Someone asked me recently if I had any recommendations for buying a new camera. It used to be so easy! These days there are so many different brands and models it’s difficult to know where to start!
Why do you want a camera?
What are you planning to take photos of, and what are planning to do with the photos? If you are after some quick easy snaps to post online, stick with your phone.
If you are looking for better quality photos (ie less likely to encounter things like chromatic aberration, performs better in lower light conditions, can capture in raw format etc) you may need a camera.
If you want to print your photos, particularly larger prints, you may need a camera.
Considerations in Selecting a Camera
Read the specifications and reviews to make sure the camera has the features you want, and that the image quality is in fact better than your phone. There’s absolutely no point in lugging around a camera if your phone can do the same thing.
A few features that may or may not be important to you:
Does it take video, is it 4k?
How good is the auto focus, and the focus tracking?
Does the screen tilt?
How big is the camera, and how heavy? Do you want a camera that can fit in your pocket, or are you happy to carry an extra bag? Do you travel, will it take up your cabin luggage weight?
How big are the buttons compared to your fingers? I’ve met several people with big fingers who had trouble with fiddly buttons that were too close together on their cameras.
Do you want to be able to use different lenses, or are you happy with the fixed lens some cameras have? This may be a budget consideration (lenses are often more expensive than the camera body) but also weight and space for carrying it around.
Types of Cameras
Still the most popular type of camera, they have good battery life, and there’s a huge range of interchangeable lenses. The second hand market is great too. The variety of features and models available is massive.
Cost varies, from entry level crop sensors up to professional full frame cameras with ridiculously high shots per second if you like fast moving things.
These are the new kids on the block, a lot of DSLR users are switching to mirrorless. They are typically smaller and lighter than a DSLR. They have interchangeable lenses and some have converters so you can use your existing DSLR lenses. However the batteries do not last as long as a DSLR.
Technology is still quite new for mirrorless cameras, there are upgraded models being released fairly often.
Compact or Point-and-Shoot Cameras
Called “compact” for a reason, they are smaller that a DSLR and easier to carry around. Typically these do not have interchangeable lenses but they do have a zoom range which may be good enough for your needs.
These cameras “bridge” the gap between DSLR and Compact cameras. They typically have a fixed lens (not interchangeable) and not as bulky as a DSLR. They tend not to have a viewfinder, you look at the LCD screen on the back to take the photo.
There are other cameras - Micro 4/3s as well as action (GoPro) cameras, but if I was looking at just the photography side and not concentrating on video as much I would stick with the main ones above.
In general, the more you spend on a camera you will be able to shoot faster, higher burst mode (more photos per second) and take photos in lower light (without using a flash) with less grain. Build quality will also be better.
If you really like photography, I’d recommend spending around £500 on an interchangeable lens camera. (If your budget is considerably less, stick with your phone for now, you might find the cheaper camera is not much of a step up.)
When you are ready, you can invest in new lenses to expand your photography repertoire.
If you’re not fussed about lenses, spend the money on an advanced compact camera with a fixed lens, preferably the latest model in your price range.
Models to Consider
I’ve tried to keep this as simple as possible. Obviously there are many other things that may be important to you, but hopefully this has given you a good starting point. Here are some current models to consider: (July 2021)
Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II
Versatile Zoom Range
Good in Low Light
Good Image Quality
Price range: £500
Great Image Quality
Great battery life
Price range: £600 and up (depending on what accessories and lenses are included)
Sony a6000 - an older model but still worth a look
Up to 11 FPS Continuous Shooting
Price range: £500