I get this question a lot. Having been trying at photography for such a long time now people who have no idea where to start with cameras have often come to me for advice. And over those years, my advice has changed. In the beginning, I was a hard-core gear-head. I told people that they should spend a lot of money and get expensive and complicated cameras because that is what I was trying to do. Honestly, it was bad advice. Since I've started, I've wanted every new camera that has come out. I've watched every review of every new piece of equipment on youtube. Heck, I've even added a lot of cameras to my cart on online stores just to see what the cost with shipping and some of the options I was wanting would cost. I've shopped for and used a lot of cameras over the years and I'm here to tell you that I've finally settled on a philosophy for the eternal question, "which camera should I buy" and I want to pass on what I've learned to you!
Where to start...
Deciding on a camera that is going to be best for you really starts with asking yourself a few simple questions. The trick however, is in being very honest and objective in answering these questions. Honesty here is going to make all the difference and could save you thousands of dollars! You could easily spend too much and get a camera that you cannot figure out how to work and get terrible pictures. Or, you could spend too little and get terrible picture quality. Or you can just get the wrong camera for your application all together and just stay frustrated because the pictures you are getting don't look good at all. When it comes to cameras, honesty is the best place to start.
How Much Do I Have to Spend?
This is the most important question you can ask yourself. There is a belief out there that if you spend more money on your camera, that you are going to get better pictures. This couldn't be further from the truth though. I've taken some really fantastic pictures on some really crappy cameras and lenses. Your skill and ability are the true determining factors of what makes a good picture. Equipment is a secondary factor. I know so many people who have gone out and dropped $1000 to $6000 on cameras and gear and their pictures are absolute trash! Then they are disappointed and the brand new camera sits in a closet for years. "Oh, you're a photographer! I bought a camera a few years ago and I took a few pictures with it but now its just sitting in the back of my closet." I've seen a whole lot of brand new cameras that have hardly been touched. So sad :( Set your budget and stick too it. Don't get sucked into the features or the megapixel trap. Megapixels don't make better pictures either! There is always a lot of upselling in the camera world so don't get trapped and spend more than you intended. I promise you'll regret it later!
What am I Going to Use this Camera For?
Knowing this in advance helps a lot! If you've going to be shooting a lot of stock shows, you need a camera that's good at low-light. If you're going to be taking photos of sporting events, you need a camera with a long optical zoom and a fast shutter. If you're going to try to do some professional photography you will need a camera with some options to that you can do a variety of work with your tools. Now, video capabilities are also something to be considered and the quality of video and audio have to be examined as well. Make a check-list of everything you think you might use the camera for, and prioritize them for clarity. There is no one magical camera that does it all. Just like you can have a smooth ride and great gas mileage in a car but can't haul a travel trailer you can't get every thing in every camera, you have to pick and choose. After you make your list and feel pretty confident start with good old fashioned googling to see what cameras work best for what your number one priority was and just go from there!
What am I Going to do with the Pictures I Take?
Let's be honest, no one really prints photos any more. Most of us are just going to post them to social media or email to friends and family. Sometimes they just sit on a card or a hard drive indefinitely. If you aren't going to be printing images, you need to consider how you are going to store the images long term. A camera with a lot of megapixels is only going to produce really large files and you have to find a way to store them. Also, do you have a way to transfer the photos easily from my camera to my computer or phone? Wifi or cable connection or card slots are an important thing to look in to before you purchase a camera. So many times people pull their cameras out and find out after taking their third picture that the data card is full, and they really can't delete any of the existing pictures because they haven't downloaded them yet. Keep your workflow and convenience in mind when it comes to digital storage. If you are interested in printing your photos, then more megapixels might actually help you get better prints if you are looking to print larger than 8x10's. Printing and producing physical photos is making a comeback so this may be an actual thing you need to think about when purchasing a camera. If you go into a store, take an SD card with you and put it in the display cameras and take a few photos and then take them home and print them and see which ones turn out the best! Its a great free way to try out the camera without making a purchase!
Something to Think About...
I hope I've given you enough to think about for a little while. My next post will focus on some of the actually differences between the types of cameras to help you get a better understanding of which camera may work better for you!