I recently received an email from Niki, a visitor to my website. I gave a fairly involved answer, so I wanted to include it here on my blog.
I was wondering if you could give me some advice on camera buying. I'm new to photography and am looking to buy my first DSLR camera and I'm not sure what to get. I have done tons of research and I'm still clueless. Someone told me to ask photographers, so I did some research and found your website in hopes you could help. Thanks for your time and any help you can give.
I understand it can be frustrating researching a big purchase, such as a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera.
Many years ago I bought my first SLR (single lens reflex), which was a fairly basic film camera. It wasn't terribly expensive, and it was all that I needed at the time.
I was still in the process of learning beginning photography techniques. At that time, I was struggling to get any decent photos at the high school football games I was covering, which are played typically at night in infamously dark stadiums.
I learned the basic idea behind all photography back in those days...it's all about light.
Sometimes you can control the light, sometimes you have to work with what's available. Cameras are simply tools that photographers use to work with light, both artificial and natural.
Years after toying with my first SLR, I researched extensively until I bought a digital SLR.
While the entry-level models are getting more affordable as more photographers enter the digital game, there are still limitations to the cameras on the lower end.
As with any product you buy, you get what you pay for. Like most technology, the quality grows by leaps and bounds with every passing year. An entry-level camera released in 2013, in some ways, can rival the higher-end bodies of five-plus years ago.
Back in 2006, I did plenty of research and found the Nikon D40 to be a wise choice for the sales price. At the time, it was the entry-level camera in the Nikon lineup. I have this camera today, and it still works well. I will often grab it on my way out the door, and use it as a walking-around camera in case I see something I want to capture.
Over the years, I've upgraded to higher-end cameras in the Nikon lineup. Again, I did lots of research and found what would best suit my needs and my budget.
I haven't regretted buying a new camera body, or any other accessories for my photography.
For example, I bought a Nikon D7000 (linked to Ken Rockwell, who does extremely helpful product reviews) about two years ago. It may not be fair to compare it to the older D40, but I found everything on the D7000 to be better. Of course, it was about $500 more than the D40 when both cameras were relatively new.
Then, you also have to factor in that the D7000 was released a few years after the D40. Like I said before, technology can come a long way in just a few years.
Companies like Nikon and Canon sell top-of-the-line camera bodies that cost a few thousand dollars. For the professional who uses the same camera bodies on an almost daily basis, they may have a justifiable need for all of the bells and whistles. Everyone else can get away with cameras in the entry-level to prosumer (professional/consumer) range.
Keep in mind that most features on a camera are there to help a photographer create photos easier. It may be a matter of convenience, or efficiency (speed).
Other features are upgrades to the quality of the images the camera produces. Higher end cameras tend to produce higher-quality image files, which can support the resolution needed for poster-size prints.
Every camera body has a sensor. When the shutter opens, the light from outside of it gets exposed to that sensor. You may have a firm command over photography basics, but the equipment you use will have some sort of limitations.
I think of a camera as simply a device for recording what my lens sees. And, as far as I've learned over the years, the lens is the single most important piece of equipment in photography.
I recommend investing most in lenses. As I've stated, camera technology comes and goes. The cameras will get better and better, making the bodies of years gone by obsolete or worth much less money.
Sharp, and higher quality images have more to do with the lens used than the camera.
The best lenses have larger apertures (which collect more light). My photography took a giant leap forward when I started using 2.8 and larger lenses.
As you can see, it can all get overwhelming rather quickly. Forgive me if I went into too much detail here.
My basic advice would be to think about your photography style. Also consider your skill level and overall knowledge of photography. A fair assessment of yourself will help you narrow it down to the best camera for you.
Some photographers aren't confident in moving the dial from auto mode. That's perfectly alright, but if this describes you, then you won't necessarily need any of the cameras above the entry-level line.
Photography is all about creativity. It's about acquiring the skills and experience to take images with impact. This can be done with an iPhone, an entry-level DSLR - or any other camera in the manufacturer's lineup.
It's not the camera. It's the operator.
Read up as much as possible, and eliminate the cameras that aren't up to snuff or overkill. After doing so, the perfect camera for you - at the level you're at - will be staring you in the face.
If you'd like to connect with me, see the following links:
Michael Tortorich on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/tortorich
Michael Tortorich Photography on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/MichaelTortorichPhotographyLLC
Michael Tortorich on Twitter - https://twitter.com/MikeTortorich
Michael Tortorich on LinkedIn - http://www.linkedin.com/pub/michael-tortorich/22/35a/a61
To reach me directly, call or text me at 225-717-0762.
Michael Tortorich Photography is based in south Louisiana.