Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a camera can often be worth much more in terms of dollars and cents. Any person planning on committing to photography for a hobby or profession should be expecting to spend at least a little bit of cash on equipment; new gear is one of the best and worst parts of calling yourself a photographer. You can get started in photography for under $100, or you can go all out and buy a complete set of top of the line gear for as much as you're willing to spend. Since there are so many options for new photographers, let's skip all of the cool accessories (filters, lenses, tripods) and break down your most important first purchase: The Camera.
What Do You Need?
The first step in buying the centerpiece of your equipment is figuring out why you need a camera, and what you expect it to do. For example, an all manual DSLR (like Canon's Rebel) is great fun for photographers but is likely a major hassle if you're taking pictures of your friends out having fun. Here's a few key questions to ask yourself to help decide what you need:
* Do I want to use film or digital?
* Am I taking pictures for fun or for a career?
* How comfortable am I operating a manual SLR?
* Is image quality a make or break issue for me?
Since every camera works differently and has it's own pros and cons, you'll need to figure out what you want so you won't be overwhelmed with the choice in equipment. Professional photographers or those wanting to become professionals, often don't want to give up image quality for a lower cost while the average person doesn't care about the extra 0.5% of clarity for their family photos. It's completely up to you.
What Do You Want to Spend?
The sky is the limit when spending money on cameras. You can pick up a little pocket camera for around $100, or you can spend as much as $10,000 on a top of the line digital. Even a manual film SLR can be expensive so make sure you know what you want before making a purchase. Before you pull out your wallet, ask yourself these questions:
* Can I really afford this camera?
* What features do I really need?
* Will this camera work for what I'm buying it for?
Sure, a camera with 13,000 frames per second shooting option and a giant touch screen would be great, but it is overkill for taking a few family photos. This works both ways - if you want to work as a professional, don't sacrifice on flexibility and results just to get a cheaper camera up front. You'll end up having to upgrade it anyway, so wait a little longer and spend a little more. You'll be glad you did.
If you're honest with yourself about what you need from your camera and how much you can spend on it, you're going to be a lot more satisfied with your purchase down the line. If you need help figuring out how different cameras perform in different situations, do some research online and see what other customers say!).
If you're buying a camera to take pictures of family and friends, your camera will likely give you what you need regardless of what you spend.That's because many consumer level cameras work great in 90% of situations. Some of the photos in a recent Swimsuit Edition of Sports Illustrated were shot with a disposable camera so don't think for a second that a lower budget is a handicap. As always, the most important thing is to have fun and take great pictures.
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