As freelance photographer I get this question all the time: “I want a new camera. What do you recommend?”
I follow it up with a question. “Well, what do you want the camera for? What do you want to take pictures of with this new camera?” The responses vary from pictures of my __________ (kids, pets, flowers, etc.), but it’s always followed by a long pause. A hesitation. It’s usually one of two things: they weren’t expecting me to ask a question or they hadn’t given any thought as to why they wanted a new camera.
For most, a new camera is only a new camera. When you ask a photographer what camera do you recommend it’s like asking a movie critic what movie to watch or a chef what’s for dinner. We need more information to answer it properly. With that in mind, I’ve created a few tips that will help you pick out a new camera. These tips are based on conversations I’ve had over the years. I’ll still be more than happy to provide a recommendation, but these tips should also help you narrow down your choices and help you make a more educated decision.
1. Seriously. Why do you want the new camera?
Be honest. Do you have a baby on the way and want to capture all the wonderful and cute memories? Perfect. New puppy? Sounds good. Are you simply replacing a broken camera? Knowing why you want the camera will help you figure out the options on the camera.
2. What kind of camera do you want?
Admittedly, you are asking me so you don’t have to give this question any thought. I recognize that, but that’s not how I roll. We are going to talk to this out. Why? Because I’m the photographer and I said so! All joking aside, there is a purpose to talking it out. There are several types of cameras and in order to give my best recommendation I need more information.
Let’s talk type. In its basic form there are two kinds of mainstream consumer cameras: point and shoot and DSLR (digital single-lens reflex). A point and shoot is just what it sounds like. You point at something and you take a picture of it: point and shoot. DSLR are the digital versions of cameras with mirror reflective abilities as well as removable lens. (A removable lens is always the rule, but it is the majority.) The single lens reflex refers to the components on the inside of the camera where a mirror captures the image and reflects the light to the viewfinder. In the past, the light that image captured was exposed to film creating a negative. Today, that mirrored image is converted into a digital file. The DLSR provides a higher level of control in regards to light, shutter speed, and other variable settings compared to a point and shoot. (There’s new technology that doesn’t require a mirror and allows for the same type of controls and speed capabilities as the DSLR.)
How much control do you want over the camera? If you’d rather let the camera do the thinking and really just want to take pictures at parties and social gatherings then a point shoot is probably more your style.
Do you want to change settings? There are higher end point and shoots that will allow to change and control some settings. But if you answered yes to one or both questions below I do not recommend point and shoots cameras. Period.
Are you going to be taking photos in low light environments?
Are you taking any action shots?
Now that you’ve figured out the type let’s talk price.
3. How much are you willing to spend?
If you plan ahead and think this through you will be better off in the long run knowing how much you can or want to spend. We are all guilty, myself included, of spending too much on an item. By setting a budget you keep from over spending, falling for a sales pitch, or settling for the wrong camera.
Once you’ve determined your budget and the camera you want. Research it. There are plenty of sites that offer deals on cameras. If you’ve got the time, try to avoid purchasing it from the first place you look. I know it’s easier said than done. On large purchases like this, do some price compairisons. It will be worth your time.
If you will ask yourself these questions you will be better informed and make a better decision about your new camera. I hope these tips have helped a little bit. Knowing what you want and how much you are willing to pay for it whether it’s a camera, a new car, or the latest gadget for a Christmas present will always make you a better consumer.
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