How to choose a camera for a beginner? Take the Fujifilm X‑T30 II! Sounds too subjective and unreasoned? Then let’s take a closer look.
Whole multi-volume treatises can be written on the topic of choosing the first camera. We will not be engaged in excavation of technical characteristics and looking at details invisible to the eye. Instead, let’s break down the most important things so that you have a structure that will help you make the right choice on your own.
Video vs Photo
Other important features
Like it or not, but it is your budget that will determine the choice of the first camera. Here everything is almost the same as with any other tools (and a camera is primarily a tool, not a luxury item) — the more expensive and better the tool, the more opportunities it opens up for a professional and the higher the “ceiling” of growth for a beginner . That is, a high “ceiling” means that your creative ideas are not limited to the technical capabilities of the cameras.
But there are always “workhorses” who do their job well and do not require huge budgets. For beginners, it is they who are good — the price tag on them is not raised, and only a mature professional can reach the “ceiling” of growth. Most often, “workhorses” are hit models of past generations, the prices of which have decreased over time, but they have not yet managed to become technically and morally obsolete. A good example is the Sony A7 Mark II among full-frame cameras or the Fujifilm X‑T30 among crop cameras (we will talk about the meaning of these words a little later).
By the way, do not cross out the used cameras option, but be sure to check them very carefully before buying. Interesting things sometimes appear in our Commission.
And be sure to leave some money for the lens and accessories, for example, a bag — put at least 15–20% of the cost of the camera itself on this.
They say the best camera is the one you already have, and it’s true. But still, you are probably not reading this article to say: “Okay, I don’t need a new camera, I’ll continue shooting with a smartphone,” right? Therefore, let’s see what actual types of cameras exist.
We will discard both the disappearing varieties like bridge cameras that remain gathering dust on the back shelves of photo stores, and devices that are not at all suitable for photographers like action cameras. As a result, we get:
- compact single-lens cameras (soap dishes);
- reflex cameras;
- mirrorless cameras;
Compact cameras (soap dishes) are very convenient and easy to use, but not suitable for those who want to somehow develop in photography. These are point-and-shoot cameras for those who rarely take pictures, mostly on trips and travel, and do not want to think about the settings and post-processing of pictures.
To be honest, given the evolution of mobile photography, compact cameras no longer seem like a good idea even for such simple requests. Although there are real masterpieces among soap dishes — universal workhorses that can cope with almost any task (sometimes no worse than professional models), for example, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 VII.
For a novice photographer, cameras with interchangeable lenses are better suited, because they push the very “ceiling” of professional growth far up. Do not consider cameras with a fixed fixed lens, such as the Fujifilm X100V. With it, you will never be able to zoom, and if you want to zoom in, you have to physically get closer to the subject. Although among professionals you can find the opinion that the best zoom is the photographer’s legs.
So we move on to the two remaining types of cameras — SLR and mirrorless. Mirrorless cameras are a newer technology in photography, but there are still quite a few decent DSLRs on the market that are suitable for beginners (for example, the Nikon D3500).
Without going into the technical details of the differences between these types of cameras, it’s better to immediately consider the advantages of each type — and on this basis you can decide for yourself what suits you best.
Advantages of SLR cameras:
- on average, they are cheaper than mirrorless ones;
- even inexpensive DSLRs have a decent viewfinder. Through the viewfinder, you will most often frame your shot. The better it transmits the picture and the wider its review, the better.
- they hold the battery better (for example, nine hundred frames on a single charge versus three hundred for devices of the same price category);
- there are usually many lenses available for them for any purpose — both expensive and cheap.
Benefits of mirrorless cameras:
- they are smaller and lighter than DSLRs;
- in new models, a more efficient autofocus system (faster and more tenacious);
- most often they are superior to SLR cameras in video shooting capabilities (image quality, resolution, special tools for subsequent color correction, etc.);
- manufacturers “put” it on mirrorless technologies, which means that they are the future. Sony hasn’t made DSLRs for a long time. Canon will no longer make flagship DSLRs and SLR lenses. And recently, Nikon announced the cessation of production of DSLRs. Therefore, the differences in the availability of lenses for SLR and mirrorless systems are likely to be leveled out over time.
Let’s take a closer look at the main differences.
viewfinder in reflex cameras optic (through a system of mirrors, prisms and lenses, the light enters directly into the viewfinder — the photographer sees the same as the camera lens), that is, you always see the scene as it is. The picture is shown without the settings (that is, it does not show which ISO, shutter speed, etc. you have set) that the camera uses.
In addition, the optical viewfinder does not affect battery life. It works even if the camera is turned off.
Mirrorless cameras use electronic the viewfinder is a small screen. It immediately shows the frame as the camera will record it when you press the shutter button. The electronic viewfinder takes into account all settings (still the same shutter speed, ISO, etc.) and filters (for example, various “film simulations” in Fujifilm cameras).
However, a good electronic viewfinder is rare on entry-level mirrorless cameras. They may not have a viewfinder at all (you can only see the frame through the rear display), or it will have a low resolution (poor quality picture).
Personally, on my own behalf, I would advise choosing a mirrorless camera — this will be a reserve for the future. Of course, for the same money you can buy a higher level DSLR (especially in the secondary market), but this way you become attached to a more outdated system.
Another important difference between cameras is their format. Format is the physical size of the “heart” of the camera, its matrix. A larger sensor captures more details. With it, it is easier to take a high-quality photo in poor lighting.
The most common formats for SLR and mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses are:
- full frame;
- APS‑C (crop);
- Micro 4:3.
