Skip to main content

Best camera for a learner

Regular readers know that I very rarely write about cameras and equipment. However as a photographer I am often asked, “which camera should I buy?” The follow up question from me is how much are you willing to spend and what do you want a camera for...there are hundreds to choose from?

This summer I helped a number of friends find cameras which means I had to do some serious research. So why not share what I found out on my blog.

If you’re serious about learning photography and giving yourself room to take it to the next level then you will want a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera (DSLR). Yes, they are heavier to carry around than a compact but these days the entry level DSLR models are pretty light and portable.

There are numerous small compact cameras that deliver excellent quality, so long as your subject stays quite still. The moment you’re confronted with a relatively fast moving subject (people at a party, sports, street photography, active kids) you need a DSLR. It’s simply the best type of camera to do everything photographic, although admittedly you can’t slip it into your shirt pocket.

Compact cameras do have their uses, and I’ve got one to carry around with me. But as a serious learner photographer you will probably get frustrated with a compact camera’s limitations within a few months. So take a short cut and go straight for the DSLR.

Modern DSLRs deliver amazing quality, more than most people will ever need, and far better than compact cameras. You can literally shoot images that are billboard quality with a 10mp DSLR.

After lots of investigation and getting my hands on some of the popular models, I have to say that the most impressive camera out there at the moment is the Nikon D5000. It’s light, fast, quiet to use and packed with features. I’ve used it and I found it intuitive and easy to navigate. The picture quality is excellent. The camera also features a movie mode but that’s more for fun than serious film making. The swivel screen viewfinder is great for getting shots at different angles, low or high, where it’s virtually impossible to put your eye to the viewfinder. Great fun to play with.

It’s important to remember that when you buy a DSLR you’re also buying into a camera system. Once you’ve got a few lenses and a flash etc, you’ve invested and then switching brands can be a costly business. Most of my life I have used Nikon and my wife and fellow professional photographer, Magda Indigo, continues to use the Nikon system. What can I say? They make excellent cameras.

Sadly Nikon took so long to bring out a full frame camera that I switched to Canon when they brought out the first reasonably priced full frame camera, the Canon 5D. So I went through the expense of changing my whole system. Don’t get me wrong. I love my Canon and the quality is outstanding. But to me the Nikon’s feel better to use and certainly in my hands better than Canon’s offering in the entry level/enthusiast range. Admittedly there’s an amount of subjectivity here.

Nikon now offer the wonderful full frame D700. If money is no object and you want the best of the best (besides the very heavy top pro DSLRs) then that’s the camera to go for, but to start off with the D5000 does everything a learner could want. As a step up from D5000 you may also want to consider the Nikon D90 but then you’re getting into advanced enthusiast territory and you’ll need to see whether the extra features really justify the extra cost.

For more detailed technical information I recommend DP Review’s excellent analysis and for a subjective and heartfelt commentary on the virtues of the Nikon D5000 take a look at Ken Rockwell’s endorsement. When you are buying a camera keep in mind that you can often save some money, I found this deal which may help

Now next time I’m asked which camera to buy, I can just send the person a link to my blog article.

I hope you find my recommendation helpful. Next time I’ll be writing again about the serious business of taking great pictures. Feel free to delve into my archives as well (tip: use the search box on the right). There’s a wealth of material that will improve your photography.

Till soon...


Anonymous said…
"But to me the Nikon’s feel better to use and certainly in my hands better than Canon’s offering in the entry level/enthusiast range. "
Paul, you're so damn' right here :) Shooting with Nikons for ... well, 26 yrs, I do not and never will feel comfortable with Canon, way too small, too much lightweight, and, most important : nothing is there where I do expect it for handling. May be a different cup of tea when you start with Canon and get used to these bodies... So I'd say, the 450D might be a fine starter either.

Nikon D3, 700, 300s (video....) since turning completely to digital

Popular posts from this blog

The art of writing a caption

A caption in its simplest form is the the title of an image but usually we mean a bit more. A full caption takes the form of descriptive text, usually a few sentences.

A good caption informs us about the things we cannot see and encourages us to look at an image more closely. There is a relationship of mutual benefit and dependence between a well written caption and an image. The caption can bring an image to life by providing context and meaning. It is also the link between the article/story/text and the image.

Magda Indigo has written a good description of a caption here. I agree with her dislike of "untitled". It does show a certain lack of imagination and is not particularly helpful to the viewer. Creating an image is all about trying to communicate something and the caption is vital to help the audience understand an image. It can hugely enhance the viewers experience.

A good caption is a piece of writing that should be concise, accurate, informative and as carefully craft…

All the different types of photography

Welcome to my blog. While you're here why not browse through my extensive library of articles covering everything from tips on how to do things photographic to help with the mental approach you need to become a successful photographer. You'll also find articles with some of my unconventional views. Yes, I've rattled a view cages in my time. Hope you have as much fun reading them as I did writing them.

You can view my more serious work on

All the different types of photography

With the help of acquaintances on a photographic site I've tried to compile a list of all the different types of photography out there. I'm sure there are many still missing but the list is pretty impressive so far. We have identified around 80 descriptions.

For fun I've highlighted in bold the different types I've done so far...

3D photography
Action photography
Advertising photography
Aerial photography
Amateur photography
Animal photography
Architecture photography

Is professional photography still a viable career?

I am not against amateurs and semi-professionals selling their photography. It's a great way to earn some extra cash. However I am concerned about the level of high quality published work and the standards that clients and the public accept these days.

It seems that just about everyone is a photographer. The line between amateur enthusiast and professional is fuzzy to say the least.

Photography enthusiasts are selling their images through stock libraries and microstock websites, directly to magazines or through their own and third party sites. They're accepting commissions to shoot weddings, being hired to shoot for magazines and selling fine art prints from their websites. They're teaching photography on the weekend and guiding photographic holidays and safaris.

Photography became accessible to the masses with the first non-expert cameras and the famous Kodak slogan"You press the button, we do the rest." The digital camera age has taken the whole thing to a new …