I’m thinking about finally investing in a camera for ____________- do you have any recommendations?!?
Friend/Family Member/Past Client
IT’S ABOUT TIME I FINALLY WROTE THIS POST!!! This is one of the most asked questions I get, so it’s time to put it all down in writing (with a couple Amazon affiliate links along the way to make your life easier and send some extra $$$ our way… 😁👍🏻)!
First BIG Question: What do you want the camera for?
There are so many cameras on the market, for all types of users, so the first big question is what you’re hoping to do with the camera. This post is going to focus on answers that look something like this…
I have kids and want to start taking better pictures of them.
I travel a lot, and I’m ready for my photos to go a step beyond cell phone quality.
I’m looking for a new hobby, and photography seems fun.
*If you’re looking for a point and shoot camera, this post is likely not for you (but this one might be). If you’re looking for a camera for home videos, then THIS POST is the best place for you to start. *
Second Question: DSLR or Mirrorless?!?
So there’s a lot of technical stuff to help explain the difference between the two (DSLR’s use older technology, and involve a mirror in the process of taking photos, while mirrorless cameras use newer technology, no mirror and the image goes straight to the sensor), but I’m gonna focus on simpler, more practical descriptions for those just starting to take photography more seriously.
DSLR (Digital single-lens reflex)
- Larger body
- Interchangeable lenses
- More tried & true technology that is more comparable to film.
- Lower price point on some of the best options for newer photographers.
MY RECOMENDATION FOR A STARTER DSLR… Canon Rebel (any of them)
The newer rebels probably have fancier features, but I shot 19 weddings with the T3i and loved it so can only imagine the newer versions are even better.
- Smaller & more compact. This is typically a pro, but I will admit that when I first used one I missed the weight and size of my DSLR which I had grown used to over the years.
- Interchangeable lens. Since they’ve been around less time, there have been less options for these, but this is rapidly changing.
- Smaller size makes them better if you’re shooting with a gimbal.
- Mirrorless cameras use newer technology, which offers lots of advantages but also means there are complaints on things like battery heating issues (Sony), etc. as companies are working out all the kinks.
- Typically a bit more expensive, but again depends on model.
MY RECOMENDATION FOR A STARTER MIRRORLESS… Sony a6300
I shot with this bad boy for two years (until some jerk stole it from me… I hope they’re enjoying it as much as I did 😩) and LOVED it. Takes stills and video, I found it great with kids (the autofocus was amazing and spot on) and the price point isn’t too bad.
Third Question: Are you looking to buy something beyond a kit lens?
Be careful when purchasing your camera (especially online) to notice whether or not it comes with a ‘kit lens’ (the basic lens that’s included with purchase… typically an 18-55mm). Many cameras are sold with the camera body only, so make sure to look for this.
The kit lens is a great place to start, but depending on what you’re hoping to shoot, things like focal distance (how wide or tight of a shot you can get) and aperture (how the lens will do in low light and producing bokeh) will start to matter more.
My two favorite lenses?
- 50mm 1.4 (I actually love the 1.2 the most because it’s BEAUTIFUL, but the price point is really high and you just don’t need it for every day shooting. The 1.4 is a great lens at a great price point.)
- 24-70mm 1.4. It’s large, but you can shoot almost anything with it. If I invested in only one lens at the beginning, it would be this one.
Fourth Question: What else do I need???
There’s a LOT of fancy accessories you can buy for cameras, but here are the ones that I think are most important (and why) so you can decide what makes the most sense for you.
- A camera strap. I hate the ugly black ones that come with the cameras, so the first thing I do is buy a colorful, fun one. Something like THIS.
- Memory Cards. If you’re shooting video, I’d suggest getting a couple 32gb or 64gb cards that are Class 10 or have a write speed of +90mb/s. It’s always good to have extras, and they’re not too expensive. Make sure to check if the camera you’re buying takes SD cards or CF cards. CF cards will do better when shooting raw photos, so depending on how you’ll be using the camera keep that in mind.
- Extra batteries. When I travel I pack a charger, but always like having extra batteries on hand.
- Tripod. This isn’t totally necessary for casual/travel photography UNLESS you want be in pictures with your family (this is a hard one for me) or you want to give long exposures/night photography a try. For the first one, I’d recommend a smaller, portable tripod that you can set on a table/rock/railing somewhere (this one is my favorite). For the second, I’d recommend something a bit more sturdy but still portable (something like this).
- Camera bag. Especially for travel, but even just for throwing your camera in the bag and taking it to a sporting event, a good camera bag is super helpful for protecting your camera and lenses. I have a collection of these that I love depending on shoot/purpose, so think about which features matter the most and go from there.