2017 Camera Buying Guide
There are three main types of cameras in the consumer category: Point and Shoot; DSLR and Mirrorless.
Point and shoot cameras are the least expensive*, smallest and lightest option (aside from cameraphones). They're not expandable (you can't change your lenses) and they are limited in the scope of what they can do. They absolutely have a purpose and can be quite useful, but if you're looking to improve your photography, they're really not the best way to spend your money.
So, that leaves us with the next two categories: DSLR (digital single lens reflex) and Mirrorless Cameras. I've included my recommendations for the two most popular brands (Canon and Nikon) DLSR in this post and will be updating to include Mirrorless in the near future.
Note that I've placed the cameras from left to right in this order: "good", "better" and "best". While the camera body you use is certainly not the only piece of equipment that affects the impact and quality of your images, it is an important building block. The main correlation between a camera body and its price is how the camera performs in low light situations. With pricier cameras, the noise (speckled dots appearing in the image - similar to film grain) that results from a high ISO setting is less distracting than the noise from a less expensive camera.
Focal Length: The first part of a lens’ description is the focal length, which is measured in millimeters. This number describes how close or far your subject will appear while looking through the lens. The lower the number, the farther you will feel, while the higher the number, the closer your subject will appear.
Aperture Matters: The wider the aperture of a lens can open, the more light it can let in. When lenses are labeled with low aperture numbers (such as 1.4, 1.8, or 2.8) they actually have the ability to open wide. This means that the lens can let in more light which can allow for shooting in darker conditions and/or creative effects, such as a blurrier background.
Fixed vs. Zoom: When a lens is described by two focal lengths (ex: 24-70mm), it is a “zoom” lens. This means you will feel closer or farther to your subject depending on how you turn the zoom ring. Lenses with a single focal length (ex: 50mm) do not have the ability to change. However, fixed lenses tend to be sharper than zoom lenses and offer wider apertures.
Starting Out: Most of the time, when you're purchasing a camera body, you'll have the option of purchasing it in "kit" form with a lens. You may have the choice of two different lengths - probably from around 18mm-55mm or 55mm-200mm. Which one you pick should be influenced most by what you're most interested in photographing. If you're thinking about sports and theater (things that are farther away from you) you'll want the 55mm-200mm while if you're more interested in landscape, travel and architecture, you'll want the 18mm-55mm. Both are suitable for portraits. The longer (55mm-200mm) will be heavier, so keep that in mind.
If you can also afford to purchase one fixed length lens, I suggest a 50mm (f/1.8, or if your budget allows, a f/1.4).
More Advanced: As you grow as a photographer, you'll likely want to invest in more lenses, but that's a whole other blog post :).