What Camera Should You Buy?

35mm photograph. Developed in darkroom by hand.

35mm photograph. Developed in darkroom by hand.

As a photographer, I am commonly asked by friends and family what camera is best. My answer is often complex. What I recommend to a Mom wanting to capture more moments is different than a hobbiest Photographer wanting to push their photography beyond amateur status.

While I am ALWAYS open to helping council, this post is written to help steer you in the direction right for you.

In the photography world, most photographers choose between Nikon or Canon and stick with it. Why?

Most photographers make their initial choice based on personal preferences of functionality. This can range from how easily accessible controls on the camera are to how the pixels of the camera are composed. 

Most photographers stick with their initial choice because not only does functionality remain relatively consistent from model to model but additionally lens compatibility becomes an investment factor. Camera bodies can lose value quickly while good glass holds or appreciates in value.

Why Nikon vs Canon or vice versa? It's not clear cut. All of us will likely sell you whatever WE shoot. The reality is both Nikon & Canon are excellent cameras. Many people starting out in photography find Nikons have an interface slightly easier to use and for this reason are becoming increasingly popular.

My experience literally consisted of me walking into a camera store and asking the woman behind the counter to sell me a camera. She shot Nikon, so she sold me Nikon. Today, I LOVE my Nikon because the pixels in low lighting conditions are incredible. I find Nikons produce less noise than their counterparts and the lens selection becomes increasingly favorable for challenging photography conditions.

So where should you start? Let's be honest, the biggest deterrent is cost. I mean, who wouldn't buy the BEST camera on the market if they all cost $500? You can buy a really nice hi res Nikon for as low as $500 or a professional grade SLR for upwards of $3,000. And that is just the camera. That's right folks, lenses are another part of the equation and truly make a WORLD of difference in what your photos ends up looking like. Let's also not forget all the other support equipment you may need including memory cards, filters, tripods, remotes, flash, etc. It can get pricey fast but remember, if you buy the right equipment it can be an investment that lasts. 

What did I do? My first SLR camera was a Nikon d70s. It was a DX camera (this means it has a cropped sensor). For most people starting out I say a DX is fine! You can get splendid pictures out of these cameras and always upgrade without trouble. The photograph below is one of the first I ever took with my Nikon d70s:


This brings us to when I decided to upgrade to my d700. I sold my d70 because I started to feel limited by the resolution and ISO capacity and invested in the best body I could afford at the time. I didn't know what I was missing with my DX camera until I finally stepped up to my FX camera. Lucky for me the d700 is an amazing camera to this day! The d700 is no longer being made and is now replaced with the d750 which is winning camera is the year in 2014!

I literally fell in love with the camera after the first picture I took turned out like this. In that moment I realized I had a treasure of the guy (my cat Myles) who curiously watched me open the box...


So your ready to go shopping? Here are a few rules:

Rule 1

Assuming your buying Nikon, don't buy DX lenses. If it's a kit lens so be it, but if you think down the road you may buy a FX camera, buy Nikkor lenses without the DX. DX lenses are often cheaper but they are not compatible with FX cameras. In other words, if you decide to invest in glass buy the BEST lens you can afford. The best lens is contingent on what you want to shoot, but as a general rule pay attention to the f stop number - the smaller the better!


Pay attention to the ISO range of a camera and keep in mind what you want to use it for. Some cameras are better for sports and fast action and others are better for landscapes. Know what you want to shoot and talk to a pro about what you want to do. One of my favorite places to buy equipment is B&H Photo because they have a real live person that knows their stuff is available to help you! Use them!


I wasn't the only one that was inspired by my first photograph from my d700! My Aunt Gail Thompson was so struck by it & was inspired to use it in her first endeavor in watercolor! Lucky for us we are a holder of this beautiful artistic expression. If you love what she does you can connect with her here.


Let Christmas come early! What camera is right for you? It's subjective. As I said before - Nikon people recommend Nikon so it should come as no surprise this where I will base my recommendation. Since new equipment comes out daily, this is subject to change but in general this is a good starting point:


Under $1k:


This is a great camera with a lot of features but not a lot of quick control. This is a nice family camera for someone not looking to learn about all the crazy aspects of photography but instead just want a good camera to catch their daily life.


Under $1500:


This is a great system to learn photography on. This camera provides access to the controls to learn how to shoot manual, but you will also benefit from the cropped sensor to keep things affordable.


Over $2k:


If I went out and bought a new camera today, this is the one I would get. It is the 2014 Camera of the year and good reason for it. 


Happy Photographing Friends! If you take the dive and wish to share your purchase please do so by commenting below or sharing on my Facebook page!