How to Pick the Best Camera for You
Some of these things may be obvious, however, it is insanely easy to get carried away when shopping for your next camera and all the kit that is going to go with it. (And before we go any further – Canon is my bias. I’m not sponsored, I just like them. Shh, don’t tell… 😉 )
Your camera is a key piece of equipment and it’s something that should be treated with the respect that it deserves.
Let’s put a common sense filter on our foray into the camera market. Take a cautionary approach and avoid making impulse purchases as much as possible – use this post to help you understand what it is that you need.
1: Your Budget is your Baseline
The first and last thing you need to consider is your budget. Ultimately, if your wish list is ever going to have a future as shopping list – you should keep this in mind first and foremost.
If you can’t afford a whole camera and all the extras it is going to need for your set-up, determine how much you can manage to set aside. Saving up for one while you take a good, long and hard look at the marketplace will give you a much more discerning eye.
2: List Your Core Project Requirements
Cameras do not come in ‘a one-size fits all’ option. The best camera for your needs will vary based on the requirements you have.
There are a plethora of questions you should ask yourself. Here are some of them to get you started:
- What type of content are you going to create – documentary, drama, stop-motion animation, Youtube, etc?
- Mainly photography or mainly video content? Or just one of the two?
- What is the subject of your content – sport, landscapes, wildlife, food, etc?
- What kind of quality and feel do you want to have – gritty, Polaroid, noir, etc?
- Do you need slow motion capability – what sort of fps (frames per second) for video are you looking for?
- Do you really need 4k video or can that be for later?
- How long are your shooting times/days – how does that look in battery life?
- How much camera knowledge do you or your team members have – how complex a set-up can you handle?
- Are you going to be creating projects mainly on the go – is it important to have that option?
- What is the quality of audio you are after?
- What kind of shooting environment are you going to be in – is the camera durable enough to handle that?
And so on.
3: Take a Quick Look at What Others in Your Industry Are Using
This is actually pretty useful for several reasons.
First of all, it is a fairly good guiding mark to determine what is working well for others in your niche, so it’s probably at the very least a good starting point to go from.
Secondly, it can save you a tonne of work in trial and error. The audience for that niche is already used to a certain standard. So that’s either the one that you work to match or do better.
Just remember that it’s quality of content that counts and just having a better camera than those in your field is not necessarily a reason you’ll instantly do (as well) or better than them.
Equally so, with great content, you shouldn’t worry if you can’t quite match what is “normal” in terms of equipment. A great reason to respect your budget.
4: What Kind of Work Flow Are You Used to?
This may seem like a bit of an odd thing to consider, but consider it you should!
Personally, I have been using the Canon camera system all my (albeit short) professional life. I know how to work with it to get what I want. I have a small but growing collection of camera lenses – all Canon.
In terms of adapting footage, recording and what you already have, consider the brands you have worked with previously and felt most comfortable with.
I know, it’s important to push your comfort zone. But you do need to pick and choose which “zones” of comfort you are going to push, and how you are going to push them. If workflow and productivity are going to be affected in the long run, brand switching may not be the way to go for you.
Either specialise in one camera brand and experiment primarily with lenses or shooting angles. Or allow yourself enough time to test out other brand models you are considering, and get into the flow of it.
You could do this by purchasing a camera model on the side and trying it out on mini-projects.
Does it work for you?
If you have yet to seriously invest in any particular brand you don’t need to worry about this option so much. The world is your oyster.
5: Portability – can it go the distance?
This was loosely covered in point 2, but I want to give it special attention here. Really think about the types of projects you are going to be working on.
For example, if you are going to be bringing a massive camera around to a more casual, vlog type setting. You are going to attract a lot of attention and questions that may hinder your shooting, especially if you have to field all of the questions by yourself.
How heavy is a glass of water? – Depends on how long you have to hold it!
Remember that while a camera may initially feel quite tolerable in weight – how long can you hold it for? If you are going to primarily be using your camera on a tripod this question will matter a lot less.
But you can’t entirely rule it out. Do you expect to be able to travel with your camera and its equipment? If so, you should really consider how well it could fit in with your travel plans – particularly if there is a flight involved.
Can you take it in your carry-on luggage? And still have all you need in your tiny suitcase –when you are going on a short break (a conference or something, for example, and you need it for business) – without having to opt for hold luggage?
6: Customising with Add-Ons and Extras
The final item we are going to look at on this short list.
Aside from the camera body, what are you going to need to complete your photography or videography set-up?
There are many items you could consider. Here are the ones that I strongly suggest considering first:
- Audio – can the camera take an external mic if necessary? Some built-in mics are very good and may not be required.
- Lenses – will primarily come down to what you are shooting. Is there enough (affordable) options for both immediate and long term projects that will work with your selected camera?
- Tripod – if you can, I always recommend one that is lightweight, preferably made of metal like aluminium. Durable and portable. Awesome. These come in a myriad of sizes, you may need more than one (or a tall pile of books to start off with 😉 )
- Camera case – gotta keep that investment good and get your monies worth (and then some) from it.
- Connectors – does the camera have all the connection capabilities you need? For example, a headphone jack, wireless file transfer? Etc.
- Lighting – Natural lighting first. If you work in darker environments you might want to check out this comprehensive list of how to get great night time photography. Unless you are looking at external flash you shouldn’t worry about lighting beyond keeping to your budget!
7: Know What’s out there by Keeping a Camera Wish List
Wish lists are a fun way to stay in-the-know of the camera industry. Researching the latest trends and technology updates for equipment, disguised as window shopping, is an engaging and productive task.
All the while, it makes it so much easier to get exactly what you want and need when funds become available.
After all, a wish list is a living document based on consistently updated research. Right?
Do you have anything you would like to add? How do you frame your camera search? Let me know in the comments below!