Tips: Buying Your First Camera

Buying a new camera can be a daunting and incredibly important decision for a photographer at any level. Whether a professional or new photographer, the slew of options on the market would make anyone hesitate. However, for a new photographer, it doesn’t have to be so difficult! In this blog we’ll go over a few tips in how to evaluate what camera would be the best choice to start your photography journey. 

As a new photographer, the first question you must ask yourself has nothing to do with the camera itself. First and foremost, you should outline and understand what your goals are. Do you have professional ambitions? Or is photography just a hobby for you? What kind of pictures do you want to take? Portraits? Street Photography? Landscapes? Or a little bit of everything? All these questions are crucial to evaluating which camera will best suit your needs.  

Once you’ve thought a bit about your goals, you can finally start to investigate what sort of camera might best suit those needs. There are three major types of interchangeable lens camera: DSLRS, mirrorless, and Micro Four Thirds (micro four thirds cameras are technically mirrorless, but have some unique qualities). These are broad categorizations, and this article won’t be going into brands specifically, but rather focusing primarily on these classifications.  

So, let’s talk about the differences and qualities of these three types. DSLR stands for “digital single lens reflex” which refers to the mechanism by which the camera captures a photograph. DSLRs remain the most popular cameras on the market. Mirrorless cameras are different because they don’t use a mirror like a DSLR does, this allows them to be smaller and lighter. Even lighter than mirrorless, micro four thirds cameras have a smaller sensor, and are even more compact than mirrorless cameras because of it. These ergonomic and size factors are something to keep in mind depending on what your goals are. If you travel a lot, perhaps mirrorless is a good choice, or if you prefer a more ergonomic option, a DSLR could be the way to go. One thing I would recommend is, if possible, try and visit a camera store and feel the camera in your hands before you buy it. This way you can truly evaluate how comfortable you’ll be using this camera and carrying it day-to-day.  

Now another thing you’ll be faced with when scrolling through the many options of cameras on the market is the sensor size. You’ll generally see three types of sensors: APS-C, full frame, and the micro four thirds that we mentioned before. The sensor is what a digital camera uses to capture an image. Generally, the larger the frame, the higher quality the image will have, as they are simply recording more information. Low light performance will also improve with sensor size. Furthermore APS-C and Micro Four thirds cameras will create a “crop factor” which will effectively multiply the focal length of your lens, making the subject appear closer than they would on a full frame camera with the same lens. The sensor is something to keep in mind, but for a new photographer, this should be low on the list of things to guide your decision.  

One final point to touch on before selecting a camera is lens selection. When you buy a camera, you’re really buying into a whole system. So before picking a brand, look ahead at the lenses offered by that brand, and reference the goals you outlined for yourself earlier. If you’re intent on becoming a portrait photographer, it would be wise to buy into a system with a good selection of fast, prime lenses, or if you plan to travel, perhaps you want to buy into a micro four thirds system that offers smaller more compact lenses. So, remember to have looked ahead at what lenses you’d like to use in the future, because they are often more important than the camera itself in terms of making your desired image.  

To end this blog, I’d like to remind new photographers that while gear is important, it is far from the most important thing in your photography journey. So don’t sweat this first camera decision too much. The amount of options can be stressful, but the most important thing is getting your hands on a camera and making pictures. No amount of gear is going to make up for poor composition, and many of the greatest photos of all time were taken on cameras far less advanced than even the entry-level offerings we have today. Gear is only a tool, and you should be informed before buying, but it’s far more important to know what your goals are and to work towards those in each image you make.