How to Choose the Best Camera for Photography
Introduction to the Best Photography Cameras
Before we get to our camera suggestions, let’s talk a little about what goes into the decision making process. For the scope of this article we are focusing on choosing the best cameras for photography and are not concerned with video features or any other special functionality.
When choosing a new camera, the two biggest considerations are usually;
- Photography Type
By “Photography Type” I mean the category or genre of photography you will be shooting. This will usually be labeled as something like portraits, candid, landscape, wedding, sports, wildlife photography and so on.
Budget is pretty self-explanatory. Cameras can cost anywhere from down under $100 up to many, many thousands of dollars. It’s best to establish a budget or dollar range you are comfortable with spending before you start shopping and use that to help limit your options.
It’s important to keep in mind that cameras are tools. Even the best photography camera is not going to make a beginner a good photographer. Good photography comes from practice and understanding how to use your light-capturing tool.
Now we’re going to break down our selections into 3 categories: Cameras for Hobbyist Beginners, Cameras for Beginners with Professional aspirations and Cameras for Experienced Photography Professionals. Feel free to skip directly to the section that best applies to you.
All the cameras mentioned in this article are interchangeable lens cameras, if you are looking for something for more casual shooting that you can also slip into your pocket, you should take a look at our compact camera roundup.
Best Camera for Beginners
If you’re new to photography, choosing your first camera can be pretty overwhelming. There will be so many new terms, technologies and concepts to learn it might seem impossible to choose the right camera on your first try.
Thankfully, I’m here to tell you that it really doesn’t make all that much difference. As long as you stick to the major brand names like Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, Pentax, Samsung and Fujifilm, you should be fine.
All of the above companies make good cameras and have comparable offerings at each price point so you really shouldn’t stress over picking the wrong one. If you know nothing about cameras, just pick with a brand you are familiar with or has a specific feature you’re interested in.
However, when you’re getting started with photography, you really shouldn’t get caught up comparing features or worrying about getting the latest technology. Instead, you should be focused on learning the principles of photography like what aperture, shutter speed and ISO are and how they all work together to create exposures.
Learning photography concepts is far more valuable than having a “good camera.” If you hone your skills, you will be able to take great photos with pretty much any camera available.
So, again, I recommend picking a brand you like or are familiar with, and choosing a camera from that brand that fits within your budget.
Here are a couple of standouts that we recommend:
Best Professional Camera for Beginners
So you’re new to photography but have big aspirations? I love to hear that.
If you’re looking for a camera that’s capable of producing professional quality photos but your skill level or budget don’t justify the high-end professional models, you’ll want to look at cameras in the pro-sumer range.
These include DSLR models from the photography juggernauts (like the Canon 70D and Nikon D7100) and increasingly more Mirrorless or Micro 4/3 offerings from companies like Olympus, Panasonic and others.
There are plenty of great cameras in this tweener category that are both affordable and capable of yielding amazing results once you learn the basics and put in some practice time.
This mid-level of cameras is usually defined by having a combination of crop-sensor often found in entry-level cameras but also carrying a higher build quality and features often found in professional-level equipment.
Some popular choices in this range are:
Best Camera for Professional Photography
If you’re an experienced shooter who has an entry-level or pro-sumer camera but are ready to take your photography to the next level and go pro, this section is for you.
Generally the most notable difference when upgrading from a hobbyist level camera to a professional photography camera is going from a cropped sensor to full-frame.
Full-frame sensors give you a significant boost in light sensitivity typically resulting in improved image quality, the capability of shallower depth of field and more wide-angle lens options.
Pro models also offer many other advantages often including more robust build, weatherproofing, larger batteries, and faster media. These cameras are meant to be workhorses both in professional studios and out in the field.
The larger sensors and more robust bodies also mean higher costs for the photographer using them. Because of this, they are only recommended for experienced shooters who will make full use of the feature-set and everyone else will most likely be best served buying a less expensive model that is still going to be plenty of camera for them.
Here are a couple of the best professional camera models:
A little parting advice regarding cameras and photography in general…
Buying a good camera will not make you a good photographer. Good photography comes from understanding how to use your camera properly and then practicing until you can produce the desired results consistently.
This can be achieved with a $100 camera or a $5,000 camera. The photographer is what makes the most difference. You should base your camera decision on the features you need but understand it’s up to you to make the pictures good. The camera is just a tool.
So, whether you spend a lot or a little, ultimately, the best camera for photography is the one you have with you and you know how to use.
With that being said, get out there and start shooting!