What camera should I buy?

advice | photography
polaroid camera in front of a happy light

There is one question I get asked over and over again. And it’s not the easiest question to answer. The question, as I’m sure you’ve probably guessed, is: What camera should I buy?

Here’s the thing… the answer depends on so many different factors! For example – what are you planning to use the camera for? What’s your knowledge level? And, most importantly, what’s your budget?

Let’s start from the beginning.

A shadowy passageway with shadows cast from columns

What are you planning to use the camera for?

And please, don’t answer this with “taking photographs”!! 😉 In all seriousness, are you planning to go out and shoot landscape photography? Maybe you want to take great holiday snaps. Or perhaps you want a camera to take out on nights out with friends. Each of these scenarios offers up alternative types of camera that might be more suitable for you.

So, definitely take into consideration the sort of images you’re planning on capturing on your new piece of kit. It’ll go a long way to helping you decide on which path to take.

What’s your current experience level? And are you planning to expand your knowledge?

Are you a complete beginner? Do you have a basic knowledge of things like exposure and composition? Are you planning to take courses or expand your knowledge further? Do you want to, eventually, step into the realms of professional photography? Or are you just looking for something to have a bit of fun with?

Lots of questions, I know! But the answers will definitely dictate the advice and answers I would give you. I mean, I would never suggest going all out and buying a full-frame DSLR if all you want is a camera to capture some fun snaps with friends!

Low sun shining under a concrete bridge

And the all-important question…

What’s your budget?

With the absolutely massive range of cameras available to you out there, you can spend anywhere from just a few dollars for a disposable 35mm film camera right the way through to megabucks on a professional level DSLR and a variety of high-quality lenses. So having a budget in mind is a key factor in deciding what camera you should be aiming for.

Something to bear in mind here… if you think there’s a chance this could turn into a serious hobby for you or, better yet, into a full-blown profession, be very aware that photography equipment can get pretty pricey! The pursuit of better lenses and other kit will have your initial budget flying out of control very quickly, so sensible (but maybe more expensive) choices early on will save you loads in the long run!

So, after all that… what camera should I buy?

Ahh, the all-important question! To answer it, here is a brief rundown of the many choices now available to you…

Film or Digital?

Go film if you’re looking for something fun, such as with an Instax camera, an old Polaroid or cheap disposable cameras. 

Check out this great article which shows you fun ways to use a disposable camera.

A group of men walks past graffiti on the Berlin Wall

Film is also great if you’re up for a challenge! If you want to learn how to expose photographs properly, how to get to grips with the technicalities of photography, then pick up a 35mm SLR camera and get shooting!

This article talks about the 5 best cameras for beginners.

And if you’re just a bit retro or want to tap more into your artistic side, you should definitely check out the world of Lomography! So much awesome!

polaroid camera in front of a happy light

Going down the digital route doesn’t make your choices any easier, though! Your choices range from action cameras like the GoPro – great for underwater shooting; shooting whilst on the move or whilst undertaking various active adventures – right through to high-end DSLR cameras like the Canon 5D Mark III for everything from portraiture and weddings through to landscapes, nature, architecture and anything in between.

This article from TechRadar talks through all the digital options in simple but great detail.

Fixed Lens or SLR?

The choice between a fixed lens camera, such as a compact or bridge camera, and an SLR with interchangeable lenses, whether analogue, digital or mirrorless, again comes down to how you’re planning on using the camera.

For weekend snapping, quick holiday snaps or nights out with friends, I would wholly advocate purchasing a reasonably priced compact camera because the options out there now are pretty awesome and the abilities of these cameras have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years.

For travel photography as a more serious pursuit, a superzoom compact or bridge camera is a great option if you don’t want to go the whole hog and get an SLR. With a fixed lens that usually covers a massive focal range, it’s ideal for shooting wide landscape shots and then zooming right in to get some incredible detail shots. All wrapped up in one single unit, making it lighter and far more practical than a DSLR. These cameras do usually come with a few more settings, as well, so you can take a little bit of control over things like your shutter speed and aperture, to a degree.

Going for SLR

Of course, if your love of photography is taking a more serious tone, then the only sensible option would be to step into the world of SLRs. These cameras have the ability to change lenses to different focal lengths, can be used in full manual mode so you control every aspect of the image, from ISO, aperture and shutter speed, through to white balance and exposure adjustment and so much more.

The choice of SLRs is wide and varied too. You can start with an entry-level DSLR, much lower in price and build quality but still with all the freedom of a DSLR to really learn the ropes. As your experience level increases, so to will your desire for better equipment. The joy of the SLR is that you can purchase better lenses and produce better images on the same body and vice versa, once your camera has reached its limits, upgrading to a better level body will give you so much more versatility. Mirrorless cameras, too, are really taking the pro-market by storm. With all the capabilities and standards of high spec SLR cameras but at just a fraction of the weight, many pro photographers are making the move over to these cameras, so give that some consideration too.

Canon or Nikon?

It’s the age-old question, uttered by photographers all around the world for decades. Which side do you fall on?

I’m totally kidding, of course! 🙂 Which brand you opt for really doesn’t matter, at the end of the day. What you choose to shoot and how you choose to shoot with it is what really matters!

I know this post has barely touched the surface in deciding which camera to purchase, but hopefully, it gives you some food for thought and an idea of where to begin on your search for your perfect camera. Just remember, when you ask me this question in future, you won’t get a short answer. Instead, I might just send this link over to you!

Happy shooting x


PS Looking for more photography advice? You should head on over to my photography mentoring blog: Heart Lines | Cultivating Photography with Soul! Sign up to my newsletter for some awesome tips on how to relax your clients in front of the camera 🙂