When I got my first DSLR camera, it was a Christmas gift, and I didn’t have to put any thought into it. I was pregnant with my boys and, like most moms, I wanted to be able to take pictures of them with something other than my phone or the point and shoot camera that had accompanied me out to the bars in college. (Yes, I’m old enough to remember when we took selfies with a camera instead of a cell phone…) It came with a kit lens, and some filters that someone talked my husband into and I was thrilled. I turned it on and snapped away, and soon I realized that I was in over my head because I didn’t have a clue what to do with it unless I had it in auto. I did learn how to use that camera, but that’s a story for another day.
There are so many cameras on the market, and they are all the “best”. One friend says you have to get a Nikon, another friend swears by Canon. How do you even know where to start?
Here are some things to consider.
- Image Quality/Sensor Size: In film days camera sensors were roughly 24×36 mm and a 35mm lens gave you the most true to life imagery. Digital cameras now have full frame sensors (24×36) or crop sensors that are approximately 1.5x. Generally, the larger the sensor the better the image. However, there is a much higher price tag that comes with a full frame camera. For most entry level photographers, a crop sensor body will suit you and your budget just fine.
- Resolution: How many megapixels does it have? This is only really important if you plan to enlarge your images. If you plan to print smaller sized prints, email them, and post them on Facebook then you don’t need to worry about them.
- Lenses: Many camera bodies can be bought with a kit lens. Most commonly it is an 18-55mm. In most cases, your money would be better spent foregoing the kit lens and upgrading to a higher quality lens. Prime lenses that have a fixed focal point (don’t zoom) are going to be faster and sharper. The thing to remember is if you are buying for a crop sensor camera, your lenses with also have a crop factor. For example, a 35mm lens with shoot at a 50mm focal length, a 50mm lens will shoot at a 75mm focal length. To calculate, take your lens’ focal length and multiply by your crop factor. (Nikon’s is 1.5, Canon is 1.3 or 1.6 depending on the body.) I found this the hard way by buying a 50mm and wondering why I couldn’t get far enough away from my kids when shooting in my living room when everyone said that the 50mm was a perfect portrait lens. Lesson learned.
There are plenty of other bells and whistles to consider when buying a camera, but if you take these three things into consideration, you’ll be off to a good start!
Here are a few beginner cameras that are worth looking into!
Nikon D5200 (this model is discontinued, but it was my starter camera and if you can find a refurbished body, I’d still recommend it!)