Now that you have understood the ins and outs, you will see that it will be much simpler here, and almost automatic. We will use an online comparison from now on, since we have our main criteria in mind. I recommend Digital, it works well. You can also watch the market review in the next part.
First of all, I want to draw your attention to a very important point: there is no need to worry too much. At equivalent range, 2 cameras of different brands are often as good as each other, and will not make a fundamental difference in your photo practice. What I mean is that a $200 compact from either brand will often be about the same. Ditto if you hesitate between 2 entry-level SLRs from Canon or Nikon. I will come back to this, but it seems important to me to specify it now.
- Below $150-200: I suggest you use your smartphone while continuing to save for a future purchase. (that’s what I did when I started, but at the time smartphone photos were rotten). No need to take your head.
- About $300 (or even 400€ by selling a kidney): consider turning to second -hand, or take an expert compact if you really need compactness. You will find SLRs (or even hybrids) 2 to 3 years old, which work very well and will be enough to start with. You will probably be much happier than a brand new bridge or compact. Don’t be fooled by stuff like wi-fi, GPS and the like: it’s frankly not essential.
- More than $400-500: choose an SLR or a hybrid. Even entry-level, you will really enjoy yourself with it.
Hybrid or SLR?
This is THE question you ask yourself a lot today. Clearly, many hybrids have achieved SLR-equivalent quality. However, a reduced size is always a big advantage (size, weight, movement and travel, discretion, etc.). So in what situations should you still choose an SLR?
To tell you the truth, in the previous version of this article, I still recommended the SLR for wildlife, sports and show photography. But in the 2022s, that’s no longer true: there are plenty of highly responsive mirrorless options , with fast autofocus, excellent low-light capabilities, and a full optical range that caters to all needs.
In short, today, you will not see any fundamental difference in the rendering between hybrid and reflex. Especially if the sensor size is the same.
So there it is really a question of personal preference: the real difference in use is mainly on the type of sight.
How to choose between the 2 or 3 finalists?
Normally, at this stage, you will have 2 or 3 cameras that tempt you, without being able to choose: you have kept the cameras that correspond to the 3 main criteria mentioned above, you have filtered with your budget, you have chosen between hybrid and reflex. And you still have 2 hybrids or 3 SLRs left at the same price, looking at the best rated cameras on comparison sites. And you don’t have the slightest idea of the differences between them, despite reading many tests or comparisons.
And good news: there are few! As I said above, with the same range, the differences are quite few between competing devices. An Olympus PEN and a Panasonic GF of the same generation are quite close. Ditto for Canon and Nikon SLRs of the same range.
So there is no answer to ” is the Nikon thing better than the Canon thing?” !
My best advice here is to pick them up in store. Yes, really, take half a day and go. See which one you feel most comfortable with. Handle the device, see if you find the settings easily, if the menus are intuitive for you, if it “falls to hand”. It’s a bit like looking for an apartment in the end: you have the crush or not. It may seem trivial to you, but it’s really very very important to have an intuitive handling : it will make shooting easier for you, and the pleasure of photographing.
This getting started will also allow you to notice small details that you may have missed in the tests, but which are important to you :
- the presence of a viewfinder
- an adjustable screen
These criteria are really very personal, personally I don’t find the adjustable screen important, but you have the right to take that into consideration.
What goal to start with?
The choice of a lens is also a very vast subject, which I cannot cover in full here, this article being already very long! If you’re interested, I wrote an article on the subject, and definitely a complete digital book.
I will therefore concentrate on the objective to take to begin with. If you have a limited budget, don’t bother: take the camera with the lens of the kit, because it is almost free (the kit is only slightly more expensive than the camera alone). It’s limited but it’s not a disaster either, and allows you to try out a lot of things.