It’s a question that comes up every holiday season! What’s my advice on buying a camera?
Most consumers are looking to spend around $500-1000 on a full DSLR if they’re asking me, and I’m sooo happy to help! Unfortunately, I’m not really that familiar with camera offerings for the “pro-sumer” these days. That doesn’t make me better than you, it makes me poorer than you, trust me ;-) And right now, cameras do amazing things. The old credentials like megapixels are through the roof – awesome and unnecessary. So here’s what I think you should really be looking for:
(1) Canon or Nikon. They’re both amazing, and they are neck and neck with the best features and innovations. One year Canon is better, the next year Nikon is better. The best thing you can do is physically go hold them both in a store to see which one suits your hands and mental dexterity best. This first decision should be based solely on how it feels to you.
(2) Second big recommendation is do not buy the kit lens – the lens that they’ll offer with the camera. People tend to think the camera quality is where it’s at, but lenses are crucial. The key is to get the lowest aperture/f-stop that you’re willing to pay for. Some great ones can be found for a few hundred dollars. Photographers’ favorite, most recommended lens just happens to cost just around $130, so check out the Canon 50mm f/1.8 or the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 if you can! (for a little more, the f/1.4 versions)
What length? A 24-35mm lens distance will help you cover a big group, scene, or the room of a home. A 50mm lens is kinda the industry go-to, because it’s great for everything – namely people and any individual things you want to capture like flowers or a baby. The 85mm distance is great to have for a bit of zoom and depth of field (the background faded or blurred out), and anything over 135 will be a true zoom for things farther away. If you want to shoot wildlife, go upwards of 200-300mm. These distances can all be covered in a couple of lenses of course, if you want to purchase the 24-70mm zoom lens, etc. I’m just trying to give you some idea of that that looks like.
(3) DSLR cameras and interchangeable lenses will only look as good as a point-and-shoot if you don’t learn a liiiitle more about all the buttons. I recommend the book Understanding Exposure to get you started for just over $20, but then just get out there and shoot shoot shoot (I dare you to put your settings on Manual!)
I buy all of my gear from B&H Photo & Video and Amazon. Lots of great options with Adorama Used and eBay too, particularly with new gear being announced all the time.
When it comes to memory/flash cards, bigger is always great, but not if one gets corrupted. As a wedding photographer, none of mine are over 4 or 8GB because I can’t afford to lose a substantial part of the day. For hangin’ with my friends on the weekend, though, I do pull out my 16GB. Totally up to you. If you’re really gonna take a ton of photos, you will want to get an external hard drive for your computer too.
Another thing you might want to think about is your editing software. Many computers come with something, so it just depends on your commitment level. You can get the industry standard, Adobe Lightroom, for just $150 bucks, and it will allow you to do all kinds of easy things to your photos later. Way more than the standard on your computer, I promise.
Hope this helps! Please check in at my Tumblr blog for many more tips for the everyday photographer, here at http://staceyhedman.tumblr.com