A few months ago, we ran a post called “Which Lens Should I Buy?”
Today we ask the question on the other side of this equation: which camera should you buy?
Maybe you’re upgrading from a previous digital body, or maybe you’re new to photography and looking for your first DSLR. Either way, you want to get the most bang for your buck.
First, you need to decide whether to go Nikon or Canon. Just kidding, there are other great brands out there as well by Pentax, Sony, Olympus, Sigma and others, as I was just reminded. It’s an easy decision if you’re already using a system. If you’re looking to start from scratch, then get the one with the coolest advertisements (I’m kidding). Both brands are great and you can’t go wrong with either one. Try them both out; it may just come down to which one feels the best in your hands.
Next, you have to figure out which of the following four groups you belong to: Entry level, Mid Range, Pro, and Mac Daddy. Instead of telling you exactly which camera model you should buy, these groupings will help you decide how much to spend. From there, you can limit your options and look at the small handful of models that fall into each price range, instead of being overwhelmed by the entire product lines of two major brands.
Entry level (Generally under $1,000)
You’re new to the whole photo thing. You want something lightweight and inexpensive, both because you’re on a budget and because you keep hearing that the photographer takes great photos, not the gear (That’s true). This kind of camera enables you to start learning and fine-tuning your eye. As you learn more, perhaps you’ll feel more comfortable dropping a bit more cash on your next camera. My first camera, a Nikon FM2, was the equivalent of a $600 camera in today’s dollars.
Mid Range ($1,000-1,700)
You’re not a beginner anymore, but you’re not yet a full-time pro. You’re a serious enthusiast, and maybe you’re even working towards making money with your camera. You want the latest technology, but just can’t justify spending over $2K on a camera yet, or maybe you’re a pro and you just want a lighter body for your second camera (mid-range cameras are often lighter). You could even be a pro who doesn’t need super fast continuous shooting modes or heavyweight durability. Cameras in this range produce high quality images that are good enough for many professional uses, especially for shooting inside out of the dirt.
You need speed. You need top of the line features. You need durability and weather protection. You also need a tax write-off. If you make your living with your camera every day, or if you use it in rough environments, go Pro. Or, if you’re a retired doctor or lawyer, go this route as well – it helps keep the gear more affordable for us hard-working pros. Kidding aside, if you’ve got the money, you can’t go wrong with a pro-caliber camera, even if photography is just your hobby.
Mac Daddy ($2,500 and up)
Really just an extension of the Pro line, Mac Daddy cameras are for those Pro users who need the highest quality resolution, maximum HD video capabilities, and who don’t might carrying around the heaviest equipment possible. As someone who’s been a highly mobile pro adventure photographer for the past 15 years, I’ve never gone this route. However, I did buy the Nikon F5 when it came out, probably because I just got paid for a big assignment and had money burning a hole in my pocket. Great camera, but man, was it heavy!
Finally, before you rush out the camera store, don’t forget to read 3 Things to Remember When Shopping for Photography Gear.
Senior contributor Dan Bailey is a professional adventure, outdoor and travel photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.
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