5 Questions to ask before you buy your first real camera

camera-at-nightSo, you’re loving your cell phone and when you use the phone camera, you no longer say I’m taking a picture, you say “I’m really into photography.” Selfies become “self-portraits” and you are looking at how to improve your Instagram game. It gets you to thinking… “If only I had a ‘real’ camera”.

Despite many reports, the consumer market for cameras is not dead. Actually, it’s very much alive and there are more options than ever. While one might get a bit overwhelmed with all the choices out there, one thing is clear, almost any camera you buy will be far better than your cell phone. Yeah even better than an Apple or Samsung.

Now the question becomes… which camera (system) do I get? So here are some questions you might want to ask before you binge at Best Buy or Amazon. Also, if you can find one, try to use a local camera store.

What’s my budget?

Camera systems can get pretty expensive, but they can also be cheap. You can pay $10,000 or much more for a Lecia for example or go down to a pocket system from canon for $300. Before you go shopping ask yourself how much you can spare. And then add on some more. If you are planning to get an interchangeable lens camera, you’ll also want to get a few different lenses. That expense, or depending upon how you look at it, investment should be factored into your budget. Fortunately, the expense is usually over a long period of time. Very few amateur photographers buy all their lenses and accessories at once. It’s usually over a period of a few years.

What am I willing to carry?

A camera that’s sitting in your house doesn’t do much. You need to take your camera with you. Always! So, you must ask yourself how much you are willing to carry every day. Women have it easier in this regard, as almost all women have purses, while just some, but an increasing number of men have ‘man bags.’ If you’re a man new to carrying a ‘man-bag’ it does take some getting used to, and you still can’t carry it everywhere, especially with increased security going in and out of sports arenas, movie theatres and so on. You also might not like to carry many things because it does get heavy.

Consider that most DSLR cameras are going to be big and heavy, they have other advantages, but I’ll get to that later, while mirrorless cameras are often much smaller. Then there are ‘pocket’ cameras that can fit into everything but “skinny” jeans. And no guy should ever wear skinny jeans. By the way, don’t count out pocket cameras, some of them can give you very good shots.

What do I photograph now?

One of the most important considerations, when getting a new camera and/or new camera system, is what kind of photography do you currently do. Because most likely you’ll continue along those lines. If you take sports shots, such as your kids at school games, you’re going to need a telephoto lens, if you take a lot of low light shots, you’ll need a prime lens, if you take a lot of people shots, you’ll need another lens for that. Not that some lenses can’t cover multiple scenarios, as most of them are very versatile. In time you’ll learn each lens’s distinct advantages too. Fixed lens cameras don’t offer you a choice of lenses, but they do have unique advantages in terms of size, portability, simplicity and with better quality brands, higher clarity.

Digital or analog?

Yes, it is actually a choice now. While much fewer people shoot their pictures analog – meaning with a film camera, it’s a growing movement and an art form. Don’t believe me? Look up #35mm or #MediumFormat on Instagram. More and more people are shooting film instead of digital. There are several good reasons to shoot film. The first is that film is an art form, the use of film forces you to slow down, to examine each and every shot and to know some photographic principals behind your camera. It’s rare that you can just put it on automatic as you do with your cell phone, and simply point and shoot. You’ll need to understand aperture, depth of field, film speed and so much more. The second is that you can get classic vintage equipment for cheap. So, you can have a much better film camera for the money than you can if you were to get digital. Of course, there are disadvantages to film as well. You have to buy rolls of film, and that can add up very quickly as can the cost of developing. On a digital camera, you buy a good chip every few months and you’re done. Also, you can’t instantly download your image to social media when you use film. And of course, there is that learning curve. It’s easier to have a learning curve on a digital camera because you can see it right there. On a film camera, you’ll have to wait… and wait.

What kind of camera system do I want?

Aside from the Analog choice, there are three main types of (digital) cameras. The pocket camera, the mirrorless camera, and the DSLR. The pocket camera is the best for portability and a few of the higher end ones can take great shots. Your typical trade-off on the pocket camera will be the smaller sensor. When you have a smaller sensor, your photos won’t look as good when they are enlarged, and it becomes more difficult to shoot when lighting conditions are dim. Mirrorless is an increasingly growing segment of the market. With their larger sensors, limited light photography becomes less of an issue, and that is solved by the proper lenses. Even with the increased use of mirrorless cameras, there is still a lack of legacy and new lenses. Most well known are the DSLR type cameras. They are the largest type of camera a consumer would use. And because they have been around for as long as they have you have more choices as far as lenses go. If you’re planning to go professional at some point you might want to consider investing in a DSLR system as clients see a big camera and think it is a better camera. Not always true but that is the thought process.

I hope I’ve gotten you to think strategically before you plunk down your hard-earned cash and truly consider what your needs are before you buy. Don’t let your first camera become a very expensive paperweight. And read articles like this as well as YouTube reviews and such. Good luck and happy shooting.

Leonard Goffe is an author, writer, and journalist based in South Florida. He is available for your public relations, content development, WordPress design, SEO and technical writing needs.


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5 Questions to ask before you buy your first real camera
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5 Questions to ask before you buy your first real camera
So, you’re loving your cell phone but when you use the phone camera, you ask... If only I had a ‘real’ camera.
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South Florida Food Adventures
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