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Which camera should I buy?

 20th Jul 2009


Choosing the right camera for you is vital if you want great photography. It must fit your needs technically, aesthetically and ergonomically.

1. Read and Research

People often ask me which DSLR camera they should buy. I wish I could simply say buy a 'Brand X' - they're the best. The thing is, provided you buy a well established make, I'd say they're all excellent!

These days it's not so much asking which make of camera I should buy - it's more a case of, which camera fits you - and preferably like a glove.

Time spent researching through magazines and online is a worthy investment which will pay dividends when you go to spend your money.

When reading an advertorial feature or write up they'll mostly be extolling the virtues of a camera because...

  • Manufacturers have given a pro a camera to test - and the pro wants to be asked again
  • Even an 'unbiased' magazine reviewer doesn't want to be too harsh because 'Brand X' cameras will never advertise with them again!

I'm not suggesting there's anything underhanded or dishonest going on here, but a reviewer will often be looking for the positive aspects rather than the negative. DP Review are big enough to be independent so they're worth checking out.

So, curb your enthusiasm. Get some knowledge yourself about what's going on and the price it's going on at. Whilst researching don't get all over excited and buy a camera on impulse just because it looks like a great deal. I'll explain why in a moment.

2. Go out and get a feel for the camera before you buy it

Yes, I am suggesting you go out to town, and look in camera shops when you could click a couple of times in the comfort of your own home and have a camera delivered by tomorrow morning.

Let me share a little 'emotive buying' story with you at this point. A couple of years ago I set my heart on super new pro DSLR made by one of the world's leading companies. I'd used its predecessor and loved it. This paragon of photographic excellence wasn't yet available, so I put my name down on the list for one and the three-month wait seemed an eternity.

But when I got it I found I hated the colours! Resolution, tonal range, menus, functionality and feel, all scored eleven out of ten, but try as I might there was a colour cast in certain lighting conditions that to me was enough to put me off my dinner - and trust me, I do like my dinner!

I know loads of pro photographers using this very camera most successfully - but I didn't like the colour. You see, cameras are subjective - so one person's meat is another's poison.

The cameras I use now, are big chunky man-style DSLRs which look cool, feel great in my hand and do everything I ask of them superbly. They're all that a rough trouser wearing motorbike riding chap like me could wish for!

But for my lovely partner Jayne they're hopeless. Because she's petite and ever so girly (down boy!) she can't reach the controls because the camera's too big for her hands. She also has problems with camera shake because of the weight.

So, make sure you like how the controls feel and are laid out. How heavy is it? Does the menu make sense? Is the flash card slot too fiddly? Is it easy to change the battery?

Take some of test shots inside the shop in artificial light, some outside in daylight and a couple of flash shots as well. Take them home with you, put them on your computer and make sure the colours, tones etc look how you want your images to look.


3. Where to buy a camera

So you've chosen the camera you want and it's time to buy - the fun bit. Firstly don't automatically assume the web's the best and cheapest place to buy. I checked out the price of a £500-ish semi pro DSLR camera both online and in the shops and the price varied by £65 max. And the web wasn't the cheapest!

One big advantage of a shop is you can go back in if ever there's a problem. About three years ago I congratulated myself on buying a photo printer online for £100 less than anywhere else. But when it arrived all the instructions were in Turkish, which, as a Brit, was no use to me at all!

Price isn't everything - remember there may come a time when you need a bit of help and then a friendly face that speaks your language is invaluable. Especially if you trash your camera and need a new one.


Once you've got your dream camera - you need to know how to use it

A great camera won't deliver great pictures all on it's own - watch our Photography Videos and find out how to get the best out of it!

Once you know a few basic rules and techniques you'll be on your way to exciting, powerful images you'll love to show off.

If you're a beginner I recommend our beginners photography course, Digital Photography Exposed. If you follow the jargon free instructions and exercises we'll have you taking the images you'd hoped for - possibly within hours.

We have other courses for intermediate and aspiring wedding photographers too - details on our photography courses page.