Jon Cunningham is a professional photographer & founder at Creative Escapes - award-winning photography holidays in 9 countries worldwide
How to Buy the Right Camera for You
Who doesn't love photography? These days, it feels like everyone and their mother is an aspiring photographer. If you're a photographer (or aspiring photographer), you'll need a camera. But how should you choose the right one?
Cameras. There are lots of them. Camera phones, digital SLRs, micro four thirds, mirrorless, compacts, bridge… the list is endless. Take a trip down to your local camera store and you'll find it packed to the rafters with shiny boxes. The smiling salesperson behind the counter is oh-so-ready to reveal why theirs beats the rest.
But how do you actually make the right decision? Which camera is really going to suit you best? In this guide, we’ve applied decades of professional photography experience and time spent reviewing hundreds of cameras to bring you the lowdown on what to buy (and save you some money, too!).
Pro Tip #1: Don’t Buy a Camera
Yep, you heard it. You don’t need to buy a camera. You see, you already have the best camera you can buy with you right now.
OK, let me explain. Most professional pictures are bought by large agencies—stock companies who buy your images and sell them to magazines, newspapers, publishers, online new sites, businesses, and anyone else who needs good-quality pictures. The stock company sells your image from £1 all the way up to over £1000. You get a cut and they get the rest. There are gazillions of photos available on stock websites, all fighting for a spot in the mag, so they have to be really good quality to get in.
Ten years ago, stock companies wouldn’t accept an image if it hadn’t been taken on a camera worth over £2000. Straight rejection. Quality is too poor, blah blah. Nowadays, they accept both photos and video from an iPhone 6 up. If it has a 12-megapixel sensor and 4K video, it shoots incredible images even in low light. You can spot the shot and take it in seconds, there is little or no learning curve and if you get it right, you can get some photographs you’re actually proud to post.
Pro Tip #2: Start With a Smartphone
Use your phone until you learn your style, then buy a camera that suits that style. Shooting with your smartphone is accessible, easy, and cheap. Since it’s in your pocket and with you all the time, you’ll learn photography much faster. So many people concentrate their attention on learning all the dials, switches, and buttons on their new fancy Fuji. But it doesn’t make great photographs. You do. And if your attention is constantly distracted, questioning whether you have the correct settings or not, your photograph will ultimately suffer. Every time.
Best to shoot a ton of images on your smartphone, ruthlessly edit them down to just the best ones, and keep looking through them to understand why you like them. (If you’re still struggling to pick, consider a course or photography holidays to get a steer from a professional). After a while, you’ll stop shooting clichés and develop your taste a little further, and your smartphone will always be on hand to deliver. And once you’re ready…
Pro Tip #3: Go Shopping (on a Budget)
OK, so you’ve done your time. Your smartphone is begging you to visit the store. You’ve shot a load of images and have kind of an idea of what kind of pictures you like to take. Now what? Time to save yourself a chunk of money (and get the camera of your dreams).
In 2012, Fuji brought out the X-Pro 1, £1429 worth of brushed steel loveliness, to which Amateur Photographer magazine gave it a resounding 5-star rating. And now in 2017, how much is the same camera that took the photography world by storm? £349. Brand new, in the box. Most professionals don’t trade in their cameras each year looking for the next big thing. They buy once every five years (if that). So give your bank manager something to smile about, find the type of camera that suits your photography, then get the one-before-the-latest-one, for a fraction of the price. You can then apply the savings you made to a course, or one of the widely available photography holidays – and take your photography to another level.
© 2017 Jon Cunningham