Occasionally I get asked for advice on buying a camera. The question usually is a point-blank, “what camera should I buy?” As in everything in photography, the answer is, “It depends.” Here’s the advice I gave to the person who most recently asked me:

There’s no quick answer to this question, as the choice of a camera is as personal as the choice of a car. The best camera is one you’re going to enjoy using. One with controls that are easy for you to use, and one that feels good in your hands. Don’t buy a camera without trying it out first and comparing it to others. You probably can’t go wrong with any of the big three: Canon, Nikon, and Sony, but there are other good brands, and they will all take technically good photos. If you concentrate on becoming a good photographer, the equipment doesn’t really matter.

I recommend going with an open mind to a camera shop with knowledgeable salespeople. Discuss with them the type of photography you’d like to do and what your hopes and dreams are for upgrading your practice as your skills improve. They’ll suggest cameras that fit your criteria, and you can try them out in the store. You can even consider renting equipment to spend a weekend living with each camera you want to try. Think hard about what types of subjects you’ll photograph. The right camera could be very different depending on whether you want to shoot performances, portraits, landscapes, sports, events, architecture, etc. Not being able to be specific since you’re just starting out is an acceptable answer, just be clear about that, and they’ll recommend a good general camera that can help you do it all.

If everything else is equal, get a camera whose brand is the same as other people in your community. This way, you can get advice from more advanced users and even borrow accessories to try them out before you decide to buy them for yourself.

If you think you’ll get serious about photography, it’s important to commit to a brand early on when it comes to your lenses and other accessories. Camera bodies come and go, and it’s usually the component you’ll upgrade more than anything else. Chances are that you’ll start off with an entry-level camera and want to upgrade as your skills improve. Your first camera will likely come with a kit lens, and while that’s a good start, you’ll hunger for a variety of other lenses for better quality images or specific artistic effects. Typically, most lenses and strobes will last forever and will work with future bodies. So if you invest in lenses for brand A and later decide to switch your body to Brand B, you’ll have to make the investment in lenses all over again.

This post’s opening photo of me was taken by a guest at a wedding I photographed in August, 2016.


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