So, you’re looking to buy a fancy camera?
People always ask me which camera I would recommend for them to buy, the truth is, what I want and what you need are two completely different things.
If I had my way, I’d have a 1Dx, and that, for a beginner (heck, even for my purposes) is overkill. For someone just beginning, a consumer camera is plenty. Taking good pictures is not at all about the camera body. Each advanced model just makes the process slightly easier. I started out using a CanonxT (350D), which worked very well in the learning stages. As time advanced, I wanted something a little more ergonomic and intuitive so I upgraded to a Canon 40D, which with it’s two wheel button setup made changing settings a breeze and all that much easier to shoot on manual mode. Now I’m on a Canon 50D which is slightly better than the 40D in terms of low light performance.
That’s basically the only difference you’re going to encounter and notice in the consumer camera market, low light performance. The older consumer cameras don’t really have the capability to push themselves under darker conditions (ISO), but that’s where good lenses come in. Lenses (and the photographer of course) are the crucial elements in photography. I’m not suggesting you go out and buy $1000 lenses to start out with (we’ll get to that later!) but a lens that is good enough to let in that extra one or two stops of light will save your butt once you decide to take your camera inside.
For me, there’s one lens that comes in 3 flavours that worked wonders for inside (and outside) use.
–Before we move on, I’ll say that I’m talking about Canon gear here, but it really doesn’t matter there is no actual difference, just apply what I’m saying to Nikon and you’re golden.–
The 50mm lens is a lifesaver. The first two models are cheap, with decent image quality and a nice bokeh.
Said 3 flavours are:
50mm 1.8* – $100
50mm 1.4* – $300
50mm 1.2* L – $1300
(***the lower the number the better/more light is let in)
I have owned the first two and let me just say you cannot beat a $100 lens. It’s not the greatest at focusing, but for $100 you cannot complain. Though if you’re looking for an extra boost of light inside and better background separation outside the second flavour is your best bet. $300 sounds like a lot, but in the photo world, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.
This lens, paired with the lens that comes with your camera (usually an 18-55mm 3.5/5.6) you already have quite a versatile set of lenses. You can shoot a number of things and it’s usually at this point if you decide if you’re happy with your current hobby setup or if you want something a little more.
So to wrap up:
Get a decent camera with good ISO performance (Canon: t3i, t4i. Nikon: D5000, D5100) ideally one that is listed at ISO 6400 or higher, though you’ll never want to use it that high.
A camera with anything higher than 12 megapixels is good, but don’t go overboard (25-30 isn’t necessary).
Get the kit lens that comes with the camera (usually 18-55mm)
Buy a supplemental lens for indoor use (50mm 1.8 or 1.4)
PROTIP1: buy your lenses USED. Find them on ebay, craigslist, kijiji or another classified ads website. Never pay full retail for your optics. As long as there are no physical defects you’re getting the same thing for much less than what you would pay in Blacks or another photo store.
PROTIP2: If you don’t heed my first tip, don’t buy your lenses at Future Shop. Chances are, if they carry them, they are beyond awful quality. Save your pennies for something better.
Practice, practice, practice.
Note: just because you have bought a DSLR does not make you qualified to shoot professionally. The idea of making money off photography is tempting, but you must first focus* on the basics before working for money.
What I did to help myself, is I convinced some willing subjects and trained them from scratch how to appear before the camera and I worked with them intensively for a few years. Once I started getting consistently good results, I then allowed myself to start shooting for other people.
* Ha see what I did there?