How To Choose A Camera: 5 Factors You Should Consider

October 11, 2013

How To Choose A CameraDo you know how to choose a camera for your photography classes this semester? When spending upward of $800, you need to make sure you make the right choice. You want a camera that will have enough features to get you through school and beyond, not one that will leave you high and dry in the middle of finals! Talk with your professors or advisors for their opinions on cameras. Then consider these five factors.

Digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras range in price from affordable to extremely costly. You should generally pick the best camera you can afford, but just because a piece of equipment costs more doesn’t mean it will suit all of your needs. Figure out what you really want (and need) in a camera and set a realistic budget for your purchase. And remember that extra features, such as the camera case, additional lenses, memory cards and filters, will add to your bottom line.

Consider how you plan to use your camera. Even if you’re purchasing it for school, you need to know what types of shots you want to take. Will low-light photography be most important to you? Do you want to take awesome action shots? Do you want to specialize in macro photography? Make a list of the features that matter most to you and then try to find the camera that’s the best fit at the price you can afford.

Most entry-level DSLRs are attractively priced. However, you run the risk of outgrowing a beginner camera as you learn more and gain expertise. You might end up craving more professional features pretty quickly. Ask yourself if you’re willing to settle for a basic camera now and then upgrade to a more advanced model in the future, or whether it might be worthwhile to pay a little more now for a model you can grow into. Mid-range models often offer a combination of great features at a reasonable price.

One of the most important factors when purchasing any DSLR is the camera’s sensor size. Bigger sensors generally mean better photos. Full-frame cameras have sensors that match the “full frame” of 35mm film and are predictably the professional photographer’s favorite option. However, most full-frame cameras are extremely expensive. The APS-C format (one in which the sensor size is equivalent to the “classic”-sized negatives) offers a compromise between price and sensor size.

A camera’s settings, such as the ISO, aperture and shutter speed, are also important considerations. Most DSLRs have a decent range of settings and speeds, but some are more impressive than others. Cameras with fast shutter speeds are useful if you plan on taking action or sports shots. High ISO ratings allow you to take top-notch photos in low light. Lower aperture (f-stops) settings allow for more light to enter the camera. All of these settings ultimately depend on the quality of your sensor. Larger sensors can allow larger depth of field, even with low aperture settings, and less grainy photos in low light. You also want to take a look at such important features as lens sharpness, autofocus, megapixels, viewfinder/LCD, white balance, video capabilities, zoom and image stabilization.

Read reviews of many cameras and try some out. A reputable camera shop should also be able to give you excellent advice on how to choose a camera that’s right for you. You’ll know you’ve struck DSLR gold when you find one that gives you the features you crave at a price that suits your budget.

Photo source: Flickr