Best Camera for Beginner?

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by connorbro, May 12, 2018.

  1. I am trying to begin photography, and looking for a camera since my birthday is in a few weeks. My budget is actually probably around $1000 since it is going to be the only present I’m getting. Still looking for the best quality possible. What should I look for in a camera? Also, what are some good options?
  2. Welcome, Connor.

    Unfortunately, I think the answer is "it depends". The best camera is the one you have with you (so there's no point in having an amazing camera that's too heavy or too expensive to want to carry with you). Beyond that, there's no such thing as a perfect camera - each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the best choice for you depends what your priorities are.

    If you want a very good camera that can do a lot in one go, there are high end compact cameras that can do a lot with what's built in - such as the Sony RX100 range (for portability) or RX10 range (for flexibility); good alternatives exist, notably from Canon and Panasonic.

    If you're wanting to continue to build a photography habit, you're better off looking at a (larger) interchangeable-lens camera - either a dSLR (from Canon, Nikon or possibly Pentax) or a mirrorless system (typically Olympus/Panasonic, Sony or Fujifilm - Canon have a basic option in this segment, and both Canon and Nikon are likely to release mirrorless ranges this year).

    They all have strong and weak points, and a lot of it comes down to preferences in how they handle. If you buy lenses for one system, they won't work with another (which means if you switch system you have to replace everything) - so think about your choice, but they're all capable of taking good photos, so don't get buyer's remorse.

    A basic DSLR and kit lenses is well within your budget - it probably won't do everything a compact camera of the same price can do, but you'll be able to expand the system to do much more later. Just bear in mind that there's only an advantage to the bigger camera if you do so.

    If you do go down the interchangeable lens route, bear in mind that the lens is at least as important as the camera. Unless you're sure you're going to expand your system in the future, buying an expensive camera and the cheapest possible lens may be a false economy. Also bear in mind that the more something tries to do on a budget, the less well it's likely to do it - for example, an 18-200mm lens is likely to perform less well than two lenses - 18-55mm and 55-200mm (these being common kit lenses) - which collectively cover the same range.

    If it helps in comparison, more expensive lenses typically have a larger maximum aperture, that lets you capture more light and separate your subject from the background. That's why people will often suggest buying a 35mm or 50mm f/1.8 lens alongside more flexible zooms. Mainly, I suggest buying a new lens only when you know what you want it for - don't waste all your money up front.

    Rather than giving specific advice, I'd suggest having a look at, which keeps a fairly current set of recommendations for different uses and different budgets. You might like to check for recipes of their recommendations on other web sites, since they certainly don't uncover everything.

    But bear in mind that most phones can take surprisingly good photos, at least in good conditions. Start with what you have, and decide what it can't do that you want it to do - and put your money there. If anything, I'd say don't blow your whole budget up front - get the core of your system, but save some money to expand when you've learned where you want to do so.

    By way of reference, I have a Nikon dSLR system, which is big, expensive, and has a lot of lenses. I used to shoot with a Canon system (I wouldn't read anything into why I changed, other than that I looked at specific strengths of each system and that it cost me money). I also have a smaller Panasonic micro 4/3 system with a couple of lenses for more portability, and an original RX100 that fits in the pocket of my jeans. Plus a few film cameras. They each do things the others can't. I recently printed a T-shirt with a couple of photos of my cat, which died a few months ago; of all the photos of her I took with expensive equipment, the ones I chose (admittedly for specific poses) were made with a phone and with a compact camera from around the year 2000. Expensive kit helps, but it doesn't make a good photo on its own.

    That will all sound very unhelpful, because I can't tell you what to do without knowing a lot more about what you want to do. If a high street retailer tries to sell you a camera without asking more, bear in mind their decisiveness will have more to do with what they have to sell than what you need.

    Take your time, do some research, but also bear in mind that cameras are very good these days and any decision will be splitting hairs - you may as well do your best to choose the best option, but don't get paralysed from buying anything at all (unless you decide your phone's camera does everything you need).

    I hope that's more useful advice than it appears to be. Good luck, and I hope we can help you with more specific questions.
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  3. My 2c.

    If it is just with family and friends and you want a better camera yet easy to use and portable. Like the normal people who ask others hey, what camera should I get ...

