What camera to buy ? For the aspiring photographer..
Are you aspiring to take great photos? Have you wondered what it takes for you to take that golden sunset or portrait of a loved one or a good holiday picture?
Whatever your intent you need to start somewhere.
Alright, what is the best gear to start with ?
I get asked by friends, so as other photographers I am sure, as to what is the best camera or lens to buy. There is really no straight answer to this. It is like asking a chef what is the best set of utensils to cook. It really depends on what one wants to photograph, what for and how much you would like to invest (really gets to this, is it not?). Remember it is a fabulous piece of technology and advancement in this field is very fast and ever changing. Latest may not be the best. However one cannot ignore the features and convenience you are leveraged with using the latest gear. Making a good photograph is an art, as with any skill, one needs to develop it consistently with practice. A good camera or lens and related equipment greatly enhances your creative skill to shoot pictures the way you want. As they say good photographers do not click or take photos. They 'create' photos. So where does one start?
Start small. In today's world we are spoilt for choices here, as there are various models from as many manufacturer's. While there are lot many options and choices, one is most often left confused as what to buy. I suggest you start with an 'entry level camera' body and a lens to go with it. A tripod is not a must but strongly recommended
Choose a digital camera body that has these two features as a minimum.
a. Manual mode
b. Interchangeable lens
If you have one matching the above lying somewhere in a cupboard at your home , then that will do perfectly fine. The rest of the choices you have, such as pixel size (most newer models offer 18MP and above), DSLR or mirrorless, sensor size, Nikon/Canon/Sony/Fuji etc. are subject to personal preferences and budget.
Choice of lens: It is a good idea to choose a lens that will allow you to practice with a wider range of subjects (a jack of all trades sort). Normally the 'kit' lens (lens generally bundled with your camera) will meet this requirement. Zoom lens (where you can change the focal length) offering a range such as 18-55mm or 24-70mm will be a good option. This will enable you to shoot at wide angle and also offer decent close up focal lengths to understand various compositions and their effects on the final picture.
Additionally investing in a prime lens(single focal length) with wider apertures(lower aperture values) is a good choice. I recommend lenses such as Canon 50mm 1.8 or Nikon 50mm 1.8 or Sony FE 50mm 1.8 if you are using canon or nikon or sony camera bodies respectively or similar ones depending on the camera you choose. These are optically good quality lenses for the price. One can get creative and experiment with shallower depth of field with these lenses. Moreover you are more likely to retain and user them even when you upgrade your camera body. (I am sure you will do, we all do!)
Tripod: Invest in a good sturdy tripod. Remember you are likely to work with lower shutter speeds and a tripod is invaluable under these situations. How to know which is the right one ? The simple rule is that it should be able to hold the weight of the camera and lens comfortably. So check the specifications. Things you may need to consider beside costs will be the weight of the tripod itself especially if you use it for a hike or travel. You don't want to be left with a painful shoulder after a hike.
Start Using Them
Begin to know your gear Read the user's manual and know what various buttons, switches and levers on your camera will do. Understand jargons involved with photography in general such as apertures, shutter speed, ISO, and various modes your camera has to offer. Try and experiment by shooting variety. Understand what interests you, it can be shooting family portraits, landscapes, nature, waterfalls etc. To evolve in creating great photographs takes time and a certain involvement with the subjects you want to shoot. Start to observe your subjects even when you are not with your camera. For example whenever you are out see how the evening sun lights up the hills faraway, or how a person's face get lit when they are facing a window etc. Observing simple acts of nature and life around us not only makes you aware but also prepares you mind to look for these when you get behind your camera.
The more you practice, the more you will learn what type of photography interests you and also help you realize the limitations of you gear if any. This is invaluable in making more informed decisions for that buy of filters, flashes or upgrade of camera or lenses, to take your creative skill to the next level.