Just a note: We'll give you some initial pointers but the final decision on which camera to pick is really yours. We've asked you to consider a few things in this article and to think about your photography future more completely. Good luck to you!

We've created this post for the simple reason that we get an awful lot of emails from impatient 'potential students' distrustful of camera salesmen and confused as to what to get. If you're one of these people, we hope this article will help you. Remember that just as you're judging us on our services, we're also judging you on how seriously you wish to engage with us. If you've read this article, then we definitely have time for you beyond this read. If you're not one to take to reading a post of the sort and want a straight answer, we suggest you go to your local camera shop. Mind you, there are some great salespeople that genuinely care for your needs, but also note that these guys don't last long in a place like Future Shop. In many places, manufacturers pay extra for selling their item so you have to question objectivity. Either way, it's good to know your market before seeing a camera salesman.

Something important: Photography uses light, remember? So generally speaking, when lighting is incredible - there are small differences between different cameras - be they cell phones (shot with iphone 6?), professional cameras or otherwise. It's when things start getting dark that question of which camera will make a big difference.

The shots right below were taken with an iphone 4S with some help from instagram. 

Of course, there are compositional considerations too. You're not really going to get shallow depth of field as shot by McCurry with a small camera. Size does matter for these things. So we'll assume that you've got some idea already on camera differences.

Steve McCurry- South Africa. Not possible to take a shot like this with a small camera (without instagram or photoshop)

Steve McCurry- South Africa. Not possible to take a shot like this with a small camera (without instagram or photoshop)

There are 3 types of cameras that we'll talk about:

  1. DSLRs (both cropped and Full Frame)
  2. Hybrid Cameras 
  3. Point and Shoots geared towards more serious amateurs

We are not going to talk about standard point and shoot cameras. There's far too many of them and usually, you get what you pay for. We're working on a composition course for very very basic composition for beginners but for now, we're sorry we can't provide you more support on this line.

Some questions to ask yourself

  1. Are you in it for the money? (basically, will you turn pro at some point?)
  2. If so, do you really plan to turn pro or you're contemplating the fact?
  3. Are you looking to take photos for family and general recreation?
  4. Do you want to develop photography as a serious hobby and wish to invest in some decent equipment, little by little?
  5. Are you the sort of person that hates carrying around large things?
  6. How important is image quality for you?
  7. And of course, what is your budget?

Though mentioned last, let's start with the budget since it determines the reality of things... Sadly...

If you have 500$ to spend but want to turn pro - it's still possible but will depend more on skill rather than equipment. You'll have to depend on ebay and the second hand market to try your luck. Head to Simons camera in the old port for help on the matter. If you ask them if you can turn pro on your budget, they will definitely say no or perhaps that it depends. Consider that the photographs below were taken with a camera that today costs $200. It's a film camera and the chemistry process takes a long time. We also don't recommend that you buy a film camera when you're starting out since you miss out on a crucial feedback process that digital offers and that is essential to your learning. Get a digital camera if you want to grow. There's nothing like digital to help you learn!

Also, consider online sales such as on Amazon. It's also likely that Lozeau and photo service will have some discounts on some cameras. Educate yourself before heading there though. In my own personal experience, particularly if you purchase Nikon, Photo Service will give you better advice than Lozeau.

If you fall within the recreational category, then your budget may suffice. 

For those that are looking to get into recreational photography and want to get a camera with interchangeable lens and CAN bear the idea of carrying their camera around, here's an important question: Canon or Nikon?

We get this a lot. It's like Arsenal or ManU, or Habs or Leafs, U.S or Canada, Montreal or Toronto. Well, it's actually a legitimate question. I know people that own Pentax or even Panasonic will want to throw a glass at us, but stick to Canon or Nikon. They're both great and both good camera lines to invest in.

We're not saying that Pentax or Panasonic or Samsung or even HP (may be even Philips) are bad cameras. If you ever buy one of these, be prepared to fall short of lens and accessory options as you progress and even when you do have the options, you'll have to put down some serious cash. A typical way for Panasonic and Samsung to allure customers is by having ridiculously cheap entry cameras and asking customers to pay about the same for a portrait lens when they want that little bit of extra help in creating great images.

In our experience, every single one person that has wanted to progress from these have gone from them into Canon or Nikon (may be in some cases Sony - but don't get Sony for this range). 

Take Canon or Nikon, for example.  There are many versions of these. The Rebel is Canons intro series. Nikon have theirs too though the labelling annoyingly keeps changing. D3200, D5500, D3400 are all great - depending on your budget. Before you buy it, check out and if you know absolutely nothing about the details of the cameras, compare their release dates. Cameras usually improve significantly year to year but some times even a camera released 2-3 years ago will do wonders and help you immensely - so don't rule out any sale that is meant to change stock. They're there and it's a bargain for someone that is flexible. 

Check out some other websites to give you some more insight. A good one is DPREVIEW.COM

If you are into something more sturdy - the 7000 series and the double digit (eg. 60D 70D) Canon series are worth considering.

Be wary of the kit and package deal: We often get people coming into class saying - hey, I got a package deal - 18-55 lens, 55-250 lens, bag and SD card or something like that. Some other times, we get people saying they got the 18-250 lens as it covered the full range. 

If you really have no clue on  what you'd really like to engage in, then these are fine. The 18-250 is a travel lens. It's suppose to solve the issue of having to change lenses all the time, but for everything else, it's very mediocre. If you're someone that wants to take 'stunning' images, then avoid these deals.

