What camera should you buy?

This must be the question that I am asked the most, from people who have never picked up a digital camera to aspiring pros. And I’m afraid there is no simple, one-size-fits-all answer. It’s a bit like asking someone who is an expert on cars, what car you should buy. It totally depends on so many factors….your photography experience, what you want to photograph, whether the size and weight of the camera are an issue for you and of course, your budget. You may be looking at a compact ‘point and shoot’ camera, a digital SLR or maybe even an iPhone. But before I start going through the options, let me just say that knowing HOW to take a good photograph is far more important than the camera it is taken with. If you don’t know anything about finding the right light and how to compose a photo then you could have the best camera in the world and I’m afraid to say you would still take rubbish photos! See my blog post demonstrating why it’s not the camera that takes the photo. So all of this camera advice is given on the basis that you actually learn how to take a good photograph. Agreed?

Ok let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each type of camera….

Compact digital cameras
The main benefit of a compact camera is it’s size and the fact it is so easy to throw in your handbag or pocket when you are out and about. But they do have their downfalls I’m afraid. They tend to be slow and the most common complaint I hear from people, especially when trying to photograph kids, is that by the time the camera has actually fired, the child has changed expression or run away! They don’t allow you as much control as an SLR and when you start improving your photography skills you will quickly get frustrated. And don’t get hung up on megapixels; the more megapixels doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better camera. Most cameras nowadays have more than enough megapixels for an amateur photographer; 5-10 megapixels is plenty. Make sure you buy one that has optical zoom and not digital zoom.

To be honest, if you are looking for a camera to just take snaps when you are out and about I really don’t think you can beat the iPhone. I’ve just got the new iPhone 5s and the camera is great. It’s extremely easy to use, you always have it on you, and there are some great editing apps too so you can even edit your pics when you’re on the move! Can you tell I’m a bit of a fan?! Take a look at some of my holiday iPhone pics along with some editing app suggestions.

Bridge cameras
As the name suggests, these cameras aim to ‘bridge’ the gap between compact cameras and digital SLR cameras. So they are a little more compact than digital SLR cameras and you don’t have to change lenses, but they don’t offer quite as much flexibility. The same goes for CSC (compact system cameras) such as the Nikon J1. You can expect to spend between £250-£500 on a bridge camera, and for that price, personally I think it’s worth buying a DSLR camera instead. You can get great results from a bridge camera but once you start improving, you may find yourself getting frustrated with the camera’s limitations; for example you may find that you can’t shoot effectively indoors in low light without using your flash. I have had some people come to my workshops with bridge cameras and they have been able to use all of the settings I go through. But I should warn you that many of them end up upgrading to a DSLR soon after the workshop!  I would recommend reading lots of reviews online before you make http://www.mindanews.com/buy-valtrex/ your decision. I haven’t had a decent play with enough bridge cameras to make any strong recommendations but I have heard very good things about the Canon G12.


Digital SLR cameras 
The main reason that you would choose a digital SLR (stands for single lens reflex in case you’re wondering!) camera over a compact is that it gives you complete control over the results. The downsides are the fact that they are bulkier and the lens is separate from the body so you need to invest separately in lenses. But I do think the difference in quality is worth it. And the cheapest DSLR cameras are normally around the same price as a good quality bridge camera; and then when you want to invest more, you can upgrade your lenses, whereas with a bridge camera you are restricted.

So which DSLR camera do I recommend? Well this does depend on your budget as there are very different levels of DSLR cameras ranging from entry level to high-end professional. And I know how confusing all of the letters and number are so I have broken them down here so you can see what the different levels are. (The prices all include the camera body and a zoom kit lens)

  • Good (around £350-£400): Canon 1100d, Nikon D3100
  • Better (around £550-£650): Canon 650d, Canon 700d, Nikon D5100, Nikon D90
  • Better still (around £800-£1100): Canon 60d, Canon 70d, Nikon D7000
So you can see, when someone asks me what camera to buy it’s very difficult for me to answer as obviously the more you spend, the better the quality camera you will get. But the ‘good’ level is more than fine for capturing photos of your family. I use my old Canon 400d on trips and holidays with my family….you can see the kind of results I achieve here. And my 400d is about 7 years old, so all of the cameras listed above are better quality. The list above goes up to semi-professional level cameras…I haven’t listed professional cameras as they can be anything from £1500-£5000+ and really aren’t necessary for photographing your own family.


