What Camera Should a Beginner Buy? – Tiny Tips 21

Choosing a camera for beginners can have two compounding issues. 1. They don’t don’t what they need 2. They don’t know how to find out what they need. Most first-time camera buyers ask around a lot, and do a lot of research before making their first (or second) camera purchase. Their concerns are justified. They should not end up buying a camera, only to find out that it’s not a good fit. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about cameras, photography equipment, and photography. But making an expensive camera purchase that leaves no room for mistakes is never easy at any level.

Even as a professional, there is a bit of uncertainty, apprehension, and yet… there’s also excitement. So, let me share with you what I’ve learned over the years of using, renting, and buying cameras for myself.

I’m here to bring good news to all first-time camera buyers…

There Aren’t Any More ‘BAD’ Cameras 

Almost every camera that you can buy today is capable of taking extraordinary photographs. This is because digital photography technology has matured so far that the. Only down-sides are smaller issues like features, ergonomics, battery life, etc.

Digital cameras are no longer in the experimental phase where the quality of the sensor or the images that they produce could be a cause for concern. As a result, you’d be hard-pressed to find any DSLR camera made in the last 5 years that is a ‘bad’ buy.

Good imaging sensors are everywhere! On phones, on Micro 4/3 cameras, on APS-C & Full-Frame DSLR, and Mirrorless cameras. You would have to work very hard to find a camera that is demonstrably bad.

So, what’s the next step, now that we’ve reassured you of image quality? Let’s find a camera that is the best fit for you in terms of budget, utility, ergonomics, and features.  

How Should A Beginning Photographer Choose A Camera?

Here’s my easy process to choose a camera for beginners. It starts with budget and takes into account all the other factors that we have discussed.

  1. Decide how much money you want to spend on your camera gear at this point in time. A photography novice should not be spending too much on camera equipment at this stage. They should get a basic camera that will allow them to build up their knowledge of the fundamentals of photography and to learn new techniques. Believe it or not, at this stage, feature limitations are a good thing!
  2. Pick a brand that you like: Nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic, OM Systems – they’re all good technically, and mechanically with only small differences between them. They’re all supported by major software players like Adobe, Capture One, etc.
  3. Don’t worry about the number of Megapixels the camera offers. Anything over 12 Megapixels has long been sufficient. Today, most cameras, including your cell phone’s front-facing camera, offer image files over 20 megapixels and often go as high as 108 Megapixels . This is more than enough for a beginner photographer, even if they want to take photographs of wildlife that require dramatic crops.

    A beginner is not likely to need a 50 Megapixel camera. Don’t spend your money on one at this point. Instead, learn how to use the pixels that you have. This will help you when you upgrade to higher tier camera equipment.
  4. Look at the range of lenses that the brand (or third-party lens-makers) offers. This is probably the most important part of the purchase because you’re going to want to expand your collection of lenses … possibly even before you outgrow your camera body.

    Believe me on this. Canon, Nikon, and Sony probably have the best lens collections available, but 3rd party manufacturers like Sigma, Tokina, Samyang, and others have collections of cheap, yet good-quality lenses too.

    Most photographers spend way more money on camera lenses than on cameras. Buy good lenses, they’ll last decades. But should beginners spend tons of cash on Canon L lenses, or Sony G Master lenses? I don’t think so. Good enough lenses will do for now. You can sell them and buy new lenses after you are adept at using your tools.
  5. Try out the ergonomics of the body you’re about to buy: Once you decide on a camera body based on the principles outlined above, try it out at a local camera store. They’ll most likely have a demo camera on display for customers to try out.

    If you like how it feels in your hand, then it’s all good… Go buy it! If not, rinse and repeat the process until you find a camera that’s close enough to comfortable. This is a tool that you’ll likely use for many hours. Make sure that you’re comfortable with it.
  6. Don’t think about it anymore: Once you’ve made your choice. Don’t vacillate. Just buy it. Every possible choice is a ‘Good’ choice. Like I said before. There are no bad choices anymore.  The more time you spend contemplating the good and bad aspects of each of the 15 cameras that you’ve picked out, the less time you have to take photographs, and that’s what you should be doing anyway!

