So What Camera Should I Buy?

The scenario often goes something like this.... I'm watching a subject from a distance waiting for the right light or right moment or both to happen while trying to blend into the background when someone taps me on the shoulder and says, “Hi. Are you a professional photographer? I love taking photos too, can you recommend a camera I should buy?”

As a professional photographer people stop me all the time and chat me up about cameras. couple with cellphoneI enjoy it even if I miss the shot I was hoping to get. I know there will be another one coming along eventually. But I can't answer that question quickly. There is not one right answer for everyone.

First you have to get an idea of which type of camera is most suited to your needs. I'm going to clump cameras into four different types Cellphone, Point & Shoot, DSLR, and Medium/Large Format and above. There are some cameras that break these molds but those are pretty much unique items, and frankly I'm not going to talk about medium or large format cameras because if you needed it you would likely know that already.

In my opinion the Cellphone camera does a great job when you just want a quick snapshot and aren't worried about quality. Though they often lack in speed and image quality they have a great benefit of being pretty much with you all the time and you can usually quickly share the photo with a friend or send it to a website such as twitpic, facebook or flickr. There is also the space consideration to take into account since many cellphones are limited to how much memory they have built into them unless you have one that has an easily accessible external memory card slot.

A step up would be the Point & Shoot Camera and it is a great all around choice if you want something that will take great photos, is easy and quick to use, and has expandable memory space. They come in big and small sizes, with tons or little features, with lots of abilities or next to none, can create nice photos or poor photos, and can cost a princely sum or very little. Generally speaking the more you pay, the higher quality lens, better features, and larger image size you will get.
I've known professionals to pick up a point & shoot for a special ability or because it fits a need for a project. There is huge variety of point and shoot camera and knowing what you want to do with a camera really helps narrow down the options you need.

If I don't have time to talk with a person, I'll often suggest the Canon G12 (or whatever is newest in the series) or a Nikon Coolpix model but honestly sometimes this is too much camera for the person or not enough to fit their needs.

A DSLR (or Digital Single Lens Reflex) Camera is what most professionals and advanced amateurs use. If you care about image quality, the versatility of the camera, or want a specific feature such as a wide angle or telephoto lens then this is the type of camera you'll likely buy. Most DSLR cameras give you full manual control but also have full auto modes, and the price you pay can range from moderately expensive to dear Lord how much does that cost again? And the expense doesn't stop at the camera body because if you put a bad lens on a good camera body you still will have bad looking photos.

For the most part the amount you pay for a camera and lens together directly corresponds with the number of features and the quality of image. Expensive lens usually give better sharpness and the ability to take photos in natural light at high shutter speeds. If you want something to just pull out and take a quick photo, you can do it with a DSLR though it may be cumbersome at times to haul around.

If you did want to experiment with medium format cameras you could get a Holga which costs about $40. It's made of plastic, uses film, and doesn't give you much if any control, but sometimes just experimenting is half the fun. You could also look at buying a medium format film camera from a pawn shop, garage sale, or ebay. They can be fun to play around with, and you can push yourself out of your comfort zone and experiment.

In the next part of this series I'll talk about some of the questions to ask yourself when looking to buy a camera.

Comments

what;s the difference between

what;s the difference between a dslr and  a point and shoot and what do you recommend me as a beginner.

Hi Maggie. The difference

Hi Maggie. The difference between a DSLR and a point and shoot camera are pretty large. A DSLR means Digital Single Lens Reflex. This is a type of camera that you look through the viewfinder and actually see what is coming through the cameras lens. You don't usually use an lcd to preview the photo, though most DSLRs have this option. The biggest difference is that a DSLR has changeable lenses. You can physically remove the lens and replace it with another one, and there are a ton of options such as wide angle, telephoto, or zoom lenses available.

A point and shoot is a basic camera. It usually doesn't have a viewfinder, and if it does it won't show you what you are actually seeing through the lens. Usually the picture is previewed on an lcd screen on the back of the camera. In addition the point and shoot usually lacks some of the controls that the DSLR has. On the higher end point and shoots there are manual controls so you could get in and control the exposure of the photo. The point and shoot also usually has a lens that cannot be removed. 

Now having said that there are a couple cameras that give you the options of a point and shoot with the ability to change lenses. They are a sort of hybrid of both worlds. 

As for what camera to start with, that is really a hard answer to tell you since it is a personal decision on what you want to do with it and what features you are looking for. As a person who wants options I'd point you towards the Canon G11 or similar camera. Nikon, Pentax and others make comperable cameras. If I were you I would walk into your local camera store and talk with a person at the camera counter to discuss your options.