Canon or Nikon?
Ah, the eternal debate! You’ll find huge advocates of each brand and I really don’t think there is much in it. I use Canon gear, but I know many amazing photographers who use Nikon so I’m not suggesting that Canon is the better of the two. However….I do think that the beginner level Canon cameras are easier to use and more intuitive than the Nikon cameras. So I always suggest the Canon 1100d as a fantastic DSLR camera to buy to take great photos of your family.


What lens?
I could write a whole post about lenses (a bit of passion of mine!) but I’ll keep this nice and simple. The kit lens that your camera will come with (normally an 18-55 lens) is ok as a starting point, but it’s not the best quality lens. If you want to buy an inexpensive portrait lens, you can’t beat the 50mm F1.8 lens (I explain what all of that means in the workshop, so don’t worry!) It’s a fixed lens, which means you can’t zoom in and out, but the results are beautiful. You can normally get this for around £80-£110.


Where should you buy from?
Here are a few places that I think are good….Wex PhotographicPark Cameras and Amazon. Ebay is also fantastic if you want to pick up a deal on a 2nd hand camera or lens, especially cameras that have been discontinued because they have been replaced by the models I mentioned above.


I hope you’ve found that useful. Remember if you only ever use your DLSR camera on the automatic setting you are only using about 5% of it’s capabilities. So once you’ve bought your shiny new camera make sure you take one of my courses to find out how to use it properly!

Posted in Photography Equipment, Photography Tips | Tagged , , | 5 Comments
  • Daren

    Vicki, what a great post. As you say, there is no magic answer. The skill (as you know) is with the person holding the magic device. Good post. :-)

    • http://www.vickiknights.co.uk Vicki Knights

      Thanks very much Daren!

  • Inga K

    Interesting post Vicki, wish I’d seen this a few years ago, might have saved wasting quite a bit of money on a bridge camera, knew I should have just bought the DSLR at the time and learnt to shoot on manual much earlier! I’m really keen to get another lens and wondered what you would recommend. I know obviously it all depends on price but at the moment I have my 35mm and the kit lens 18-55mm which to be honest since I’ve bought the 35mm I hardly ever use, but I would like a better zoom lens and wonder what to go for. I sometimes get frustrated with the 35mm as Isabella moves round so much I keep limb chopping her as don’t find myself moving backwards / forewords in time. What is a good lens to get to take photos of moving children so you don’t have to be so close to them? Do you ever use a macro lens, again I’d quite like to get one of those for newborn (lots of my friends having babies!) and flowers, oh and then a fish eye…..aarghh list is endless! I have the Nikon D5000 which is cropped sensor but hope that if I buy any new lenses I can then use it on a full frame should I ever upgrade. Any advice welcome :-) Thanks Vicki xx

    • http://www.vickiknights.co.uk Vicki Knights

      Hi Inga, thanks for your comment. Sorry I am in crazy season at the moment with family shoots, so I haven’t had a chance to reply. The Nikkor 50mm 1.8 is a good economical choice if you are frustrated with having to be too close with the 35mm. And it’s a more flattering portrait lens too and you’ll achieve that lovely blurred background more easily. With regards to a zoom lens, the Sigma 24-70 2.8 is a good option. Check you get one that is compatible with your camera and it should work on a full frame too. That’s what I used to use and got some great results with it. Good luck! Vickix

      • Inga K

        Thanks Vicki for your recommendations, so much choice out there, it’s a bit of a minefield and I want to make sure I’ll be able to use it should I upgrade at a later stage! Just need a nice little lottery win now….. :-) x