Camera Buying Advice & Tips

If you are looking for some help taking the plunge with a new digital SLR I hope this article can help you.

I often get asked for camera buying advice from friends. A recent friend asked for my thoughts on the Nikon D7000. Now, I’m a Canon man (20D, 40D, 5d MKII – still using both of the last two) but I do respect Nikon. So In my attempt to provide an honest answer here were my thoughts.

First up some questions;

To ascertain the type of camera you should buy we should consider what you will do with it (further below I put some thoughts next to what these mean, but for now try answer these honestly);

  • How much experience do you and your spouse have with SLR cameras, even in the “old days” of film.
    • Little to None
    • Some
    • Lots
  • What would you be using for the most (rank these 1-8)
    • Travel (Casual)
    • Travel (Safari’s, adventure vacations)
    • Kids
    • Sports
    • Wildlife
    • Birds
    • Landscapes
    • Nights out with friends (Restaurants, around friends’ houses etc.)
  • How likely are you to invest in more than one lens (rank 1-5 where 5 is very likely)?
  • How often do you expect to use your camera
    • Twice a year
    • Every few months
    • Monthly or more
    • Weekly or more

My personal thoughts on the D7000 vs. Canon options question;

  • First up – I’m a Canon user so know these models best. Nikon also make great cameras. They are the two brands I’d recommend.
  • For 1/3 the price of a Nikon D7000 you could consider the Canon 60D
  • The $500 you’d save could be invested in another lens (or two)
  • The Nikon D7000 is more of a “top end enthusiast” camera. The Canon 60D is more of a “serious amateur”. I hyper linked the reviews from a very good review site.
  • If you are going to fork our $1.5K for a camera like the D7000 it would be well worth considering the Canon 7D which is a stellar camera in the “Enthusiast segment”.

Both the D7000 and 7D may be ‘too much’ for someone who’s not used a DSLR , and the last thing you want is to feel something is too hard/cumbersome to use. Because then you won’t be likely to use it (to state the obvious).

What your answers will drive you towards…

  • How much experience do you and your husband have with SLR cameras, even in the old days of film.
    • Little to None (This will push you towards something easier and more accessible such as Canon’s Rebel range – that being said I have little to None and now use a Canon 5D MKII, although I started with a Rebel 7 years ago)
    • Some (This will push you towards something easier and more accessible but with some more capability such as 60D)
    • Lots (You will be more comfortable with a more middling (Canon 7D, Nikon D90) or more advanced range such as the Canon 7D, Nikon D7000)
  • What would you be using for the most (rank these 1-8)
    • Travel (Casual) (With a fair amount of travel you’ll need something ergonomic and comfortable, the entry DSLRs will be OK but you might find yourself wanting more (the Canon 60D for example) otherwise the top end Rebels will be good for moderate travel)
    • Travel (Safari’s, adventure vacations) (You’ll need something comfortable, possibly water/dust proof Canon 7D and Nikon D7000 would be better suited)
    • Kids (They be fast movers! So top end Rebels, 60D or middle range Nikons will be important or you’ll be left wanting)
    • Sports (see “kids”, but lenses start to be an important part of the decision, as do comfort and ergonomics will be important so mid range at the very least)
    • Wildlife  (See sports, ergonomics even more important here if you are spending long hours outside in the cold)
    • Birds (Wildlife ++ Long lenses and “expensive glass” start to become important)
    • Landscapes (You should be using a tripod so middle range cameras Canon 60D, Nikon D90 are a good fit)
    • Nights out with friends (Restaurants, around friends’ houses etc.) (Lenses! You will want a 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4or equivalent, but with a cropped sensor camera  (“APS-C”) like the Canon 60D, 7D, Nikon D90, D7000) you’ll really want something wider like a 28MM f/1.8. As far as the camera goes you will want one with good low light performance, and with low noise. The D7000 is excellent for this, the 7D is also very good. the Canon 5D MKII is also excellent for this)
  • How likely are you to invest in more than one lens (rank 1-5 where 5 is very likely)? (If you are just going to get the kit lens then don’t even bother buying anything more than entry level 🙂 If you plan on building a collection and being in this for the long haul, doing all the various activities listed above etc. etc. then going for mid range or even enthusiast will be worth your while. Middle road? Then middle camera 😉 e.g. Canon 60D, Nikon D90
  • How often do you expect to use your camera (This is pretty self explanatory and the more you plan to shoot the more you can justify breaking that $1,000 barrier and getting something very nice…)
    • Twice a year
    • Every few months
    • Monthly or more
    • Weekly or more

Three last things…

If you do end up investing in a pretty nice camera, and possibly a few lenses please do the following;

  1. Read the manual – this is soooo important, it really will tell you how to use your camera. Start there before even hitting up any websites or blogs!
  2. Get out there and shoot – weekly! Daily is allot to ask for someone just getting into photography, click here for my 2011 365 Project where I’m shooting daily). But don’t go more than a month without dusting off your new toy and making some art!
  3. Have fun – and send me some samples of your work!
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