Deciding What Camera to Buy

I had a friend text me yesterday asking for camera recommendations. Naturally, I get this question a lot. But it's a difficult question to answer because 1. there are SO many cameras out there to choose from! and 2. the camera you need is so dependent on what you plan to do with it. A lot of people tell me they just want a camera that takes great pictures! But that doesn't really narrow down the list because that's definitely already implied when you're deciding to invest in a new camera... especially nowadays when your cell phone takes reasonably good photos itself.

So, let me give you my camera history. I think the first camera I remember loving (other than my awesomely fun film cameras) was something akin to this ... only purchased around 2005: 

It had a zoom lens that MOVED (ooh la la!) and what really amazed me in comparison to my past cameras was that I could control it manually. These controls were very basic... turning flash on/off, ISO control, and shutter speed. But it really inspired my love for the art. I unknowingly built myself a flash diffuser that I slapped on with Scotch tape because I realized every time I used my flash my subjects turned into ghosts, but sometimes I needed flash so had to find the middle ground. 

My parents noticed my camera love and upgraded me for Christmas a couple years later to something slim and red like this. I can't say much about that camera because it was STOLEN from my dormitory less than a month after receiving it. Fun while it lasted!

But I felt very limited by my point and shoot. It was great for fun documenting purposes. These were the days of mass photo uploads and albums on Facebook... not like the sporadic mobile posts people make now. And my camera served that purpose well enough. But I itched for more control. I started looking into SLRs... which I had experience with since I spent two years working as a photographer for Massanutten ski resort and was able to use their cameras.

It was my first year after college in the working world when I finally bought myself an SLR. There was a Black Friday deal for a Canon Rebel t2i kit that I couldn't refuse! So I woke up early and headed to Best Buy during the crazy Black Friday hours for the first time in my life. 

I had such fun learning on that camera. I refused to shoot outside of Manual mode, so that I HAD to learn not to rely on the Auto settings. And I always tell people if they're not going to learn manual, they really shouldn't bother with an SLR. Your pictures taken on auto won't look that different from your point and shoot camera's. 

Eventually I realized that an SLR isn't enough (this is how they getcha! haha). I needed a good lens. After tons of research and hedging and stalling, I bought a 50mm 1.4 about a year later AND IT CHANGED EVERYTHING.

That sweet, low aperture (the 1.4 in that description) opened the doors of creative possibility. I absolutely loved the low light ability I suddenly had... the ability to put my subject in focus and blur out the background. It was eye-opening. And that's when I was done for haha. But that's also when I was inspired to start a business, to really hone this craft, and see what other things I'd been missing out on all this time!

I did make one more point and shoot camera purchase after buying that SLR. I bought this Olympus Stylus Tough camera to take on our honeymoon.

I was too scared to take my SLR... and we were going to be doing a lot of adventuring in the Caribbean waters, so I wanted something durable and compact. This camera was PERFECT. Waterproof digital cameras were not very prevalent then (ya know, FIVE whole years ago), so whenever I was in the water and had that camera wrapped around my wrist, I had nervous onlookers constantly warning me that I still had my camera with me. It was a great camera. On that trip alone, I took underwater pictures and video in the ocean, slammed that sucker into tons of rocks while climbing a waterfall, tubed down a river... there's basically no natural circumstance that that camera didn't face. And to this day, it still works great and takes great pictures. I highly recommend it if you're not interested in an SLR!

Currently, I use a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 6D. I have to have two bodies in case something happens on the job, or I'm shooting a wedding ceremony and don't want to switch my lenses around... strapping on two camera bodies is sometimes more efficient. Between the two, if price is no object, I'd get the 5D Mark III... but for the money I think the 6D is amazing. There's no noticeable difference in my images between the two, but the 5D has a lot more focus points that make it easier to use. But I know plenty of professionals who rock the 6D only. It's an amazing camera!

So! Bottom line! Here are the reasons to buy an SLR camera:

1. You want to shoot manually and control your settings
2. You want the flexibility of using different lenses to take the photo you need
3. You need to shoot in dark situations often (lens and flash types make a huge difference for this...)

And here are the reasons to buy a point and shoot camera:

1. You want something conveniently sized that (if you buy a waterproof kind) can literally go anywhere
2. You want "all-in-one" features with no additional gear purchases later
3. You don't want to spend a lot of money

Basically, it comes down to control, convenience, and money. How badly do you want to learn to control your settings? Are you going to want to lug around a separate, heavy bag solely for your SLR camera? Do you have some money to spend on this? Because, trust me... the camera purchase is just the beginning when you buy an SLR. The lenses and accessories that follow are the true money sink. ONE of my lenses costs just as much as either of my camera bodies. And I have quite a few lenses in my arsenal at this point. If you're a hobbyist, you certainly won't need as many as I have had to stock up on to be adequately prepared for the many possible wedding day scenarios I face... but you'll still accumulate a few and start to realize that the real quality lenses have a very high dollar value!

Woo! If you made it this far, you must really love photography! So here's my current gear line up (with the exception of the camera and lens I used to take this photo :)

Canon 5D Mark III* 
Canon 6D

Lenses: (in picture order)
Canon 70-200mm 2.8L IS II*
Sigma Art 50mm 1.4*
Sigma Art 35mm 1.4*
Canon 100mm 2.8 Macro*
Canon 85mm 1.8
Canon 50mm 1.4
Canon 28mm 1.8
Canon 24-70mm 2.8L (not pictured)

Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT (3)*

That's all the fancy stuff. Trust me, there are many many more accessories and nonsense that I carry around with me in addition to that haha. I starred the gear that I HAVE to have at a wedding and use the most. I'm actually selling my Canon 50mm 1.4 and 28mm 1.8 right now because my Sigma Art lenses are so much more beautiful that they've been completely replaced! I could probably sell my 85mm 1.8 too because I started using my 70-200mm lens to shoot those type of photos instead, but I'm just so attached haha. I LOVED that lens for so long, I can't let it go yet.

Anyway! That's enough gear talk for one post. If you have any questions, (or if you're interesting in buying my 50mm or 28mm lens!) please feel free to comment or email me. This was definitely intended for newbies and hobbyists, so professionals, don't freak! This post wasn't for you ;)