Camera Advice

Hi friends! A couple of people asked what camera I use/recommend after Monday’s post which made me realize that as often as I get asked that question in person, I’ve never blogged about it. I get this question (or at least questions about cameras and lenses) nearly as often as the question of where to get good prints. So today I want to fill you in on the advice I usually give when I’m asked about a good camera for photography as a hobby or for someone wanting better pictures of their day-to-day life.

camera advice from a photographer

As a Disclaimer:

My first DSLR was considered a “mid-range” one so I can’t speak a lot about the beginner cameras. And I’ve used Nikon exclusively so I can’t speak to Canon. But I can share what I know and fill you guys in on what I normally recommend when people ask. 🙂

A Bit of History:

I started with the Nikon D5100 and then upgraded to the Nikon D7000 after two years because I needed a faster shutter speed and to be able to change settings more easily while out in the field taking photos. After another year I upgraded again to the Nikon D750 because I needed a full frame camera for my photography business. And truth be told, I have loved all three of these cameras.

I Recommend: 

Each of the cameras I’ve used can take incredible photos with the right lens (more on that below) including the D5100 even though it’s the “cheap” one. All of our photos from Italy were taken with that camera and I started my photography business with that camera. And if photography is just a hobby for you – that line of cameras is what I would recommend. Currently the Nikon D5300 and D5500 are the versions that are out, but they are in that same 5000 series. And if you want to save lots of pennies, feel free to purchase the D5100 online. Since there are newer versions out now, it has dropped in price.

Even if you’d like photography to be more than a hobby to you, then I’d still recommend the Nikon 5000 series as a great place to start. But if you already know a bit about DSLRs and how they work then the D7000 series is an awesome go-to. The current version is the Nikon D7200, but you can still purchase the 7000 online (thank you, Amazon). So many of the settings are available on the camera body without having to go to the menu to change settings. This makes it so much faster to adjust settings while out in the field. And if you are looking at full frame pro level cameras then this whole blog post is probably a bit simplified for you, but I can’t say enough good things about the Nikon D750. It’s my baby. And I love it. ❤

photographer rach

Some Things  You Need to Know:

You need to know about Ken Rockwell if you have questions about cameras and lenses other than what I’m talking about here. His website isn’t the prettiest thing, but it has the most helpful information. He reviews and compares products constantly. If I have a question about cameras or lenses, I often go to his site.

You need to know that if you leave your DSLR in “auto” all of the time, you aren’t going to get the gorgeous photos your camera is capable of taking. If you are going to invest in a DSLR camera, I can’t recommend enough that you actually learn how to use it. I have learned 10% of what I know about DSLRs from the user manual, 10% from other photographer friends, and the other 80% from using it in the field and then Googling answers to my questions. There is so much information out there and I’m happy to help you find it – if you have questions, please feel free to ask.

You need to know how awesome prime lenses are for the popular bokeh effect (you know, when your subject is in perfect focus and everything else is blurred). So my advice when you buy a DSLR camera is to not bother with the kit lens that comes with it. Order the body only and save your pennies to buy a prime lens instead. I started my photography business with the Nikon D5100 and a 50mm 1.8/f prime lens. Today I shoot with a Nikon D750 and change between a 35mm 1.8/f lens and a 85mm 1.8/f lens. I sold my 50mm because I rarely used it once I had the other two. However, the 85mm isn’t cheap so if you are doing the whole photography thing as a hobby, I highly recommend starting with either the 35mm or the 50mm 1.8/f prime lens (and if you need help decided between those two lenses, talk with me! I’m happy to help you decide).

You need to know that prime lenses do not zoom. This means that you literally have to move your body closer or further away from the subject you are photographing in order to get the shot you’d like. It’s weird at first, but once you get used to it, it’s second nature. And the gorgeous photos more than make up for the inconvenience.

You need to know that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great times to buy cameras and lenses. I have bought and sold lenses on Craigslist, but the majority of my camera shopping happens online (and I have bought both new and used cameras). Amazon and Adorama are the two I shop the most because they offer the best deals and best return policies. However, make sure that the products you buy are not Gray market because they won’t be covered by Nikon if you have issues with them. Look for Product of USA in the description or on the box. It’s clear on Adorama’s site, but Amazon can be a little trickier.

And finally, you need to know that cellphone cameras are getting better and better every year. Currently my Samsung Galaxy 5 cellphone takes better photos than the first point-and-shoot digital camera I got in 2005. If you have a great camera on your cellphone, don’t feel like you have to get a physical camera just to take photos. Cellphone cameras amaze me with what they can do and I’m sure they will only get better. Even as a professional photographer, there are lots of days that I leave my DSLR behind and use my cellphone because it’s easier, more accessible, fits in my pocket, and still takes great photos. Just something to consider before you invest in a DSLR.

photographer rach3

I know that was a lot of information and yet not very in depth at the same time. I tried to give a basic overview as much as I could. If you have further questions, please feel free to ask! I’m happy to help out!

How do you normally take photos? On your Phone, Point & Shoot, DSLR? 

Love Rach


31 responses to “Camera Advice

  1. It’s amazing how far phone cameras have come. Some of the photos look better than my point & shoot that I have! What a helpful post! Thanks for putting it together!

  2. I have the basic “beginner” Canon t2i model, but like you said I don’t recommend the kit lens. I bought 2 that I use: the 50mm 1.8 and a Tamron 28-75 2.5. I use the Tamron way more because I still get good blur with the 2.8, and honestly sometimes I feel like with the 1.8 aperture the photo comes out blurry even though I manually put focus on the subjects eye. I could be that the lens is old and breaking down, or t could definitely be me! But I often choose the Tamron because I feel like the pictures are crisper.

