One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is, "Elliott, I love photography and want to take the step into the professional camera world... What should I buy??" This has always been a really tough question for me to answer because I know from personal experience that photography tends to be a never ending money pit. I've finally decided to crack and give advice from my personal experiences in becoming a photographer. This is the advice that I wish someone had given me when I purchased my very first camera.
DISCLAIMER - This advice is strictly my personal opinion & not meant to set the standard for what's right or wrong when making your own decision.
Starting off... Point & Shoot cameras.. Pro's and Cons.. Sub $1000 range.
The high end point and shoot camera will have it's advantages in portability, but will lack in adaptability.. I.E. you won't have full range of zoom. Point & Shoots are great if you want something to put in your pocket and bring to parties, on vacations, or just to have as an extension of your iphone. That's about where I would draw the line.
In my experience, your best bet is to invest in an entry level digital slr camera with a QUALITY piece of glass.
The Nikon D5500 just came out. I'm not going to get into the technical nitty gritty so I'll stick to what features stand out the most about this camera to me.
- EXPEED 4 Image Processor - Better image quality of EXPEED 3, Higher ISO capabilities(Better low light image quality),
- Built in Wifi - Transfer images from your SLR directly to your iphone/ipad etc.. Great feature if you like to edit images on your phone and upload them straight to Instagram!
- Swivel Screen - I LOVE this feature.. Didn't think I would use it often until I purchased the D750.. The swivel screen allows you to get a completely different perspective while still being able to maintain your composition.
- 1080p Video recording at 60fps - Epic slow motion videos with 1080p quality.
If I could only choose one lens as a starter for my SLR camera I would go with a 35mm fixed prime lens.
The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1.8/G DX lens will set you up perfectly.
- Max Aperture f/1.8 - This basically means that you'll be able to get that cool fuzzy background when taking pictures! AKA - Shallow Depth of Field.
- Low light flexibility - You're going to find yourself in situations where you have to decide whether to crank up your ISO(cameras sensitivity to light) or open up your aperture to bring in more light. The solution is balance. You will need a lens that can give you the option. Hence the maximum 1.8 aperture of the lens.
- Sharpness - I find that entry level prime lenses are undoubtedly sharper then the alternative zoom lenses at the same price range. Now this is from my personal experience...
Here are some example images from a 50mm lens on a full frame camera to give you a rough idea of the focal range from a 35mm on the crop sensor of the D5500.
The D5500 has a crop sensor which means that your 35mm lens will be closer to the equivalent of a 50mm lens on a full frame camera. Great for portraits. Wide enough walking around.. The f/1.8 aperture gives you enough to speed to get great depth of field as well as the ability to shoot in low light situations.
So with the D5500 and the Nikon 35mm lens you're looking at spending right around $1100. Throw in a couple of memory cards and a camera bag and it's safe to say that you'll be walking out of the store spending around $1300. I know you're probably thinking, "$1300?!? What!? I wanted to spend $500 max!!" Well, here lies the problem with asking a professional photographer what camera you should buy. I'm going to tell you that you need to spend this much because you will be slapping yourself 3-6 months down the road when you realize that the $500 that you spent isn't doing what you expected.. Yes, the photographer makes the picture not the camera.. blah blah blah... But I'm telling you, you'd be better off upgrading your smart phone rather than spending $500 on a point and shoot. Just my two cents.
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