    I would go for a premium compact like the Sony RX100 or the cheaper Canon G7 or G9, afaik they just don't have as much features as the Sony like 4k video.

    If you want interchangeable cameras, many people might prefer going with mirrorless. YMMV. Also depends on what images you want. Wildlife, sports? Scenery or portraits? Or just better quality family friends photographs?

    I guess many people compromise, they are with others etc ... When I do scenery by myself my fav item is the tripod. When I do the odd portrait which I am getting into now, I still need something very fast to set up. If you are walking down the sightseeing road of NYC or Sydney with others and even if you have a picnic, most people don't have the patience for you to set up light stands etc ... So maybe something like a flash with a flash cord or wireless and fitted with a small diffuser.

    Or if you are really into macro. As the others may enjoy the garden, you might spend some time by yourself with a macro lens or some macro filters or extension tubes but again this is getting more specialised. Yeah ... are you gonna be with others or would you be alone or with others that are super patient or are they also into the same interests are you are .... When I am with others I just carry 2 lenses. When I do a sunrise I go out alone and get back in time for breakfast with them.
  4. I won't disagree with Andrew, and I will keep my recommendation simple: anything by Sony, Panasonic or Olympus. Fuji cameras are top notch as well but are slightly more premium. If you decide that you want a DSLR after all, Pentax makes the most interesting and capable models. Sensor size is worth knowing about but it's irrelevant, even for a lot of professionals these days.

    If I am going to be specific, I'll recommend a few models. Mirrorless systems (or CSCs) will not give you an optical viewfinder, but they will give you greater lens compatibility that DSLRs. That in turn depends on what is meant by 'compatible' - are you using the whole image circle; are you getting AF or not, and if so, how good; is it worth buying non-native lenses for AF in the first place. So you will have to spend some time thinking about these things.

    Also keep this in mind: the very best mirrorless cameras are superior in almost every way to the very best DSLRs - but you are not buying the very best of anything right now. Keep everything in proportion, and focus on learning photography, no matter how you do it.

    Sony A6300 - slightly too expensive new, so think about used

    Sony A6000 - a twin lens kit will come in at under $1,000

    Olympus E-M5 II - again, slightly premium, but cheaper than the Sony

    Olympus E-M10 - a twin lens kit will cost less than US$1,000

    Panasonic GX85 - a twin lens kit will be under $1,000

    My favourite review sites, FWIW:

    Steve Huff Photo – Real World Camera and Lens Reviews

    Mattias Burling


    The only other advice I'll give: practice, practice, practice! Go to thrift shops and browse the magazine racks for National Geographics etc, old or new. Get some inspiration. And let it be fun - never let anyone make photography a drag for you. Be yourself, have your own style.

    Oh, and you might want a RAW converter. There is at least one really good one that is free. Here's some:

    The best free alternative to Adobe Lightroom 2018 | TechRadar

    Personally I use DxO, but you probably should download a bunch of trial versions of different products and see what you like. Maybe the free ones will suit you just fine in the end.

    P.S. I usually say this to most beginners: stay the hell away from photography schools. Spend your time and money improving your photography instead, and maybe working and/or travelling. Be free.
  5. If you are in the US, go to your nearest Costco or Sam's Club (or a large camera store, if there is one near your house) and handle the cameras that are available in the store or warehouse. Play with whatever's there so you can get an idea of which ones are to your liking - DSLR, mirrorless or P&S. Then come back here with your discovery.
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  6. +1 to all the above, particularly Andrew's advice. If you are truly just getting started, but assuming you want to develop more than point-and-shoot photography skills, keep in mind the following:
    1. In the DSLR realm, more expensive bodies generally do not take better pictures. The difference tends to be in ruggedness and sophistication of the handling. I'm a Nikon guy, so I'll talk Nikon here. Particularly for the beginner, a low-end D3400 will take essentially the same images with the same lenses as a much more expensive camera. The 24 Mp sensor is more than sufficient. The difference is in the controls and some high-end features. I strongly recommend a capable but less expensive body for starters, allowing for purchase of more or better lenses.

    2. I was in Sam's Club today and noticed they have a Nikon D5500 (or D5600?) kit on sale for well within your budget. It comes with the very capable D5500 body and two useful kit lenses: an 18-55mm and a 70-300mm. This kit, plus memory cards, a tripod, and inexpensive filters (to protect the lenses) can be had for your budget, and will do everything you need to learn both the essentials of photography and many advanced techniques. I'm sure there's a Canon equivalent, but that's not my rice bowl.

