How to Choose the Perfect Camera
One of the questions I get asked the most often is, “which camera should I buy?”. The world of photography can be overwhelming at first with all the technical terms like ISO, chromatic aberration, digital vs. optical zoom… yada yada yada. Today, I am going to breakdown what you should consider when buy a camera, the terms that actually matter, and give recommendations for each price point.
The very first thing you need to do when you are shopping for a camera is decide how much you are willing to spend on it. Cameras can cost anywhere from $300 – $3,000 or more, so having a number in mind is important.
One thing to consider when establishing your budget is how much you travel. Having your camera with you on a trip comes with the increased risk of damage or theft, so you might not want to spend as much on it if you are gone a lot.
Keep in mind that unless you buy your camera in a bundle, there might also be added expenses like memory cards, a bag, an extra battery, or additional lenses.
What will you use it for
The next thing to consider when choosing your camera is what you will use it for. Think about if you will stick to mainly taking photos or if you want a camera with video capabilities. Consider what you will take photos of… Are you wanting a camera to snap a couple photos of your kiddos on the beach or do you want to take epic photos of the stars at night? Heck, you might want to keep your options open and get something that can do a little bit of everything! That’s okay, just know that before you buy!
If you are buying this as your travel camera, another thing to consider is where you normally travel to. If you are beach goer, you might lean towards a camera with underwater capabilities. If big cities are your jam, you might want a camera that is a little bit lighter in weight.
Speaking of weight, you might want to consider how heavy a camera is before buying it. Generally speaking, the better a camera is, the heavier it is (especially DSLRs). If you typically walk a lot or pack for the day in a backpack while traveling, you might value a lighter camera more than you value perfect images. And that’s not to say you can’t have both – It’s just rare!
There are a ton of other little features that cameras can have that may or may not impact your decision. For example, my main camera has wifi capabilities that I never use, while my backup camera has a flip out screen that I use all the time. When you get down to the last couple contenders, read up on all the little features each one has to make your final decision.
Before we start with recommendations, there are couple tidbits you should know about cameras…
- Megapixels used to be a buzzword, but these days it is almost entirely irrelevant. Most cameras will have more megapixels than you will know what to do with. If you are looking for a number, I would aim for over 12.
- If a camera has RAW capabilities, it means it can shoot larger, more editable files. (RAW files aren’t always the best option though, because they must be edited and exported by a software that can read them before they are usable.) Most cameras have the option to shoot in either RAW or JPEG; you get to choose which one you use.
- Photographers looove to talk about low light performance. If a review mentions the size of the camera’s sensor, this is what they are referring to. The larger the sensor, the better the camera performs in the dark.
- If you are shopping for a lens, you might see a number (or a range of numbers) after the focal length. Ex: Canon 35mm 1.4. This is referring to the lenses max aperture, which controls the exposure of an image and those blurry backgrounds everyone loves. Generally speaking, the lower the number, the more expensive the lens.
If you are looking to get an intro camera at a decent price, this section is for you!
This is by far Canon’s most popular entry level DSLR camera. It is perfect for someone who wants a little more control than an iPhone, but is still learning all the ins and outs of shooting. For this price range, it performs really well in low light, especially the t6i version. A major advantage to shooting with a DSLR is interchangeable lenses. Having the option to upgrade lenses and play with different ones will take your photos to the next level.
This camera is basically Nikon’s version of the Rebel. It offers the same benefits that the Rebel offers when compared to an iPhone. There are really only 2 differences between them: the Rebel performs better in low light and the D3500 shoots faster continuously.
So, what does that mean?? Honestly, basically nothing. My biggest advice when people ask if they should shoot Nikon or Canon is to get whatever your friends shoot with. The truth is that there is very little difference between the two, so get the one that you and your friends can learn together on!
