Every man should own a good quality camera. You’ll be able to capture memories that you can hold onto forever and to express yourself creatively.
But with hundreds of different cameras on the market and even more confusing and inaccurate reviews online, deciding on your first camera can be a tough call.
Here are some basic guidelines to finding the right one for you.
DSLR vs. mirrorless
Over the last two decades, DLSR cameras have become the standard for all industry professionals thanks to their excellent optical performance and reliability..
These days, a high quality DSLR can be had for less than you might think. In the Canon line up, the T3i or the SL1, if you’re looking for something more compact, are both great starters. They cost about $450 (body only). The D5200 is Nikon’s equivalent at just under $500.
Mirrorless cameras don’t use single-lens reflex or “mirror” technology of DLSRs. The benefit is that they are much more compact while retaining professional-grade image quality. A lot of these cameras are styled based on vintage SLR and rangefinder cameras, allowing them to double as stylish fashion accessories. Unsurprisingly, mirrorless cameras are a growing trend among more casual users and street photographers.
It’s worth noting that in the current camera market, you’ll have to pay a couple hundred dollars more for an entry-level mirrorless than for a DSLR. The Fuji X100S is a great place to start for about $800.
Ultimately, you’ll have to decide which camera system you want based on your needs. If casual street photography is your thing, then a mirrorless might be perfect. If you’re planning an expedition to Kilimanjaro, on the other hand, stick with the more rugged DSLR.
Don’t fall victim to brand mentality
The photography world has its own, unfortunate Pepsi vs. Coke-style rivalry between Canon and Nikon. Online forums are littered with brand-crazed fanboys blabbing senselessly about how much better Canon is than Nikon or vice versa—all of which you should ignore.
The truth is that neither brand is better or worse, but they are quite different to use. Go try a few cameras in store and decide which makes more sense to you. This is an important step because once you choose a system and start investing in accessories for it, you probably won’t switch.
You don’t always get what you pay for
Technology has made possible for camera manufacturers to put high-quality image sensors even in their cheapest cameras. What that means is the difference in image quality between a $500 camera and a $1500 one is negligible. When you pay more for a camera, you’re just buying more functions, which, as a beginner, you probably won’t use.
If you’re going to spend extra money, you should do so on better lenses. That will make a noticeable difference in the quality of your photographs.
Go with a prime lens
Most DSLRs come with the option of buying a bundle that includes one or more lenses. While this seems convenient, you’ll want to avoid this option, as these “kit” lenses are usually the lowest quality available from the manufacturer. Instead, buy the camera body and lens separately. (You’ll end up paying about the same as if you had gotten the kit anyway).
If this is your first lens, go with a prime lens. Prime lenses usually have better optics than zoom lenses and have wide apertures that will let shoot in low light situations and get some really nice blurred backgrounds on your photos. Not being able to zoom will also teach a lot more about framing a photo by forcing you to move around and explore different angles.
Some good options for first time buyers are Canon’s 40mm f/2.8 and Nikon’s 35mm f/1.8, both of which will cost you between $150 and $200