Choosing a Camera: Part 2

This Blog post is Part 2 of a series with advice on buying a camera.

Choosing the Camera Brand:  For years, the answer has usually been “Nikon” or “Canon”.  I’ve always compared that choice to the Ford/Chevy or Mac/PC debate.   There are strong opinions  and valid reasons for choosing one over the other. For students who are majoring in Photography, I have always given the following bits of advice:

  • Go to a camera store, like Dury’s in Nashville.  Hold the cameras in your hands, see how the ergonomics of the camera feels for you.  You might find that one or other is easier to hold, or the controls seem more intuitive… Then purchase the camera from that store,  if you purchase online, then that store might not be there next year. You also more help with warranty support and a friendly face to ask for advice when considering future purchases.
  • Do you have a photography mentor? If you have a good friend, family member or professional mentor that you might call with questions, or swap equipment with, it will be easier if you shoot with the same system.
  • Consider future purchases:  One of the most daunting aspects of a new camera purchase is the idea of buying into a “system.” Each camera system has it’s one lens mount, so you can’t mount a Canon lens on a Nikon body…and vice versa.  So once a photographer has invested in one system and ones multiple lenses it is more difficult to switch camera brands.
  • Lenses and Accessories:  For years, most professional photographers have chosen either Nikon or Canon systems. These brands have strong brand loyalty, and offer a lot of flexibility because of the sheer number of lens and accessories that are available for the systems.   If you look at lens made by other manufactures like Tamron and Sigma, you’ll notice that the lenses are offered with either a Nikon mount or a Canon mount.  This is the primary reason why I tell students who are interested in pursuing photography at a professional or serious amateur level to purchase on of those two brands.   Sony has recently been making a push to enter into the professional market, and they actually make the sensors for Nikon cameras.  At the time I am writing this blog, the lenses available for their cameras are still limited, but there are adaptors that be used to convert most lenses with a Nikon or Canon mount to fit on the Sony Camera.
  • How much money do you have to spend?   When shopping for cameras, you will often find good deals on a kit that includes a body and lens (or two) and other accessories.   The lenses included in these package deals are often referred to as the “kit lens.”  This combo of body and lens are often packaged for new photographers who need a simple set up that provides flexibility for a variety of situations.   The downside to this setup is that these “kit lenses” are usually not the highest quality lenses offered by the manufacturers.  You can often find faster and sharper lenses by purchasing the body and lens separately.

Avoid loading up on gadgets and gizmos right away.  Wait until you’re are more knowledgeable about photographic terminology and your own personal needs.  If you are just getting started, it’s okay to start out with an entry level camera and kit lens.  All new digital SLR cameras are going to have the basic functions that you need to learn photographic fundamentals. You can upgrade your lenses later.

And most important: Cameras don’t take pictures, photographers make them.  It’s your vision and knowledge that operate the equipment.  The camera is only the tool, the photographer is the creative force behind the lens.   My Philosophy on Gear.

Boats returning to Abraao after a day at Lopes Mendes Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil (Emily Naff)
Boats returning to Abraao after a day at Lopes Mendes Beach, Ilha Grande, Brazil.