GoPro Hero 7 Black
This one is for the adventurers out there! If you don’t want the weight of a DSLR and are willing to sacrifice (a little bit of) versatility for it, then this would be a great fit. GoPro pulled out all the stops with the Hero 7 Black, including: voice commands, hyper smooth stabilization, 4k video, better audio, and more. Then it has the same old GoPro features we all know and love with underwater capabilities and extreme durability. If you are someone who wants an easy durable camera, this is a perfect fit.
Similar to the GoPro with mobility, Sony’s point and shoot is perfect for travelers who want an easy camera that still gets great footage. In my experience, this camera takes good photos, but it’s video capabilities are what sets it apart from other point and shoots. If you are someone who wants to start getting into vlog style videos and take a couple photos while you are at it, this camera would be a perfect fit.
One of my favorite budget hacks is to buy used gear. Photographers are constantly upgrading their equipment, which means there are always plenty of great cameras on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or eBay.
If you have photo basics down and are looking to upgrade your camera, these are for you!
Update your iPhone
This one probably seems like it’s coming out of left field, especially in the moderate recommendations section, but hear me out. The new iPhone cameras have changed the game. The camera on the iPhone X would be a great easy way to get some awesome photos and videos, if you use it well.
RELATED | How to Take Amazing Photos on your iPhone + How to Easily Edit Photos on your iPhone
Used Canon 80d + A great lens!
This camera is my favorite one to recommend! You can pick up a used 80d for about $650 on eBay + match it with an awesome prime lens (like the 50mm f/1.8) and you have a great setup for less than a thousand bucks. This camera takes great photos and everything you need to start making videos, including face tracking. It offers the same versatility as other DSLRs with interchangeable lenses. This is a great fit for anyone who has photo basics down and is looking for an inexpensive upgrade!
Once again, this is the Nikon version of a Canon. It has similar features to the 80d and is perfect for the same type of shooter: someone who is ready to upgrade. The D7500 has better color, faster continuous shooting, and higher quality video recording. The 80D shoots better in low light, has more focal points, and is wifi enabled.
Used Canon 6d
If you are ready to make the jump to full frame, this camera is for you. It’s the most inexpensive full frame in Canon’s lineup and is perfect for someone mainly interested in photo. Match it with an awesome prime lens and you will love it.
Ballin out Recommendations
If you have a good grip on photography and are looking to get a camera as great as you are, this section is for you!
Canon 5d Mark IV
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “Wow. I love the mark IV”, I could buy another one. 😉 This is my main camera and it’s safe to say I am in love. It’s sharp as a tack and excellent in low light. Canon added face tracking for video this go round, making experimenting with video easier than ever. If you go with this one, match it with an equally amazing lens and you will be in love!
Nikon had an answer to the Canon 5d Mark IV and they weren’t playing y’all. The D850 has a bigger sensor, a tilting screen, faster continuous shooting, longer battery life, better AF, the whole works. Not to mention that it’s cheaper! The only place it doesn’t have the Mark IV beat is with video autofocus. (This was enough for me to stick with Canon.) If you are interested in taking seriously amazing photos, this would be a great upgrade!
Upgrade your lenses
The last ballin out rec is to upgrade your lens! The pros always say that if you have a thousand dollars to spend, spend it on a lens. The great thing about investing in lenses is that you can keep them as you upgrade camera bodies and they hold their value. If you are ready to upgrade, I recommend getting a great prime 50mm or 35mm. These are about the width we see at, so shooting with them feels natural. If you want a zoom lens, I’d say it’s worth it to spend the money to invest in a top of the line one.
For the Canon shooters, this is my lens lineup…
- Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4
- Canon 35mm f/1.4 II L
- Canon 50mm f/1.2 L
- Canon 100mm Macro f/2.8 L
- Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 II L
- Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 II L
Still trying to decide which 35 I like best, but other than that I love and would recommend all of these lenses!
Okay y’all! You should be all set for choosing your next camera! If this is your first one, let me know what you chose in the comments below! Happy shooting!
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