One of the most frequent questions that I get is this, “What camera should I buy,” or this variation, “Which camera really is the best?” The truth is that the real question should be, “Which camera is the best for ME?” Camera manufacturers make all kinds of cameras, and there is a reason why there are so many models–there are so many different ways that people use their cameras.

Common mistakes you can avoid

First of all, the kid in the wrinkled polo shirt at your local big box store knows absolutely NOTHING about photography. He may know a tiny bit about whatever camera he gets a spiff (small commission) on this week, but honestly, he isn’t capable of actually helping you choose the best camera for you. How do I know this? I used to be general manager at one of those big box stores. Cameras simply aren’t a priority because they aren’t very profitable. That means the staff isn’t properly trained or compensated to do a good job helping you in this department.

Second, your friend the professional photographer–she means well, but she’s likely going to suggest that you buy something far beyond what you really need. Why? Not because she’s a big spender (although she might be), rather, it’s the kind of camera SHE needs to do her job well. You may be thinking that once you get really good at photography you are going to quit your day job and travel the world taking pictures of animals in their natural habitats (or whatever else makes your heart sing), and I hope you do, but while you’re learning you don’t need to burn up the shutter count on a $5000 camera.

How to choose

The most important things to look for in your first camera are as follows:

  • the ability to shoot in manual as well as auto modes
  • the ability to change lenses
  • the ability to add an on-camera flash

Does brand matter? Maybe. The truth is that most of the major manufacturers make great products. If you’ve never heard of the brand, I might be wary, but anything made by Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus, or Samsung is likely to take great pictures. That said, there are reasons why you might choose one brand over the other.

When it comes to DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras Canon and Nikon dominate that market. They have the largest market share, thus there are more lenses and other accessories available for their cameras. Also, there tend to be more “deals” on their cameras and accessories. I usually recommend beginners buying DSLRs choose either Nikon or Canon. Some of Canon’s entry-level lenses and accessories are 10-20% less expensive, so that may be a consideration, but either brand is a great place to start.

If you’re interested in mirrorless technology, then Sony or Fuji are definitely leading the way at the moment. Mirrorless is a newer technology, and many suspect it may replace DSLRs in time. Currently, there are fewer lenses and accessories, and the lenses and accessories are more expensive, but mirrorless cameras are wonderful for a lot of reasons including how light and compact they are.

Starter cameras I recommend

These cameras are the best reviewed and best-selling cameras in their class at this time. Any of them are perfect for a beginner.

Nikon D3300

This is a perfect entry-level Nikon camera with plenty of features built right in. Stunning 24.2-megapixel photos and 1080p Full HD videos with tack-sharp details, vibrant colors and softly blurred backgrounds.


Canon EOS Rebel T5 

Canon Rebels have been the entry-level camera for many since the film days, and these remain a great camera to start with. It features a powerful 18 megapixel CMOS image sensor and DIGIC 4 image processor for easy recording of HD video and high-resolution photos and has a huge 3-inch LCD screen for Live View recording and review.


Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless

The α6000 is a super compact Mirrorless camera that’s about half the size and weight of a typical DSLR, yet it has the same size APS-C image sensor as most DSLRs. The interchangeable lenses and E-mount system make the α6000 more versatile than almost any other camera on the market.

What else do you need?

The next thing people ask is, “Do I really need all that other stuff?” Well….yes and no. There are lots of lenses, accessories, and other gear that you’ll probably want to buy as you learn more about photography. This is a list of stuff you’ll want sooner than later:

  • a camera bag (don’t buy one with your camera’s brand name on the outside unless you like getting your camera stolen)
  • an extra battery
  • SD cards
  • photography classes
  • practice, practice, practice (the best way to learn is to shoot every day)

If you live in the Mansfield, Ohio area we have a GREAT class where you can learn how to use your camera. It’s called New DSLR Now What? and in the class, you get a crash course in using your camera and understanding the basic vocabulary of photography. It’s the perfect place to start with your new camera.

Before long you’ll find you have a need for more accessories and gear. I outlined the most common gear that beginners often need in this post, Must Have Gear. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment here, or reach out through our contact form.