Updated: Dec 9, 2020
This question is hands down my MOST asked question! The answer will surprise you, but I'm sure you already know it. Let's get right into what I think you should buy as a "starter camera."
First of all, I think it's important to clarify that if you have any camera, you can make art. Even a phone! In fact, my first years of exploring photography was on my iPod when I was 13 years old. When I was gifted a Nikon D3200 3 years later I was so overwhelmed with the newness of a real camera that I didn't use it for a whole year!
I later learned how to work with cameras through classes, and it's basically the same for every camera. You learn how to expose correctly, you learn the basic principles of design and how to compose an image... and then you shoot until you get it right!
The real underlying issue is that there are so many different cameras that could be considered a started camera, so it's more about what type of photography you're wanting to do!
We're going over what terms like "crop and full frame" mean, how to determine the type of company you want to purchase from, and what type of lenses you'll want.
Alrighty here we go.
1. Crucial Terms to Understand
Crop frame, full frame... these two make a big difference!
Photo by Darius Soodmand
Full frame cameras tend to be more expensive than crop framed cameras are. My first camera had a crop sensor and I had that camera for 4 years as I was starting out my professional photography business. By that point I was already shooting portraits and weddings on a regular basis, my business was beyond full swing.
You can use any camera to make beautiful art, so let's ask...
Are you needing a camera to start a hobby, capture pictures of family, take on travels, or to start a business?
For any of these options, you can use a crop camera if budget is the biggest factor, and as you work you can move towards an upgrade if in later years you need a function that a crop camera can't give ( wider frame without having to zoom out or run far).
For more information on full frame cameras or crop sensor cameras, check out this post! It gives great information and clearly explains the pros + cons.
2. What Company Should You Invest in?
What's better, Nikon or Canon? Another frequently asked question I get!
My first camera was from Nikon, and I adored it! I made the switch to Canon mainly because I loved where their mirrorless line was going as I was upgrading my camera. For a starter camera, I usually say these two things:
If you want to do more travel and landscape photography
- go Nikon.
If you want to do more family and portrait photography
- go Canon.
Nikon has a great selection of zoom lenses that you can use as a beginner to get all types of distance in your photos. It's great for landscapes and travel images where you can be close, then far, then middle ground... all around they excel at their zoom lenses.
Through my own shooting, I've also noticed that Nikon has more of a low contrast green base to their RAW images.
Canon on the other hand, is great for videos and they have a much larger variety of lenses that you can choose from in general. They have many selections of prime lenses and zooms that work for both full frame and crop sensor cameras.
I've noticed that they also tend to have a more magenta and contrasty RAW image which looks great on skin tones and requires less editing.
Short answer - they both are equally as advanced and will perform well, it's a matter of your personal preferences as well as understanding which company you want to invest in for the long haul if you upgrade.
3. What Type of Lenses
Lenses also comes down to preference and the way you'll be using your camera.
There are 3 standard lenses for this type of photography, a wide angle lens, a normal zoom, and a telephoto. This type of photography rarely uses a prime lens (which means there is no zoom) and opts for a lens that can get you to any distance you need.
A wide angle lens is anywhere from 14-35mm but can sometimes include focal lengths of 10 or 12mm. This lets you get nice wide angle shots that show the entire scene.
A normal zoom is around 35mm-70mm. And a telephoto lens 70mm-200mm to allow for extremely close up shots that capture detail.
Portrait/ Lifestyle Photography:
Lenses for portraits can also be zoom, however there are also prime lenses that do not zoom, but can have a crisper, creamy feel to your images. Both these types of lenses are ideal for portraits and lifestyle photography.
Typical zoom lenses are a 70mm-200ml to allow for close up shots, or to create a feeling of intimacy in the image. (Especially for weddings and places where you can't get super close during the ceremony).
I prefer to shoot my zoom closer to 35mm-70mm which is not a typical portrait zoom. I like the wider angle feel and actually prefer the way it shapes the photo!
Prime lenses that are common among portrait photographers are 35mm, 50mm, and 80mm. Anything over 80mm is where the typical portrait range begins, but 50mm and 35mm are both nice for lifestyle images so that you can get a bit wider of a shot instead of one that is took close up.
3. What Type of Aperture
You've probably seen a camera lens listed as f/1.8 50mm. That 50mm refers to the distance that we just discussed, and the f/# refers to the aperture.
This changes how much of the scene you see in focus. All type of photography can use different types of apertures in their lenses.
On all lenses, that f/# shows the LOWEST aperture that you can shoot with. Example: f/2.8 35mm-70mm can shoot with an aperture as low as 2.8 which will result in one small area being in focus, but can also shoot up to f/22 which would be the entire image in sharp focus.
Here are some examples to help explain! This is all up to personal preference.
So, when it comes to choosing your first camera, first determine these key factors and think about the reason you're wanting a camera. You'll find that any name brand will deliver quality, but that there are small specifics like in the lens that you should take into consideration!
Now, for the exact model, I would start with your budget, and then look at whether or not you want a crop or full frame. From there you can follow these tips on 5 Things You Must Do Before Buying A Camera!
And there you have it!
The answer to my most asked question!
It's overwhelming when there are so many options and you're not even sure where to start!
But by looking at your priorities, you'll find that it narrows down the options considerably.
Just remember, that the most important camera is the one you have, you can make art with ANYTHING!
So, you interested in more? Check out some of my top related posts!