When people learn we are photographers, they usually start asking us about our cameras. Sometimes they want to know for themselves or someone they know who is interested in photography. The truth is, there are a lot of options for the budding and experienced photographer, but first you want to consider the following questions.
- Is photography an occasional interest or something done when travelling?
- Has the photographer been dabbling for years, but is now ready to take it to the next level?
- Are they more interested in photographing places or people?
- Do they want to shoot indoors or outdoors?
You don’t want to spend a lot on equipment that sits idly in the closet for most of the year and there are many great options without spending a lot to rest out if photography is a hobby or serious passion. The camera is the biggest investment and often dictates other equipment, so it is important to choose the right one.
For the Occasional Photographer:
Camera phones are very sophisticated these days, but for those who wants more flexibility, we suggest a simple point and shoot to start out. They are more powerful than a cell and offer a lot of flexibility to learn the craft, while still being able to fit in a pocket. I recently purchased a point and shoot Canon PowerShot G7X Mark II for my wife as she is is learning more about photography. The pictures are so good that I often use it when we are out and I don’t want to carry my heavier camera. It offers 4.2X zoom and the ability to shoot RAW files, giving us more control over the final image. While she shoots mostly on auto, the touchscreen allows her to change the focus and the built in WIFI allows her to connect with her phone for easy posting to social media.
For the Beginning Photographer:
As a photographer gets more serious and wants more control over his or her camera, they traditionally move to a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera. The DSLR has been the camera of choice for years and there are many good options on the market. The Canon EOS Rebel T6 and the Nikon 3500 are excellent entrées into the beginner DSLR world and include the full kit of lens and camera.
However, before you make your final decision, you should check out the mirrorless options that have entered the market recently. They are generally lighter and smaller than the traditional DSLR cameras and have all of the features of the DSLR. And, some predict that this is the direction that the industry is moving. Choices in this category include the Fujifilm X-T20 or the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III.
So what is mirrorless? Traditional cameras have a mirror, which reflects the image for the photographer to view through the viewfinder. The clicking sound that you hear with a camera is that mirror shifting out the way to expose for the shot. With mirrorless cameras, this step is removed, as the photographer is looking straight at the subject via a digital viewfinder. There is no mirror. Besides making the camera lighter and smaller, you can shoot silently which can be handy especially with wildlife.
For the Serious Photographer:
As you get more experienced and want more flexibility, you start looking at camera bodies and purchase your lens separately. Sony is makes great mirrorless cameras like my Sony A7R III. Other good choices include Nikon’s new Z 6 and Canon’s EOS R which are fairly new entries into the market. All these manufactures have passionate fan bases and deserve to be considered. However, the key is to do a lot of research and narrow it down to two or three that seem best for your style of photography and budget. Once you have it narrowed down, visit a quality local camera retailer to get your hands on them. If you listen carefully, one will speak to you and you will know that it belongs to you.
The other option for your favorite photographer (including yourself) is a gift card to a great camera store like B&H. Box stores do not have the variety or expertise that you want to help make this decision, so we suggest finding a store that specializes in photography. A gift card allows your photographer to enjoy the process of trying out the many options and playing with all the “toys” to find the perfect fit. Cameras come in many weights and sizes so feeling at ease with the equipment is key.
And, speaking of B&H, if you find yourself in New York City, you must visit their store. It’s a candy store for photographers and is chock full of fun electronics and other fun items, plus is a great place to get your hands on that special camera.
There are a lot of choices in photography. If you are looking for more great ideas, see our thoughts on accessories including lens. And while it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the talk of pixels, sensor sizes and the other technical jargon when looking at cameras, don’t let it stress you out. The key is to find a camera you will use and keep handy.
Chase Jarvis wrote a book called The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You where he created a photographic journal of a year in his life using only a cell phone camera. He states: “…we all know that an image isn’t measured by its resolution, dynamic range, or anything technical. It’s measured by the simple—sometimes profound, other times absurd or humorous or whimsical—effect that it can have upon us. If you can see it, it can move you.”
These are words to live by…don’t get hung on the details to the point where you don’t make a decision. Do some research, make a decision and then go shoot and enjoy creating something profound, absurd, humorous or whimsical!