Buying your first camera?
Firstly the question of buying your first camera is not a simple question.
Imagine another analogy for a moment imagine somebody asked you what would be a good first car to buy?
Your response would probably include lots of further questions, for example what is your budget, what do you need it to do, do you need a bigger car because you have children? Will have to carry equipment? do you need to be able to travel in Cleaner zones without paying an additional fee?
Do you want to be stylish all luxury do you want electric windows automatic lights or are you happy to have something more basic.
Are you bothered about the cost of peripheral items such as tyres do you mind having to spend on run flat tires or would you prefer peripheral items to be cheap.
It would be all the same 101 considerations for buying a new camera.
Do not be convinced into thinking you need the latest camera that cost thousands of pounds
Just as the car analogy any type of car will still get you from a to B; and any type of camera will get you from a to B. i.e. images.
Do not be convinced into thinking you need the latest camera that cost thousands of pounds to create great work.
I come across lots of people that spent a huge amount of money on a costly camera, most of the features they never use and will never use depending on what they are shooting.
I have work on my website that I created with my very first camera over a decade ago. This sports image was created on a 50d release date 2008.
As a professional, I have a range of cameras that are used for different things some of these include cameras that were released many years ago but they may provide a nicer colour balance for example on Portraits another camera me provide better tracking for sports photography as another example.
I still use DSLR’s for most things, my Canon 5d4’s give a nicer OOC colour balance than my Canon R6. But the R6 is better for tracking with sports and music photography. I would not recommend a mirrorless for landscape photography for example, its overkill.
You may wonder how someone would know all of this information if they have never owned a camera before? Hire.
You can hire cameras relatively cheaply from sites like Fat Lama which means you get to test lots of different bodies before you invest a large sum of money. Hire them for a weekend and test them out on lots of different types of shoots.
Some questions to consider
These are some questions to consider when thinking about buying your first camera
- What will you be shooting? If studio portraits or lifestyle portraits you do not need something with great tracking ability , you will never need it. See my article with Amateur Photographer about focusing.
- How much do you have to spend? Like everything in life your budget will dictate a lot? There is no use someone suggesting a 3k camera if your budget is £500
- How much are memory cards for that particular camera? a 128gb CF flash card is around £200, whereas a 128gb SD card is £25 so consider accessories such as memory cards and batteries in your purchase. Look up the various prices.
- How much are the other accessories for that camera? a mirrorless Canon flash is £1700, whereas a DSLR Canon flash is £600
- Do you want new or used? Again like the car analogy a new camera will lose value as soon as you purchase it, there are lots of great quality used cameras for sale. Look at MPB for some examples. I buy lots of used gear myself. And think about the benefits to the environment!
- Whatever you buy you will have to LEARN your camera, learn how to shoot in manual and how to operate the camera yourself. Spending 2k on a camera then shooting in auto will achieve very similar pictures to some of the latest smartphone. If this is how you plan to shoot, its best you stick with a phone.
- Again using the car analogy think about your first car? What was it? Why didn’t you buy the latest luxury car as your first? If you were like me I thought, I am not a great driver yet, I can make all the mistakes in this car, then as I got more confident I upgraded to a better car each time. I would treat buying your first camera in the same way. Buy something mid ranged and upgrade as you go along.
- All the main brands cameras are as good as each other! Yes I said it! So again don’t be fooled into someone telling you than one is way better. Back to car analogies … is a BMW, Lexus or Mercedes the best car? Everyone will say different based on their needs and personal taste. Test out holding the cameras and see how they feel in your hands to make a decision based on YOU. I personally use Canon and prefer the OOC colour in comparison to Nikons.
- Canon 5d3’s and 5D4’s are still amazing all round cameras, I still have and use both of these models, but they may not be right for you, hire one to test it out? They are very reasonably priced now as they were released a few years ago.
- All of the entry level cameras that are now released are better than the mid ranged cameras I was using years ago. See some of Canon’s latest releases here. I think the 250d would be my choice if I was a beginner considering what camera I should buy today. I started out doing a lot of documentary work and studio portraits, this camera would fulfil those needs.
- Megapixels should not be a consideration for you at this moment. Unless you are planning on shooting huge billboard campaigns straight away, do not worry about this. don’t be fooled into thinking more pixels means better quality, its does not. Most people do not print their images at all, and then when they do, most print up to A4. Even your phone can print to this size without it being problem. This was my first billboard campaign shot on a 50d/5d3
12. If you are shooting something fast like sports, you will need to consider a camera with decent frames per second. This is how many photos are taken in a second. Consider a body that shoots about 7 frames per second. Some of the pro cameras shoot as much as 30 frames per second.
As much as new cameras can do a lot of the work for you, you will be thankful in the long run if you learn to shoot on manual. It’s like learning to drive in an automatic car; you would probably struggle to drive a car with gears. But if you learn in a car with gears, you can jump into an automatic car with no problems.
