Which camera is best? With so many options available, this is one of the most important questions that any photographer will have. This article does not claim that one brand is better than another, but I want to highlight the important criteria when selecting a camera.

While most people have a smartphone that can take great photos, there are still some areas in which mobile phones cannot compete with mirrorless or DSLR cameras. Here are some factors to consider when deciding which camera is right for you.

The Three Essential Issues of a Expensive Camera

1. Lenses and Other Charges

Many beginners have asked me over the years whether it is worth purchasing a DSLR or continuing to use their phone.

The cost of buying additional accessories can make up a large portion of the camera’s price. Camera bags, lenses, tripods, cameras bags, IPS monitors, post-processing software and monitor calibration equipment are just a few of the other items you will need to purchase with a camera. If you answered no to this question, then a quality mobile phone would be the best choice. The next question is for you if the answer to that question is “Yes”.

2. Sharing images

If the answer is yes, then you will probably be happier with a smartphone than a DSLR.

Modern DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have built-in WiFi, which makes sharing photos a lot faster. However, a DSLR is not a good investment if you don’t want to edit the photos in the traditional way. Most of the stunning images you see on social media from professional photographers are not straight out of your camera. These photos are the result of hours of post-processing and planning.

If this sounds appealing to you and you’re ready to spend time looking at one image rather than clicking and sharing, then it’s time to ask the next question.

3. Learning Curve

Photography requires a lot of learning, on both the artistic and technical sides.

Photographers get annoyed when people comment on their photos with “Wow!” It looks incredible. This picture looks amazing. This question is just as ignorant as asking an artist Which brush were you using to paint this image?”

Good pictures can be achieved with the right camera gear. However, a high-end DSLR or mirrorless camera does not guarantee great shots. Even a smartphone may not be able to take better photos if you don’t have the knowledge and skills required to use it.

Budget

Once you’ve answered yes to the above questions, it is time to set a budget. A $500 budget is the minimum, regardless of whether you want to purchase a DSLR or mirrorless camera. If you are looking for accessories, a budget of $1000 would be ideal. A budget of $750 would be preferable.

A consumer crop camera body and a kit lens cost $500. You would upgrade it every 1-2 years if you make significant progress. You could be happy for 3 years with semi-pro/enthusiast gear, which would run you about $750. Then an upgrade would become inevitable. A full-frame body entry-level for $1500 should keep your happy for quite some time.

No matter what budget you have, the breakthrough camera of today will be obsolete in five years. In 2010, ISO 1600 was considered laughable. Today, however, we see print-quality images shot at ISO 6400. This is true even for lenses. The Nikon 20mm F/1.8 G, for example, has been long considered to be one of the best wide angle lenses on the market, but its mirrorless counterpart outperformed it by a significant margin.

It doesn’t mean you have to purchase the latest and greatest. You can still take great pictures with any modern camera or any DSLR manufactured within the past decade. If you want to stay at the top of technology, you might end up spending more than you originally planned.

Are you looking for something new or used?

A wise decision is to choose an older, better-specced camera body for your first camera, rather than a brand new, entry-level model. A camera body that has been refurbished by the manufacturer might be the best option. You will learn a lot about gear as you move from beginner to amateur and appreciate the advanced controls and features. It will also help you to know what gear you’ll need in the future. Therefore, it is a good idea to buy used equipment early so that you can save money.

Consider the possibility that someone is looking to purchase their first camera from Nikon or Canon, or even Sony. It may sound rational to purchase the best equipment available, much like we do with other electronic products. How many people would purchase a Ferrari for their first car?

It doesn’t matter what camera gear you have

This image was taken with the Nikon D5100 in 2013, which was an entry-level digital camera. To capture the image, a basic 18-55mm kit lens was attached to the camera. This is not fancy gear. This picture was printed at 18″ x 12″ and has excellent image quality. The image was captured below in perfect weather conditions.

With daytime photos of static subjects like these, gear is less important. The photo above can be taken with a smartphone. While it might not look quite as sharp when printed large it will still look fairly similar.

What Camera Gear Matters

1. Low light performance

GreyBackedWoodpecker

The image below was taken in conditions far from ideal.

Above is a picture of a grey-backed woodpecker taken with very low ambient lighting. The Nikon D750’s excellent ISO performance and the Nikon D750+ Nikon 200-500mm F/5.6 combo, which auto focused precisely in low light conditions, deserve a lot of credit.

The D5100 would have produced a noisy, unusable image, and any entry-level lens would have continued hunting for focus indefinitely. A lens such as the Nikon 400mm F/2.8 would have provided me with a better image than the one I just showed. These lenses are why the pros at the Olympics use them. They are more expensive than the telephoto I had, and many cheaper telephotos available.

