Depending on whether you’re a beginner, mid-level or professional photographer, choosing the right camera can prove to be a tricky task. In fact, with the variety of mediums, megapixels and focus points, how does a creative ever know which format is best for their work? Rather than harping on the technical details of cameras — style, preference and subject matter should be your main factors when choosing the proper equipment to shoot your artistic vision. Let’s talk about what makes a camera the perfect fit for you:
Are you a Hobbyist, Beginner or Professional?
Hobby Photographers = Standard Point and Shoot
As a hobby photographer, you probably take pictures to capture memories or to practice your skills. For anyone who is starting off, using a standard point and shoot is the best way to learn lighting, focal length and composition without investing in expensive gear. A solid point and shoot camera is the Canon PowerShot series which can be purchased for around $200.
Beginner = Cropped Sensor DSLR
Once you’ve practiced your skills, the next step up from a point and shoot is the DSLR with a cropped sensor. This allows for better quality, but still at a price point that can prove to be affordable while building your portfolio. Nikon’s D500 system is considered a cropped sensor DSLR with professional quality, you can find it here.
Professional = Full Frame DSLR
So, you’ve made it to the big leagues and want to start making photography your career? You’re going to need to make the next step up to a full frame camera body for more professional and captivating imagery. Consider the Canon 5D Mark iV for its focal points, color clarity, and low light capabilities.
Determining Your Style of Photography
Now that we’ve established what level of photographer you are, let’s talk about your style of shooting. Depending on your style of photography, certain cameras can prove to stand out amongst the rest. Whether it’s people, places, food, architecture or documentary – the gear you use will determine the vision you are hoping to create.
Portraits: Lifestyle, Fashion + Beauty
If you’re a portrait/people photographer, you’re looking for a camera with great resolution, natural skin tones and easily, adjustable functions. Since shooting portraits usually takes place in a variety of lighting conditions, you want a camera that allows you to easily adjust the settings while in manual mode. Additionally, you will want equipment with a solid white balance, allowing for the ideal color palette and tones.
I may get some heat for this, but I tend to prefer the Canon systems for shooting portraits. After using their products for years, I tend to achieve optimum resolution and coloring straight out of the camera. Currently, there are a variety of Canon models on the market. I personally recommend the Canon 6D for its full frame, megapixels and built-in WIFI capabilities, perfect for sending your pictures straight to your phone while on the go. You can find it here. Pair it with a 35, 50 or 85 mm lens and you’re ready to start shooting.
Travel, Landscape, and Architecture
Shooting landscape, interiors, and architecture calls for a camera with impeccable lighting features and quick autofocus. The mirrorless camera system appears to be at the top of the market among travel and landscape photographers due to the accessibility and size of the camera body. When carrying around your gear, weight, and bulkiness of your equipment is something to consider when purchasing a camera. Due to its features as well as its compact size, many photographers are opting for the high-end Sony A7R systems. The option to pair with a variety of Sony lenses, as well as adapters for lenses you may already have – the mirrorless A7R or A7R II are both ideal options for shooting travel, landscapes and beyond. You can pick one up here.
#FilmisNotDead – the movement that you’ve probably seen on Instagram as analog photographers aim to prove that film is alive and well, emphasizing that digital isn’t always the preferred method of shooting.
Such photographers have shown that film/analog photography will continue to maintain its hold in the industry – proving to be a medium that is still viable for both personal and professional projects. If you’ve never shot film, I encourage you to try it out. With manual functions and a fixed ISO, you are in charge of determining your own shutter speed, aperture and focusing – making film a truly personal and carefully calculated process. If you’re an analog photographer or looking to get started in shooting the medium of film, these are the cameras I would recommend.
35mm Film Cameras
When shooting 35 mm film and choosing the camera for you, I believe it all comes down to price and quality. Film cameras from Canon, Pentax and Fuji can be relatively inexpensive in comparison to that of digital equipment and usually found at thrift stores, camera shops and on Ebay. On the other hand, professional style film cameras such as Leica will run you a bit more money for a higher quality image. The quality of the image is truly a personal choice that comes from the photographer. In my opinion, I don’t shoot film for the quality, but more about the aesthetic, color tones and feel that I believe it emulates to the viewer. If I wanted an image that focused solely on megapixels and resolution, I would shoot digital. Regardless, 35 mm film is a truly versatile medium with photographers capturing everything from street portraits to fashion campaigns to lifestyle imagery with these compact, durable machines. To start off I recommend the Canon AE1 Program and a pack of Portra 400. For more professional film shooting, I would consider the Leica M7, comes with a high price tag, but the images created are worthy of the investment.
Medium Format Film Cameras
I recently started to experiment with Medium Format and I have to admit, it’s a game changer when shooting film. The size of the negatives yielded by shooting medium format are about 4 times the size of the 35 mm comparison, therefore allowing for a larger negative with higher quality. For professional film photographers, medium format is comparable to the quality of its digital DSLR counterparts. If you’re a portrait, street or landscape photographer I’d recommend testing out the Pentax or Mamiya systems. A good starting point is a standard Mamiya 645 with either a 1.9 or 2.8 aperture lens. I purchased mine on Ebay for around $250 – body, viewfinder, and lens included. Prices do vary depending on the body, lens and viewfinder options, but regardless it’s a solid way to test out the medium format method without too much of a financial investment.
The last type of film camera is actually a bit different from the previous as the results of your image are instant. Polaroid cameras are great for photographers looking to add a creative and retro/vintage flair to their portfolio. Shooting polaroid yields uniquely beautiful images. To me, the coloring and format create a feeling and connection to that of a past time, perfect for photographers whose style is representative of previous generations trends and style. If you’re looking to break into Polaroid photography, do note that the cost of the film is pretty expensive for the number of images you receive – so use sparingly and shoot with intention.
For the classic Polaroid feel, consider a Polaroids Original camera. For a truly authentic experience, I use the Polaroid Land Camera which can be found usually on Ebay. To me, these allow for the most vintage, cinematic feel as well as offer a larger frame in comparison to the square format of other Polaroid options.
As you can see, choosing a camera is much more than the qualifications, specs and technical aspects of the equipment itself. In fact, I tell most aspiring photographers that the gear isn’t the only point to focus on when starting photography. Although it is important to choose a camera dependent on your style, intention and preferred method of medium, photography is about vision and composition when capturing a subject. Let your camera be a starting point and let your creativity guide the way.
Do you have a preferred camera system that I didn’t mention in this article? Let me know what you shoot with and how it applies to your style in the comments below!
Shannon Ciricillo is a fashion, lifestyle and travel photographer and writer. Her vision lies in creative storytelling and writing about her experiences stateside and abroad. You can check out her work at www.shannonciricillo.com