Photography is a fun hobby with practical applications—but it can be expensive, too. As a beginner, it isn’t always easy to determine whether or not it’s worth paying more for higher-end models (hint: sometimes, it’s not) or whether you even need to specifically buy photography gear for beginners to start off (another hint: you often don’t).
Not all cameras are created equal.
This is something that you’ll quickly figure out as you’re inundated with stats and specs that may very well sound like gibberish to you. The quickest way to sort through the information is to first determine what type of camera is best suited to you. No matter what type you pick, remember: More settings don’t necessarily mean the camera is better if you don’t plan on actually using those settings.
If you want something that will capture better-quality photos than your smartphone—but that is just as easy to operate—look no further than a point-and-shoot camera. These cameras are simple to use and often have a few extra features that you can use to spruce up your shots. The simplicity is a clear pro to the point-and-shoot, as is its relatively affordable price point. A good point-and-shoot camera costs between $300 and $500.
On the other end of the spectrum is the digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera. Without getting overly technical, DSLRs rely on mechanics similar to the old film cameras’. DSLRs are what the vast majority of professional photographers use, and the potential for taking photos on a DSLR is virtually limitless. DSLRs can be relatively simple to use if you stick to the automatic settings, but they also offer plenty of opportunities to grow as you become more advanced in photography. Through the sheer capacity and number of settings and the variety of accessories available, a good-quality DSLR will let you take your photography to the next level. The downside is its cost: A decent quality camera will set you back at least $1,500.
Somewhere in between these two lies the mirrorless camera, which, as the name suggests, uses a mirrorless technology to capture a shot. It’s more compact than a DSLR, but it offers similar features aside from the viewfinder—unlike DSLRs, mirrorless cameras do not have an optical viewfinder, so you can only see your photo preview on an LCD screen. Its disadvantages generally stem from the fact that it’s a newer technology: Battery life is shorter and fewer accessories are available, though more are being developed all the time. Expect to pay around $1500 for a decent model.
The go-to lens
A lens is a critical part of the recommended photography gear kit. While the camera itself will play a key role in the images that you take, the lens is an equally important factor in capturing the perfect shot. With a point-and-shoot, there’s no need to purchase a separate lens—but you may feel limited by the built-in one. For mirrorless cameras and DSLRs, you’ll purchase a separate lens that attaches to the camera. As you progress in your skill level, you may want to buy additional lenses that will allow room for creativity.
Your first lens should be a good-quality standard lens that will work well in a variety of basic settings. Don’t expect it to provide crazy clear macro shots or super-far-away zooms, but you’ll be able to rely on it to capture decent shots of scenery and people. There is no one-size-fits-all lens—the best one for you will depend on the type of photos you want to take; the type, brand, and model of the camera that you own; and, of course, your budget. Two important factors to understand in interpreting different lenses are focal length and maximum aperture:
- Focal length (mm) affects the zoom—how close you can get or how wide a shot you can capture. It will be expressed as a range.
- Maximum aperture (With an “f” in front of it or expressed as 1:[number]) affects how much light the lens allows in, which influences the depth of field that the camera is capable of (which roughly means how sharp your subject can be and how you can create that fuzzy foreground or background effect)
You might think that a tripod is an unnecessary accessory, but if you’re serious about capturing clean, crisp photos, you’ll quickly realize that it is money well spent.
Here’s why: As you learn more about photography, you’ll discover that shutter speed plays a key role in taking the perfect shot. Holding the camera in your hand is fine if you’re using a very fast shutter speed, but if you’re using even a slightly slower one, your unsteady hands will cause the photograph to blur. A tripod keeps the camera stable, helping keep the subject of the photo crystal clear.
If you’re keen on ultra-light or ultra-durable tripods, these can get very expensive (think upwards of $500). A low-budget tripod will be a little heavier and may require more delicate handling, but it will help you save some serious dough.
Long story short, memory cards aren’t all created equally. They’re actually pretty important little pieces of technology; not only do they have different capacities (measured in GB), but there are different types of memory cards and they work at different speeds. Most digital cameras use an SD card, and 64GB is a good place to start.
Between the camera and the lens, you’ve dropped some serious dough on your new camera—now, you need to guard that thing with your life! Enter the camera bag: the case that will protect your camera when it’s stored and when in transit.
Make a habit of properly storing your camera when you’re not using it. Moisture or accidentally dropping your camera can cause serious (and expensive) damage, so always keep your camera bag nearby.
Your camera’s manufacturer probably sells a bag specifically made for the model you bought, but don’t be afraid to consider other brands, which may offer equally suitable cases at lower costs. Make sure that your bag can accommodate the lens, too!
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