"What camera should I buy?" This is a question I get a lot…and one that, if I’m to be honest with you, I dread! There are so many variables to consider that it’s really impossible for me to recommend one make and model to you, but I know that you’re probably just as confused by the myriad of options and would rather I just tell you a quick answer to take away the pain. Sorry. I can’t do that. What I can do is give you a few tips that will hopefully help with your decision-making.
These are the important factors I think you should consider:
What is your budget?
If you’re flexible then you’re in a great position, but if you have a set amount to spend then that will narrow the field considerably. Regardless of your budget, I strongly suggest you review the lenses that are supplied with camera kits. Sometimes you may get lucky and the bundled package has a good quality lens included, but more often than not the manufacturers sell reasonable quality bodies with average quality lenses. If your budget allows, I suggest buying the body and lens separately as a lens is an investment and is something you can keep for a long time, while you are likely to upgrade a body as technology advances.
I’ve found that you get what you pay for with photography, so always aim to buy the best you can afford, and if that means waiting a couple of months to save up…then be a little patient! Photographers can be impulse-buyers!
What are you going to use it for?
If you just want to take good pictures of your family and your holidays, then you don’t necessarily need to look at a pro camera. Search amongst the beginner/enthusiast range. The mirrorless cameras may also work for you so check out Fuji, Sony and Panasonic.
Size and weight
You may find that a smaller lightweight camera is more practical if it’s something you want to carry with you most of the time. The bigger cameras can be cumbersome, so consider size and weight. There’s little point taking a big beast on holiday and leaving it in the hotel room after day one of lugging it around (been there done that!).
This controls how sensitive your sensor is to recording the light and this is one area where technology has really improved in terms of the range and also the noise/grain control. ISO 1600 on a new camera is much cleaner than on an older camera, and with ISO 24,500 you can shoot in the dark and still get an image! Definitely check the ISO range.
In continuous shooting mode you have a certain number of frames per second for a set number of images (burst rate). If you like photographing action…which definitely includes your kids running around…then you need to consider how many frames per second a camera offers. 5 frames per second is a good place to start…IMO.
You pay more for a full frame sensor, which means more pixels, which means larger prints…and also means your lens focal lengths are 1:1 (24mm is 24mm). Considering that only the minority of people print these days…and if they do…then it’s not often larger than A3…then a full frame sensor isn’t always necessary.
A crop sensor producing an 8MB file can still print to A3…plus you have a crop factor (1.5 or 1.6x), which means your lenses are a little longer, although not as wide. Can you live with the difference?
The more the merrier if you love to shoot fast-moving action. If you prefer portraits then you’ll often be relying on a small number of focal points, so having a 51 point autofocus system with a cluster of cross-hair type points (confused yet?!) may not be what you need.
Ease of use
I’ve used Nikon and Canon extensively and I have to say that I find Canon to be the easier to understand in terms of the menu language. It feels a bit more intuitive and you can find your way around a little easier, while Nikon still seems to use the language the Engineer programmers probably used in development. Not so user-friendly, and they can change the menus from one model to the next, which a bit annoying as you can have a new learning curve each time. Canon seems to be more consistent, but this is only my observation and there will be a learning curve with every camera system.
I also suggest you look at how the buttons and dials are set out on the camera and see if they are comfortable and easy to access and adjust. A good camera should allow you to change ISO, aperture, shutter speeds and white balance with a push of a button and a spin of a dial. If you have to go hunting into menus then this will slow you down in the long run.
Don’t get caught up with needing all the latest bells and whistles. It’s a highly competitive market and the brands are all competing for 'share of wallet' by promising you the latest this and that. Do lots of research before jumping in…and also read the negative reviews so you’re well-informed.
Here are a few websites to help you get started…