What camera should I buy?
I want the best camera you’ve got.
Give me the cheapest camera that takes the best pictures.
These are single-handedly the most frequently asked questions I got while working retail. Even now as a freelance photographer, I get these questions a lot and if I’m being completely honest, I can’t stand answering these questions anymore. Haha! I’m always (always, always) willing to help someone out with camera questions, but the reason these questions irk me so much is because they’re impossible questions to answer. Yes, in this case, the answer is completely relative. Let me break it down for you.
I answer all these questions with another set of questions: “What do you want to photograph?”, “What’s your budget?”, “Will it be used for a hobby or for a career?”. The camera you should purchase is the one that fits the style of photography you’re aiming for, the budget you wish to stay within, and the long-term use. It’s true, not all cameras are created equal but they are created very similar. Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, and Samsung are the major players in the camera realm and they all, for the most part, create similar products.
At the lower end of the price scale, you find point and shoot cameras that are great for carrying around in your pocket or purse, taking snapshots, or as a kid’s camera. They are very simple for just about anyone to use, however they do fall short in terms of speed, advanced functions, and flexibility in editing.
Take a small jump in price and you’ll find yourself in the compact system camera and compact DSLR section. Compact system cameras are just a fancy way of saying a point and shoot camera with more functions. They will generally be faster, may offer multiple shooting formats (such as raw), and function better in low-light situations but are substantially bigger than a pocket-sized point and shoot. Compact DSLRs are usually much better cameras at about the same size as compact system cameras, however they are a bit more complicated due to the interchangeable lenses and more advanced manual shooting modes. They also run very close to the same price as full-size DSLRs but you sacrifice quite a few functions in order to gain the smaller size.
From there, we move to full-size DSLRs with a cropped sensor. These are generally used by amateur photographers or those just beginning, however some of the more expensive models in this category can carry a photographer throughout his or her career. They offer more user friendly options, such as “auto” mode, touch screens, or creative filters to provide a more seamless transition from the point and shoot or compact system cameras.
Our final category includes professional DSLRs and above. These will be cameras with a full-frame sensor (or larger) and are meant for the most advanced photographers. Most advertising campaigns are shot on high-end full-frame DSLR cameras or digital medium format cameras and they can range from a couple thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the camera style.
So why are these questions unanswerable? It all depends on you. Your needs, your wants, your photographic style. My camera of choice? Canon 70D. I chose this camera by answering the same questions I ask anyone else who’s questioning which camera to buy. I knew exactly what I needed to photograph (this is obvious when looking at my portfolio), it was a camera within my budget, and it’s definitely an asset to my career. I chose Canon because I find them to be more user-friendly than something like a Nikon and when shooting with it compared to the other brands, I felt it did the best job for my style. Side note: cameras can be significantly better than one another on paper (looking at specifics and comparison charts), but if you pick it up and don’t think it performs as well as something with different specs, go with your gut. You’ll be better off for it. I chose the 70D because I already had the 60D (I still use it as a backup) and loved it. Upgrading to the 70D just gave me some sweet new functions in a camera I already loved using. Sure, I dream about Canon 5DmkIIIs (which will be the camera I upgrade to in the very very near future) and Hasselblad medium format cameras (don’t we all), but for where I’m at in my career as of now, I don’t need them. I’d rather have better lenses and a camera that I love than the best and newest with no options. Which brings me to a whole other topic…haha.
I hope this leads you to some clarity or at least left you with an idea of where to go next. And remember, I’m always up to answer your questions!
xo, Sara Faith
Medford, Oregon Photographer