Starting a new hobby can be fun but sometimes daunting too. Imagine if you wanted to start playing the guitar, do you choose an acoustic, electric, bass, or classic guitar? What accessories do you need? Photography can feel like this too but it doesn’t need to be difficult.
The chances are that you already take photos regularly. Nearly everyone seems to have a smartphone today and it is likely you take shots of friends, gatherings, food, and other areas of interest. Millions of photos are taken every day on devices, even Apple watches are able to take photos and videos.
So, your first consideration for beginning to learn photography is the equipment you need. You can learn different techniques and styles later. For now, you need to know how to find the right camera for you.
How much should you budget for your first camera?
Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to tell someone how much they should spend on their camera when they are starting out.
There are some questions you should ask yourself before you buy one which may help to decide your budget:
- How much can you afford?
- How serious are you about photography?
- Are you considering studying photography or is it just a hobby?
- Do you have hopes of making a career out of photography?
- What type of photography do you want to try?
There are many more considerations but these are some that should help you think about not only how much you will spend, but also what type of camera you will buy. Looking at some of these areas in depth will make things a little clearer.
How much can you afford?
This is fairly straightforward. If you are just beginning out with photography then you should spend what you can afford without borrowing. Many new hobbies are started and forgotten about and if you spend thousands of dollars on a camera only to leave it gathering dust you will regret it.
How serious are you about photography?
The next three questions can be grouped together here. Do you consider yourself a hobbyist, a budding Annie Leibowitz or are you planning on attending university to learn more and work in photography in some form?
A hobbyist could start with a compact or a good, solid DSLR but if you have higher aspirations you may want to consider spending more and getting a camera that you won’t outgrow too quickly such as a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera. Of course, what you want the camera to do and where you are taking it will also determine what you will buy and spend.
What type of photography interests you?
If you are the outdoors type then you may want to get something rugged such as the Olympus Tough TG-6 which is near-indestructible. It can go 50ft underwater and work in sub-zero temperatures so if it is a point and shoot you want for your adventures then this is the sort of camera you will want.
If you are working with websites or blogs then there are professional cameras for creating content on the market too. You might fancy yourself taking portraits or landscape photography, therefore you would need a different type of camera and there are plenty to choose from.
What type of camera should you buy?
It would be easy to explain what to buy if there wasn’t so much choice. Edwin Land created the first instant camera for Polaroid in 1948 and since then there have been 3D cameras, smartphones, webcams, compacts, DSLRs, video cams, and more.
Here are the main types of camera on the market now:
- Mirrorless cameras
- Bridge cameras
- Video cameras
- Action cameras
- Instant cameras
- 360-degree cameras
- Medium format cameras
All of these cameras have their place but you can probably discard a few straight away. Seeing as you are taking up photography as either a hobbyist or student then you won’t want an instant, video, or a 360-degree camera. If you really want to invest in a high-end smartphone for its camera then you might want to consider that you can get a great dedicated camera for much less.
Discarding the other types of camera leaves the compact, the bridge, the mirrorless camera, and the DSLR.
Comparing bridge, compact, mirrorless, and DSLR cameras
You probably know what a compact or point-and-shoot camera is. They are entry-level cameras with fixed-lens and automated features such as autofocus.
Bridge cameras are as the name implies a stop-gap between compacts and DSLRs. They do not have interchangeable lenses but might be good for some beginners, however, there is a good chance you will outgrow this type quite quickly.
DSLRs are an ideal camera for a beginner. They may look complicated at first but after you have learned how your camera works you will be able to make use of all the features. The Nikon D3400 is around the $500 mark and if you invest in this gear you will not only get a great beginner’s camera but one that will last a long time.
If you want something that is compact but has interchangeable lenses then a good mirrorless camera could be what you want. The Sony A6000 is the biggest selling mirrorless cam ever and it will fit in your pocket but at the same time bring a host of features.
One of the interesting points about mirrorless cameras is that you will view your composition on an LCD screen instead of through the viewfinder. When you change the camera’s settings you will be able to see how this will affect the photo before you shoot meaning that you will learn about aperture, shutter speeds, and ISO quickly.
Should you buy a second-hand camera?
When taking up a new hobby it can often be wise to get hold of some second-hand equipment. The benefits of this include the fact that you may get something that is sold new for far more than you could afford but at a couple of years old is now within your budget. There are some negatives though.
Firstly, purchasing a second-hand older camera may mean you miss out on some newer features like 4K Ultra HD if that was something that you wanted to have.
The next problem is you don’t know how the camera was treated and how often it has been used. Cameras have a finite life like any electronics and replacing parts can often be more expensive than buying a replacement. One area of a camera that has a limited amount of use is the shutter.
A camera shutter is estimated to last around 100k to 300k uses. When you buy a used camera you have no way of knowing how many times that shutter has opened and closed. Some websites can show you your camera shutter count but it may be too late if you have already purchased a half-dead camera.
Although there is no exact way to tell someone how to pick the right camera you can make it easier for yourself by following the guidelines above.
Make a realistic budget according to your requirements, decide how serious you are about photography, and select the type of camera you require. Once you have done that look for the one in your price range with the most features. Use online comparisons where you can and hopefully you will soon be enjoying your new camera and hobby.