Buying a new camera can be a confusing process, how do you know what camera is for you? How much should you pay for a new camera? Which cameras are good for beginners? There are so many points to consider, so I've put together this handy guide to help you decide what camera is good for you.
What do you like to Photograph?
This is important because if you like to take photos of sporting events and need super fast auto focus and a fast frame rate (where your camera takes multiple shots quickly) you would look towards a camera that works well in these situations. The FPS (frames per second) is something you would look out for when shopping around. Currently a good camera for fast moving shots is the Canon 90D, which replaced the 80D if you wanted to look at a cheaper model. - I'll post links to places you can buy from at the end of this post.
If you prefer to shoot landscapes then your considerations might be more based on mega pixels and resolution rather than frame rate.
If you are a portrait photographer you would consider what camera and lens combination give you nice skin tones, if you plan to use the studio and already have your lighting equipment, make sure you avoid buying cameras that have the centre pin on the flash hot shoe removed (mostly canon cameras) You can read more about this here. We have been caught out with this before and it's annoyed a lot of photographers.
What is your budget for a new camera?
This is arguable one of the most important questions to answer when buying a camera because it determines if you need buy second hand, and the quality of lenses that are available to you. A healthy budget for a beginner camera and basic lens, with up to date tech for that level of camera, is between £300 and £500.
Buying a camera for a child
Children are constantly learning, their ability to pick up and learn to use an entry level DSLR (that I recommend for adults) is just as good as an adults ability (and some cases better!) So please don't buy them something more basic or toy like, you will likely frustrate them and pay over the odds for something that is more of a gimmick than useful at inspiring someone to enjoy photography.
Megapixels and Resolution
The resolution is the number of mega pixels that sit across the sensor within your camera - essentially the sensor records the light and the megapixels show you the images that has been created. The higher the resolution (number of pixels) the more detail there will be in your image, this is helpful if you shoot wildlife or from a distance and regularly need to crop into your pictures to help them fill the frame. The more you crop, the more megapixels you lose, so having a higher number to start with means your final image will still have more pixels to make up the detail. Higher resolution images will let you see individual strands of hair on a person whereas lower resolution would show the hair as all together, blocky in colour and not as clear.
Landscape photographers tend to want higher resolution images as then fine detail in the scene can be shown in their work. This allows beautiful images which can be printed BIG with no loss of detail. The higher the resolution the nicer the images will look printed. This is why we resize proof and web files to go online, it means if people try to steal and print them they wont get a great result with these smaller resolution files.
As a frame of reference, you can print an A3 image with no loss of detail for a 10 megapixel file. (That's small!) Most entry level cameras nowadays are 18 megapixels or higher.
This is one of the most important technical considerations when buying a digital camera. Up until the shift to focussing on mirrorless camera builds, manufacturers put their energy into making sensors work as best they can in low light, this meant a higher ISO range and better quality images at those higher ISO ranges. The ISO setting is the image sensors sensitivity to light, when working in low light the sensor has to work harder to 'absorb' the light and create the image, resulting in a lower quality photo. By working on the ability of the sensors to gather light whilst keeping the quality high, we have a bunch of cameras that work spectacularly in low light.
If you find yourself shooting in low light often, you may consider working with a camera that can handle those situations, for example the sony a7 s range are designed to do just that.
If you shoot wildlife or landscapes you may want to consider a camera and lens combination that is weatherproof, this way you can shoot in the rain without worrying about your kit. This information will be in the camera specifications when you come to buy, so look out for it if it's something you're interested in.
This is important for people shooting sports or wildlife, the faster the frame rate the more shots you take per second. Great for fast moving subjects.
Size, Weight and Convenience
Different people have different requirements when it comes to size. Some prefer a camera that will slip in their pocket, some want a camera with multiple lenses for a range of focal lengths to use for different subjects. Others prefer a bigger camera with a fixed lens and a good zoom. There are a variety of each of these types of cameras suited to everyone's budget. Quite often people choose to prioritise weight and convenience over quality and will opt for a bridge camera such as a p1000 which boasts a super zoom, great for wildlife and shots of the moon. I personally prefer image quality over convenience or weight, so opt for a Pro DSLR camera and good quality (but heavy) lens combination that requires a backpack but gives excellent quality images.
The quality of your images is determined by the size of the sensor (the bigger the better as it can collect more light) the quality of your lenses, better lenses give sharper results, beautiful depth of field and gorgeous colours. And finally, your understanding of how to use the camera, if you don't know how to choose the right settings you can be losing quality in your photographs unnecessarily.
Similarly to buying a camera, your budget plays a big part in what lens you buy.
Lenses are made up of these 6 main elements:
Build Quality - How well the lens is made, whether it is weatherproof or not, if it's made of plastic or metal etc.
Optical Quality - How well made the lens elements are, better elements provide sharper images and generally weigh more than cheaper lenses. Cheaper lenses are more likely to give you chromatic aberration, where you have green, purple or red fringes around trees or buildings against a bright sky.
Stabilisation - How well does in built stabilisation work? Some lenses have excellent stabilisation and will help you shoot with a relatively slower shutter speed in low light situations.
Focussing System - How fast is your lens to focus? Faster focussing lenses are usually newer and therefore more expensive.
Aperture Range - more expensive lenses usually start with a wider aperture opening (from F1.2 - F2.8) Kit lenses and cheaper alternatives will start between F3.5-F5.6
Focal Length - The range at which the lens zooms in or out. A wide focal length, i.e. 10mm is good for landscapes and interior photos but not for portraits, it causes some distortion which isn't flattering for portraits, but provides a wide field of view so you can see more in each photo, great for making a room look bigger or to show the vastness of a big scene.
Some excellent lenses to work your way up to are the 24-70mm F2.8 great for portraits, products and general use.
The 70-200mm F2.8 excellent for zooming in for speeches, portraits from a distance, wildlife that's not too far away (perch set up in garden etc) These two lenses are perfect for portrait photographers and are made by Canon, Nikon, Sony and Sigma. The Sigma Art version of the 24-70mm F2.8 is the newest version and is sharper with Nikon D810's (my source is a lens calibration expert colleague who recommended I switch from Nikon to Sigma) and I do really love the results I'm getting from it.
Most Popular Entry Level DSLR
The camera that I recommend the most which is an excellent camera for people starting Photography and generally exploring photographing different things, is the Nikon D3500. It has an good ISO range, it's not too heavy, it's relatively budget friendly, easy to use, comes with a general all round lens to get you started with and produces better quality results than bridge cameras, micro four third cameras or compact cameras. It's a great camera to start with because any lenses you buy for this camera can be used with a full frame camera if you chose to upgrade at a later date.
It would be hard to find this camera brand new but there will be plenty of people who have hardly used ones for sale having not got into photography as much as they thought they would have. I recommend using Wex Photo Video for all your second hand camera purchases.
I make a very small amount of commission on any purchases made through the links on my website. I also can provide more personalised recommendations, please email me if you have specific questions: Gem@devonpt.co.uk
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