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How to Choose Your First DSLR Camera

Having trouble picking out your first or next camera? I know there are so many details to consider! Let’s take a look at them here. 

Are you interested in documenting your children growing up? Or perhaps just capturing images of things you find beautiful, such as the morning sunset? Have you given it a lot of thought and you are feeling ready to make the investment and buy your first camera? But what factors should you be considering? There are so many brands and options. It can be mind boggling – I get it!

Let’s dispel some of the mystery and get you ready to buy your first camera! Below you will find some commonly asked questions I get from friends, family and clients when they are looking to purchase their first camera.

1) Which brand of digital cameras do I buy?

Canon? Nikon? Sony? Leica? Which brand is better?

Honestly, there isn’t a ‘better’ brand. Period. The end. It is all preference. Every photographer is biased to the brand that they use – myself included! But just because I love something,doesn’t mean that you will love it!

Kind of like olives – I  could NEVER like olives, but some people are crazy about them.

What I am going to push is going to the store. Yes, a brick and mortar building like a Best Buy or even a Wal-Mart. I suggest going into a store and holding a camera built by each of the different brands you are interested in because they each have their own feel. They are each set up slightly differently, and you may prefer one over the other.

2) Do I buy a simple point-and-shoot or a camera with a separate lens?

For a lot of leisure and hobbyist photographers, a point-and-shoot camera is all they will ever want or need. However, if you plan on getting more creative with your photography or going more in-depth with your learning at any time, I highly suggest getting a camera with the separate lens (DSLR or mirrorless). A whole world of creative options open up to you as a photographer when you have a camera that you can take out of auto and put in manual mode. Manual mode is such a powerful tool and is vital in becoming a better photographer!

3) How many megapixels do I need in a camera?

Okay, this might come as a surprise to you, but these days, it doesn’t really matter! GASP! Seriously, 90 percent of cameras are going to come with more than enough megapixels for any type of photographer, whether you are a hobbyist or a pro. Anything beyond 24 megapixels is really just overkill.

The thing is, this question only still exists because of the days when how much you paid for a camera directly related to its megapixels. Just like computers have gotten smaller and cheaper over time, so have cameras. The technology is getting cheaper to make and most cameras these days come with 18 to 24 megapixels, if not more, which will suit 98 percent of photographers just fine.

4) What is the difference between a DSLR and mirrorless camera?

For this particular post, I am not going to get too technical on this topic, but I will provide a simple overview.

A digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera works by using a lens (mirror) to reflect light up into the viewfinder to preview the image. The mirror inside the camera then flips up and out of the way when the shutter is pressed in order to capture the image before you. A mirrorless camera is exactly what it says it is: It has no mirror or lens inside of it, and because of this, they are often much smaller than the classic DSLR camera. Both types of cameras are used by professionals and both are offered in an array of price points. However, because mirrorless cameras are so new, new lenses for them are often more expensive. I don’t expect this to be the trend for long as they become more normal and mass-produced.

5) How much should I budget when buying either a DSLR or mirrorless camera?

This is a very personal question because it is highly dependent on your personal goals as a photographer. Are you a hobbyist looking to capture images of your children to create the annual holiday card? Or perhaps you are a hobbyist but have a very strong interest in photography and you want to learn the technical rules and foundations of photography?

Spend some time evaluating your goals and where you want to be in one to three years down the road in your photography journey. If you plan on just being a casual user of your camera, probably something less than $500 will work great for you. However, if you eventually want to learn how to shoot in manual mode and get more creative, it would be worth having a larger budget.

Morgan Tracy motherhood

Bonus Question:

What camera do you use? 

I actually have three cameras! I have a Nikon F100 film camera that I use for fun and playing with different film stocks.

The other two cameras are the Sony A7 and the Sony A7iii. I love them very much and cannot imagine using anything else.


I truly hope that you have found this guide helpful in choosing your first camera and getting started on your photography journey. Next week on the blog, we will be discussing budget-based camera recommendations!

If you found this post helpful, why don’t you sign up for my FREE Photography 101 course?! This course will teach you all the basics of DSLR photography so you can confidently start shooting in manual mode! 

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