What camera should I buy? And why it doesn't matter...

Posted on September 14, 2015 by Sean MacDonald


I have been emailing back and forth with a potential customer who is looking for their first DSLR. This is a typical situation for me that comes up on a regular basis. Many people want to know my opinion on what camera to buy before they make the investment. However, this situation is a little different for two reasons.

1) This customer lives in a developing country and cannot go to a local store and hold different models in their hand and see them in person.

2) This customer really wants to make sure that they get the right camera and the right brand because they have aspirations of one day becoming a professional photographer.

The stakes seem high enough already, enough to evoke many questions. Unfortunately the stress of this situation does not stop there, as may people have told him, "whichever brand you start with, you will most likely shoot for the rest of your career". And this is true. Most photographers stick with the same brand long term because once someone invests in lenses, flashes, and other accessories, you are married to that brand.

So this adds to the desperation to get the PERFECT camera. Many questions start peppering my email.

"Which is better, Canon or Nikon?"

"Why do some people disagree?"

"What about this model? What about that model?"

"Do I need a flip out screen?"

"How many megapixels do I need?"

"What lens should I get?"

The hard thing about this is that there is no simple answers to any of these questions, especially for a new photographer who has no idea what they want to shoot. I answered as many of the tech questions as I could, but many of the other questions there are no answers to.

So I took a different approach. One that doesn't answer any of the questions at all, but answers the bigger question this customer doesn't know he should be asking;

"Does the specific camera matter?"

My answer to this question is "No". (Not what you would expect from someone selling cameras for a living)


This was my more detailed response:

"Here is my professional opinion, cameras are like a mechanic's tools. If someone knows how to use them well, it doesn't matter what brand they are. They can fix a car with a set of wrenches if they are Mac, Craftsman, or a cheap knockoff from Walmart. If you give that same tool to someone who knows nothing about cars, it doesn't matter what brand is on the handle they are not going to be able to fix it. What matters most is what's in your head, not what's in your hand.

Yes there are subtle differences between Canon, Nikon and Sony. But what you will find out the more reviews you read and the more people you talk to, is that what one person likes, someone else does not like. Some people love the way a Nikon feels in there hand. Some people find a Canon easier to operate. Others say Nikon's are easier to operate. Some love Sony camera, some Fuji.

The debate is never ending. In the end, I really don't think it matters much. What matters more is that you learn PHOTOGRAPHY. Spend your time learning about light, learning about depth of field, learning about composition, learning about how to operate any camera. Then it will not matter what you are shooting. I know hundreds of professionals who love Canon. I also know hundreds who love their Sony. They all have little differences, but none of them will make or break your career. To summarize, pick one that you can afford and then never give it another thought. As long as you can find lenses and accessories down the road, then spend your time and money learning the craft of photography. No matter what you choose, it will be 10 times better than what was shooting the covers of National Geographic and Time magazine 10 years ago. A photographer I follow tells people this, "Somewhere in the world, there is someone shooting with less and worse gear than you, and creating better images". So find one you think you will like, get it, and the shoot it until it falls apart. In the end, its just like the mechanic; what matters most is what's in your head, not what's in your hand."

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