Chris photographing the Livingstone Lighthouse on Belle Isle.
I’m sure if you did a search for most commonly used phrases on this blog, the phrase, “you don’t need an expensive camera to take good pictures” would probably come out on top. This is something I mention a lot because I know the price of camera gear can hold photographers back from pursuing their hobby or make them think they can’t make good images on cheap gear and that is just not true. Yes, an interchangeable lens camera system (either DSLR or mirrorless) will make it easier to get quality shots, but the camera does not make the photographer. I figured its time to start a series of photo tips on the blog and I wanted to start at the beginning – choosing a camera. I won’t get into the Nikon vs. Canon debate (although I’m a Nikon shooter, only because it was cheaper that day) or DSLR vs. Mirrorless (there’s a lot out there on this topic right now) but just simply what specs to look for when purchasing your first serious camera. Let’s get to it!
In my opinion, one of the biggest things you want to look for is that the camera has the capability to shoot in RAW. I didn’t understand what RAW was when I first got my DSLR so up until recently I did all my shooting in JPEG. When I go back and look at those older images I’m frustrated because I’m unable to do as much to them as I am to RAW files. My friend Steve at Burnsland.com recently posted a great article about the power of RAW files that is a must read for anyone who is scared to switch from JPEG!
Another thing to look for when camera shopping, is manual controls – the ability to control your aperture and shutter speed and do it easily (a lot of cameras have the setting buried in menus and that’s no fun for anyone). To be able to get full control of your images, you’ll want to be able to control your depth of field and the motion in your shot and you just cannot do this in camera that will only shoot in fully programmed mode.
And then there’s the sensor size question but honestly, any camera on the market today has a big enough resolution for most of the things you’ll be doing and, if you ask me, some of these new giant megapixel cameras are kind of a gimmick. Go out on one shoot and your hard drive is full! It is important to note that with smaller image sizes it is harder to do any significant cropping to the image without taking a hit in quality. But, for the average photographer doing basic printing and online sharing, you’ll be fine with most any camera in today’s market.
Interchangable lenses like mirrorless and DSLR camera systems have are obviously a better but more expensive choice than a fixed lens camera. But, if your budget doesn’t allow for that, definitely consider something with a optical zoom (the lens comes out of the camera) over the strictly digital zoom (like an iphone camera). My first digital camera was strictly digital zoom and I hated it because the zoom was basically worthless; it made everything very noisy. But, if that’s all you can afford, you always have the old-fashioned zoom, your feet!
So, to recap, when looking for a camera look for the ability to shoot in RAW, manual controls, and optical zoom. If you’re looking for an entry-level DSLR, I highly recommend the Nikon D3x00 series (I have the D3100 but the D3300 has newer features). You can also get older cameras used for a good deal (although, this is where you’d have to watch out for megapixel count)!
Thanks for stopping by! Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments! If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Flickr! This month I am taking part of an Instagram Travel Challenge, posting a travel photo a day on Instagram and I’d love for you to follow along!