What Camera Should I Get?

I get a lot of photography questions from people…all sorts of people. I guess the big camera is a magnet of sorts. Strangers passing by during a photo shoot, great uncles at weddings, longtime friends….and moms. But if I have time, I’m happy to chat with them. One of the questions I get asked the most is, “What camera should I get?” More specifically, it goes something like this: “I just want a nice camera to take pictures of my family. It doesn’t have to be the best of the best, but something better than my phone. What should I start with?” 

So today I’m going to tell you what I started with and what I loved (and didn’t love) about it. I’ll also give you some specific recommendations based on what’s on the market today. Just remember, this is only my opinion based on my own experience. It’s not the only opinion and you may talk to someone else who gives you a totally different one. That’s okay too. 

When I was very pregnant with my oldest, my husband decided to buy our first DSLR camera. He asked me what I thought and I threw my hands in the air and told him it’s totally up to him. I didn’t know anything about it, and to be honest, didn’t really care. I figured I’d slap that baby into auto mode and it’d be just like the good ol’ college days when I slipped my Sony Cybershot into my purse before going out for the night. 📸 Wrong. Very wrong.

He came home with a big box, a complicated looking camera, and more papers, guides, and little lens thingys than I knew what to do with. In my big, pregnant state, my mind was not ready to learn something new, so I happily posed with my hands on my belly, but did not ever reach for the camera myself. Too complicated. Too many buttons. Too much. 

Little did I know that camera would take me places I never thought I’d go….back to a college classroom as a new mom, to weddings all over the state, and eventually downtown to register as owner of my own business.

That camera was….wait for it…a Canon Rebel t3i. Yes, that relatively inexpensive, little crop sensor thing. I still have it. It sits as a backup to my backup, because, let’s be clear, while it’s not my first choice for my professional business, I know how to take some darn good pictures with that thing. 

👍What I loved about it: 

-It’s lightweight

-It’s smaller than my other camera bodies

-I can choose to use a cheap kit lens or an expensive professional lens with it. Both fit.

-The LCD screen flips around so I can close it when I’m not using it and nothing gest scratched. 

-It was my first camera baby.

👎 What I didn’t love about it: 

-It’s a crop sensor camera, which, in short, means that if I take the same picture using that camera and a full sensor camera, I’m going to get much less of image with my crop sensor. Everything appears “zoomed in”. 

-The ISO is very limited, which means photos start to look very grainy and “noisy” in low light. 

-I can only shoot images on one memory card at a time. For day-to-day use, this is fine, but I like to be able to shoot onto 2 cards at once when capturing weddings so that I always have a backup.

-It’s not a professional grade camera, which just won’t do for my business. BUT…will do just fine for taking photos of my kids at home.

Photos taken with my crop sensor camera. ( Look at my baby boy!🥰)

Things change fast in the technology world, including cameras. So that camera being 7 years old makes it a virtual dinosaur. Today, the comparable camera would be a Canon Rebel SL3.  

Now this leads me to a follow up question I often get, “Canon or Nikon”? Here’ s a secret….it doesn’t really matter. Now, yes, I’m sure you’ll find someone who will preach to you all of the reasons you should choose their brand of choice, but as far as I can tell, you’re safe either way with long-standing, reputable brands. You’ll find me talking about Canon and you know why? Because that very first camera my husband brought home happened to be a Canon. If it was a Nikon, then chances are, I’d be a Nikon girl today too. The thing is, once you get started with one brand, you typically stick with it. It’s expensive to switch over once you’ve invested in lenses and you also will get very comfortable with the setup of the one you choose. So my advice is just choose one and stick with it. 

Next up…lenses. I have lots of lenses because I rely on them to get the professional quality and variety of photos. I need long lenses to catch the kiss shots at weddings from the back of the sanctuary. I like my wide lenses to catch large, open venue shots. I like my expensive L-series prime lenses for portrait work. BUT if I had to choose just  one lens to keep on me at home, it would be my 50 mm. Perhaps you’ve heard it called a “nifty 50”. This is a prime lens, meaning that you can’t zoom in and out with it. You’ll need to move your feet closer or farther away, which can take a little practice if you’re not used to it. 

Photos taken with an inexpensive 50 mm lens.

Here are some reasons I love it: 

It’s small and light.

You can get a really inexpensive one to start with

It’s wide enough that you can still get the shot in a pretty tight space.

It fits easily in a camera bag or your purse.

It’s fast and can catch a kid on the move.

It can give you a really pretty, shallow depth of field (that “blurry background” effect)

So that’s it..if I were starting from scratch and wanting a “nice camera that I can take good picture of my kids with”, I would choose a Canon SL3 and a 50 mm lens in addition to the kit lens. The kit lens gave me a lot of great practice just getting to know my camera and flexibility. 

Remember: This is a crop sensor camera, which means you’re going to need to BACK UP and have plenty of space if you want to get a wider shot with the 50 mm. It takes some getting used to. If it’s too close for you, try a 35 mm. 

This is not a professional camera, so if you think you may be heading that way, perhaps look at a full frame sensor, but beware that the price jumps dramatically. 

If you truly are wanting a camera to take photos of your family, on trips, etc., don’t feel the need to spend a lot more on a full frame sensor. You can take really great photos with a crop sensor camera if you take the time to learn how to use it.

I hope you found this helpful! Who knows? Maybe Santa will bring you a new camera this year. 🤞

Until Next Time,

If you’re your family’s resident photographer & want to know how to take even better photos, I’ve put together a FREE guide just for you. I’m spilling 5 of my best tips to take photos you love. You can grab it here!

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