Five years ago my wife and I decided it was time to bite the bullet and buy an expensive camera. The problem was, neither of us really knew anything about cameras. I searched the internet for buying guides and was able to find a lot of technical reviews but most of that was over my head. I had a hard time finding a practical guide for non-photographers that gave me the info I needed.
Now that I have had five years to learn, largely by trial and error, I have decided to write the guide I wish I had read before I made my first purchase.
Put Your Hands on Some Cameras
Do not buy a camera without first holding it and trying it out. Ask around some of your friends and see if you can check out their cameras or go into a store and physically try out a few makes and models. It is likely that your best deals will be found on the internet and buying online is a great option but I highly recommend against purchasing a camera without first testing it out, no matter how awesome your friend said it was. All cameras feel different and have slightly different configurations and after playing around with a few you will start to understand which ones you like best and which ones seem most intuitive to you. We ended up with a Sony SLT but the Cannon Ti line is great as is the Nikon D line. You will have to decided for yourself which camera you like the most.
Buy the Camera “Body Only”
Most cameras come with a lens, this lens is commonly referred to as a “kit lens.” Kit lenses are not very good. Buying a camera “body only” means it doesn’t come with a lens. Obviously you will need a lens in order to use your camera but in the long run you will be much better off to save $100 (or more) by buying the camera without the kit lens and putting that $100 toward a better lens.
Buy an 18-250mm Lens First and a 50mm Lens Second
An 18-250mm lens is a zoom lens. The smaller the first number the further you can pull back and get a wider angle, the larger the second number the more you can zoom in. For the record most kit lenses are 18-50mm. I have even seen 18-300mm lenses, if you can get one of these, even better. For most general photography purposes this will be your go-to lens for things like: birthday parties, sporting events and trips around town.
If you buy a second lens you should get a 50mm lens. This is a non-zooming lens that will be perfect for family portraits or if you plan to take a lot of still shots. Obviously the above zooming lens will also be able to take these photos but the 50mm lens will take nicer shots.
Buy a UV Lens Filter
The main purpose of getting the filter isn’t to block out UV light but to protect your lens. Lens filters are only a few dollars, lenses are a few hundred. If you scratch your filter you can just throw it away and buy another for ten bucks. If you scratch the front of your $300 lens, you will be very upset with yourself.
Get a Camera Bag
Get a Neoprene Camera Cover
Get a Tripod and a Remote
So that’s what I wish I knew when I bought my first camera. I hope this can help someone who is just starting out looking to purchase their first nice camera. What else would you add to this list?