Where to Buy Your First Camera?

Choose a retailer that you’re comfortable with. Go to their shop, and try out the camera if they have one on display… Once you’re happy with it, make the purchase. Remember, don’t go into debt to buy camera equipment. It’s not worth the hassle. Instead, save up until you have enough.

If you’d rather stay at home and make your camera purchase online, use our affiliate links to Amazon, or Adorama to help us out!


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Susheel Chandradhas
Susheel Chandradhas

Susheel Chandradhas is a Product Photographer and Filmmaker based in India. He has been taking photographs (almost) all his life. He has a diploma and a bachelors degree in Visual Communication, where his classmates all believed that he would write a book on photography... Instead, he writes on this website (because - isn't a community more fun?).

His passions include photography, parkour, wide-angle lenses, blue skies, fire extinguishers, and fast computers.

In addition to writing for Beyond Photo Tips, Susheel is a staff writer for Fstoppers.com, and owns and runs ColoursAlive, a photography, and video production studio.

You can connect with Susheel on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

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12 Comments

  1. Great post! I love your focus on not overthinking things. With market diversity these days, it’s so easy to get bogged down with making the “right” decision that you lose sight of how incredible camera technology has become.

    Good move highlighting lens selection as well. It’s no fun to buy an awesome camera and find out that it doesn’t accommodate many good lenses. I’ve been very impressed with Sony’s lens offerings lately. Are you familiar at all with any of the E- and A-Mount systems? I’ve found them to be surprisingly comparable in quality to many of Canon and Nikon’s offerings.

    How long do you typically “test drive” a camera before making a decision to purchase? I always try to go out and shoot for at least a few days, and with short-term camera rentals becoming more popular that’s easier than ever. Nothing beats actually feeling the camera in your hands and seeing how the shots turn out!

    • Hi Sara,

      Glad you like the post. I’ve recently bought a Sony A6300 in an effort to get to know the Sony ecosystem a little better before splurging, so yes, I’m a little more familiar with the E mount lenses now. Some really good stuff in the G Master series. There’s also some very good 3rd party lenses for the system, some mainly geared towards the filmmaking community.

      I generally don’t ‘test drive’ a camera for too long. Maybe a day or so at the most. However, with the slightly more expensive purchases, I guess renting the camera for a few days makes your purchase decision all that more secure.

      Thanks for stopping by. I like your website.

  2. Cheap and viable cameras are what the beginners should go for. Take a gander at the scope of focal points that the brand (or outsider focal point producers) offers. This is presumably the most vital piece of the buy, since you will need to grow your gathering of focal points conceivable even before you exceed your camera body. Trust me on this. Group, and Nikon most likely have the best focal point accumulations accessible.

    • I’m guessing that you mean ‘lenses’ when you say ‘focal point’. You’re 100% right about choosing a camera platform based on the collection of lenses on offer, and yes Canon, Nikon, and now Sony have quite a good range.

  3. Think of a Nikon 3300DX with a 35mm f1.8 prime lens. First, it meets your price point. Second, that body doesn’t have an autofocus motor in the body–it relies on the lens have the motor. So that saves size and weight. Third, that 35mm prime is small and light, sharp, good for low light, and good for street photography. When I was using that lens, I got chromatic aberration in bright light but otherwise very sharp, quick and good for landscapes, buildings, and people (inside and out).

  4. Just don’t be astonished when (not if) the perfect lense costs more than the camera! But the difference in your photos is frequently amazing.

    • I totally agree… Since we’re talking about beginners though… It’s great to strike a balance. The perfection of expensive lenses comes into play when one starts looking into high end photoshoots that are intended for very specific destinations that actually need perfection..

  5. I am newbie. I don’t understand anything about cameras, but I need a professional camera for photos on my site. Thanks for the article, your advice helped me a lot.

    • If you’re a newbie, I think you’ll actually be able to take better photographs with a good mobile phone’s camera. There are attachments that can change the lens into a wide angle, or telephoto lens, and they can be surprisingly good. Why don’t you try those out first?

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