Camera Buying Tips - How To Choose A Camera


I've had a lot of friends recently show interest in jumping into photography. A very common first question is: What camera should I buy? 

How To Pick The Perfect Camera (For You)

There are some hard truths I need to clarify first.

  1. No camera is perfect

  2. There will be trade-offs

If there was a perfect camera, I'd just tell you, and everyone would already have it anyways.

That being said, there are cameras better suited to the type of photography you want to take. Some are better suited for studio portraits, others sports and wildlife, and even others street photography.

The Three Things You Need To Decide

Picking a camera can be easily boiled down once you have decided 3 things, and how important those are to you.

1. What do you want to shoot?

2. How important to you is size and portability?

3. What's your budget?

What Do You Want To Shoot?

The types of photography that are going to be the most equipment specific are sports+wildlife, street photography, studio photography, and specific low-light photography like concerts or astrophotography. Outside of these areas most cameras will be usable. For example a point and shoot may be great at travel photography or portraits of your kids, but it most likely won't fair well at football games or bird photos. I suggest doing a google search of the more specific types of photography to find recommendations and reviews on well-suited gear.

How important to you is size and portability?

Some people want a camera they can keep in their pocket, others aren't perturbed by a backpack full of gear. If you want small, you need to look into point and shoots, bridge cameras, and small mirrorless cameras. If size isn't an issue, you can consider DSLRs or even Medium Format digital cameras.

What's Your Budget?

Try and set a realistic budget of what you want to pay. Photography can become a very expensive hobby very quickly, especially if you are buying new. You can stretch your dollars buying used, but you should do thorough research first. Expect an intro DSLR package to cost in the $500-1000 range, and for amateur level gear to cost around the $2,000 mark. Remember to add the accessories into your budget. On top of the camera you may need lenses, extra batteries, SD cards, tripods, camera bag, cleaning wipes, etc. These side items add up(especially lenses).

Putting these 3 criteria together and comparing your options to them is a quick way to narrow down what cameras would be a good fit for you. There are A LOT of options and combinations. There are also plenty of resources on the internet to help you choose though, including review sites like DPreview and even some on this blog.

Above all don't forget you can always ask questions! Talk to your friends who are into photography and see what they use and why they like it. Don't fret too much other the decision though because most cameras are very capable nowadays, some just might be a better fit for you than others.