You’re thinking about a new camera and you’re not sure what to buy. Amid an overwhelming amount of choices this question still perplexes most people. Whether you’re trying to get into photography or simply needing image support for your craft, your blog, your website or your business, more than likely you’re among many people that are overwhelmed on what camera to buy.
The truth is photography can be and most certainly will become a money pit. The market is flooded with more and more equipment that gets better and seemingly cheaper by the minute. Canon and Nikon releases a state of the art camera and seemingly immediately release another version within a year or so. The same holds true for Sony, Olympus etc. You’re being nickeled and dimed to death if you think you need another upgrade or a better camera.
Just because they make a thing doesn’t necessarily mean that you must have it. The hard truth is that most modern day cameras can do most things. The thing to understand is that most cameras can’t do everything as well as another. You have to decide what you need it to do consistently and not try and stress yourself about keeping up with new releases. If you want to shoot fashion you need not get out of bed if you don’t have at least a minimum of $3,000 to invest in a camera body. If you’re shooting real estate or architecture don’t get out of bed for less than $2000. If you’re a novice general shooter and need to photograph a bit of everything (your kids, pets, wildlife, landscapes) don’t set your alarm to get up for less than $600. Seems a bit expensive and broad? It is because no one knows what you want to do, what you will grow into nor your specific needs. Some pros use camera bodies that cost $40,000. You’d think this camera could do it all. Guess what? It can’t. Many of these cameras are horrible for sports because of slower shutter speeds and poor cross product compatibility. So why $40,000? The reason for the price is technology. These cameras can produce the highest quality images, give the highest resolution, color, clarity and dynamic range beyond anything else on the market. Yet, they are more suited for studio work under extremely controlled conditions where detail and precision is paramount. Buy for what you need it to do and grow into another camera if need be later.
I’d venture to say that the camera you already own is being used to approximately 30% of it’s full potential and you’re probably already thinking about an upgrade. The little point and shoot camera you bought years ago is likely the best thing you’re ever going to own for your money. Truth be known you’ve taken extraordinary photos with it at some time or another. You still haven’t explored all the buttons and settings but you’re already thinking you need a better camera. The camera you pined for two years ago that was $1500 is now $1200 and new and improved. That still doesn’t negate the fact that you don’t even need it and that the camera you have can do everything you need it to.
My advice is to err on the side of conservatism. If you’re a novice or just wanting to get your feet wet, set aside about $600 or $700. Could you do it $300? Sure you could. However, your general upper end consumer level camera body potentially with a kit lens will give you what you want for around the aforementioned price. $600 or $700 should give you a little more functionality to grow into. As a novice or budding camera user you shouldn’t be too boxed in technologically at this price point. Explore it. Take pictures. Take more pictures, push buttons and change settings. It is the only way you’ll know what your camera can and can’t do. The last thing you want to do is go out and buy a $1500 or more camera to shoot your friend’s wedding and believe you’re gonna make a major break into wedding photography because you did. It doesn’t work that way. Why not? Because relative to your skill level and knowing your camera and the ins and outs of the business profession, that $600 camera may do better or just as well in the right hands. That depends on you and your affinity for using cameras among other things.
Some of the best photos I’ve ever taken many many years ago came from an old point and shoot Sony Cybershot. Even before the modern DSLRs became as popular and mainstream as they have I was exploring this little camera. Of course I used manual settings. Any true self respecting photographer or wannabe would only use manual settings. However, I know that in a low light wedding reception situation I would need nothing short of the Canon 5D Mark II. I only know because the more you shoot the more you know about what your camera can and can’t do.
Now on to the largest consideration on the table... What can you afford? Let me put things in simple terms everyone can understand. Will your one photo job, project, venture or whatever you wish to call it pay for your camera purchase? Will two jobs pay for it or three? Think of this in practical terms. Will the net profit taken away from your next photography job pay for this purchase and still keep the lights on and pay your license and business expense if you’re trying to do this as a business or to even support your business? If not, why are you looking at cameras beyond what you need and can afford? Better yet use this little trick I use to govern my spending; consider how many hours of work at your current wages or salary you have to work in order to purchase this camera. How many hours do you have to listen to your boss or client tell you what they want or need despite it being impossible or implausible? How many? Furthermore, if it’s a business expense then will the IRS justify your accumulated depreciation expense? If you’re not sure then you had better reign in your spending enthusiasm a bit.
In “tough love” terms if you’re punching a clock every day; punching in and out for lunch then you probably need to rethink the $400 plus dollar camera range. It just isn’t realistic or smart unless you have the luxury of excess unused income and your retirement and education accounts are intact and performing accordingly.
Just remember that most modern day cameras can do most things around the $600 range. If you need more camera than that level then you will have to pay more. I personally believe that for the average consumer wanting a camera or even a typical non-photography business owner needing a camera for occasional use; you can certainly get by with spending even less and get a wonderful product that will last for years.