I would say pretty much once a month one of my friends are either asking me in person or asking via Facebook or email “I want to buy a new camera but I have no idea what to buy, please help me”
This a completely viable question seeing as there are 1000’s of options out there. And without being in the industry it can be very confusing as to how to proceed.
I have no problem helping people with answering this question as it wasn’t all that long ago that I had the very same question for one of my friends. And in a manly way, he held my hand through the process. He gave me a lot of good advice, reducing some of the confusion and the overwhelming feelings I was having trying to spend a lot of money in an area I just didn’t have a bunch of knowledge in.
I don’t at all claim to be an expert, what I have though is some knowledge being that my profession calls to use cameras daily. And I also have a lot of experience buying cameras over the last few years(just justifying my reason for blogging on this subject)
One of the first questions I am always asked is “which brand of camera should I buy?” That is one of the toughest questions as there are so many options out there, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Fuji, Olympus, Sigma, Ricoh, Panasonic and Samsung(yes…the same Samsung that makes great TV’s) and others. I am a Nikon guy now… initially for no other reason than it is what my friend uses and it is what he shared the most details about. Now however I love the brand in both the camera and the lens. My first real camera though was a Canon EOS Rebel, a film camera, I have had great experiences with both Nikon and Canon and would have a hard time recommending one over the other to a new camera buyer.
When you take into account the number of brands of cameras and add to that the myriad of Camera options like Megapixels, Interchangeable Lens, Ultra-Compact Cameras, Full Frame, Mirrorless, built in flash, Extended Zoom, DSLR, multiple focus points, High ISO, low light options and so on and so on. You soon realize that you have thousands of combined options between the brands and features and confusion sets in!
Well that is why I am writing on a very high level on this subject, to at least reduce some camera buying confusion and heartache. This is my version of holding your sweaty hand like my friend did mine, as you look to spend a lot $$$$’s and your worried you might make a mistake. I will not make specific recommendations because there are far too many scenarios for me to come up with answers too, but I can at least give you some ideas and point you in a direction to do your research.
So here is how I answer the question “Help, I want to buy a new camera and I have no idea what to buy”
3 things you need to ask yourself prior to starting your search.
- What is your Budget– This is the most important step in the process in my mind. If you go into this without a budget then you will likely end up overspending on a camera. You will have a bunch of features that may or may not benefit you for what you are wanting to do. Cameras are so advanced nowadays that you should be able to find exactly what you are looking for within your budgeted amount. So set the budget based on your affordability and whether that is $500 or $5000, you can still be very happy with your purchase.
- What Type Of Photography Are You Planning To Do? – This is a key question to ask yourself. Are you wanting to take photos of your kids playing sports, family functions or maybe just capturing your kids growing up? Are you interested interested in nature photography? Travel Photography? Wildlife Photography? Wedding Photography? Answer this question with what it is you are most likely to use this camera for when you first buy it. This will help point you in the direction of a camera, but also on a type of lens as well.
- Are you planning on shooting in Automatic mode for the foreseeable future or are you jumping into this with both feet and want to use all the available features of a camera?– Ask yourself this question, are you a point and shoot person, meaning you don’t ever read manuals when putting something together? You are satisfied with good results just capturing images with your camera and it being as easy as possible to do that. Or are you the type of person who dives into a new hobby with both feet and wants to get the most out of anything and everything you do? Creating something great because you combined technical knowledge of a camera that can do everything with your own creative ability. There is no right or wrong answer to these questions, they will help determine if you are a point and shoot person directing you to specific cameras. Or if you want to create the personality and look of each shot and want to grow with your camera and it’s capabilities.
Once you know the answers to these questions then you can move on to the next section!
Here are my “what if” responses to your answers to the questions:
What If – My budget is less than $500.00 and I want to be able to take photos of my kids, I will take the photos mostly in automatic mode and potentially want to learn more about the functionality of manual mode. But it is not a priority or anything that I have time to mess with.
The answer – My recommendation with this scenario is to look at a point and shoot camera. Sony Cyber, Shot Nikon Coolpix, Canon Powershot,and Fuji Film XF1 are all viable options for you to look at. They are not interchangeable lens’, but they all have great digital zooms, really good in low light and with multiple focus points. Very practical cameras that are for sure a major step up from your smart phones. Some have built in bluetooth or wifi so you can share photos directly to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. They are fully automatic point and shoot but they can also have a lot of manual functionality to satisfy the appetite of those wanting to learn more about cameras.
Look up anyone of those suggested and do some reading on them. Comparing price, functionality and user reviews to learn more.
What if – my budget is $500-$1500.00 and I want to shoot some family photos but also want to take some nature photography. And you have the desire to learn more about manual mode and what a camera can do, but also need the fallback of automatic mode to not miss key events or moments.
