Top 4 Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Camera

I often get asked for advice when friends, family, and clients are shopping for cameras for their day to day photos. I’m always thrilled when someone wants to invest in  a camera that will help them capture those special moments! But when people ask “What camera should I buy?”, there are so many factors to consider! Here are the top 4 questions to ask when shopping for a camera. This will help you figure out exactly what is right for you! I’ve included links to some of the best consumer cameras below, along with lenses I’d recommend for beginners!

how to buy a camera what questions to ask.

What kind of camera do you want/need?

 There are several types of camera out on the market today!

  • DSLR Camera:

DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex which uses the same mechanisms as a film camera but replaces the film with a digital sensor. With this camera, you should be able to set your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. These three settings make up our exposure triangle. There are two main formats of DSLR; full frame and crop sensor. Beginner DSLR’s will most likely be crop sensor which means they have a smaller sensor and the edges of the frame will be cropped in. Using a 35mm lens on a crop sensor will look more “zoomed in” than on a full frame camera.

You will be able to set these things in some other types of cameras too!

  • Mirrorless Camera:

A mirrorless camera is a smaller, more compact camera with fewer mechanisms than a DSLR. Some have image quality equal to DSLRs, but typically offer fewer lens and accessory options at this time. I have a Sony a5100 that I use when we are traveling or out and about somewhere that I don’t want to lug my big camera around. It also has fun features like wi-fi so I can use my phone as a remote or load images to Facebook and Instagram on the go. For me, the controls aren’t as easy to get to with fewer buttons so I prefer to shoot with my DSLR when I really want a specific shot.

  • Point and Shoot:

These are typically compact cameras that do just as the name suggests. You aim the camera and shoot. The camera chooses all of the settings. This kind of camera is fine for a quick snapshot, but know that you likely won’t get the image you have in mind.

  • Cell Phones:

I absolutely still take tons of pictures with my cell phone. There’s a saying that goes “The best camera is the one you have with you.” Sometimes you want a quick snapshot for a memory and that’s totally fine! There’s a line between being present in a moment with your family and just capturing it. I rarely bring my DSLR to my kids’ birthday parties. I’d rather be there enjoying time with them and experiencing the memories than capturing them. A few cell phone pictures are plenty of proof that those days happened for me. You have to decide for yourself what moments might be frame worthy. I absolutely bring my big camera when we play at the river and those are some of my most favorite images of my kids.

Does it fit comfortably in your hands? Are all of the essential functions readily accessible?

When I bought my first DSLR camera, being able to easily hold it and reach all of the buttons was important to me! I have smaller hands and some cameras just felt more comfortable than others. As I started using the camera more and more in manual mode, I learned that the essential functions were sometimes buried in menus making it hard to quickly adjust ISO, shutter speed or aperture.  I made sure the things I needed most had dedicated buttons on my next camera.

What accessories and lenses are available? Are they affordable?

Once get the photography bug you’ll quickly learn that the standard lens that comes with a camera is typically not the best choice. It’s a budget option to keep the price of the overall kit a bit lower and to entice buyers with a range of focal lengths. I’d suggest pricing out a lens in the 35mm range on a crop sensor (entry level)  camera. If your camera is available without the standard zoom lens I’d forgo it and get something like a 35mm 1.8 lens. What about flashes? Does the camera have a hot shoe so you can attach an external flash? Is there an affordable wireless remote? Don’t be afraid of third party offerings! Sigma and Tamron make some of the top lenses on the market! You can also purchase very cheap lenses and flashes from Yongnuo which will most likely not be the top in image quality but for the price may be worth looking at!

What special features are important to you?

There are some awesome additional features available in cameras today! Take a look at what you might be using your camera for and determine which of these are important to you in a camera.

  • Video capabilities: I love capturing little clips of my kids in action. The way their voices and laughter sounds; the way they run with their arms thrown back and their tongues out!
  • Wi-Fi: Wi-fi in a camera adds some really cool features! With my DSLR, I am able to connect to my cell phone and use it as a remote shutter. Perfect when I want to hop in a picture with my kids without trying to beat a timer. The wi-fi also allows me to load images to my cell phone for quick sharing on social media. This is fun when we are out and about or on vacation!
  • Flip or tilt screen: These screens allow you to shoot from different angles. If you want to extend your creativity it helps with overhead shots or down low angles. Some even flip fully up to allow for easy selfies.
  • Touch Screen: In some models, touch screen helps eliminate the need for as many dedicated buttons for each function. They can help you more easily navigate through menus or grab focus in live view modes.


The Canon Family of DSLR

The Nikon Family of DSLR

Mirrorless Options

Used cameras are also a great option! When I buy used I typically shop at! They have a great warranty and return policy on used gear 🙂 Check out the selection at KEH Camera

Struggling to get great pictures of your day to day? Leave me your biggest challenge in the comments and click below for free training coming soon!

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