This post is going to be part getting started advice and part kick up the ass if you feel you are missing out because you don't have a real camera yet or the latest and greatest kit. Allow me to hold your hand.
Many people start of in photography with a small compact camera or these days a mobile phone. They get the bug and then start looking at "real cameras".. not to say that a camera phone is not real it's just not a fully fledged camera.
So what next?
You start looking online or in shops at DSLR's or Mirror-less camera systems and lenses with eyes wide open. It's can be overwhelming and confusing so you take to Facebook Photography Groups for advice asking..
" I am looking for a camera which one is best for a beginner? "
You get a metric ton of replies within 30 seconds...
You should buy the Sony XXXX
Buy the Canon XXX
Get a Nikon
Buy any camera.
Canon are best... Nikon are best.. Sony are best..
Stop reading the replies and turn off Facebook.. Turn off the noise. Take a moment to watch this video and then read the rest of this post.
Enjoy the video? My Jumper? :)
Nobody can tell you what the best camera for a beginner is, no review site, no YouTube photographer. Why? They do not know you and you have not provided enough information.
I'm not saying this to be harsh but it's true.
The thing is you don't know what you want to photograph yet, what kind of photographer you want to be yet. You might lose interest in this whole thing 6 months in. What you do know is your budget and what photography interests you right now.
My budget is £500 or $500 and I am interested in portraits, landscapes or nature. At least the people trying to help have something to start with.
So you are looking to get into photography a little more seriously what gear to you buy? Well you can start with what you have, a phone, a compact camera and start getting to work on learning. Sure you may not have full manual control or a selection of lenses but you can start to work on some of the basics and start seeing a good photo whilst working on composition.
That said if you really want to get in to this you are looking at an interchangeable lens camera and they come in two common forms.
1. The DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera. These come in a few different sizes (formats).
APS-C - Crop Sensor, Think smaller sensor than means you are cropping in to the field of view or image of a lens. A 35mm lens on a crop sensor body will give you a 56mm field of view. Please note APS-C sensor sizes do vary a little but tend to be either 1.5 times crop or 1.6. 35mm x 1.6 = 56. This is the most common format on the market and is typically found in all beginner and enthusiast DSLR's. That's not to say that this format can not be found in a professional body.
Full Frame (FF), 35mm Full frame like the size of 35mm film. The holy grail of DSLR's .. ok may be not. This format is commonly used by professionals shooting weddings, portraits, landscapes etc. this does not mean that you need to buy one starting out. A crop sensor entry level DSLR is fine for both starting out and also professional work.
DSLR Costs - Mileage may vary.
A APS-C Crop sensor DSLR camera will range from £290 to £1200 body only where a Full Frame DSLR body will run you £1399 to £5100. You can save money by going with used gear which I what my kit is built of.
2. Mirror-less Camera systems. - These are typically smaller than a DSLR but can cost the same if not more depending on the system you buy in to. The reason they are smaller and also called mirror-less is they do away with the mirror that is found in DSLR's. This type of camera is also lighter.
You can find a mirror-less camera system from most brands these days.
Body only prices range from £399 to £4499.
Along with the camera body you will need a lens. Don't get too caught up in what lens, all you need to get out the gate and get started is a simple kit lens like an 18-55mm. They go from wide to short telephoto and can be used for a lot of photography work bar low light.
You may find a kit package that includes the camera body and lens to save some money but you need to factor in the cost of a memory card and may be a spare battery. Also add a little extra for a small camera bag as well.
You can get started for around £500 new and less if you buy used.
If you are in the UK a good place to look for used kit is https://www.mpb.com/ I have used them a few times with no problems. If you are elsewhere in the world you will find a similar company you can buy used from or of course you can try resources like Facebook groups or Ebay.
Before You Buy
It's tempting to just go online and order that camera that everyone in that Facebook group is using but I want you to stop, empty the basket and go to a physical store.
The reason is twofold, it slows you down and stops you from buying just any camera and it gives you a chance to get hands on with a few brands and models.
You need to get hands on so you can see if it fits, just like going trying clothes on... sort of.
Whilst any of these cameras will do the same thing and pretty much look the same they are different in the hand, the grip is different and the button/menu layout is different.
My brain preffered Canon yours may prefer Nikon.
Better yet if you have some friends that own cameras ask them if you can try them so you don't have a sales rep breathing down your neck whilst you are looking.
So you Bought A Camera - What Next?
You have your camera and lens, you have your memory cards and batteries and are all set to go take on the photography world.
The first thing to do is to get to know the camera you have just dropped your money on. You have a lot to learn about photography and it all starts with the fundamentals.
You can read your manual but let's face it some of them make for a sleep inducing read. alternatively you can look up a tutorial series on YouTube like the ones I have done for the Canon 500D/T1i, Canon 60D and Canon 5D Mark II. You should be able to find a quick guide or tutorial series for most cameras on YouTube or a site such as Creative Live.
What this will do is help you get to grips with the button layout, menus and features and get you moving.
When it comes to starting to take photographs you will start in Auto (Green Square) mode and that is perfectly fine. You have work ahead to learn about exposure, Focusing, lens selection and composition and that can be done over time.
Once you are on your way and starting to gain interest and move further forwards you can look to Tutorials online, 121 Training and Workshops but do not waste you money booking on an of camera lighting workshop when you don't know the basics yet.
At some point during all of this you will find what you like to photograph and leading up to this point you will photograph pretty much anything. Your kids, your cat, dog, food, flowers, trees, reflections you name it and this bit is great because whilst you are not learning about exposure specifically you are still learning whilst you are doing all of this. You are getting hands on practical time with your camera, looking at light, seeing it.
It's all exciting and new. You want to shoot portraits (for example) and you want to try manual mode. Things don't go so well and you become frustrated..slow down, slow down.
What I want you to do is look through this list below. Now I normally hate lists, you know the 5 point check lists that claim to have the answers for you. At this stage you need some structure to follow and ask yourself some questions.
Start Here ..
1.Read your camera manual or watch camera specific tutorials. May be do both.
2.Get out and shoot, even on auto.
Now ask yourself do you know your camera well enough (buttons, layout, menus) to move on to the fundamentals of photography? Honest answers please.
3. Now we need to start to learn the fundamentals. This starts with exposure. Now I'm not going to lay that out in this post because I have other posts covering this coming up. It starts with learning about Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO ( the exposure triangle). Stick to available light flash can come later.
4.Focusing, Auto focus, Focus and Recomposing.
5. Focal length and it'a effects on an image.
There is more to learn. It takes times to pick the above things up and really get to know them. All in good time.
I see too many people say they just want to learn the next thing (off camera flash) and they don't know what they are doing with a camera yet. You can't learn it all at once. Slow down.
I have some tutorials and articles planned to start to cover these as well as other stuff in between the lines.
We all start somewhere. Keep it simple, don't over complicate things.
For now all you need is one camera, one lens, Some Light.
Photography - Camera, Lens, Light.
Go get started.
Thanks for reading.