The Answer – This is where it starts to get a little more confusing and a little more exciting also. Key options to look at are: Mid Range DSLR’s, digital single lens reflex cameras with interchangeable lens. The cameras themselves are going to be between $500 and a $1,000 for just the body. Most of these options are going to be cameras with interchangeable lens being sold separately. Some suggestions here for just the body would be Nikon7100 , Canon EOS 7D, Sony Alpha a77 Mark II. If you look at these three cameras and do some research on the specs of this class of camera you will see other options out there. Reading reviews about cameras are key once you narrow it down to two or three. Gives you great insight to owners opinions and generally brand influence is not in those reviews.
What If – My Budget is $1500-$3,000 and I want to photograph wildlife, nature, weddings, friends, family, sports and pretty much everything. This is a great budget range that actually gets me excited to share about. You aren’t at the top end of the scale but you are into some very high quality equipment that can pretty much do what you want it to do.
The answer – Where to begin…once in this price range your options vary greatly. First and foremost I suggest you stay away from the bundle packages that big box stores offer. They seem like the best deals going and it may be hard to pass up, but as you grow more familiar with your gear you may end up being disappointed long term. Not because of the camera body itself, that is a standard item with similar features no matter where you purchase it. It is the lens that you have to be cautious with. The package deals are very competitively priced because they have lens that do not have the quality that can really show what the camera can do. That is why the lens I use costs as much or more than the camera body itself. Sharpness, lower light shooting, greater maximum aperture, depth of field are all features of lens that are of a wide variance of quality. Bundled packages with the lens generally have the lowest of quality lens. So you spend a lot of money on a kit and get it home and discover you are disappointed with the sharpness of your photos. No one wants that!
Make sure you also do your homework on lens prior to buying. Read reviews and summaries such as this one on Lens by DPReview.
Now back to cameras – there are a lot of options out there, so here are some selections in this price point for you to look at. Nikon D610, Nikon D7200, Nikon D750, Nikon D810, Canon EOS 7D Mark ii, Canon EOS 5DSr are all solid cameras at varying price points. Samsung NX1 and Sony A7ii are some mirrorless cameras that are out there. Do some homework on a mirrorless cameras, I don’t own one and never have. It’s newer technology so I plan on waiting awhile before I would consider buying one.
When you get to this point of the game though the brand becomes more important as you are looking for a camera that can grow with you. Canons and Nikons have hundreds of options on Lens and gear as add ons that can grow. Most third party lens companies like Tamron and Sigma make lens specifically for Canons and Nikons. My recommendations would be to stick with the more common brands when you get higher in price points. Way more info and options with them.
You are not going to go wrong on any of the mentioned cameras in this price category. They all have full manual function with automated options. You can take creative control of your photos as much as you desire, the camera will do what you want as you learn and grow. Again, read reviews, side by side comparisons and user reviews to help point you into the right fit. I have shot with a D810 now for a year, and there is not much the camera cannot do. I am very satisfied with it.
Have fun researching these!
What if my budget exceeds $3,000….At this point I would say you should do a lot of homework on your own. You clearly have a vision of what you want to do with photography and you probably already know as much or more than I do so I will withhold recommendations for you!! But taking a look at the camera’s I suggested in the last category and then add a couple high quality lens and you will be more than happy with your gear and you will exceed that budgeted amount!
You are not on your own, you have this article, product links, reviews and plenty of photographers that I am sure will spend time with you to answer questions. So utilize all of those resources so you make the right decision for what you want to do in photography. And that is a key, don’t buy features that you won’t ever use. Look to make a purchase around what you want to do with photography and not just what a camera can do.
- Do your lens research, prime lens and zoom lens are going to cost closed to some of the price points of cameras. This is normal for a high quality lens’.
- Don’t overpay for camera features you won’t use, if you don’t know what something is and don’t want to learn what it does. No reason to buy a camera with that option.
- If you have a desire to grow in your photography skills then buy midrange camera, leaving budget room for a quality lens. These cameras hold their value so if you fall in love with your photographs and want to do more, you can sell and upgrade to other gear
- Don’t be afraid of refurbished equipment. My Nikon D600 and my 70-200mm Nikon lens are both refurbished. It saved me a few hundred dollars and both items are still in regular rotations with no issues
- Take some online camera classes, even prior to buying a camera, so you can really see what each feature means and what each feature does
- Don’t get hung up on Megapixels. If you are planning on taking photos that are going to be building sized prints…then yeah get hung up on Mega pixels. But if you are looking to capture memories and maybe hang some on the wall in a 20×40 print then a 12-18 megapixel camera is more than enough
- Whatever you buy…use the camera constantly. They are so technologically advanced that your ability to be creative can be hampered by the technology. Anyone can point and click a smart phone and be creative. No tech to deal with. When you add in layers of tech you can lose your creativity just trying to figure out what everything does. So the more you use it the more you learn it and the more creative you can become
- And my last point…do your lens research…its just as important as the camera itself…I think I have said that 6 times in this blog. But it’s critical to the quality of your photos.
If you have additional questions you can contact me to ask those questions and I will gladly answer as time permits.
Take care and happy camera shopping!!!!
Ken Henry Photography