What kind of camera should I buy?

I get this question more than any other.  It’s a difficult thing to answer without knowing a person’s needs:  What will they shoot?  How often? What’s their budget? hobby or pro?  The most important thing to remember is that the best camera you can have is the one you’ll take with you and use.  My expensive DSLR camera sits on the shelf most days while I do 90% of my shooting with my iPhone 5s (which has an excellent compact camera, by the way).  Before you make any decisions, make sure you weigh what’s important to you.  Then figure out your budget – and leave some money for lenses and accessories.  That will help you narrow down the type of camera that you want.  The most important part is using the camera OFTEN to build your photography skills.  If you just want a few camera recommendations, just scroll to the bottom of the page. But first I’d like to explain the two types of cameras you will want to consider: DSLR (digital single lens reflex) and Mirrorless ILC (interchangeable lens compact)…

Do you want to buy a DSLR?  It’s not the most practical camera but they take truly amazing photographs. If quality is paramount to everything else, you want a DSLR.  If you’re thinking of “going pro” someday, you want a DSLR.  They offer so much control and customization that you have practically no limits on what you can accomplish.  Of course, there’s a big learning curve and also a pretty big price jump.  The DSLR is for professionals… and hobbyists who want great images and have the money to spend.  Here’s what to expect with a DSLR:

Pros:

  • Superior image quality.
  • Total control over every technical aspect of the photograph you want to create (but also has “auto” setting)
  • Excellent for low-light shooting
  • Great selection of interchangeable lenses (if you have the $$$).
  • Most models also offer HD video recording.
  • DSLR models aren’t replaced frequently, so your camera won’t become obsolete next year.

Cons:

  • Big and bulky; the largest type of camera you can buy.
  • You’ll also need to carry the accessories with you (lenses, flash, filters, etc.)
  • A steeper learning curve than any other camera type.  If you don’t want to learn it, why bother buying it?
  • Cost

Bottom Line:  I recommend that you choose a DSLR from the Canon or Nikon family and choose the best one you can afford (while bearing in mind that a cheaper one might suffice).  Make sure you leave room in your budget for one or two additional lenses because you will want more range with your new camera!  Or consider which brand your friends shoot with and buy the same so you can borrow or “try out” their gear until you build your own collection.  I make some personal camera recommendations at the bottom of this page.

If you want something a little less intimidating and smaller in size, then maybe you want to investigate my next recommendation which is a Mirrorless camera.

A Mirrorless camera (also sometimes referred to as a 4/3rd camera or an ILC for interchangeable lens compact) is the latest type of camera that exists between a point & shoot and a DSLR.  Much like a DSLR, these cameras have larger sensors, support interchangeable lenses, and provide better manual controls.  But like a point & shoot or an iPhone, they’re often easy to use and aim to be as compact and portable as possible.  Some people feel these cameras are the best of both worlds because they provide superior image quality in a very portable size.

Pros:

  • Almost all the benefits of a low-end DSLR in a compact size.
  • Far better image quality than a point and shoot or a smartphone.
  • Small enough to be truly portable.
  • Interchangeable lenses.
  • A great choice for beginners who want to step up to a better camera without making the leap to DSLR.
  • A great choice for pros who want a smaller camera with little sacrifice in the quality of their images.
  • More likely to offer point and shoot-style extra features like panorama, 3D images, etc.

Cons:

  • Still won’t fit in your pocket.
  • Very limited lens selection.  Just enough to get by, in my opinion.
  • Using adapters to add additional lenses can sometimes mean losing automatic focus capabilities.
  • No proper viewfinder – just a digital screen.
  • In some cases you’ll be paying as much or more than a DSLR and that added cost is primarily due to the camera’s diminutive size.

You are not saving THAT much money by choosing a Mirrorless camera instead of a DSLR.  But as more manufacturers create these compact, mirrorless cameras, I expect prices will go down.

Bottom line:  Buy what you can afford.  Stick with any brand name and the quality of camera is usually great in the DSLR or Mirrorless ILC categories.  Point & Shoot pocket cameras vary GREATLY and I couldn’t begin to recommend camera models.

Here’s a few excellent cameras I can highly recommend at this time (February 2014):

  • Canon 70D
  • Canon T5i (or T4i)
  • Canon 5D Mark III (or Mark II)
  • Canon 6D
  • Canon 1DX (anybody want to buy this for me?)
  • Nikon D7100
  • Nikon D5300 (or 5200)
  • Nikon 3300 (or 3200)
  • Nikon 610 (or 600)
  • Pentax K-3
  • Sony Alpha a99 (or a77)
  • Sony Alpha 7R (Mirrorless ILC)
  • Sony Cybershot RX-1 (Mirrorless ILC)
  • Panasonic Lumix GH3 (Mirrorless ILC)

To see what’s in my camera bag, click here: http://buzzclickphotography.com/bag/

3 Comments on “What kind of camera should I buy?

  1. Good article. Surprised I’ve never even heard of the Mirrorless camera type – would have liked to try that out before going straight to DSLR. Still learning it and happy with what I get though. Wasn’t happy with the quality we were getting with the 3 year old Cybershot to capture our new baby.

  2. Hi Spike, can you recommend a good camera shop in our area? I need them to look at my Canon G9 and help decide on a replacement if necessary.

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