Which Camera Should I Buy?Spoiler alert, this isn't really a guide at all.
As a professional photographer, one of the questions I get most frequently from friends and family is ‘Which camera should I buy?’. In fairness it’s probably not so much that I take photos for a living as it is the fact that I geek out about camera tech at any given opportunity. The problem is the answer is more complicated than most people think. Even those that understand there are different types of camera often fail to see why I would recommend two different cameras to people looking to photograph the exact same subject matter. With that in mind I’ll start out by saying that this isn’t intended to be a guide telling you to buy any individual camera or even manufacturer. It’s more a starting point, to get you asking the questions you need to ask yourself if you’re in the market for a new bit of kit. They are the kind of questions that so many people – professionals and amateurs alike – fail to ask themselves, instead ending up buying a camera because it’s the ‘latest and greatest’, or the one all of their peers are using.
I remember a few years back when the Nikon d750 was released to a furore of excitement within the photography community. In particular the wedding photography industry began to widely adopt the d750 as the camera of the moment. The huge leap in dynamic range was the pull for wedding photographers worldwide with numerous peers making the switch from their brands of choice to Nikon. As it transpired, the d750 turned out to be plagued with issues – which of course Nikon rectified through recalls and updates. For many photographers reliability wouldn’t be as much but for wedding photographers reliability trumps just about everything else – even the dynamic range those that bought the Nikon had so coveted. Now I’m not saying any of the early d750 adopters had any reason to suspect the camera would have issues down the line – nor that prospective buyers should avoid new models for fear of issues. The reality is that a string of issues like the ones that plagued Nikon are pretty rare! However, whenever I see a new camera getting mass attention and an influx of photographers switching brands I can almost smell the buyers remorse that follows for so many.
The reality is that modern cameras – especially DSLRs – really are pretty friggin awesome. You’d be hard pushed to find a camera made in the last 5 years (or even 10) that isn’t a fantastic bit of kit. For amateurs the simple truth is this – hundreds, if not thousands, of professional photographers around the world have launched successful careers using gear that isn’t as good as the most basic interchangeable lens cameras currently on the market. And they probably paid a heck of a lot more for it too. The market has been driven to the point that the price barrier for entry is at it’s lowest ever level, and the quality that the ‘entry level’ now represents would have been unbelievable just a decade ago. As a side note – I personally believe that the downtrend in the market globally is due in part to this point of diminishing returns that we seem to have reached. Essentially the jumps in innovation that we were seeing ten years ago just aren’t possible anymore, so getting buyers to part with their hard earned cash to upgrade is a much tougher task than it used to be! In many ways we’re moving back towards the days of analogue when the only real reason to upgrade was your shutter wearing out.
So, the point of this article – Which camera should you buy? First of all: Are you a professional? Are you selling your photographs or photography as a service? If not, then don’t even worry about looking at the ‘best’ cameras. If you really have the cash to blow then look at the entry level full frame market – although in all honesty, if your photography isn’t paying for the camera then there’s really no need. The simple fact is that the entry level gear will do everything you need and more. Entry level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras WILL deliver images plenty good enough to sell to individual clients, stock agencies and magazines. It’s pretty hard to justify spending more right? Instead think about what you want to be carrying around with you, and what it is you want to shoot. For @vtravels and myself the idea of carrying our full frame gear around on days out is a hassle to say the least. We’ll gear up for landscape shoots where we’re driving to locations, but for just about everything else we use our Olympus micro four thirds cameras. The difference in quality between these and our full frame ‘professional’ cameras is negligible and could mostly be attributed to the lens quality rather than the image sensor performance.
’The best camera you own is the one you have with you’I’ve heard this saying so many times, and it’s one that rings true more as the years go by. If you’re a professional then you’ll be doing your own research, you’ll be invested in a manufacturers ecosystem and so the decision to buy a new camera is a little more complex than just looking at the DXO scores for the latest sensor ratings. For just about everyone else just get something that you like the look of, or the most affordable option, or just something you see a great deal on. You can’t really go wrong – but you really don’t need to break the bank to break into the industry. All you need for that is to keep taking photos!