Buying a new camera

A lot of people wonder - "What camera should I buy?"

The answer is complicated, which is why they ask the advice - however there's a lot of factors that go into the best recommendation. What do you want to photograph? Are you thinking of turning professional or want to be a hobbyist (I'd rather see people do it as a hobby rather than try to go professional and burn out on photography - which happens a lot, being in business is not easy.)

If you're a first time dSLR (digital Single Lens Reflex) buyer - my recommendation is:

First - set your budget, it can be anywhere from $500 to $5000 (U.S. or Canadian dollars, your local currency may differ), so what you're comfortable spending is how much you should spend. And yes, you'll likely spend far more down the road, but what you're comfortable with now is what's important.

Second - go to a camera store and try out several in your price range. You want to see which ones are easiest to do some specific things: setting exposure manually, formatting the memory card, able to hold the camera comfortably.

Yes, buying online is cheaper in theory - but if its the wrong camera you wont use it, and a camera you never use is a lot more expensive than a camera you use all the time.

You'll want to do manual exposure to learn to control the camera - not let it make decisions for you. The easier to set those controls the better you will learn.

Menus on various cameras are easier for some people to use and harder for others - so make sure it is easy for you to understand and formatting cards is something you'll do a lot of.

Notice I'm not talking about all the features cameras come with these days - ignore them. If you want to learn to do photography at the highest level, you need to really understand what makes the right exposure for your vision of the finished image - and the only way to learn that effectively is to do it manually.

Honestly, if all you want is a glorified snapshot, get a really good quality point-and-shoot, you'll be much happier in the end.

Notice also that I don't recommend any one brand - each brand works better or worse for different people, so choose the right one for you. I've used Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony, Leica, Hasselblad, Pentax, etc. They are all good brands, and I'd happily shoot with any of them again - as long as I can easily make my own choices for exposure.

You might also want to look at a "mirrorless" camera - which look a lot like the old rangefinder cameras. They're kind of like an advanced point-and-shoot, except they use the same sensor as dSLRs and have controls for easily doing manual exposure. I bought one and have gotten many great shots. No its not quite as good as my professional camera, but at 1/3 the price its probably 85 per cent the quality, which is a very good buy to me and is a lot easier to take with me.

20 thoughts on “Buying a new camera”

  1. Hi! I find your website so interesting! And I understand better what I am reading from your website about photography compared to the other sites I have tried before. But then am just quite confused what kind of dslr I will buy in the near future. I have been planning to get my first dslr but until now I have not made my decision yet which one. One dslr really captured my eyes and heart but I would like to hear from a professional like you if this is a better or best pick? I chose Alpha NEX-7 with 18-55mm lens because it is not heavy and I read a lot of good reviews about it. But really technically wise, I do not know much about such things. I hope to hear your feedback about the choice of camera I have in my heart and mind. 🙂 Thank you for the time reading my email.

    Sincerely,

    Gabriela

    1. Gabriela you’ve done your homework and have a place in your heart for this camera. If you have the price of this camera then take the plunge and start using your camera with passion and enjoyment. There is nothing wrong with the sony system. Like all kit lenses they are a good start, because of there affordabilty and you will need the time to know your camera. With all this said enjoy your new found toy.

  2. I am just a kid, 13 years old. I just started to realize that I really enjoy Photography and my HP camera just broke down and it wasn’t very good so I would really like to get a camera that suits me better than that one. My dream camera is a Canon but they cost to much for me so I’m Looking at a Fuji and this really helped my decision ! So thank you!!!!

  3. I start enjoying taking pictures and i really like to buy my 1st DSLR,
    But I’m not sure which one to get. beginner DSLR Models or Advance DSLR Model so i don’t need to change it once i become advance. I liked Nikon D5200 but because its not a pro module there are no direct buttons for Manual setup of Shutter Speed and Aperture like Nikon D7000. I like both models and i can safe up for D7000. but just like to have your expert Opinion on which to buy.

    Many Thanks,

    1. I think when you’re buying a camera you need to think about how far you want to take photography. Do you want to get some nice photos but aren’t going to dedicate years to learning lighting (for portrait photography) or packing gear into the back country (for landscape photography)? For the vast majority of people, a decent point-and-shoot or even going up to a mirrorless camera (like a dSLR with changeable lenses but not as bulky, or quite as much capability) is more than enough. Are you willing to invest thousands of dollars in bodies and lenses, and spend a lot of time learning and practicing? Then yes a dSLR is a great choice – at a cost. And you don’t necessarily get better pictures with a dSLR – it takes more work to get great shots with them. Yes, the ability to get a great shot is there – but as I said, it takes more work and investment.

      If you really want to push your photography and the idea of spending the money to get all the lenses you’ll eventually wind up with doesn’t worry you, then yes I’d go to the D7000. Otherwise something like a Nikon 1 V2 or a Fuji X-Pro1 or a Sony NEX 6 (and there are other makes like these examples) is plenty of camera to get great shots, have some flexibility in future lenses and are very usable for manual and advance modes.

