What Kind of Camera Should I Buy?

Finding a camera that fits your need.

Different kinds of cameras

One of the most common questions a photo novice asks a photo nerd is, “Which camera should I buy?”
It’s a good question and researching is a valuable step in making any informed purchase. However, this question usually stems from the root belief that a “good” (i.e. more expensive) camera will take better pictures than a “bad” camera. While there is some truth to this reasoning, current technology has some mobile phone image quality at the heels of professional cameras. Most of the time, good pictures come from good techniques, not just good cameras. Photographer Ken Rockwell even dedicated a page of his website to this principle.

When choosing a camera, the most important factor is determining how the camera will be used. The following questions can be used as a guideline to help you determine which type of camera best suits your needs and lifestyle.

Are you a social media butterfly?

If you don’t mind transferring your photos from your camera to a secondary device (e.g. computer or phone) before sharing them, or if you’re not much of a social media sharer, there are many options available. If social sharing is important to you, it’s difficult to top the seamless experience of a mobile phone—from image capture to editing and sharing.

Some cameras are designed to make sharing easier by integrating WiFi. This enables access to your photos wirelessly, even uploading without having to download images to a computer.

For the social photographer, a phone with a high-quality camera (iPhone 7, Google Pixel, Samsung S8, etc.), or a WiFi-enabled camera may be the best option.

What is your motivation for taking photos?

Many people like to capture memories in photographs, however not all actually enjoy photography as a hobby. Do you have a passion for photography or a desire to take creative photographs? If so, you may want to consider a camera with interchangeable lenses and manual controls. These features allow a photographer to control the “feel” of an image more than the automatic system of a point-and-shoot or mobile phone. Fully utilizing manual control requires some learning, but don’t worry—even the most high-end DSLRs are equipped with at least one automatic shooting mode to use while you're learning.

For the photographer interested in getting more from a camera than a sharp and properly exposed image, a mirrorless system or DSLR camera should be considered.

For the family documentarian, a point-and-shoot or mobile phone can provide perfectly useable photos without the added cost and complexity.

How much are you willing to carry?

A DSLR with several lenses provides great flexibility and high-quality images, but it can be a lot to carry. The photo nerd will happily transport a bag full of lenses and accessories all day, but this is not for everyone. Many photo enthusiasts have opted for mirrorless camera systems due to their portability and convenience while still producing high image quality.

If anything more than “pocket-sized” is too much, a point-and-shoot or a mobile phone is your best option.

There is no one-size-fits-all camera (despite what you may have heard from Polaroid). A camera is ultimately a tool and finding one that suits your needs is most important. The best thing you can do to improve your photos is to be comfortable and confident in taking your photographs!

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