While it’s true that smartphone cameras are drastically improving with each passing year, they will never be on par with real digital equipment. But luckily for the new photog, camera prices are becoming more affordable and easier to use. However, there are so many choices on the market today, that it can be intimidating to know how to pick the right one for you and your interests.
There are at least a handful of different brands, and within those, dozens more camera body options and lens configurations. And for someone who is just starting out in digital photography, it can be downright overwhelming.
Whether you are shopping for your first digital camera, for a better way to take family photos, or you are wanting to take your photography hobby to the next level, there are a few things you should know before making a purchase. It’s a little bit more complicated than saying you want to take pretty pictures and you have X amount of money to spend. A digital camera (or DSLR) is an investment, and making the right choice will bring you years of enjoyment and creative play. So, as you shop around, here are a few questions to ask yourself.
- What will I primarily use this for?
I’ve seen, time and time again, people buying outrageously expensive cameras just to take photos of their kid’s soccer games or family reunions. I’ve also seen people drop thousands on a camera never to take it off the “auto” setting, not even once. Take a realistic inventory of what you want a DSLR for, and adjust your budget and expectations accordingly. If you are simply looking for an upgrade from your point-and-shoot from five years ago, an entry-level body and kit lens should do you just fine. And if you are a talented and experienced photographer already, and plan to pursue it more seriously, you should look at a high-quality body with many functions, and a variety of lenses.
- How much do I want to learn?
Cameras these days come with some seriously impressive technology, and even I don’t know all the functions that my camera has, and I’ve been taking photos for years! Jumping from a smart phone or point-and-shoot to a full-scale DSLR comes with a steep learning curve…if you want to get everything out of it you can, that is. Be prepared to at least learn the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, but know that even the low-priced models have dozens of settings and features that go far above and beyond these things. If you are curious and have the time, you will probably get your money’s worth out of a nicer camera than someone who never even cracks open the owner’s manual. And with all digital cameras, we recommend taking a beginner’s course so you can get confident using your camera in all types of settings.
- What do I want to spend?
Yes, budget constraints are a reality, so comparison shopping is the way to go here. But first it’s nice to know a ballpark figure of what you have to spend, or at least a figure that won’t make your spouse angry or prevent the bills from getting paid. Sometimes first-time buyers underestimate the actual bottom line of their camera purchase, since there are several components that you will need to use it. Most entry level cameras come in a kit box, with a basic lens, small memory card, battery, power cord, and the like. However, just be careful that you are getting everything you are expecting to, and don’t forget to mentally tack on costs like insurance/accident protection, bigger/multiple memory cards, lens filters, and carrying cases.
- Where is the best investment?
Lots of people are swayed by the fancy, expensive camera bodies and end up skimping on the lenses they use in order to make up for such an uneven allocation of funds. This is a big mistake! The type of lens you choose will determine the quality of your photography far more than the body will, and you will find that your favorite lenses will come with you over time, whereas camera bodies lose their value quickly. Sadly, manufacturers place too much emphasis on the body, and don’t really bother marketing their lenses, which is a shame. If you aren’t certain where to spend your hard-earned cash, buy a lower-level camera but splurge on a great lens that you will use for years.
Venturing into the market of DSLRs can be tough, but with a little forethought and preparation, you can find a great camera that fits your lifestyle and your budget perfectly. When you’re ready to master your new camera, come on over and sign up for one of our digital photography courses!
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