    3. If you truly want to do more than just point-and-shoot, then any camera you buy needs to provide the following functionality: a) Allow full manual exposure control, including manual selection of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity. b) Allow selection and custom setting of white balance. c) Provide output in both JPG and RAW file formats. RAW will allow much more detailed and extensive editing in post processing. d) Interchangeable lenses offer the best image quality, as no super zoom can compete with the sharpness of quality, moderate-range zooms or fixed focal length prime lenses. e) Selectable focus and exposure modes, allowing single-point, multi-point, or dynamic (full frame) focus selection and exposure metering. f) Once I discovered "back button focus" I never went back, and I recommend it as an early modification in camera operations. This is a bit advanced for a newbie, but what it does is allow one to disconnect the autofocus function from the shutter release, instead of waiting for the lens to refocus each time the shutter release is pressed. Again, this is not essential, but has become an indispensable tool in my bag of tricks.

    4. As you progress you will discover additional bits of kit that will help you expand your photographic repertoire. These will include specialized filters, remote shutter release, ultra wide angle lens, extension tubes or specialized lenses for macro photography, hot-shoe flash(es), teleconverters or very long telephoto lenses, fast (large aperture) prime lenses for portraiture, etc. Keep in mind that it is very, very easy to get caught up in the "more expensive makes better pictures" trap. The most important piece of kit is the 12 inches behind the viewfinder (to paraphrase Ansel Adams). There will be some very specialized images that require very unique and expensive equipment to capture, but these are by far the exception. A dedicated practitioner will spend at least 3-5 years growing and learning with a basic kit before he/she discovers the technical limits of that kit. By that time, one will have figured out what he/she needs to advance his/her particular skills and interests. Photographers are notorious gearheads, so beware of advice suggesting the most expensive anything as being just the ticket to make the beginner a better photographer. Many of the very best images you will see on were captured using older, used, inexpensive, and somewhat elderly equipment, but used with skill, creativity, and knowledge borne of much practice and experimentation.

    Good luck, practice lots, and, most importantly, have fun!
  7. I thought I replied to this post, or was it posted someplace else where I replied????

    I agree with the idea of a basic 'starter' camera, to get your feet wet.
    Photography has the same problem of other fields. If you get some thing that is advanced, you may never use the features, in which case it is money wasted. If you do use the features, good. So buying up is like insurance, but how much are you willing to pay for that insurance?

    Here are my suggestions based on the few cameras that I know about.
    • Nikon D3400 or D5600 + 18-55 VR lens.
      • I would NOT get any kit with a NON-VR long lens. IMHO, the longer the lens, the more you need VR. The non-VR lens is part of the kit, to keep the total kit price under a target point.
      • For a long lens buy separately either the 55-200 VR or 70-300 VR.
      • Alternate lens: The D5600 has a kit option with the 18-140 lens instead of the 18-55 lens. The 18-140 is a GOOD general purpose lens. I have it on my camera, and I LOVE it. But is is heavier than the 18-55.
    • Canon has a similar entry level kit, but I am not familiar with the entry level Canon cameras.
      • Alternate lens: Canon has a similar 18-135 lens that you can get in the T7i kit, or separately. I don't know what other kits the 18-135 lens comes in.
    • Olympus OM-D D-M10-mark 2 + 14-42 EZ lens.
      • This is a micro 4/3 format mirrorless camera.
      • For a long lens the 40-150 f/4-5.6 lens, which is very similar to the 55-200 on the Nikon D3400
      • Note, this is NOT a sport or fast action camera. The AF won't keep up with fast moving subjects.
      • The EM10-mk2 is currently discounted because the mk3 has been released.
  8. The lens is the most important part of any camera. You can buy a $4000 camera body, but if you fit it with a $150 lens you'll get $150 pictures - well, pretty much.

    If you're just starting out, then it's probably difficult for you to say where your photo-related ambitions lie. Some camera models are more suited to one particular area or type of photography than others.

    For example: Are you technology-minded, or do you like to keep things simple? Some people hate 'menu mining' to set camera features, and others are quite happy to do that. Some like knobs to twiddle and others prefer a touch screen.

