Getting started (buying a camera)

Example of a shot from the more expensive option   Sony Alpha aII, 70-200mm | f18, 10 sec, ISO 200

Example of a shot from the more expensive option

Sony Alpha aII, 70-200mm | f18, 10 sec, ISO 200

 

I've made the transition to becoming a real photographer... What I mean by that is my interest in photography has surpassed the level of taking some pictures at a cool angle during a vacation, past the level of making it a hobby and now to a potential level of monetization.  It's become something that I could see myself doing full-time either on my own or for another organization.  

I want to make no mistake about it, I am not a professional photographer.  I am trying to get there, but I have a long way to go.  I'm also not a beginner.  I managed to stumble through the awkward phase of photography that included subpar equipment, weird photos of random "edgy" objects and filters galore.  But through that phase I learned there is nothing out there (that I have found) that gives you a good place to start. Nothing out there offers you recommendations of training, equipment, locations and the necessary software to use to get started.  So, here you go.  This is what I would recommend you do if you want to take the leap from simply snapping away with your iPhone to making photography a hobby or even career.  Keep in mind this is the photography gospel according to Luke and just like any piece of standardized literature, it's probably not the most accurate and should be criticized by those who might know better.  

So, if you're a professional photographer or at least a self-proclaimed one get ready to feel that vein in your neck pump from frustration because I am sure no matter what I say next won't agree with whatever you'd recommend... But I don't really care.  If you're not a professional photographer and for some reason really do want smell what I'm stepping in take this with a grain of salt

I will write a set of blogs to help guide you through getting started, so:

Step 1 - Get a good, not great, camera

From what I have found my photographs tend to get better with the quality level of equipment that I purchase.  While some of the best photos I have taken have been with an iPhone, the majority of them were with mid-level to higher end cameras.  I'd recommend getting something that can grow with you.  For example, the mirrorless Canon EOS M3 goes for around $650 and is still a camera that I use today.  The camera offers most of the same features as a full-frame camera and allows you to manipulate the controls of the camera fairly easily.  Those controls will remain somewhat similar if and when you graduate to a better camera body.  

I personally started out with a Nikon D40 (turned into the Nikon D3400) although I wouldn't recommend it.  The camera was bulky, took subpar photos but still taught me how to make various adjustments.  I eventually purchased a Nikon D90 before moving onto what I consider my first real camera, the Canon 7D Mark II.  I eventually purchased my current camera a, 5D Mark Iv after testing it and the Sony Alpha A7 II fairly extensively.  

Now, I am going to recommend something that would have saved me a lot of money.  Choose a camera company and stick with it.  While I could write a whole thread about what camera company is better and then I'd get a ton of haters and I'd have to respond to them negatively, I'd rather just say what I like, which is Canon.  It's the best camera company for me.  I also like Sony, especially with their new lineup.  Both companies have great camera bodies and accompanied lenses.  That's not to say other companies out there don't as well, I just like those two.  The bottom line is the sooner you can choose your preferred camera company the sooner you can start to build your lens and accessory line-up.  So here are the cameras I would personally recommend starting out:

Inexpensive (relatively):

 

Canon EOS M3 or Sony a6000

Both cameras come in at around $650-800 depending on what lenses you choose to get with it.  Both offer a mirrorless format that allows for great photography.  Both can be upgraded with better lenses later on and both offer all the bells and whistles as higher end cameras that allow you to learn how to manipulate all the controls.  I also like recommending these because they are great travel cameras that you can use later on.  

Somewhat expensive:

 

Canon 7D Mark II or Sony a6500

Either of these will run you around $1400. This is a tough one to recommend since there are also other great cameras out there, like the 80D.  Although, I am all about cameras that I can use later on.  The 7D Mark II is a crop sensor camera that is durable, fast and produces some incredible photos.  A lot of sports photographers use it because it captures 10 frames per second meaning it can take 10 photos a second when on burst mode.  In comparison the Sony shoots 11 frames per second.  Either of these cameras would be great to use later on once you go to the big leagues.  If you opt for something like the Canon 80D you'll have a decent camera (for a lot less) but once you graduate from it there is no real reason to use it again.   

Expensive:

 

Canon 6D Mark II or Sony Alpha A7 II

Either of these will run you close to the $2,000 mark and I'd only recommend doing one of these if you are ready to just bite the bullet and fully immerse yourself, oh and if you're gangster rich. Either of these can be put to automatic and will capture great photos while offering all the settings needed to produce the exact shot you're after.  You can grow into either of these and never really grow out of them...  If that makes sense.  Personally I'd recommend getting your feet wet with the inexpensive route and then going to the expensive route later on.  But that's just me.

All of the cameras above will offer you the ability to learn how to capture great photos.  They all shoot in RAW format that is important for post editing.  All of the cameras can grow with you through your photography career and all of the cameras actually offer roughly the same quality of photos.  Now, that last sentence is a bit bullshit.  If I lined all of them up and took the exact same photo with the exact same settings the photos would look generally the same.  The real difference between the inexpensive and the expensive comes when you try to get into specialty photography such as low light, astrophotography or even sports photography.  You will also notice a difference if the photos get blown way up or if you try to do some extreme post editing.

Keep in mind the camera body is only a piece of the photography puzzle.  Each of these cameras come with lens packages, which I'll cover later.  If you get one of the add-on lenses with one of these cameras you wont be hurting yourself.  In the end lenses are what will truly crush your wallet and future children's college fun so lets save that for later in another post.    

Example shot from a less expensive model   Canon EOS M3, 24-70mm | f/10, 1.6 sec, ISO 100

Example shot from a less expensive model

Canon EOS M3, 24-70mm | f/10, 1.6 sec, ISO 100

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