    • This was good to hear! None of my photog friends have used the Tamron lenses, but I have really wondered about them. So far I’ve used only Nikkor lenses (made by Nikon), but I’m totally open to trying an “off brand” lens if it works well. Maybe I will try out one of their lenses. You take beautiful photos so obviously the Tamron lens is working for you! 🙂

  3. Yay! Thank you for this info! I have a Canon Rebel t3i and just ordered a 35mm 2.0 online today. Woohoo! I’m so excited! It’s my first fixed lens– I’ve been using the kit one for a while and I figured that it is time for an upgrade 🙂

    I never even heard about the grey market before. Hmmm. Now I’m gonna look into it!

    • YAY! You will LOVE the difference in your photos! If you aren’t ready to go straight to the manual setting on your camera, at least try Aperture Priority (should be the Av setting on a Canon) so you can take advantage of that 2.0/f! I can’t wait to see the photos you take! 🙂

  4. This is great! I shamefully haven’t used my DSLR since LAST December because the SIM is expired..and I don’t want to update it myself because I’m too scared.

  5. Well… I did own a super expensive DSLR camera but I ended up taking majority of my photos on my iPhone because it was just “easier”… Hmm!

  6. such a helpful post! wish i had this when i first started, dangit. i’ll be hitting you up for questions for sure! thank you for writing this!

  7. Some great tips here! I have a fairly decent camera, but I have no idea how to use it to it’s full potential. My plan is to read the manual for it.

  8. Such great tips! I have a basic canon rebel but I’m not letting myself upgrade until I feel like I’ve mastered the basics! I took a photo class last year at a local university and that helped a lot!

    • Taking a class is a great idea! And I think it’s smart to really master the level of camera you have before you move up to the next one. To be sure you know how to use it to its full potential. And who knows… you might find that your camera does all you want it to already and you don’t even need to upgrade! ​

  9. This was SUCH A great post!!! Thank you soooo much! My sister let me borrow one of her lenses, but now I can’t find my camera charger. LOL! I used to be so organized, and then I became a mom… 😉 Hopefully I can find it tomorrow, so that I can start practicing!!
    If you’re ever looking for blog ideas, you should do a weekly or monthly series on photography usage tips. Ha, ha! 🙂

    • Hooray for playing with a new lens! I hope you find your charger so you can experiment! And girl, if you ever have questions – I’m happy to help out! My knowledge base is pretty steeped in Nikon, but some things cross over and I’m glad to help where I can. 🙂

  10. I wish I’d known earlier the importance of shooting with nicer lenses.. I went so long with kit lenses!! Ugh! –

  11. I know I haven’t been commenting, but your posts have been sooo helpful lately!!! That one you did on prints was SOOO awesome. I loved that you took the time to take some comparison shots.

    Now…I would LOVE to pick your brain about cameras. I’m a Canon loyalist (for no other reason than the first camera I got was a Canon back a million years ago), so I’m not sure if you could help or not, but I’d give it a go. I bought a Rebel Xti off of a friend of mine a few summers ago. I LOVE it, but I know that I’m limiting its capabilities. At least, I HOPE that’s the case. I took a photography class through Photography Concentrate which taught me LOADS. I pretty much always use manual mode, but I can’t seem to get the temperatures right and I’m wondering if I need to look at the internal settings of the camera to see if they need to be adjusted. I take decent shots, but I know they could be better, especially if skin tones are involved (that’s where I notice the temperature problem the most). It could be that I’m not using the proper ratio for figuring ISO/f-stop/shutter speed…What do you think? And by internal settings I mean those things you can access by looking through the menus and changes that can be made in the same way you go in to set date and time, file format setup, etc.

    • Girl, I’m afraid I’m going to be no help to you there. I know pretty much nothing about Canons, haha! Have you tried asking Google yet? I’m not kidding when I say that the majority of what I’ve learned has been running into problems (like yours) and then Googling it. Youtube videos are super helpful too (because I can SEE what people are talking about). Sorry to not be more help!

  12. Love this post. Every time I go to a store with cameras I drool over the Nikon section. Those are my preferred camera. I have a VERY old one that is no longer working and I’ve been looking at the 5300 especially with a new baby on the way. Are the 3000 level ones just a little more novice than the 5000+? Do you know if the offer some of the same features? I can’t decide what I need since I still have a lot to learn about taking good photos. It does kill me how many really nice DSLRs I see at every event now but always in auto mode. If I’m spending that much money, I want to learn how to realllly use it, lol.

    • When I was first looking at cameras three years ago the 5100 was WAY better than the 3000 series that was also available at that time. However because you asked this question I did some research and found that the 3000 series has come a long way. This video on Youtube actually does a really good job explaining the differences in the cameras and showing them to you as well. Maybe that can help you! I definitely recommend a nicer lens (don’t bother with that kit lens). So pick a lens you’d want and add that into the cost of your camera. If it still is withing your budget to buy the 5300, go for it. But if it’s more than you want to spend then I’d go with the 3300 and get the nicer lens than just use the 5300 with the kit lens.

  13. Thank you for this post! We are looking into investing in a DSLR this winter and I have been so overwhelmed with all of the different options – this was perfect and just what I needed to see! 🙂

  14. I NEED to learn how to use my camera features to its fullest! I am guilty of leaving it on the “no flash” option and just letting it be…. HELP!! haha I’ve taken a few photography classes but the info they teach just doesn’t stick to me and I always forget what all the numbers and lingo even mean. I’ve been trying to learn more with google but I might have to pick your brain a little here soon 🙂 YOU are the professional!!

  15. i went back and forth on getting a dslr but ultimately decided against it. i don’t ‘need’ it and i know i wouldn’t use it. i got a fancier (for me) point and shoot and absolutely adore it. it had great reviews and was pretty affordable.

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