That is a question I get asked a lot: which is the best camera and lens for someone wanting to start in photography?
I hope you don’t get tired of me always answering every question with: it depends.
But there is some advice I can give you in that regard so let’s get started!
I strongly believe that spending lots of money in camera gear when you are just starting out is not only a waste but also not the best way to go about it.
Expensive high end cameras can make a photographer’s life very easy as they are packed with amazing features. For example, Sony’s Eye AF is amazing and once you get used to it, you don’t want to shoot portraits without it – that’s how well it works!
So why wouldn’t you go ahead and buy the top of the line A$ 3,568, 42mp Sony A7R III (that’s actually a great price, it was A$ 4,898 when it came out)?
Remember: you are starting out. You are learning photography. What do you think will happen if you buy a camera like this? Over 400 focus points! When are you going to learn how to focus where you want with having only 9 focus points if you don’t go through the struggles of having to do so?
That’s why my main advice is: get a very simple camera and only move on to a better one once you can work around the limitations of what you have.
If you learn the easy way, what will you do when things get hard?
Sounds like a lot of suffering to learn something new, right? But guess what: if you start with the expensive stuff and one day you are faced with a situation where you need to make do with something simple, you’ll be in trouble!
Another reason to start with entry level cameras is that every camera brand is very different from the others. The menu system, how they feel in your hands, etc. Starting in the lower end is a good way to make sure you made the right decision when it comes to the brand you wanna go with.
I bought my first camera in 2005/2006, a little Point&Shoot Fuji with a non interchangeable zoom lens. Once I learned the basics of photography I moved on to a Canon 400D with the kit lens (18-55mm) and a telephoto lens (70-300mm). The camera and the two lenses were very cheap compared to professional gear. And that was my camera for many years while I was learning photography, trying different types of photography (portraits, landscapes, street, etc) and apart from getting a 50mm f/1.8 lens (more on this later) this was my camera until late 2009, when I upgraded to the brand new just announced Canon 7D. And that was my camera for some good 5 years until my Canon 5D and then my move to the Sony mirrorless system.
Ok can you summarise?
If you are looking at buying your first camera, skip my first step, don’t get a Point&Shoot. An entry level interchangeable lens camera (DSLR or Mirrorless) is a good start. For lenses, there’s no straight forward answer and I never thought I would advise someone to buy the camera with a kit lens but for beginners this might be the cheapest way to get started, and if you plan to shoot portraits, definitely get a nifty fifty (cheap 50mm f/1.8, most brands will have one).
Below is a list in no particular order of the top rated entry level cameras (rated by other sites).
Please note I’m not sponsored by CameraPro, I just like them very much. Prices as of 20th March 2019.
- Canon 1500D with 18-55mm: A$ 598
- Nikon D3500 with 18-55mm: A$ 678
- Nikon D5600 with 18-55mm: A$ 739
- Canon 200D with 18-55mm: A$ 729
- Canon 800D with 18-55mm: A$ 999
- Fujifilm X-T100 with 15-45mm: A$ 794
- Panasonic Lumix G7 with 14-42mm and 45-150mm: A$ 849
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 with 14-42mm: A$ 898
- Sony A6300 with 18-135mm: A$ 1199*
*CameraPro does not have an option for Sony with the same type of kit lens and that’s one reason for it to cost more (and also because Sony costs more in general). The 18-135mm lens is, though, more versatile.
If you still haven’t blown your budget away, it’s always a good idea to get a nifty-fifty lens. They are usually cheap and really good value for what you are getting.
- Nikon 50mm f/1.8D: A$ 134 (I actually own this little cool lens for my film camera)
- Canon 50mm f/1.8: A$ 141 (I used to own the first generation of this lens)
- Sony 50mm f/1.8: A$ 358 (of course Sony is that much more expensive…)
What about film cameras?
Film cameras are great for starting out because they don’t have all the bells and whistles that modern cameras do. But shooting film comes with a cost. Literally, it’s very expensive to shoot film. By the time you buy a decent roll of 36 poses, shoot it, get it developed and scanned, you already spent between A$ 40 – A$ 50. That is for THIRTY SIX photos.
I only now got into shooting film, just to challenge myself more. So I would not advice going with film cameras if you are still learning.
But if you are interested, check out the guys at Racquet! They are a film lab and they sell film and often have some cool cameras for sale as well.
I hope this article was helpful, please do contact me if you still have questions about what camera/lens to buy!