What to Look For When Buying a New Camera

It’s an exciting time!  You are ready to enter the world of SLR photography or maybe it’s time to upgrade your camera.  Either way, call us jealous – but let us try to guide you through some of the points that we would ask you to look for.

You’ve probably already done some research on the camera, maybe you’ve even read some reviews.  Do you want the most in depth reviews you can find?  Some good places to start include:

And for a more colourful (albeit much more subjective rating) review you can always try the cult classic Ken Rockwell.

These review places talk about the technical aspects of the camera – the sensor type, the image stabilization system and the electronics inside the camera.

There are however some things that these reviewers can’t tell you about.  When you purchase your next camera, keep these points in focus (no pun intended) as well. Remember that photography inherently is an art form and so there is no ‘right’ answer, or ‘right’ system for everyone.

Things TO LOOK for when purchasing a new camera:

1. Feel:

Yes, it sounds cheesy but this is probably the biggest thing.  Make sure your new camera feels comfortable in your hand.  Don’t be afraid to try new lenses at the store, some light and some heavy, and see how the camera feels.

How hard is it to change your shutter speed, aperture or even ISO on the fly?  Can you quickly move focus points or modes?  How quickly does the camera start up.

This is a gut feel thing that you need to work out when you use your camera.  Either way – you will take tens of thousands of photographs with your new camera, so make sure it feels good.


2. Weight:

Part and parcel (yes, we said that) to point #1 above is weight.  Weight is the killer.  You hear about people climbing Everest and saving weight by shaving off half of a toothbrush.  We’re not that extreme here but the point remains true – when you are using your camera (particularly looking at you, world travellers) every ounce counts.

This is one of the benefits of using the new mirrorless systems out there or not going with what’s called FULL FRAME – you save on weight.

Crop sensor cameras (aka those cameras that are not full frame) are a great alternative with brilliant image quality these days.  The big bonus?  You’ll get to more places faster with a lighter system.


3. Lens Selection:

Ah lenses – they are truly the most magnificent instruments in the camera world.  Choosing the right lens in the right light is like gold.  Most people when they start their photography journey choose to spend most of their money on their camera.  Those who have done some research reserve their funds for lenses.

With that being said there are some camera manufacturers who have a greater selection of lenses available.  The old standbys are classic examples – Nikon and Canon.  Not only do they have dozens of lenses, but they also have many third party manufacturers creating lenses for these systems as well such as Sigma, Tamron, Tokina all come to mind as well as others.

When you purchase a Nikon or a Canon camera you don’t just have access to all their lenses, but you have access to all those third party lenses who make brilliant lenses, most of whom offer amazing value.


4. Image Quality at High ISO:

This is one of the biggest things that separates higher end cameras from entry level ones – their ISO performance at higher values.  When you shop try pushing the cameras to higher ISO and see if the noise is acceptable for you.


5. Focus Speed and Coverage:

This is one thing that I always, always, always look for now in my cameras.

Firstly – how quickly and accurately does the camera focus in the darkness?  Is it consistent or does it struggle?  Does it focus quickly and accurately with ALL the focus points, not just the one in the middle?

Secondly – Do the focus points come to the edge of the sensor?  In many cameras such as the Nikon D750 (considered one of the top cameras for a prosumer), the focus points don’t come quite to the edge.  See below illustration.


This can make it difficult for some composition pieces especially when you have a very shallow depth of field (f1.4-2.8).

Compare this to the new Fuji X-T3 focus area that looks like this.  It would be more consistent and considerably easier to focus and compose consistently with the latter.

6. GPS:

This is an odd one but one that I absolutely love.  There are only a handful of cameras that have GPSs built in them but if you are regular Lightroom user this information is amazing.  There is a wonderful Map module within Lightroom that allows you to see where your photographs are taken – not just the city but the exact location and time.  You can literally see exactly where you were during your entire trip.


Things NOT to worry about (seriously)

1. MegaPixels:

This is singly the largest reason why people upgrade their cameras – and probably the most common reason why is because they want a “sharper” image.

Do yourself a favour instead and understand that sharper images come usually from knowledge.  Any student out of our Digital I Beginner Photography course will actually understand that the sharpness is more a function of how you focus, and the shutter speed.  A more expensive camera will not result in sharper photographs.


2. Frames Per Second:

The interesting thing in Frames per second (FPS) is that it’s one of the few areas in photography where there is a correlation between more expense and FPS.  The thinking again is part and parcel to the above point in that people think that more pictures are going to net them better results.

In reality instead of having 6 blurry photographs each second, people who haven’t learned from a photography course will now receive 8-9 blurry photographs…


All in all it’s an exciting time for you!  Remember the above points and of course you can always contact us if you need more help.  Remember the alumni of our programs receive ongoing support forever! (or as long as the company is around for).  So – you can always contact us and ask for equipment recommendations.

At the end of the day though, the fastest way to getting better photographs is to take a photography course.  We would love to have you. And if you haven’t yet purchased your camera, try coming to a course first and using one of our free rental cameras. This way you can find out more about photography AND get the help of your fantastically knowledgeable Instructors to make the BEST purchase possible.

How about you – what’s the one most important thing that YOU consider when purchasing a new camera?

Want to sign up to receive our 5 Minute Photo Fix? Subscribe to our mailing list:

* indicates required