Reading Photographer

What camera should I buy. Thoughts of a professional photographer

As a photographer, probably the single most asked question I get by friends and family, and even clients and newbie wanna-be photographers, is “What camera should I buy?”.

The short answer is The Right Camera for the Job. And that probably on the surface seems like a really unhelpful answer, but it is honestly thee most important answer. Let me elaborate:

Most people when looking to buy a “good camera”, will go straight to looking for a DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex). I mean, that’s what professionals use, right? So that should be the right answer? But what I have seen, time and time again, is people buying DSLR’s who firstly don’t know how to use them, but also end up leaving them stuck in a camera bag at the back of the closet, never to use them because this camera isn’t magically giving them gorgeous photos, and because it’s bulky and difficult to carry around.

Both of the above shot on a Canon R6 Mirrorless, with a Sigma ART 35mm f1.4

Diving Deeper

Let’s take a deeper look at this:  let’s say you’re a Mum with busy kids. You want a camera so that you can take great pictures of your growing kids, and keep these beautiful memories. So, you buys a DSLR with a standard kit 18-55mm kit lens. But it cost a fair bit of tin. You’re taking the kids down to the beach. It’s a hot day. You have two kids in tow, a bag crammed full of beach gear, snacks, nappies. Now where do you put your camera? Okay, well, you’ll just take the whole camera bag… I mean, you want to keep the camera safe, so it should be in its bag. Then you get to the beach. The baby wants to be carried around, the toddler is kicking sand, and having a blast. But you don’t want to take your camera out, because you don’t want it to get wet, or full of sand. So you take out your phone, and take a few snaps that way. Or maybe you’re brave, and you take your camera out, because your hubby is holding your toddlers hand, and they’re playing in the waves.. and it’ll make a magic photo… but the photo is overexposed. Why doesn’t this fancy camera take perfect photos? Or maybe your 10 year old is doing dives in the tidal pool, looking at fish… wouldn’t it be great to take pictures with him underwater with the fish? Only, this expensive DSLR isn’t even mildly waterproof.

Both the above shot with a Canon R6 Mirrorless, and a Canon 100mm Macro f2.8

Do you know what I see DSLR owners doing time and time again? They grab their cell phones and take pictures that way, while their DSLR gathers dust (and likely mould too) at the back of their cupboard.

Why do they reach for their cell phones every time?

  • Because it’s convenient.
  • Because it’s easily within reach.
  • Because it’s light.
  • Because it’s fairly durable.

Now, I’m not saying don’t get a DSLR. But a DSLR is only worth it if:

  1. You actually use it, and don’t leave it gathering dust
  2. And you use it for its intended purpose, and using the correct lenses for the job. This means understanding the camera and its modes, understanding which lens is best for which job, and how to use them both

The above image is shot on a Canon R6 with a 16mm lens

Which DLSR is right?

When asked the question of which DLSR to get, it entirely depends on budget and which camera you like the most. I’d say that the magic really happens in the lens, and that an entry level DSLR with a fantastic lens can do a lot more than a fancy camera and a really shit lens. The glass is where all the good stuff lies.

And again, which lens to get is entirely dependant on what you want it for, and what budget will allow. An 85mm f1.2 is an amazing portrait lens, but not the best wildlife photography lens. Whereas a 600mm lens might be great for wildlife, but not ideal for photographing people.

And then there is budget to consider: an 85mm f1.2 will cost you in the region of  £2500-3000. Or you could opt for a 100mm f2.8 Macro, which might set you back in the region of £1000- but you could use it for both portraits and closeups. Sure, you won’t get the same gorgeous bokeh, but it could be a sound purchase depending on your needs, and very importantly, your budget.

Above are great examples of lenses and it’s intended use. The first image is taken using a 100mm fixed lens. Obviously I couldn’t zoom in, as it’s a fixed lens, and the lion is far away (And I would not recommend walking up to a lion to get a closer shot! Even if you’re a professional photographer!). The next wildlife trip we did, I hired a 300mm lens (in hindsight, I should’ve hired the 400mm)… and you can see how much “closer” I am to the subject (although, to be fair, I was also physically closer to the second lion).

Both shot on the Canon R6 Mirrorless

Many Options to fit the job

There are plenty of cameras out there, though; not only DSLR cameras. And they all play a part:

If, for example, you’re an underwater enthusiast, or keen skier, an action camera like the GoPro might be a better option, especially for video capture. If your kiddo is just wanting something that they can snap away on, but don’t have a real interest in photography yet, maybe a compact camera (otherwise known as a point and shoot) would be the right place to start them (you can even get waterproof ones). Or, if you’re wildlife enthusiast, but want something small, not too expensive, and that has a great zoom, then maybe a bridge camera is the place to look. Bridge cameras are generally lighter, they come with a single fixed zoom lens, which is normally pretty powerful. For a hobbyist, these are such great little cameras.

Obviously if you’re wanting to get somewhat serious about your photography, and maybe want become a professional or even semi-professional photographer, then sure, a DSLR, Mirrorless or Large Format camera (if you have that kind of money) are the way to go. But then, get the right lens for the job, and LEARN how to really use that camera in manual mode to get the best use out of it. And then buy the best you can with the money you have. Even if you’re a budding photographer, an entry level DSLR can be an amazing tool if used correctly. Simply buying a top of the range camera won’t magically turn you into the best photographer, just like buying the best oven won’t suddenly turn you into the best baker.

The above were all photographed on a Canon PowerShot G1 X, using an Underwater Housing for the underwater photograph. I loved this little camera!

What’s in my bag?

As a portrait photographer,  who photographs mainly newborns, families and real estate, I mostly work under pretty controlled conditions. I have the following in my bag:

  • Canon R6 Mirrorless
  • Sigma ART 35mm f1.4 (this is definitely my go-to lens)
  • Canon 100mm f2.8 Macro
  • Canon 50mm f1.4
  • Canon 16mm f2.8
  • Godox AD200 strobe
  • Tripod
  • Neewer NW680 Flash
  • Laser measuring tool
  • Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards
  • Extra batteries
  • And a prism for fun

The above were all photographed on a Canon 5D mkiii, and a Canon 100mm f2.8 Macro

If you want to learn more about photography and how to take GREAT photos, I will be offering my ‘Simple Photography Course’ online. This is designed for newbies wanting to learn the basics of photography, and understanding how a DSLR, Mirrorless or even Bridge camera works. See below for how to subscribe to that mailing list.

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