    Basically, what I'm saying is we need more clues about what type of pictures you like, and how tech-savvy you are, etc.
    DavidTriplett likes this.
  9. Again, good advice from everyone above. I do just want to give a little clarification to what the brands offer, to make it a little less overwhelming, and also because I can't let Karim's Pentax comment go without context. :)

    Of the types of camera we're discussing:
    • Compact cameras have a fixed lens attached, and limited accessories. They can be smaller and cheaper for what they do, and are at least reasonably capable. They don't really let you grow to the same extent, but they might also be less likely to sit at home unused. Look for a "large sensor", with raw shooting and decent controls. Buying something with a 600x zoom will probably mean compromised quality (though these cameras have their place for flexibility).
    • DSLRs are the traditional "pro" cameras - like (most) film cameras but with a digital sensor in place of the film. To compose the shot, you look through an eyepiece, and see light coming through the lens and bouncing off a mirror (although you can also look at the screen on the back). You can change the lens, and if you upgrade the camera body you can keep your lenses. These systems have had a long time to become extensive, with hundreds of lenses, macro rails, radio triggers, multiple flash setups, etc. The systems are (mostly) compatible within a manufacturer, but not between manufacturers. At least historically, SLRs have had an edge in tracking action over mirrorless systems, though the gap has narrowed.
    • Mirrorless systems let you change lenses like a dSLR but you compose the image with a digital picture of what the sensor can see rather than a purely optical approach with mirrors. As technology has improved, this has become a lot more viable - and there are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. They tend to be smaller than dSLRs. The systems aren't quite as extensive, but the manufacturers have invested heavily, and you're unlikely to be limited. You can adapt SLR lenses to work with mirrorless cameras, but doing so usually has some limitations; you mostly can't adapt lenses from one mirrorless system to another.
    • Several manufacturers (notably Sigma and Tamron) make lenses for multiple camera systems.
    A word on sensor size:
    • Big sensors cost more and require larger and more expensive lenses, but also tend to capture the best image quality.
    • "Full frame" sensors are the size of a 35mm film exposure, and are used in the high-end cameras from Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony.
    • "APS-C" sensors are about 2/3 as large (on each edge) as full frame, and are the most common trade-off for good image quality vs price and portability. They're used by Canon, Nikon and Pentax in their consumer dSLRs, and by Sony, Fujifilm and Canon in mirrorless.
    • 4/3 sensors are about half the size (each way) of full frame, and we're a good trade off for portability because the lenses are substantially smaller than full frame lenses. Olympus and Panasonic use this size.
    • 1" sensors are smaller still, and typically used in high end compact cameras because they allow the camera to remain relatively small. This is probably the lower limit for "high quality" images, although compacts with even smaller sensors can still take a good photograph.
    • Canon sell more cameras than anyone else. Their G7 and G9 high end compact cameras are good value, although see reviews for comparisons against Sony. They do have a mirrorless offering, but it's quite limited, although they're expected to expand on it. They have probably the most extensive dSLR system, with better video support than Nikon. Consumer models mostly have APS-C sensors, and pro models have full frame sensors.
    • Nikon are mostly known for their dSLRs (and cheap compacts which probably aren't worry discussing here). They have slight arguable advantages in image quality and autofocus over Canon models, but limited video. Please read reviews before taking too much from that summary - the biggest difference from Canon is probably where the dials sit and what feels comfortable to you. Nikon are expected to launch a mirrorless system soon (ignore the 1-series), but their SLR system goes back to the 1960s and is unlikely to go away. Consumer models mostly have APS-C sensors and pro models mostly have full frame sensors.
    • Pentax make very good dSLRs, especially for the money. Do consider them, but bear in mind they don't have quite the range of Canon or Nikon, and you're less likely to see them on the high street (which can matter if you have an emergency). They do have enough in their system to keep many people happy for their photographic lives, and they have some nice features, but you won't see a Pentax covering a big sporting event or, typically, being used on safari - partly due to the lack of big lenses in the Pentax system, partly because their autofocus is behind the other two. They have both APS-C and full frame models, but don't update them as often as Canon and Nikon.
    • Sony make two ranges of mirrorless camera (and a SLR-like "SLT" which you can ignore), based on APS-C and full frame sensors. Sony seem to have put more priority on their full frame system recently, perhaps because it makes them more money, and the resulting cameras are competitive with Canon and Nikon ("Canikony" gets used as a way to refer to the big three). All are very capable, although Sony have a track record of having a slightly unwieldy interface, and some of their lenses are a bit pricey by dSLR standards. They also make decent high-end compact cameras with 1" sensors.
    • Fujifilm make decent mirrorless APS-C cameras (and some good but specialist compacts). They tend to think outside the box, both in terms of sensors and handling; they get some advantages from doing so, but there's a reason most manufacturers stick to convention. They tend to have a slight premium, but have some interesting functionality not in other systems.
    • Olympus makes micro 4/3 mirrorless cameras, with very good image quality for their size. They tend to be very configurable, though they tend to be a bit limited at shooting action. Many dSLR shooters switch to systems like this when they want to carry less, and the image quality is often still "good enough".
    • Panasonic also makes micro 4/3 cameras, and their lenses are compatible with Olympus's. While it varies by camera, the convention tends to be that Panasonic make better cameras for shooting video, where they're very good, and Olympus has the edge for stills (but read reviews). Panasonic also make good high end compacts.
    Within a range, manufacturers' cameras tend to be compatible (you can swap lenses between them, for example) and have some handling consistency. Still, Nikon's budget D3400 only has so much in common with their top-end D5, and when I say things like "Nikon arguably has better autofocus than Canon", a high-end Canon will still wipe the floor with a low-end Nikon.