 

What camera do you use?

Hello,                 My name is Suzie and I am in the process of starting my own photography business. I have now gotten to the point of buying a new camera and program. I am currently using Photoshop element 9 for my editing but I am finding that it is not doing as great for professional pictures as I would like. What camera do you currently use and what program? Thanks in advance.

Hello Suzie, I currently use

Hello Suzie,

I currently use a Canon 7D, but it isn't about the camera. It is about knowing what you can do with the camera. You probably want a DSLR camera that has a manual setting. To me that is a necessity. Whether it is a Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Fuji or any other DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) just depends on what you need it to do. You didn't mention the type of photography business you want to go into, so I can't recommend anything specific for you but buy a camera that will suit the needs you will have. I do recommend knowing what needs you will have before buying expensive equipment.

Also remember the lens is more important than the camera body. That is where your investment lies more than the camera. Photographers buy lenses that will last when you upgrade to a new camera body down the road. I would suggest at least buying lenses that have an f-stop of 2.8 or 1.4. They do cost more, but if you put a cheap lens which produces out of focus pictures on an expensive camera then you are throwing money out the window. Where as if you buy a nice lens and put it on a cheaper camera body then you can still produce good photographs and can always upgrade the camera body down the road (and use the other camera as a backup). 

As for a program to edit photos, I use the full version of Photoshop, but Photoshop Elements is defintely enough for some photographers' needs. If you plan on using layers and getting into more then the basics then I'd suggest going with the full version. But neither the program or the camera is what creates good professional photographs. I also use Lightroom for some editing, and I use Photo Mechanic for some selection of the photograph. Different tools for the right job.

Learning how to use them is what makes a professional photographer. Each piece of software, camera, lens, flash, etc is a tool in the arsenal and vision for a photographer. If you know the tools' abilities and limitations it will help you create better photos. Professional photographers can create great works of art with an iphone and an instagram application. Take a look at Chase Jarvis' iphone portfolio as an example of that.

I hope that helps, if not please feel free to contact me by email or ask further questions here.

Which camera should I buy

Hello,CamWhich has the best camera recommendations, and can help you answer the question Which camera should I buy? with cameras at every price point and category.Thankls,andrew

I certainly wouldn't trust a

I certainly wouldn't trust a site to tell me the camera I should buy. It is too personal of a choice, and there could be some up pricing or added benefit for the site to push you in one direction or another. I would walk into your local camera store and ask them if they have any recommendations. I good camera store is about selling cameras, but they also want a happy customer. 

Once you get some information from them, consider your own needs. What is your objective for puchasing a camera? Sports? Picks of family events? Selling your photos? Bulding a business? Each one has a specific need. 

Don't get stuck in the this brand is better than that brand. I used Nikon cameras growing up and now use a Canon. Sure every time I hear a Nikon camera shutter sing it's sweet sweet music, I miss it, but a camera is a camera is a camera (for the most part). Sure there are some duds on the market, but stick with a brand name and you will more than likely be alright.

First thing I would do after purchasing the camera is put it through it's paces. Take it out and take photos of whatever you intend for it to be used for. Go to a nearby park and have your kid, niece or a neighbor who is willing to help you out. 

If after a couple weeks it isn't doing what you want, return it. But there is one caveat. A camera is only as good as the photographer holding it. A camera won't turn you into photo savant.

Hi I want to start doing

Hi I want to start doing photography and open my own business.. I want to do engagement pictures newborns maternity kids family that sort of stuff.. Money isn't anything I need to worry about what kind of camera should I get and lenses?

Danielle, Without knowing

Danielle, Without knowing more about what equipment you already have it is hard to specifically say where to build from there. When starting a professional business, it is always a good idea to start with at least semi professional gear. A DSLR with atleast 2 zoom lenses and a flash at the minimum. Preferably 2 camera bodies so if one malfunctions during a shoot you have a second as a backup.

But before you start thinking about gear, what experience do you have? Do you have any experience running a business or taking professional photographs? Have you studied photography? Do you have experience creating photographs?

Working in photography will require the knowledge and understanding of how photography works from composition to how light reacts to how the camera sees light and what the limitations and benefits are compared to the human eye. You'll also need to know how to make people look good with and without photoshop. If you'd like to discuss it, I wouldn't have a problem emailing or talking on the phone. Just hit me up on facebook or twitter or contact me on here.

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