I get asked this question a lot and it makes sense – so many of my clients are about to take a BIG vacation as a couple and they want to document it! Or maybe they’ve always wanted to get into photography and Christmas is just around the corner! Or they are expecting a baby and want something a little better than their phone to document. I’ve included Amazon links where appropriate for research/browsing purposes only, but I highly encourage you to Google and look around!

1. What are the different types of cameras? Do you want a point and shoot, a mirrorless, or a DSLR? 

Years ago, before smart phones, many people (myself included) used “point and shoot cameras” – and just a heads up, those are still a thing! My sister has a nice point and shoot which is compact and can do great video too. These cameras are more discreet and less “I’m a tourist here to take photos!” and easier to take to outings as well as take up a ton less room in your luggage.

This discussion can get very technical, but for awhile, there were just TWO types of digital cameras: there’s a DSLR which people often think of as a big “pro” looking camera (what you see paparazzi with or photographers at the Super Bowl or typically yes, weddings) with detachable lenses and then small point and shoot/compact cameras where the lenses are built in – these can fit in your pocket/purse. If you were to take the lens off of a big DSLR, you would see a mirror inside of the camera.

So for years, there were just two kinds – but now there is something called “mirrorless.” You can think of mirrorless (remember the mirror I mentioned above?) as a “bridge” camera between a compact point and shoot and a pro camera (not my words – read this analogy online and source linked below). The mirrorless style is small and compact like a point and shoot but typically DOES have detachable lenses and a bigger sensor for quality. I should totally cite my sources on all this, by the way – it’s complex and I mainly deal in the world of DSLR’s, so I fully admit I am not well-versed on other camera options and have Googled and also asked photographer friends for their recommendations! Here’s an in-depth online discussion about it if you want to get deep and technical.

As of this writing (June 2018), this is the point and shoot camera my sister has and I recommend: Samsung Galaxy Point and Shoot Style Camera – around $300 

On the more expensive end of the range ($600 or so), there is a compact camera that my photographer friend Charlene has and likes and it gets great reviews: Canon Powershot G7X Mark II  – you can do a lot and learn a lot with this camera!

Those cameras are fixed lens. If you want to keep the camera compact but still take it up a notch and use interchangeable lenses, my photog friend Jen likes the Fuji mirrorless (you have to buy lenses with this model – there is a similar one with a fixed lens as well): Fujifilm XT-1000

TL;DR: Do you want a compact camera or a big pro style camera?

2. I want a DSLR “big camera” – which one?

I just want to say, I am so thrilled people are getting into photography! I will recommend what I started with – a Canon Rebel (I learned on Canon and shoot Canon now, so I am only familiar with their line and not the Sony or Nikon brand). This is a camera to grow on and is for beginners. If you are already past the beginner level or super techy/want to buy a step up from beginner, you probably want to step into the 6D/7D series – but this is unnecessary if you just want to get started with a DSLR.

People often ask me if they should buy the newest Rebel – and new Rebels come out very frequently! I feel like I see a new Rebel model in Costco every 6 months, versus our pro level cameras come out with a new model every 2ish years. Keeping up with the Joneses isn’t necessary – they don’t change a ton on these from model to model and you can save a few dollars by getting last year’s model – this one currently runs about $400!

Here’s a Canon Rebel and it comes with a basic lens. 

This lens is 18-55mm, which on this camera sensor is actually a pretty good “vacation/general” lens. There are some limitations to it in that it is variable aperture, so it isn’t the best lens for learning, in my opinion – but I would get it for vacations/trips and to get you started! You don’t have to get the camera at Amazon either, but if you do, please get it from Amazon themselves and not from a third party/overseas seller. Costco and Best Buy might have better deals.

Truth: I got my first one on Craigslist! But I wouldn’t recommend that if you are a beginner since you need someone to come with you and make sure it is working properly.

3. What else do I need to get? I see a kit on Amazon that includes 3 filters, a lens cleaning cloth, a carrying bag, batteries, memory cards…

I personally think you should get JUST the camera and the included “kit” lens to start as a bundle – you don’t need most of the stuff included in those pre-bundled deals.

You can look separately for bags online to protect it. You want to buy a memory card or two right away – the one that comes in the camera will only hold about 10 shots typically. If you are going on a trip, buy a few memory cards and swap them out.

I don’t buy memory cards from Amazon – I buy only from BHPhotoVideo or in person at Best Buy, Walmart, Target, etc – there are just too many fake memory cards out on Amazon in my opinion. I like Sandisk.

Other essentials? I like Peak Design straps as well as the book Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.

You may also want an external hard drive to store photos and Adobe Lightroom to get started in editing. As your editing skill progresses, you might want Adobe Elements (outright purchase) or Adobe Photoshop (subscription model).  If your computer doesn’t have a card reader, you can get one of those too.

As you learn photography, the lens I would recommend is the 50mm 1.8 lens, called the “Nifty Fifty” – this is a prime focal length, meaning it doesn’t zoom, and the 1.8 feature means it lets in a lot of light – it’s the best fixed aperture lens for the price out there. This should be your next lens purchase, in my opinion and is great as a portrait lens for kids or pets! 

4. Where should I buy all of this? Amazon?

Sure, you can do Amazon as I mentioned above for some items. If you are looking for a deal and want used gear, I recommend BHPhotoVideo.com as well. Also, if you want to shop local, YM Camera in Boardman, Ohio has some nice gear – you can actually see and touch camera bags, hold cameras, etc.

5. What about other cool stuff like underwater video and beach photos and drones?

For the beach, I recommend a LifeProof Fre for your phone – you can take photos snorkeling, etc. The GoPro Hero WITH LCD screen is good for action and ziplining and it is very compact. Lastly, if you just want to get started with droning a bit, the DJI Spark is great.

Best of luck and enjoy this wonderful world of photography! And remember – the BEST camera is the one you have with you!

Note: As of June 2018, Kristen Wynn Photography is an Amazon Influencer – so if you click this link, we get a small portion of sales. I have created a board just for new photography gear here!

Also, this post has WAY too much text – here’s a slideshow of how I started on my first ever camera and photo shoots and progressed to where I am today in 2018 – many cameras and lenses but also, mainly – lots of practice time later!



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