There are LOTS of “used” cameras on the market that have hardly been touched. I have purchased a few from MPB myself , that literally feel new when i get them in my hands. I believe the reason or this is, people who buy cameras to “get better quality pictures” but its ends up palaver, hassle and costly, so they end up to going back to using their phones. Let me explain this more.
You buy a camera for say £300 – 3000 quid (yes that will often be the range) great!, you’re all set!
Nope …not quite, you used it the first time and the battery ran out, so now you need to buy extra batteries ranging from £20-100.Great you are all set!
Nope! You wanted to take pictures at a party you went to, but it was a little dark inside so now you have to buy a flash (£100-1700). You are all set!
Nope. You then realised you need a bigger or extra memory cards. So you buy more cards (£20-200 each). Great you are all set!
Nope. Your laptop is now getting full, so you need to buy hard drives to back everything up on. (£100-400) Great you are all set!
Nope. You now need a laptop to process the images. So you buy a new laptop – it has to one with enough memory to use the editing programmes required to process images (£700 – 3000). Great you are all set!
Nope. Now you need to buy / subscribe to editing programmes. (£50 – 400) this may be per year depending on which one you purchase. There may be free ones also. Great you are all set!
Nope. As well as taking pictures at events and of the children, you also want to take pictures of landscapes, and have been told x lens is better for that, so now you want to purchase a few different lenses to use in different scenarios. (£50-500). So now you are all set!
Nope! Now you have all these accessories, you need a proper camera bag to carry them all. (£50 – 300) so now you are attending family events and outings all dressed up, with this heavy black camera bag in tow. This is the reality folks! lol It also why you see me wearing black whenever I am shooting, a bag that has been put and thrown not he ground a lot, does not stay clean, so you can work out the rest! So you end up leaving your camera in these situations and just … using your phone! Because it is so much easier! Which defeats the point! If you can get past carrying around billy equipment though …
Surely you must now FINALLY be set ….
NOPE! Now you have to learn how to use it!!! Sure there is an auto function, but guess what, auto will get you something very similar to what you phone will get, because the camera is making all the decisions for you, just as most phones do. Do you may want to focus on a person in the background, but your camera decides different! Only shooting manually will do this correctly! So now you will have to invest time or / and money to do Youtube University, a course or some 121’s with a great photographer you may know 😉 … to learn how to use this properly so you get the benefit.
IF you are side eyeing me while reading this, thinking, na, Dee is chatting rubbish here. Think about the sat nav analogy. Have you ever just followed sat nav blindly, let the MACHINE do all the thinking, it then got you to your destination, but you thought, why the heck did it take me this way, I knew a much better and efficient way to go had I used my own brain and made the decisions myself? If you have ever been in that situation, well, shooting on auto does the same thing. It makes decisions that you would not normally make, so while you will get a result it may not be the best. It may decide that in a dark room it will slow your shutter down to let more light into the camera, so you will get a brighter picture, but now its blurred. It just knows it needs to get the picture bight, its not thinking about getting people in focus! So you definitely do have to learn how to use it.
I say all of this to let you know that it is a BIG investment in time and money. I just want you to be prepared for what it actually means.
How my kit started
I had no clue about all of this when buying my first camera. So I definitely made mistakes and bought stuff i didn’t need that I ended up selling after. I wasn’t prepared for everything, but one thing I did do was to stick it out! which is why you know me as a photographers today. It was actually easier when I started because phone quality was so rubbish, it was easy to not want to revert to pulling your phone out.
My first camera was a Canon 450d with 17-55lens. This was then how my kit accumulated. Canon 430ex flash. Camera bag. Photo Editing Programme. WD portable hard drive. Studio Light Kit, 3 flash heads, light stands and modifiers. Studio background stand. Studio background cloths. Trigger and Receiver. Tripod. Extension leads for studio lights. Sigma / Canon 16-35mm f4. Sigma 17-50 (can’t remember exact model – but I really didn’t need this in hindsight). Canon 50d and 18-200mm lens (a horrible lens for what I was using it for at the time – but again I knew no better). Canon 580 ex flash. Now needed a new bag. More WD Hard Drives to store images on. (started with small compact ones but they kept breaking, so now use the big bulky ones (ore storage needed and I don’t like cloud storage) Canon 24-105mm lens. Sigma 70-200mm lens. Canon 7d and it carried on and on and on.
And while you may be thinking, I am just buying my first camera, not starting a camera shop! And yes you may not need everything that I had, but I guarantee you will need some of the stuff that I started with.
Sorry but not sorry
Sorry I did not give you a straight forward answer!
Well I am not sorry actually, these are very personal decisions and my aim is to get you to think about what is best for you when buying your first camera, by giving you some things to look for, and giving you a frank outline of what it actually means, instead of me telling you what would work for me, or letting you run away with your romanticised idea of walking down a street in France, looking incredibly stylish with your cute camera and just flashing away creating magical art as you walk … stylishly! lol Take a look at what I usually look like when I am shooting lol. https://www.instagram.com/lensi_photography/?hl=en-gb
Happy Shopping, and please do circle back to let me know what you ended up buying as your first camera!