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 6 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.
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 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 include the camera body and a zoom kit lens)
- Good (around £350-£400): Canon 1200d, Nikon D3200, Nikon 3300
- Better (around £550-£650): Canon 100d (very small!), Canon 700d, Nikon D5200, Nikon 5300
- Better still (around £800-£1100): Canon 60d, Canon 70d, Nikon D7100
Please check out my Amazon store so you can see the exact cameras I recommend along with lenses, accessories and more.
I hope you’ve found that useful. Please remember once you’ve bought your shiny new camera to come on one of my workshops to find out how to use it!
And sign up for my free video training to find out all of my secrets for getting natural expressions from your children.