Camera Buying Guide for Beginners

Buying a new camera can be bit challenging if you have never had the experience before. You are going to spend your money so it make sense to be extremely carefully to pick a certain camera model. This article will tell you everything you need to know before you make a decision to make a purchase toward certain camera model.

Common people might think that buying a camera is about megapixel. Well, megapixel is matter, but it is only a small piece of something even bigger. There are many other technical (and also non technical) aspects you need to know and understand.

Ideally, the proper way to buy a new camera is that you pick a model then conduct a research regarding the quality of the that camera. The problem is, you have no idea which camera you have to pick since there are a bunch of camera models offered by camera brands. No worries. As said earlier above, this article is going to tell you everything you need to know before buying a new camera.

5 key things you need know before buying a new camera

1. Type of camera

There are several types of cameras. For the purpose of this guide, I will only mention two most common types: DSLR and mirrorless. Frankly, I really hope that you have a more serious plan with your photography upfront. Before choosing which is the type have to buy, the very first thing you have to really understand is your future plan regarding your photography hobby.

These days, many people re talking about mirrorless cameras as they have become more popular in the recent years. Just because many people are talking about mirrorless cameras it doesn’t mean that you have to buy a mirrorless camera. Again, you need to really understand your plan in photography.

Each type of camera has its pros and cons.

  • DSLR

DSLR is the type of camera I personally recommend if you have a more serious plan with your photography hobby in the future. Say you want to make extra money from photography by selling your photos to stock photo site or becoming a commercial photographer.

DSLR itself stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. Physically, DSLR cameras have a bigger body than than mirrorless cameras. The reason is because a DSLR camera has mirror component. The mirror component on a DSLR camera enables you to look through the lens as you compose your image. Typically, a DSLR camera has larger sensor than mirrorless. That is the main advantage of DSLR camera since larger sensor is capable of providing better low light nosite performance. Larger camera sensor also provides better bokeh (smoother).

It’s just, sensor is not the only aspect to affect the end result of the photos. The lens you use also affect the quality of the generated photos. The vast majority of DSLR cameras — entry levels in particular — are bundled with a kit lens. The kit lens can be taken off and replaced with a compatible lenses (interchangeable). Another advantage of DSLR camera is that there are many options of lenses to tailor your photography needs.

  • Mirrrorless

The easiest way to distinguish a DSLR camera and a mirrorless camera is by seeing the body. Physically, a mirrorless camera has a smaller body because it has no mirror component like DSLR. Due to the smaller body, a mirrorless camera typically also has a smaller sensor. But these days, there are some mirrorless cameras — like Sony A7 III and Sony A9 — that boast a full frame size.

Same as DSLR, a mirrorless camera commonly also features a kit lens and you can also change it with a compatible lenses to tailor your photography needs. The biggest advantage of mirrorless camera is that you can easily carry it anywhere due to the smaller body. A mirrorless camera is a perfect option if you need a “take it anywhere” camera without sacrificing the image quality. One more thing. Mirrorless cameras also support RAW format.

2. Sensor

Sensor on digital cameras is the component that replaces the role of film on analog cameras. This is the most vital component on a digital camera. That is why you have to put an extra attention to this component if you plan to buy a new camera. When someone is talking about megapixel, he/she is basically talking about sensor’s capability.

In general, there are two types of camera sensors based on the size: full frame (ff) and cropped frame. A full frame camera typically has a 35mm or higher sensor, while cropped frame cameras have the smaller sensor than that. The cropped sensor on the Nikon cameras is called DX, while in Canon it often called APS-C. Logically, a larger sensor is capable of generating better photos. Apparently, not always.

There is a handy website you can take advantage of to check the score of a sensor of a camera. It is DxOMark. This website has an abundant camera database. Simply enter the camera model you want to check the score of on the search box. If the camera has been available on the database, it will be displayed on the lower right side of the search results. Click the camera and you will be brought to the camera page where you can see the score of its sensor.

3. Lense

Most mirrorless and DSLR cameras are bundled with a kit lens, but not always. It will depend on the camera model you want to buy and the shop that sells the cameras. If you want to buy a camera online, make sure to notice the bundle carefully. If the bundle already include a lens, the next thing you need to do is to find out what features available on that lens. Some newer lenses come with features like vibrate reduction (VR).

The most common range of kit lens being 18-55mm. A kit lens is good enough if you are just starting out with your DSLR. It is capable of generating good photos. If you want to know the quality of the photos generated by a kit lens, I have some examples here. All photos on that page were taken using Nikon D3400’s kit lens (at the time of writing).

While a kit lens is enough for getting started your photography, it would a much better idea to buy a better lens since a kit lens has some limitations. One of which is that you won’t typically be able to set the aperture wider than 3.8. You need a wider aperture to get a smoother bokeh. One crucial thing if you want to buy a new lens for your camera: make sure you buy a lens that is compatible with your camera (we are working on lens buying guide).

4. Specs and features

Digital cameras come with a bunch of features. Just read the features offered by the camera you plan to buy carefully and ask yourself, do you really need this feature? or do you really need that one?

There are several specs/features you need to put more attention to. Like ISO range and the maximum/minimum shutter speed a camera can handle. If you are about to frequently use your camera to photograph moving objects, choose a camera that has a more autofocus points. Or, if you want to use your camera to take some pictures in a long exposure mode (like photographing waterfalls), make sure that you can set the shutter speed slower than one second.

Recently, most cameras feature either a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to allow you instantly transfer photos from camera to smartphone/tablet. Especially for mirrorless cameras, you need to notice whether the camera you want buy features a viewfinder or not since not all mirrorless cameras have this feature. Sony A5000 is the example of mirrorless camera that has no this feature.

5. Brand

When it comes to photography, there are two major names and I am pretty sure you already know this. Those names are Canon and Nikon. In addition to those brands, there are also brands like Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm, Pentax and so on. Companies like Samsung and Xiaomi even also develop digital cameras.

Technically, there is no relationship between a camera brand you use and the quality of the photos you produce. But, some photographer believe that this camera brand is good for an outdoor photography and that camera brand is better for an indoor photography. A camera brand commonly has a tendency in designing camera. Some photographers say that making a setting in Canon cameras is a bit easier than Nikon, while some say the opposite.

One thing for sure, each brand might has a different term for their settings menus and also buttons. This will require you to make an adaptation if you want to make switch from certain brand to another one some day.

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Written by Aliko Sunawang

A blogger who also interested in photography. A huge fan of Marvel's movies



This article has 1 comment

  1. Emma Reply

    If you are eager to upgrade your gear this article is a gem. I’d like to buy a DSLR camera for personal use too. As for the brand, there is a heated discussion between the apologists of Nikon, Canon and Sony. However, it depends only on your preferences.

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