    2. Azza, I have used many cameras from as far back as 1950, those were film. For the past 15 years I used a Canon Point and Shoot, then I decided I wanted a DSLR camera. After many months research I bought the Nikon D3300, and while I have only had it for 2 months I am very pleased with my choice. It is an extremely versatile camera, and also takes high grade video.

      Good luck with your decision.

  4. Thank you for this site. I wanted to teach some kids how to take better pictures, and your information is great to pass on.

    As for my camera experience, like a lot of things in life, one good accidental success is all it takes to get one “hooked” into pursuing further into any hobby. But, a fast, good, glass, (f 2.8+ sharp lens will enhance the chance of getting that “accidental” good picture that creates that “longer” look at the photo.

    I want to look into the Micro 4/3 systems, but the prime lens are so expensive….. (of course it’s better than DSLR’s)

    I want to get a couple of prime lens for this. I was thinking a (20mm 1.8) and a (45mm 1.8) which will run me somerwhere of $1200+ . . . . . but then I noticed a new 12-40mm f2.8 for a $1000. Should I resist the temptation of getting the Zoom, and stick to the 2 prime lens pursuit?

    Your advice?

    1. There are definitely advantages for both prime lenses and zoom lenses. I do find some of the zoom lenses aren’t nearly as good as the primes, however I have a couple of zooms that I really love. The other aspect is what are you shooting? If you subject moves a lot, I’d go zoom. If its still then you can easily zoom by walking forward 😀

  5. Can you suggest affordable(entry level) DSLR which have direct buttons for manual selection of shutter, apreture ,WB, and ISO and 100% viewfinder

    1. Best thing to do is go to your local camera dealer and try out a few different ones in your price range, try to use them in manual and find out how to reformat the memory card – those will indicate which you get a long with better. They are all good at this stage of the game.

  6. Hi. I’m trying to get a camera but I need help because its going to be my first one. Which one would you reccomed me as a beginner? I’m planning to waste no more than $600 dollars.
    Thanks for your time:)
    **Lucia**

    1. Nikon, Sony and Canon are the biggest names with cameras in the price range – any of those would work. I can’t recommend one over another because what works for me may not work for you – go and try each of them at the store and see how they feel to you.

  7. Hi,
    I am just starting to do photography! I am really interested in starting my own business but I am not sure what camera to buy. I know you said to go try out a few cameras to see which is best… depending on the person. What do you think? I am first starting out by doing Engagement, Senior, and Family photoshoots. What camera would be the best to use? I probably only want to start out with only 1 or 2 different lens and it needs to be between $600-$1100. What cameras would you recommend?

  8. Hi there,

    Great site with lots of helpful instruction. Very well done and thanks a lot.

    Regarding the purchase of a camera I often miss two criteria that I, as a sports photographer, consider to be deal makers.

    Since I love to take pictures of warbirds in flight, I work handheld with big lenses. The chance of loosing pictures due to blur is big. In order to increase the amount of keepers I do focus on the amount of frames per second (fps) and buffer size.

    My back-up is my old Canon t2i. It shoots 3.7 fps and has a buffer of 5 pictures (RAW). My main camera is a Canon 7D Mk II with 10 fps and a buffer of 30 (RAW). This makes an incredible difference in my chances of coming home with good pictures.

    Please keep up your good work.

  9. Thanks you so much for such a helpful video. Just bought the LG V10 and have no idea about how to work the camera. I will be following your future videos. Do you teach the basics here as well?

    1. Yes, Lunay, we do teach the basics, although the LG V10 – being a smart phone – probably doesn’t have the controls of a regular camera so some of the lessons won’t be applicable regarding exposure, but composition is definitely something you can learn here.

  10. I’ve been taking photos for a couple of years now with just a simple camera. I’ve been trying to learn more about photography but it’s been hard to figure out where to start. I just found this site and so far the info is so helpful. I wanted to ask your opinion on something though. I’ve been real interested in photographing insects and been experimenting with macro (my camera is not very good at it) I’m going to be saving up for a decent camera so I can explore more of the insect world with macro photography, what is your opinion of a good starter camera for that? Right now I’m using an Olympus SZ-12 it’s not a bad little camera but it’s not capable of capturing the photos I want to take. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    1. Hello Arlene – there’s all kinds of great cameras that you can work with.

      First – check out this post about buying a camera: bestphotolessons.com/buying-a-new-camera/.

      Some ‘point and shoots’ have great close up capability. If you go for a dSLR then you’ll be looking for a macro lens. Zoom lenses that say they are macro only get to a certain point, so you may have to find a dedicated macro lens or start with something as simple as a set of close up lenses which are filters that go on a lens and allow you to get much closer. There are also reversing rings which let you attach another lens on front of the lens on the camera – many macro photographers use that. There are more accessories out there as well.

      I highly recommend going to a local ‘pro level’ camera store. WalMart and most ‘mall’ type shops aren’t as fully equipped or staffed with really knowledgeable people.

      You can learn lots about various models of cameras at http://www.steves-digicams.com

      If you can’t get to a local dealer (alway the most effective way to buy gear like this) then check out this amazon store: astore.amazon.com/bpl-macro-20

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