Which camera format is better for a beginner?
full frame This is an excellent foundation for the future and great opportunities for the present. The picture comes out:
- with a lot of details;
- more opportunities for wide-angle shots (fits more into the frame — relevant if you are going to shoot a lot of landscapes);
- better quality photos in low light due to the fact that the matrix is larger and captures more light.
At the same time, full-frame cameras are more expensive (although more budget options are appearing today, but they are still significantly more expensive than crop models) and larger in size.
Crop APS‑C cameras — a more common option among beginners, mainly due to the lower price of the cameras themselves (“carcasses”) and lenses (“glasses”) for them. At the same time, their disadvantages compared to full frame — weaker detail, narrower frame and noise in low light — are not too noticeable for most novice photographers. Plus, the compactness of crop cameras makes them a more versatile choice for travel and everyday shooting.
Format models Micro 4:3 (they are being developed by Olympus and Panasonic) are even more compact and cheaper. They lose in detail and shooting in low light, not only full frame, but also APS‑C.
Here again I advise you to focus on the budget — if you plan to develop in photography and can afford full frame (their cost starts at an average of $ 1,500), then this is a great option. If full-frame cameras look expensive, don’t be discouraged — the disadvantages APS‑C Models ($500-$1500) are offset by their price and compactness, and most photographers won’t notice them at all.
And if you decide to try the Micro 4:3 ($500‑1300), read our guide to the best format cameras.
The camera body, or “carcass” in photographic slang, is only half the battle. The second half is “glass”, a lens. And the quality of the picture and even the genres of photography available to you will directly depend on the quality of the optics.
When you select a camera, you automatically select all system (that is, the totality of lenses available for a given camera), because lenses from other systems simply will not fit it. Each manufacturer has its own bayonet (and sometimes several) — a form of mount through which the lens is attached to the body.
You can read more about this in our guide to choosing a lens for a beginner.
Therefore, you always need to keep in mind the cost and availability of optics for your camera. And in this regard, SLR cameras, especially from such mastodons as Canon and Nikon, are especially good — a lot of lenses have been made for them for every taste and at any price.
But, say, for full-frame mirrorless cameras from the same companies, the situation is more complicated — there are lenses for them, but they are more expensive. These systems have been developed relatively recently (since 2018), there are not very many third-party lenses for them, which also narrows the choice. That is why, when choosing a new camera, we must not forget that you will still have to pay for the lens.
In fairness, it should be noted that you can’t make a critical mistake here with all your desire — any manufacturer has a set of lenses for any format, so you won’t be left without “glasses” at all. The question is the price.
Video vs Photo
Every year the video format is becoming more popular, and the quality and capabilities of video recording are an increasingly important requirement for any camera. Most mirrorless cameras, even entry-level ones, do a good job of recording video, which cannot be said about DSLRs in the same price category.
Mirrorless cameras offer videographers:
- higher picture quality;
- the best resolution;
- special tools for subsequent color correction.
Therefore, if you are going to periodically shoot videos, it is better to take a mirrorless camera. You can choose models by the presence of shooting in 4K at 30 frames per second — if there is such an option, then the camera can already do something.
But if video is even more important for you than photography, this is, of course, a separate conversation. Here you need to take into account a number of factors, including the presence of a rotary screen, stabilization, profiles for subsequent color correction, and so on. Quick tip — Fujifilm X‑S10: everything you need to shoot high-quality video in a compact package for sane money.
Fujifilm X‑S10 review: versatile compact mirrorless with a comfortable grip
Other important features
- autofocus — the newer the camera, the steeper the autofocus. The steeper the autofocus, the easier it is to shoot. New models from Sony, Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm feature a very grippy and accurate autofocus system. The older the camera, the more often it will miss.
- Stabilization — important for video shooting and for shooting in poor lighting (in the evening and at night) handheld. A very useful feature, but you will have to pay extra for it both in money and (usually) in the size of the camera.
- Bad weather protection — you are going to often shoot on trips and in general in the open air, then a protected case can save your camera from moisture and dust. Cameras with housing protection are more expensive.
- Ease of use — it’s all about the taste and size of your hands. We advise you to personally hold the camera and take a few test shots before buying: come to the store or rent the model you are interested in.
- Size/weight — these factors will depend on the type (DSLR / mirrorless) and format (full frame / crop, etc.) of your camera. If compactness and lightness are a priority, then the most versatile option for you is crop mirrorless.
So, when choosing a camera, you need to decide:
- with her type: SLR cameras are cheaper and larger, mirrorless cameras are more expensive and more compact.
- format: full frame is cooler, but more expensive, crop cameras are a reasonable compromise.
- understand how important it is to you video filming.
At this point, you should already have several options.
Then look at the lenses available for those cameras and see if they fit your budget. You will need one versatile lens to start with (like a handy zoom lens), but in the future you will probably want to purchase more specialized optics, so this factor should not be overlooked from the very beginning.
Adjust your choice based on other important factors — autofocus and stabilization systems.
In any case, I recommend to start with renting the chosen model and try to shoot it for a day or two to see how it suits you.
Why did I recommend the Fujifilm X‑T30 II at the very beginning? First, by today’s standards, the model is inexpensive. The camera has a high “ceiling” of growth, not only for a beginner, but also for an advanced photographer. This is a compact crop mirrorless camera with a great picture and good video capabilities. A huge number of cool inexpensive lenses have been created for the Fujifilm X system, and even the “whale” (the one sold in the kit) 18–55mm f / 2.8–4.0 is very good. And Fujifilm X‑T30 II looks very stylish!