Search: Advanced search
Browse by category:
How to Buy Your First High-Quality Camera
Buying a camera has never been more complicated: there are so many good options available, but picking between them can feel like a nightmare, especially if youíre just starting out with photography. Itís hard to buy a bad camera, but itís not always easy to buy the right camera for you. Hereís what you should be thinking about.
DSLR vs Mirrorless
Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras have been the main ďgoodĒ camera for the past decade. Theyíre based off the same design as older film cameras which use a physical mirror inside the camera body to direct light to the viewfinder. Space-wise, itís pretty inefficient.
In the past couple of years, mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (normally just called mirrorless cameras) have become a lot better, and more popular. They use most of the same sensors and components as DSLRs, but with an electronic viewfinder. This means theyíre a lot smaller and lighter.
There is a third category, too: Point-and-Shoot cameras, which were a lot more popular before the rise of smartphones. If you need something that is better than your phone and as compact as humanly possible, a point-and-shoot may be the right buyóbut the money is almost certainly better spent on a DSLR or mirrorless camera in most cases. So, for that reason, weíll be focusing on DSLRs and mirrorless cameras in this guide.
Right now, deciding between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera is the biggest decision you need to make when buying a new camera. Although DSLRs are nowhere near obsolete and still have the edge feature-wise, manufacturers are putting a lot of effort into making their mirrorless cameras better.
Here are some things to consider when choosing between DSLR and mirrorless:
Once you can answer these questions, you should be able to narrow the market down a lot by virtue of picking a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
What Manufacturer Should You Buy?
If youíre buying a DSLR, the main two manufacturers are Canon and Nikon. Sony, Olympus and Pentax also make great DSLRs, but they arenít as popular, so you wonít get third-party lenses and accessories as easily.
If youíre buying a mirrorless camera, on the other hand, then Sony, Fujifilm and Olympus are currently leading the way. Canon and Nikon have been slow to move away from the DSLR market, although Canonís EOS M5 released just this year has been getting great reviews.
To be honest, the differences between camera manufacturers are tiny. No one manufacturer is clearly the best with the others falling behind. If your photography is so good that the subtle variations in image quality between Canon and Nikon cameras are going to effect the photos you take, you donít need to read this article!
Again, if youíre already invested in a system, then stick with that manufacturer. If not, then manufacturer isnít going to help you narrow down your selection too much.
Full-Frame or Crop Sensor
The heart of every digital camera is its sensor, which is what actually takes the pictures. In general, the bigger the sensor, the better the photos, but the more expensive the camera will be. There are two main sensor sizes for DSLRs: 35mm (normally called full frame) and ASP-C (crop sensor). Mirrorless cameras come in full frame, ASP-C, and Four Thirds, which is smaller again.
If youíre buying your first camera, Iíd recommend something with an ASP-C sensor. You wonít get a full frame camera for under $1500 secondhand, while you can pick up a decent ASP-C DSLR or mirrorless camera for half that price.
For most people, the benefits of full frame just arenít worth the extra cost. Unless photography is part of your job, you have lots of disposable income, or you know you need the extra image quality and low light performance, youíre better off saving the money to spend on lenses.
Megapixels Donít Matter
Surprise: It doesnít matter how many megapixels your camera has. I genuinely donít know what the sensor resolution of my Canon 5D MKIII isóitís 20-something megapixels. All that matters is that itís enough.
Once you get past 10 or 12 megapixels, you can shoot pixel perfect magazine covers and billboard ad campaigns. Any camera thatís been released in the last couple of years has more than enough megapixels for most people.
Consider Buying Used
Digital cameras go out of date very slowly. There are plenty of professional photographers shooting with cameras that are six years old and producing stunning work. Newer cameras donít generally take much better photos, they just work in more extreme situations and have better burst rates, faster and more accurate autofocus, can shoot movies, come with Wi-Fi, and so on.
That means that as long as youíre prepared to lose out on the intense extra features, you can score some very good deals on secondhand cameras. If youíre on a limited budget and want to go full frame, or just want to save some money, it can be a good option.
I still use my five year old Canon 650D (released as the Canon Rebel T4i in the US) from time to time and itís a great camera. Canon has updated the line twice since thenóthe current model is the 750D or Rebel T6ióand hasnít changed that much. The sensor has gone from 18 to 24 megapixels and there are more autofocus points, but the images they make are still really similar. You can pick up a 650D for less than $400 secondhand; I canít think of a brand new DSLR thatís as good for that price.
So, before you buy, think about whether you really need the stuff a new camera offers. Fast autofocus and Wi-Fi are awesome, but theyíre extras. not essentials. Some photographers will need them while others wonít. Do you need a warranty, or are you happy taking a risk on a secondhand camera? If youíve got the money, itís obviously better to buy new, but you can get more camera for your money buying used.
A Few Recommendations
Even with the above things in mind, youíll probably end up overwhelmed by the selection. If you need a good starting point, here are a few good options we recommend.
For mirrorless cameras, Iíd go with either the Sony a5100 (The Wirecutterís best mirrorless for beginners) or the Olympus OM-D E-M10 II (Wirecutterís pick for best mid-range mirrorless and highly recommended by DPReview for its bang-for-the-buck). Iíve played with both and much preferred the Olympus; if youíve got the extra $100 that separate the two, itís well worth it.
Once youíre going past entry level gear, the prices start to jump, but so does the quality. The Canon 5D Mark IV, Nikon D810, and Sony A7 line are all used by professionals around the world, so if you have the money and want a boost in quality, you canít go wrong with any of them.
And donít forget: If you want to buy any of these used, donít just search for the recommended modelósearch for its predecessor models, too, which will be almost as good for less money.
Thereís a lot to think about when youíre buying a camera and Iíve covered some of the major decisions in this article. The good news is that itís actually hard to go wrongómodern cameras are pretty good across the board. Developing your eye for good photos will make a much bigger difference in your photos than the difference between two DSLRs.
|Others in this Category|
|Linux Tutorial for Beginners 2015: Learn Red Hat Linux and CentOS|
|How to Set Up Samba for Windows-Linux File Sharing|
|Samba4 as a Domain Controller|