What Camera should I get?
This, by far, is the most commonly asked questions, and I don’t have a simple answer. Let’s start with:
1. What’s wrong with a camera you have now?
2. What do you plan on using your camera for?
1) The first question is pretty straight forward. If the issues that you have with your camera are related to its technical aspects, as in “Photos are very grainy in low light” “It only has 3.2 mpx” “I would like to have more control” then the need for a new camera is real. However, if the problems are more like “It just doesn’t take good photos [because i haven't read the manual]” then you should probably stick with your existing camera, read the manual, and maybe a book on Photography 101. This will greatly improve the quality of your photos, and save you money.
2) The second question is more personalized. What do you shoot and how you shoot is important. It determines which level of camera you require and the set of lenses that you’ll need. So let’s break it down into a few sections.
A Casual Shooter
If you need your camera for outings, friends, and travel and you’re not interested in lenses and hauling equipment, then stick with Point and Shoot (P&S) cameras. I can’t recommend you one simply because there is a huge variety available and they come out with new models, what seems to be, every month. Read the reviews on DPReview, and decide what suits your needs better. If you like taking your camera on vacations and dropping it into water, then get a waterproof one. Most of the P&S are great, so it’s pretty hard to go wrong here.
A DSLR Admirer
You want a nice background bokeh (blur). You don’t mind carrying a larger camera with you. You have a bit of money to spend (<$1000). You also prefer to shoot on Auto mode, possibly with some exploration of other available modes. If that sounds like you, then get an entry level DSLR camera. They are a step in-between P&S and more serious cameras. These will not break your bank and will give you the photos you’re looking for IF you will read the manual. Usually the built-in menu and modes come with helpful hints.
A DSLR Explorer
If words like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO do not scare you, and you have read a bit about photography, then midrange DSLR is for you. Why not entry level? Because you will waste time digging in the menus for settings that you want, there are no quick access buttons available, and you will outgrow that entry level DSLR fairly quickly. Prepare to spend a bit more money on your camera, then get addicted, and spend even more on lenses, accessories, and bags. Don’t forget to hit the gym cause you will need some muscle to carry all your gear. In my opinion midrange DSLRs are great, I had one, learned with it, and still love it.
A Serious Hobbyist
Well, if you belong to this category, I’m not sure why you are still reading. Get that semi-pro DSLR that you want and be done with it. Be careful not to spend all your money on gear, and remember that it’s not the camera that makes great photos, it’s the photographer. I’m sure you’ll spend more time taking iPhone photos anyway.
Now I really have no idea why you’re reading this, you already know everything, have all the gear, and make money with it. Tell me, is it better to invest into Mamiya or Phase One?
3) The Battle of Camera Brands
Nikon vs. Canon vs. Olympus vs. Sony… it doesn’t matter! They are all comparable and they play catch up with each other. If, say Canon, just put out a new camera, and Nikon’s one is 1.5-2 years old, get that Canon, because Nikon will wait another year or so to release a new camera body. The trend is that wedding and lifestyle photographers usually shoot Canon, while sport and nature photographers use Nikons. I suggest to get what feels good in your hand, and maybe the same brand that your friends have so you can swap lenses. Canon and Nikon both tend to lead the pack though, and there are more third party products made for both. Personally I use a Nikon, because that’s what was new. It feels good in my hand, better than a Canon. I do love Canon’s 135mm lens though. It’s amazing, but it’s not worth switching the whole system over. When you pick a brand, you’re probably going to be with it for a while, so choose wisely.
Lastly, if you have more questions and would like one-on-one lessons, I do offer those. Drop me a line, and we’ll teach you how to use that camera and take great photos.