3 Great Camera Bodies for Beginners

In today’s technological climate, new photographers are bombarded with a seemingly infinite number of products trying to vie for their attention and money. Starting out can be an overwhelming experience so understandably, one of the most common questions photographers receive is “I’m starting to take photography a little more seriously- what kind of camera should I buy?”. The most honest answer coming from any experienced photographer would differ from person to person, which can be a little confusing, and sometimes frustrating! That’s why we’ve put together this list of three types of camera bodies to consider when starting out your gear journey.

SLR: This is probably the type of camera that new photographers are most familiar with as being considered “professional”. SLR stands for “single lens reflex”, which refers to the way these cameras operate. When the shutter button is pressed, a single mirror flips up, and reveals the sensor (or film) behind it, exposing an image. These cameras are generally large, offer a look and feel of professional ruggedness, and have the advantage of an optical viewfinder, allowing you to see what you focus on directly through the lens (because of the aforementioned mirror). If you are just starting out, check out the offerings from Canon, such as the t7i, or Nikon’s D7100, both running around $700 new.

Pros:

  • Generally autofocus faster than mirrorless
  • Optical viewfinder through the lens (see your focusing)
  • Often better battery life
  • Massive lens pool to shop from

Cons:

  • Big and heavy

Mirrorless: Mirrorless cameras are a relatively new arrival to the camera market, taking design properties from old film rangefinders which boasted added sharpness by removing the mirror mechanism from the camera body, allowing for a significantly smaller body and a lens that was physically closer to the film (or sensor, in this case). This is probably the main draw for photographers today- smaller and lightweight camera bodies with performance that rivals some SLR’s. Just like SLR cameras, these allow for interchangeable lenses, but in a smaller and lighter form factor. For beginners, take a look at Sony’s Alpha series, such as the a6300 or Fujifilm’s X series, such as the X-E3 or the X-T20.

Pros:

  • Generally smaller, lighter bodies

Cons:

  • Typically short battery life compared to DSLR
  • Generally slower autofocusing speed compared to DSLR
  • No through-lens optical viewfinder (though electronic viewfinders can be excellent!)

Compact/P&S: While this may come as a surprise to a lot of photographers, point and shoot cameras have come a long way since mom’s first digital with a display the size of a postage stamp. These cameras are technically mirrorless as well, however, they are only offered with fixed lenses, some with exceptional speed! If you’re looking for something with excellent image quality, but without the hassle of a full body-and-lens setup, you may be interested in something like Fujifilm’s X100 series (currently the X100F) or for a smaller and more compact option, the Ricoh GRII.

Pros:

  • Small bodies, some even pocketable!
  • Comparable image quality to mirrorless systems
  • Ease of setup (no keeping track of separate bodies and lenses)

Cons:

  • Similarly short battery life compared to DSLR
  • Generally slower autofocusing speed compared to DSLR
  • No through-lens optical viewfinder
  • Dead-end flexibility: if you want a different focal length than what is fixed to your camera, you have to buy a new camera (or switch to a body-and-lens system).

Obviously, every photographer’s needs are different. Hopefully this little breakdown can be a helpful reference for some of you out there who have no idea where to turn! Finding something that you’ll love and keep on your person is more important than something with the most megapixels or fastest aperture, which is why those specs were not included here. At the end of the day, the best camera is the one you have with you, so buy what will suit your needs, and go out and shoot!

Written by Seiji Inouye.

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