Choosing a camera is often an overwhelming endeavor. There are many levels of camera’s starting with basic point and shoots and moving all the way up through the levels to professional DSLR’s. Since you’re here, reading this article I have to assume you have decided that the capabilities of your smart phone camera are no longer suiting your needs so you’re ready to move up to a dedicated device made with the sole purpose of picture taking.
The first thing you need to consider is how serious you are about this endeavor. You can spend anywhere from $200 on up to tens of thousands of dollars for a camera. You’ll also need to consider what you plan to take photos of. If all you want is something to take photos of your kids and the occasional family get together a point and shoot will likely be all the camera that you need. Point and shoots are great and take care of most of the hard stuff for you. They have automatic modes with built in flash and a built in lens that will allow you to get decent images without much thought. As the name implies, just point, and shoot.
If you want a little more functionality then you may want to look into a DSLR. This is where things start getting complicated. DSLR cameras have come down in price considerably in the past few years and they are now affordable for almost everyone. They also provide a fantastic image quality. Canon’s Rebel series of cameras is a fantastic place to jump into the world of DSLR’s, they are affordable, produce great images and can be used to learn the art of photography.
Before I go any further I would like to say I am partial to Canon, my kit is canon, I have only owned Canon DSLR’s and it’s what I like to use. I am not endorsed by them in anyway it’s just what I started with and what I have stuck with. There are plenty of alternatives out there that will produce excellent quality but I do not keep up with other brands or really have any knowledge of their products. For the most part if a Canon Rebel sells for $500 then the other brands will have something that is an equivalent price with a similar quality.
Ok back to helping you find a camera. An entry level DSLR is a great place to start if you’re serious about photography but still not 100% sure if it’s something you’re going to love or want to make a career out of. Entry level DSLR’s will typically come with a kit lens, have a built in flash and the automatic green box mode that will still allow you to shoot automatic which will be very similar to a point and shoot. An entry level DSLR has the advantage of allowing you to use manual focus, switch lenses and they have a manual mode that will allow you to really explore photography on a deeper level.
As you move up from the entry level DSLR there will be mid range DSLR’s. These will be more robust than the entry level, have a few more features but will still fall short of the pro level. Some of these will have built in flash, some of them will not, those without will require a hot shoe flash to add light to a scene. Once you are at the pro end of things you will lose all of your automatic modes and you will have no choice but to use a hot shoe flash if you want to use flash.
With cameras, when buying new, you absolutely get what you pay for. A lot of times in life when making a purchase you can get a cheaper equivalent that is just as good as the name brand, if not better. That is not the case with cameras. My recommendation is to figure out which category you will be in, point and shoot, entry level DSLR, mid range DSLR or pro DSLR, then buy the most expensive model you can afford. Keep in mind though, with a DSLR purchase lenses are the deciding factor in how your images turn out so be sure to leave some money for those. That is a topic for a different post but also something to keep in mind when you’re going out to purchase your camera.
I often recommend people just starting out to look into used or refurbished gear. It’s often far cheaper than the new stuff and if you’re just starting out it may be good to not have the huge financial investment of buying new gear. Keep in mind, the used stuff was top of the line when it was released, just because there is better now it doesn’t mean that the older stuff isn’t still good. Keep your needs in mind and see if an older model will fit them.