I have been asked a few times as to what kind of camera and gear to buy for young budding photographers. If the person is serious about learning photography, a phone or a super compact camera is not going to be the best option. On the other hand, choosing the most expensive camera is also not helpful. You can compare this to giving a 16 year old a Ferrari as their first car. While there is nothing wrong with it if you have plenty money, it is probably much more sensible to have them perfect their skills on something more economical.
What features should you be looking for in a first camera?
- A viewfinder is a great option, as trying to stare at the LCD display to take pictures can be really difficult in bright sunlight.
- Camera that offers manual mode adjustment. Shooting automatic is not something that will teach a user how to adjust ISO, speed and aperture to get light just right.
- Good optical zoom for a point and shoot camera. Do you need 50x zoom or will 10x zoom be enough? For a first camera 10x zoom will be just fine. It also depends what kind of subjects is the person likely to be photographing.
- If choosing an SLR camera, picking a lens can be a challenge and I will post a separate blog on that.
- Ability to attach a tripod is important
- Ability to attach a speedlight. While a lot of compact cameras come with a built-in flash, being able to add a high power flash allows you to expand the capabilities of the camera
- A nice feature to have is being able to shoot in RAW format, which will allow to save maximum image information. Jpegs are OK for starting out, but they are compressed files and some information is lost.
The next question is should it be a digital or film camera, point and shoot or SLR, how many megapixels are needed for a good digital camera? Which brand should I buy?
Film or digital is a personal preference. Being able to develop film could be the limiting factor here. I shot both, and actually started with film and have no strong preference for either, both have their merits. Point and shoot vs SLR? Again that really is not a critical point for a young starting photographer, a point and shoot could be an advantage as exchanging lenses while not hard may not be the thing for every youngster.
Next, famous megapixels, what is more important is the size of the sensor not just the number of megapixels. A small sensor capturing a lot of megapixels like your phone camera will not deliver the same quality of image as a camera with a larger sensor and same number of megapixels. Most of the 18MP cameras will be perfectly fine to start with. There is definitely no need to buy a 50MP camera for a starting up photographer.
As to the brand, that is a very personal opinion, there are people using only one brand of camera or using multiple ones. Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji, Leica, Panasonic, Pentax are among some of the most popular brands. The best is to visit a good camera store, such as NYC-based B&H or Adorama, or VA-based Ace Photo, and check out a few different brands.
Here are some images from a point and shoot Canon PowerShot A430, Canon Powershot SX100IS, Canon Rebel EOS3Ti and Canon 5D mark III. Quality of the image is only an issue when you printing large images. The aim of the first camera is to develop the eye and learn how to harness the light. And to do this effectively, you do not need a top of the line camera.
Canon PowerShot A430
Canon Powershot SX100 IS
Canon EOS Rebel 3Ti
Canon 5D Mark III