higher resolution for more fine image detail, higher dynamic range for more highlight and shadow detail, and far more powerful image processing engines with a higher ISO range that do a better job of making low-light photos look cleaner and clearer.

Not only do intermediate and advanced DSLRs have better imaging sensors, but they’re paired with better autofocus modules as well. Where an entry-level DSLR like the Canon EOS 700D has 9 autofocus points and the Nikon D3200 has 11, an advanced DSLR like the Canon EOS 70D has 19 and the Nikon D7100 has 51. The type of these autofocus points is also important -- cross-type points are far superior to normal ones, and advanced cameras just have more. For example, all the 70D’s 19 autofocus points are cross-type, while the D7100 only has 15. Having more autofocus points means the camera can focus faster, and in a wider range of scenes and lighting environments.

More Features Built-In

Beyond the big differences, there are a myriad of little features that add up to make investing in a more advanced camera a smart choice if you enjoy taking photos.

Changing from an entry-level DSLR means more versatile controls, but just as important is the versatility of your camera’s screen. Better screens can pop out from the DSLR’s body and tilt, swivel and rotate so you can compose a photo from waist level, or from above your head, without guessing what you’re pointing at.

Semi-pro and intermediate DSLRs also have better movie capabilities than entry-level cameras -- they’re able to make more adjustments on the fly, giving you movies that look better and more professional. Advanced cameras’ better autofocus means you can record movies with smooth, seamless focusing where cheaper cameras stutter and stop.

More advanced cameras are able to capture burst-mode images at a higher frame rate -- more photos per second -- because they have more internal memory, better processing engines, and more robust shutter mechanisms. A higher frame rate is invaluable for shooting fast action like sports.

Some advanced DSLRs now have in-built Wi-Fi, or accept plug-in Wi-Fi modules, so you can wirelessly link your camera to your smartphone to share photos, print straight to a compatible printer, or control your DSLR’s settings and shoot the camera remotely.

One useful feature that sets advanced DSLR cameras apart is more versatility in shooting RAW image files. RAW files have a lot more data than JPEG -- they’re not compressed as much, with more colour information and a huge increase in dynamic range. Intermediate DSLRs like the Canon EOS 70D are able to process these RAW files in the camera, letting you adjust any of a huge range of settings to turn a good shot into a great one -- without sitting at the computer for hours.

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