Being a photographer one of the most commonly asked questions I get is "I'm looking to buy or upgrade a camera, what do you recommend?" and this is seriously one of the hardest questions to answer as most are wanting a direct answer and for me to tell them what make and model to buy. Usually followed by the question "any tips to get me started?" which I will answer in my next post.
But in this one I will discuss with you what you need to keep an eye out for when purchasing your first camera or SLR.
The big one is compact or SLR? Do you want the option to change lenses with total control over the capture settings or are you wanting a little point and shoot small enough to fit in your pocket or a small bag, some with manual user functions?
The next one is brand, and my answer is always the same - it doesn't really matter. Obviously sticking with the known brands helps with sourcing lenses, batteries and information. Brands like Nikon, Canon, Panasonic and Sony are the 4 major brands that specialise in cameras and are usually found in most stores which keeps the prices low and competitive. The two major brands being Nikon and Canon which means you can source lenses in store and purchase straight from the shelves. As with the other brands they are limited in stock and will most likely order in your request.
I personally use Nikon and have for over 10 years now. It's not because I believe they are better its because that's what I started with and that's what I know. It's like Dominos and Pizza Hut, both great, both pizza and both competing against each other and some prefer one to the other. There is no such thing as the best brand or the best camera. Even full frame vs DX crop. If you know your gear, know its limits, know that it crops a photo and account for it YOU will be the best thing you can invest in, not your camera...
Your photography will depend on the quality (eg. megapixels) and YOU, the operator followed by your editing skills. I have never used a professional camera and have done wonders with mid range "DX kit cameras". I spend my money on lenses! I buy the highest quality lenses I can! Up until this year I have also only ever shot in JPEG and sold many high quality images over the years to extremely satisfied customers! I invested in myself and my skills behind the camera and set out to capture the shot how I wanted it straight up off the camera (meaning little editing was required). Up until recently I barely used any form of editing and would only adjust brightness, shadows and sharpness. Starting over 10 years ago Photoshop and editing programs were expensive as! And I was only 16 and out of home paying my way through life, I HAD to capture my photos well and didn't have the option to edit them which now I am forever grateful for.
(P.S. I only downloaded Photoshop this year too and am very new to it! AND only recently having the programs and computer to support the RAW photos I have also only been shooting RAW photos this year... (more on this in Photography Basics) I do now only shoot in RAW though also allowing me to edit my photos more so without distorting the quality as that is what is required to make it anywhere professionally).
Now the biggest and best advice I can give to you as a beginner is to buy a kit! This means, buy a camera and lens kit. More often than not each brand/store offers a mid range camera complete with a lens or two.
If you are looking to casually capture life and family outings you will be fine with one of the lower priced kits ($300-$800) but if you know you will be venturing out on day trips to specifically take photos, or if your camera will be coming with you everywhere and you are setting yourself up to potentially be a photographer, a higher priced kit will suit you best! ($800-$2,000 and beyond).
Most cameras these days are all over 18 megapixels and take exceptional photos able to be blown up quite large before pixelating. So the next thing to look for depending on your field is frame rate and ISO capabilities. I personally go for a fast frame rate/image processor (taking 6+ photos a second) as I shoot motorsports and need a quick shutter to be able to capture every split second as it happens before me. I also shoot in low light quite often meaning I need a camera which offers a decent ISO, but the higher the ISO the higher the noise, I will explain these terms in my next post...
Another thing to look at is video quality if you are ever wanting to shoot video. If you can get one camera to suit all needs straight up you won't end up in my current position where I want better video quality but have two great cameras already and don't want to buy a 3rd! Don't get me wrong I love the video quality of my Nikon's but I find the auto focus feature does not suit the work I want to do and I am need of a more professional video camera or an all in one SLR ... Possibly the Panasonic GH4, which I had the opportunity to use during the Madmax Build earlier this year.
And the best advice I can give is don't rush into your purchase. Take your time, keep a couple of cameras in mind that you are interested in and watch out for specials, if one comes up don't just settle for that one, call their competitor and see if they can offer you a better deal, freebies or an extended warranty to grab your sale.
If you require any more information or need help choosing the best camera for you or a loved one please don't hesitate in messaging me and I will do my best to help. Another option is see if you can borrow a family members camera for the weekend or buy a cheaper second hand camera online and use that until you feel you need more and you will then know and understand what it is you are after.
So basically to sum it up if your are an aspiring professional with a full time career on your hands the above advice might not be for you, but let's face it you will probably upgrade many times over the years so your first purchase isn't the biggest deal and will allow you to recognise and understand what camera will and will not suit you best. This post is more for the family photographer, beginner or hobbyist who are confused by the amount of cameras available and the huge difference in price range. Never be afraid of making the wrong purchase, you can only learn and realise you need more from a camera, re-sell and upgrade. But with technology changing by the minute I'm sure you will be upgrading the camera like our phones in a few years time anyway handing it down the generation line...
I hope I have somehow helped you in choosing your first camera and I look forward to seeing what you capture so feel free to tag me in your photos!
Keep an eye out for my next post helping you understand the basic terms and settings associated with photography and how to get off Auto!