    I hope that's a useful run-down of what you might be looking at in a department store. They're all trying to compete, while finding ways to excel against the competition; they'll all take a good basic photo (even, these days, under tricky conditions), but they all have areas where they are stronger than the others. Your mission is to decide if you know which of these you care about - and otherwise, which feels right and gives you a good deal!
    Gary Naka and DavidTriplett like this.
  10. I realised (for once) that I've been a bit of a wind bag, and wanted to make it worse by justifying to Connor why we're not giving a simple answer:

    Imagine someone agrees to buy you a car for $20,000 (because cars usually cost more than cameras, although as my friends pointed out when I mentioned the price of some of my kit, not always). You go on a car site and all what the best car is for that money.

    Here's the problem. Do you want a powerful coupe with a big engine that's hard to park and drinks fuel? Do you want an SUV that's even more unwieldy, but which can carry all your friends over a beach? Do you want a little sports car that'll be the most fun on windy roads? Do you want a small efficient town car that's easy to park? Do you want a big cruiser that's comfortable for long trips? Should you buy new or used? Do you want an older classic?

    I could try to draw tortuous analogies between any of these and types of camera, but I hope it's clear that there's no simple answer. Even if one specialty is your priority, secondary concerns usually apply. (For example, you may want a camera for landscapes, but are you likely to care more about wildlife or videos on top of that?)

    Fortunately, no recent camera is really terrible at anything, but nor can we really say what's "best" without more information. And even then, it'll be somewhat personal.
    AJG, Gary Naka and DavidTriplett like this.
  11. I'm a beginner too and am using D3200. The photos are outstanding since it has auto focus and settings are easy to configure. The newest version called D3400 would be a perfect fit for beginners with a 18-55mm lens. In most cases, my kit lens functioned great. Now looking forward to buy a wide angle lens for landscapes, but for beginners the kit lens should be just fine!
    DavidTriplett and Andrew Garrard like this.
  12. I would spend 400 bucks on an entry level DSLR, use it for a year and then you will have a much better idea of what you really need, and want. If you decide that you need or want something else, sell the DSLR, put it together with the 600 you saved. 800 should get you all the camera you’ll need for a good while.
    Andrew Garrard and DavidTriplett like this.
  13. As was mentioned, the more you talk to us, about what you think you want to do the better we can help.
    Otherwise you will get generic answers that may not fit you very well.

    For example,
    • Is weight a consideration? It can be for an older person, maybe not for a younger person.
    • Do you want to shoot closeup of coins and bugs? You need a macro lens or a lens with close focusing capability.
    • Do you want to shot birds at a distance? You would need a long tele/zoom.
    • Do you want to shoot indoor without using a flash? You would need a fast lens, not a slow zoom.
    • Do you want to shoot your kids in sport events? Then, what sports?
    • Do you want to go on vacation with only ONE lens?
    If you don't know, because you are still figuring out the hobby, that is OK.
    Then start with a more generic kit. Then as you get more familiar with the hobby, you can add the gear to match what you want to shoot.