If you're a new mother and want to buy a camera, then consider a portrait lens with a camera body. If you're going to be travelling a lot and be doing a ton of landscape photography, then consider a wide angle lens or a very good kit lens (such as the sigma 17-50 for cropped sensors). These are lenses that will help you take better shots and may, in the end, be cheaper from a bang for buck stand point. If you only use the 55-250 on two occasions a year and usually leave it at home, then what's the point. Don't rush into buying what the shops tell you to. They're meant for people that didn't do their research. You, my friend, have already read far into this article. Congrats. 

Really, if this is the question, you can write to us and we'd be happy to help you. We like to have people like you attend our courses and become part of the community - basically grow with us. 

One important point to note: Most people will end up purchasing a portrait lens as that's what they get into and we provide a ridiculous amount of support on this area. If this is the case and you are massively budget strapped, consider Nikon. This is because Nikon has a 35mm f/1.8 lens at around $230, whereas the same focal range in Canon is significantly more. They have come up with a 40mm f/2 called a pancake lens but it's not as key as the 35 from Nikon. One of our students from the community, however, managed to get a 35mm f/1.4 from a Korean manufacturer called Rokinon. It's a manual focus lens mind you - but quite good in quality. Essentially, you do have options as a Canon photographer so don't panic. 

Going Pro

For those that want to go pro - it's obviously still Canon or Nikon. I have a Sony, but don't buy a Sony. At this point, if you feel like you're visiting a toothless dentist, then head for the hills but here's my two cents. 

Canon and Nikon are, to me at least, pretty square on this issue. Canon seem to have more options but both try to address an entry level for pros - in the 6D series and the D600 series for Canon and Nikon respectively. Lenses are very important and there are a wide array of lenses. Some of them can be bought for a budget and something to get you started. Should you buy the kit lens? Is it 24-105 or 24-70? Check out photozone.de and also, flickr. Simply enter lens name in the search section. Generally, there's a selection bias - where people that are good at photography also know a thing or two about which lenses are good. If you find one particular lens' images significantly better, et voila. If not, then it may come down to reviews from photozone.de and of course, the price. 

You need to do your research if you're going pro so we suggest you use the approaches here:

  1. Dpreview.com
  2. photozone.de
  3. flickr and 500px

Let's now look at the market for people that want to take good photos but can't stand heavy things.

In the past, you were just relegated to point and shoot but today, mirrorless cameras have solved some pressing space and weight problems. You have to consider that your lenses are going to be more expensive than our friends with the traditional DSLRs, but if your needs are modest, consider making the initial investment. If you're mostly photographing things in a street photography setup as well as portraits, consider making the investment on a good lens. One advantage is that lens technology doesn't change an awful lot so you'll be able to upgrade your camera body if a lighter one hits the market at a future date.

There are a number of options on this: Sony NEX, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and Fujifilm have some incredible options in the market.  The best is for you to

  1. make a list of what's in the market,
  2. make a list of reviews for the hybrid cameras, including price and convenience,
  3. go out to the shops and try to play with it.
  4. Read up on reviews about the camera, be they on amazon or elsewhere.
  5. go to flickr and do a search on the camera (enter everything - maker, model and model number). Usually, as with elsewhere, better photographers have done more research and know their stuff - so there will be a selection bias for photos within.
    Make sure the photos are arranged in order of popularity (or interestingness as is the case on flickr)
  6. Next, and this is important, do a flickr search on the lenses. Which lenses have the best images, and in line with what you want? 
  7. Go to photozone.de and search for a review on the lens.
  8. Make a decision

For those that want a point and shoot with a great degree of flexibility - basically, a point and shoot with manual functions

If you think your phone could take great photos but want to get a lot more control, or perhaps you are a seasoned photographer (in which case you won't be reading this but lets assume that you are) and you're looking for a camera that you can take with you wherever the hell you go, then this is a good class to consider. I've seen some absolutely incredible photographs, particularly in evening light and great landscapes. They're no different from traditional small point and shoots with the exception that they are much better, allow you to shoot in manual, have flexibility in processing images and have better lenses and wider apertures than standard point and shoot cameras. 

These cameras are typically more expensive than point and shoots and touch on DSLR prices. You have to note that image quality will not be better than a DSLR from the same year but you trade off on some quality for convenience.

There are number of options here - such as Fujifilm X20, Canon S100, Sony RX100, Canon G7, and let's not forget Panasonic Lumix.

  1. Remember you can't change lenses for these cameras, so again, work through the process of searching for photos taken with the camera. Don't forget to arrange by interestingness and confirm that it is that camera that has taken the photograph (this information is available)
  2. Check out reviews of the camera on Dpreview.com and elsewhere
  3. Be mindful of the year that it was released
  4. Don't go for ridiculous zoom ranges like 10X. Aim for a small range but wider aperture, such as F/1.8. They may be a little more but well worth the investment

Conclusion

In all, we hope that you'll make the best decision that will allow you to keep taking photographs. At some point, you will have to upgrade and it is possible that your needs have changed, but the skills and techniques picked up will remain. Ultimately and really, when you're starting out, it's not to say that Canon photos are better than Nikon photos. This is besides the point and you can debate this endlessly without any basis. Don't be one of those people. Buying a camera is a complex decision no doubt. You can start by eliminating Samsung from the get go. May be even Olympus. For DSLRs stick to Canon or NIkon (don't you dare buy Panasonic). For Hybrids you have a few more options. For upmarket point and shoot, we have fujifilm X20 (or so series), Sony RX100 (or it's successor), Canon G7, and possibly a Canon S100 (or it's successor). 

If you've read this article and come to focus on a few cameras AND provided that you have signed up for our beginner course, we'll be able to assist you with your decision. 

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