Welcome to back to Photography Phriday on The Illusion Exotic. I was going to discuss lighting this week, but instead I’m going to take a detour based on a question I often get.
“What kind of camera do you recommend?” If you’re asking this question, it probably means you’re a beginner and thinking about buying something that looks like a professional camera. That’s not an easy question, nor a short answer. But I’m going to give it my best shot in five parts.
Answer 1: The camera you own right now. By this I assume you have a cell phone that takes photos. Before you move on to an expensive digital single lens reflect (DSLR) or mirrorless camera, squeeze as much learning and experience as you can out of your phone camera. Specifically, get comfortable with the aspects of Subject and Composition. One doesn’t need a complicated camera to hang of these two critical elements. If you want to know more about them, check our last week’s blog. Camera phones are getting pretty advanced in both photo quality (megapixels) and software. Some apps let you control aperture, ISO and shutter speed. However, having to control all that from the screen can make the experience clunky. Chances are, you’ll eventually drop your phone, too. If you stick with photography, eventually you will have to move beyond the phone, which leads to Answer 2.
Answer 2: The camera you can afford. If able, buy used. There is a good chance someone you know has DSLR they bought a few years ago they don’t use anymore. They flirted with photography, and then found it wasn’t their thing. It’s probably in the back of their closet, still in a nice carrying case. It has a few extra batteries and maybe more than one lens. Maybe they’ll sell it to you cheap, or even just give it to you. Look online, too. You’ll find LOTS of entry-level Nikon and Canon cropped-sensor cameras (and their EF-S series lenses) for sale in your local area. These could be those cameras that were once forgotten, or maybe the photographer recently upgraded and is looking to sell their old kit. If you ever get serious about photography, you have to get serious about buying used gear. Photography is an expensive hobby.
Answer 3: The camera that will teach you the most. A good entry-level cropped sensor camera, like a Canon “T” series Rebel or a Nikon 3500 families of camera bodies, have almost all the functions of higher-end models. They have smaller sensors, lighter camera bodies, a few less bells and whistles, and come with far less expensive lenses. However, what you learn on them directly translates to more capable cameras. In essence, they will become your teachers. You can buy diverse lenses, accessories like external flashes and learn how to use them without breaking your budget. You’ll learn what all the buttons mean, how to shoot on shutter-priority, aperture priority and, eventually, full manual. You’ll learn how to manually control focal points, and focus itself. You’ll also learn how to switch lenses. Most importantly, you’ll get comfortable exploring your camera and making mistakes.
Answer 4: The camera you’re most comfortable with. This goes back to the two previous answers. Once you have a camera, it will probably drive your camera choices from that moment forward. If you start with a Canon, you’ll probably stick with a Canon. If you start with a Nikon, you’ll probably stick with a Nikon. That’s why I recommend buying cheap and used to begin with. If you happen to fall in love with a different brand (like a friend’s camera) it’s easier to walk away from a small investment than a big investment. Also, in my opinion, it’s easier to take great shots with a less capable camera you are comfortable with than an expensive model you don’t fully understand. I started with Canon, and I’ve stuck with Canon. I know Nikon photographers who have done the same.
Answer 5: The camera you have with you all the time. If you don’t carry a camera with you, you’ll miss opportunities and kick yourself for it. That’s why phone cameras will ALWAYS be useful. However, if you have the time, reach for your DSLR/Mirrorless so you can make the shot really count. I never got rid of my first cropped-sensor Canon T5 camera, and I always keep in my car no matter what. Time and time again, having it with me has paid off. It’s not near as capable as my Canon 6D, but its capable enough. I know the buttons, the menus, the way the focal points work, and it feels right in my hand. I love it and will keep it until if falls apart. When it’s gone, I’ll find a nice used Rebel to replace it.
There it is, my advice choosing a camera. Use camera you own right now to learn what you can, look for a camera you can afford, get a camera just advanced enough to teach you what you need to learn, find a camera you’re comfortable with, and then take it everywhere.
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