Easy Photography Tips - Things to Consider When You're Buying a Camera

3 minute read

What Camera Should I Buy?

I often get asked for advice on what camera to buy and it's a really difficult question to answer!  There are so many options available and it all depends on many different factors.  Plus, upgrades and new cameras are being released all the time and I certainly haven't tried and tested them all!  

I'm happy to talk about the features I love on the cameras that I use, but my cameras are outside the price range of what most people are looking for.  I don't have hands-on experience of using normal consumer cameras, but what I can do is suggest some things you should consider and look for to help you decide what camera would be most suitable for you.  

1. What do you have already?

The first thing to consider is what you already have and whether you really need another camera.  High-end smartphone cameras are better quality than budget compact cameras and have the advantage of apps for editing and quick and easy uploading to the internet and you normally carry it with you anyway.  

If you already have a DSLR or interchangeable lens camera, maybe a new lens would be a more appropriate purchase than a new camera.  Thinking about whether you really need a new camera will help you determine what features are important for you to look for.

2. What is your budget?

Broadly speaking, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.  So knowing or having a rough idea of your budget is fundamental.  

If you're looking to spend less than £200, you might get better value for money from a good smartphone, or you might be able to find a pre-used bargain of a more expensive camera.  Between £200 and £350, you're generally looking at a very good compact, point and shoot camera.  Digital SLR camera systems with interchangeable lenses start around £350 for the entry-level, beginner models.  

3. What do you want to use it for?

The other question that's essential for deciding what camera to buy - what do you intend to use it for?  If you're looking for a camera to travel with, to take on holiday and carry around with you easily, then size and weight are a big consideration and a compact camera that's smaller and lighter might be more suitable.

You might want some flexibility to use your camera for lots of different things, from documenting family events and holidays to photographing nature and wildlife.  Therefore you might be more interested in a DSLR or other camera system that allows for interchangeable lenses.  Particularly if you're looking to photograph birds or wildlife, you'll need a zoom lens with a longer focal length (and a bigger budget!).

Also consider the extra features that you might want to have.  Newer cameras can have built-in wifi, which makes transfer to other devices such as a phone or tablet easy with wifi connection.  This can be useful to back up images or edit and send images to people quickly.  Most cameras now have capability to capture video, but if you're looking to take a lot of video you should consider the video feature in more detail.  

4. Can you go and try some in person?

It's so easy nowadays to shop online, with all the relevant information at your fingertips, ability to shop around in minutes and research all the options.  Certainly, reading online reviews about the camera at the top of your wish list is a great idea.  If you can, it's also helpful to go and have a look at cameras in person, to have a look, see how it feels and whether you like the look of it.  The placement of dials and how it rests in your hands does matter and can vary from person to person.  

Buying a higher-cost product warrants an investment of time and research.  If you're considering a more expensive DSLR or lens, you might want to rent one to try it for the weekend first or borrow one from a generous friend!

5. Does the camera have a viewfinder?

A viewfinder is an important feature on a camera for me.  With the way that I photograph, I can't imagine not bringing the camera to my eye and composing my image in the viewfinder.  It feels natural and it keeps my camera stable rather than holding the camera away from me to compose in the LCD screen.

Having said that, there are photographers that use the LCD screen to frame their image even with cameras that have a viewfinder, to shoot from different angles or 'from the hip', so it totally depends on how you photograph.

6. What is the aperture and ISO?

If you're struggling to distinguish between several different brands after considering the features that you need and your budget, my advice is to check out the aperture and ISO to help you choose.  All cameras have this information in the specification details and without going into detail about how these settings impact your photography (which is a whole other topic), they are important for taking clear photos in low light situations without flash.

For the aperture setting, the lower number is the better choice and you'll probably find a figure between 2 and 4.  For ISO, the higher number the better.  Although you might never take a photograph at the maximum ISO, a camera with a higher maximum ISO is likely to have a better sensor. 

7. Does the number of pixels matter?

Pixel size is one of the last things that I consider when looking at a camera's specifications.  Frankly, the vast majority of cameras on the market have multiple megapixel sensors and other factors such as the quality of the sensor, aperture and ISO capabilities have a much greater impact on the standard of photograph taken by the camera, in my opinion.  

8. Are there accessories that you need?

Finally, bear in mind any other accessories that you might need to buy depending on the camera that you choose.  You'll need some sort of internal memory or memory card which may or may not be included with the camera.  You might want to protect your camera with an LCD screencover or case and you might need extra batteries if you're planning to use your camera for long periods of time without the ability to charge (such as while travelling).

I hope you've found this information helpful.  Let me know if you have any other photography questions you'd like me to talk about in the future by commenting below.