    Warning. Kits are not always made for users. Kits are sometimes assembled to a marketing price point.
    Example, Nikon D3400 + 18-55 lens (that is fine), but the 2nd lens in the kit is a 70-300 without Vibration Reduction/VR.
    The non-VR lens is put in the kit to keep the kit price below a certain target price. The non-VR lens is cheaper than the VR lens.
    IMHO, the longer lenses NEED VR to make them easier to shoot, especially as the sun goes down and you can't shoot at 1/1000 sec.
    I would get a kit without the non-VR long lens, then get a long lens with VR separately.

    BTW, there is the 80/20 rule.
    80% of the people will be satisfied with 20% of the gear.
    The problem here is many of us are in the other 20%, where we want more and specialized gear that is beyond the average person. And it can be hard for some of us to think like the average person. I am often guilty of this.
  14. Good post! This is what I did (although still I can't recommend it to anyone) was to study about cameras as much as I could. I got to the point where I could use almost any camera available before deciding on which camera to buy. Then without regard to budget I would decide on the camera that was best for me and only after that I may change my budget or find the one within my budget that came closet the the one I decide was best.
    I spent 2 years doing just that from 75 to 77 when I bought my first camera. But I know most people don't want to wait that long.
    Andrew Garrard likes this.
  15. That's one way to look at it. Here's my take on the 80/20 rule: you can get 80% of the ideal result at 20% of the cost. Actually it can be 95/10 in practice, depending on your application. :)
    Gary Naka likes this.
  16. Lots of good advice already, particularly by Andrew - I won't be belaboring most of the points already made.

    First and foremost - be patient and find out what you really expect from photography and which camera will suit that need best. And get rid of the notion of a "best quality/camera" - the best camera for you is the one that allows you to do what you want to do and gives you images that are sufficient for your needs (all within the constraints of your budget, of course). The (quality) bar is set rather low if all you want to do is share online and substantially higher if you want to make huge prints to hang on the wall. There's hardly a bad camera out there these days - but plenty that are less suitable or even unsuitable for a given task.

    David provided an excellent summary that can guide you in selecting between a camera with a fixed, non-removable lens and a system camera that allows to change lenses and attach and/or control all kinds of specialized equipment. As good a starting point as any to delve into defining what you consider important for yourself. Define your needs and purchase accordingly.

    I took almost as long starting sometime in 77 before purchasing my first camera in 79. During that time, I considered just about every camera that was available at the time.

    Count me into that category too. Quite a bit of what I shoot I could do with a Sony RX100 or RX10 but for some situations $3500 worth of camera and lens are at the lower end of the price and capability spectrum of what is available (quite easy to spend 8-10 times as much).
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
  17. OK time for an old story to make Dieter's point.

    Many years ago, a pro friend of mine had a daughter who was taking GREAT pictures with her Instamatic (Kodak's box camera of the time).
    So for her 18th birthday, he gave her a Hasselblad.
    About 4-6 months later, she gave her dad the Hasselblad and asked for her Instamatic.
    Dad was puzzled.
    It turned out that the EXPENSIVE Hasselblad was too complicated for her. It took the creativity out of taking a picture, and taking a picture became a technical process.
    With the Instamatic, it was aim the camera, compose, press the shutter, and done. Nothing to fiddle with.
  18. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    are you considering a film camera?
  19. "are you considering a film camera?"

    - The budget's only $1000. The OP might be expecting to take more than 5 or 6 pictures a day.

