“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”
― Dorothea Lange
Cameras are a complete minefield once you want to do more than take family holiday snaps. I was really squinchy about spending money on an expensive DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, and when mine arrived I was really excited to try it out, but I hated using it at first (I was terrified of breaking something) and it took me about 1,000 photos before I actually knew how to adjust the settings without having to take loads of sample pictures. After a weeklong trip to Aberdeen, however, I was completely in love with the superior picture quality of the DSLR compared to my old Fuji Finepix-S Bridge Camera, and after a few months it became second nature to get the settings adjusted perfectly.
1. Identify your budget.
What can you reasonably afford to buy? Are you looking for the cheapest thing that takes pictures (in which case you might like a bridge camera)? Or are you making an investment in a potential future career? Do you want something with all the features or do you just want the pictures to look like they weren’t taken on a cameraphone?
DSLR cameras start at around $399 for the Canon EOS Rebel T5 1200D which is an entry level DSLR and is missing a few features you might require (such as a lens), and prices go up to $3249 for the Canon EOS 5D Mark III which comes with one lens and is generally agreed by photographers to be the very best camera that Canon make. On top of these costs you will need lenses which I will write a separate post on.
2. Identify what you’re going to use it for: video or stills?
Some cameras don’t do video or don’t do it well – some don’t have microphones, or don’t have a jack for your microphone to be attached. The Canon EOS 600D, 650D and 700D are all good for Youtubing but some of the older DSLR cameras don’t record video at all, so would be a complete waste of money for a Youtuber, however, they still take great (not outstanding) photos so a secondhand older model could be excellent for a budding photographer who was strapped-for-cash.
3. Take a look online to see what you can afford.
Amazon.com is a good place to see how much the different cameras cost. Canon and Nikon tend to be the most expensive but they have the best features and are compatible with a wider range of add-on equipment. I haven’t seen anything done by a professional photographer who didn’t use a Canon or a Nikon camera.
4. Read reviews.
I was on the verge of buying the Canon EOS Rebel T5 1200D before I read a review saying that the viewfinder was fixed, not movable. As someone who does self portrait, timed shots and presents Youtube videos, this was unacceptable to me, and I’m glad I found this out before I bought the wrong camera for my needs. I finally settled on a Canon EOS Rebel T5i which is everything I want it to be. Your mileage may vary, and that’s what’s so wonderful about the sheer amount of choice on the market.
5. Buy camera.
Buy it from a reputable store which you’ve heard of or which has a physical location. There is a LOT of fake crap on the market and some of it is VERY convincing. I’ve not seen any fake camera bodies or lenses, but when you’re spending that amount of money you need to keep your wits about you. I love ebay bargains, but I’d never buy a DSLR camera from ebay, or any website where the description is written in broken English, because you need to buy it from somewhere which will take action to sort out a bad transaction. A second hand camera can be a great bargain, but it’s very easy for someone to sell something because (for example) they dropped it, and you won’t know it doesn’t work until you’ve handed your money over, at which point they can claim you dropped it. For this reason, if you are buying a secondhand camera, get it from a physical shop and test out the camera before you buy it. If they’re giving you excuses such as “the battery isn’t charged” then walk away from that purchase.
6. Write a review so other people know how good (or bad) it was.
If the site doesn’t accept reviews, unless it’s the official manufacturer’s site, I wouldn’t buy from there. A good review lists two or three good points and two or three bad points. Why waste time even writing a review that looks like any of these:
“Havn’t tried it yet but I’ve still givn it 5 stars.”
Have you got any other tips for buying a camera? I’d love to read them in the comments!