2. Autofocus

The most important selling point of modern cameras and lenses is their AF performance. It has two components: AF accuracy, and AF speed. In certain situations, such as photographing birds flying, we can rely almost exclusively on autofocus. Many entry-level cameras don’t have fast autofocus or have poor tracking capabilities. While it is unlikely that this will cause any problems when you are photographing your child’s sport from a distance or if you plan to shoot complex wildlife or sports photography in difficult lighting, it can be an issue.

3. Megapixels

Is that really true? What if that were all that matters in a camera? Would professional choose flagship cameras like the Nikon D4, D5, or D6? None of them have more than 21 megapixels. Even if you’re printing a 20×30 inch print, megapixels don’t have any effect on image quality. How many people do that?

Although it is true that higher resolution images can be easier to crop, it is not recommended to over-crop a photo. You shouldn’t be concerned about camera resolution.

4. Are You a Need for a Flagship Camera

In the past, I have admitted that I have returned empty-handed sometimes because my equipment wasn’t sufficient to capture great scenes. This is especially true for tricky subjects such as birds in flight and Milky Way photography. It also applies to specialized genres such as underwater photography. It’s obvious that professional gear and accessories can be 10x the price of entry-level equipment and kit lenses.

However, the best results can not be guaranteed by a professional grade lens mounted to a flagship camera. To be able to use a camera and understand the gear you need, it takes years of experience. These things can lead to you upgrading your gear without any noticeable improvement in image quality.

There are differences between camera companies

One manufacturer could make better gear than the others and become a monopoly. Other manufacturers would have gone out of business, but that has not happened. Many happy professionals use Nikon, Canon and Sony gears, as well as many other brands.

For decades, the debate about who makes the best camera (Nikon vs Canon) has been ongoing. Although users debated the superiority between the two brands, Sony quietly made a name for itself in the mirrorless market by making a large investment. For a comparison, please see Nasim’s Nikon Vs Canon vs Sony article. Also, check out his article on DSLRs vs. mirrorless cameras.

Nikon gear is not the best. Nikon is the brand I trust because I have spent thousands of dollars on it and have become accustomed to it over the years. I am also happy with the results. Unthinking brand fanboys are just trying to keep people from becoming photographers.

However, if this is your first purchase of a camera, you will still need to decide which company you want to work with. Here are some tips that beginners might find helpful when choosing a brand.

1. It’s all about the glass

Your camera system’s eyes are lenses. They are the eyes of your camera system and determine how you see and capture images. Every photographer eventually realizes that their lenses are the best fit for the camera body they choose. Many photographers have dozens of lenses and only one or two cameras bodies to fit them.

This is why it will be more difficult to change brands as you progress in photography. Photographing wildlife and landscapes is something I love to do. At the time I publish this article, Sony mirrorless cameras have better autofocus than Nikon. When it comes to wildlife photography, autofocus performance is a highly sought-after trait. But, I’d rather wait for Nikon (which they will surely) to catch up to me than switch to Sony.

2. Ecosystem

Two reasons force photographers to stay loyal to their brands. A photographer who owns several lenses could lose a lot of cash by selling them all or switching to a different brand. The second would be to learn the new menu and button systems. Similar to Android users having trouble with iPhones after switching, this is also true for vice versa.

You won’t regret making the right choice, whether you are looking at Nikon, Canon or Fuji, Pentax, Panasonic, or Sony. It is only a matter time before other manufacturers catch up to a manufacturer who has made game-changing advances. With every advance, you don’t need to change the ecosystem. Sony, for example, has been ahead of Nikon, Canon, and other mirrorless vendors for many years, but Nikon and Canon are now investing heavily in it, and catching up. There will be very few differences in the future, and it will not be possible to predict which brand will prevail. Depending on the type of photography you prefer, it may be different brands.

3. The Future

Mirrorless cameras are definitely the future. All manufacturers are moving in this direction. There are many people who will stick with DSLRs for the long-term. DSLR prices are trending down, especially on the used market. Even if you decide to go with a mirrorless camera over a DSLR, it’s worth keeping an eye on what the company has in their mirrorless range. There’s a good chance that this is the model you will be using in the future. For more information, please see DSLR vs. mirrorless cameras.

What is the best time to upgrade?

Manufacturers continue to develop new gear each month. You don’t have to purchase every upgrade that a manufacturer releases. For many years, my Nikon D7000 was a great choice. The image quality was not as good when I began photographing the night skies. The Nikon D750 has a larger sensor and provides better low-light performance. This is why I switched to it a few years ago.

One day, a photographer will realize that their equipment is not capable of taking the shot they want. This is the moment to upgrade (either the lens, camera, or accessory that will help) and not when new gear appears.

Conclusion

Some people would have read the article in the hope that it would rank entry-level DSLRs. This was not the intention of this article. We have written about it if you are curious.

I hope that this article will help you to understand what you should look for when purchasing a new camera. It is better to be able to identify what you require before purchasing a tool.

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments section. I will answer them as quickly as possible.