    There's also a stipulation of: 'Still looking for the best quality possible.'
  20. Connor, out of curiosity I did a quick search on EBay and Amazon. There you can buy many variations on a DSLR "starter" kit for well within your $1,000 budget. However, I note that most of these 3rd party (not by Nikon or Canon) kits contain a number of items of questionable worth or usefulness. For example, a beginner/learner really has no need of a multi-filter kit. Rather, I'd recommend a haze/UV filter on each lens to protect the objective element(s). The tripods offered with these kits are likewise highly suspect, as are the "wide-angle" and "telephoto" accessory lenses/attachments. Contrary to initial impressions, you are unlikely to be well served by such a kit. Instead, again assuming you want to develop more than point-and-shoot skills, I would recommend you assemble a set of starter gear generally conforming to the following considerations:

    Camera body: A consumer grade (not pro) DSLR or Micro 4/3 body, most likely with a (nominally) 20-24 Mp APS-C (crop) sensor or equivalent. My own prejudice is in favor of the DSLR. You don't necessarily need the newest model, as recent models can frequently be purchased in new or near-new condition for discounted prices. The body should come with all the normal accessories, including battery, charger, strap, body cap, manual, and various bit and pieces depending on the manufacturer. You'll want at least one extra battery, and I like other types of straps than the OEM type. Likely candidates from the Nikon lineup include D3300+ series, D5200+ series, and D7100+ series. ("+" meaning this or any later model of the series.) More recent models tend to have improved autofocus, low light performance, and larger image buffers, but all of these represent 4th generation technical development.

    Lenses: A learner will be well served by two lenses: First, a wide-angle-to-normal zoom in the 18-55mm range. Nikon's lens, with variable aperture and VR (or image stabilization) is well regarded as a surprisingly good kit lens. A second, normal-to-telephoto zoom lens in the 55-200/300mm range, with VR is a good supplement. For example, Nikon sold many OEM kits with a D5100 + 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses. However, particularly for the longer focal lengths, the lack of VR can significantly impact the quality of your images (due to camera shake). One additional lens to consider for a starter kit will be a "normal", "prime" lens in a fixed focal length with a large aperture. Again, Nikon's 35mm/1.8 DX is generally regarded as a high value lens for crop sensor bodies. As you learn and expand your knowledge, you will almost certainly discover there are images that require more specialized lenses. However, these three, or similar, will do for well in excess of 90% of your early efforts. Make sure you have a protective bag for all your lenses.

    Tripod: A decent tripod is an essential piece of gear. Bigger and lighter weight = more $$$. Many of us have spent as much on tripods as we do on lenses or even bodies. For the beginner, something a little less costly will certainly serve. There are many choices. You will buy more height with more weight, but for less $$ with aluminum than carbon fiber. Keep in mind that the you need a "pan" or "ball" head too. Some come with the tripod, others are sold separately. Bottom line: pick a tripod that is tall enough so you can see through the viewfinder without breaking your back, light enough that you can carry it easily in a daypack, and rugged enough that it won't give out on you and will provide a stable platform for long exposures. Assume you will eventually upgrade, so don't break the bank on the first go.

    Other accessories: You will want several, high quality examples of whatever memory card your body uses. You will likely want a remote release, either with cord or IR. Polaroid works as well as OEM for this purpose, and is half the price. You will want a camera bag to carry your extra stuff. I recommend a waist bag or over-the-shoulder messenger-type rather than a daypack. You have to take the backpack off to get at anything, which discourages using the best combination of kit for any given situation. Long exposures over 30 seconds will demand a remote shutter release with "bulb" timer, since most shutters only go up to 30 seconds of exposure time. You might find you want a circular polarizer filter. You will want a haze/UV filter on the front of every lens, as noted above. The need or desire for other filters will develop as you learn and experiment with how the camera responds to various light conditions. Most of the candidate bodies have a built-in flash sufficient for general use. You will eventually decide you need a supplementary, hot-shoe flash, but that is an expense that can wait until you decide your preferences. If you want to do macro (close-up) photography, you can make do with an inexpensive set of extension tubes until you decide you want to invest in more specialized (and expensive) lenses.

    All of the above can be had within your budget, even shopping for new, if you choose carefully. The items listed will provide far more flexibility and capacity than what most of us learned on. Add this to the plethora of excellent advice give above and you will be in good shape. You will also want to obtain and learn to use some basic post-processing software, as this will be necessary to wring the absolute best results out of your efforts. Think of it as a darkroom in your computer. Anyway, those are my recommendations. Others will very likely offer alternatives. You'll have to decide what works best for you and your intentions. Whatever you do, as noted previously, try to stay out of the trap that says you need the most expensive, super-whamodyne gadget to make "good" photos. That is and will always be BS. Once you have whatever kit you choose, shoot it like crazy, experiment, learn, and have fun. Happy trails...
    Andrew Garrard and Gary Naka like this.

Share This Page