Camera Buying Guide

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

This is sort of a no-brainer but you will need a bag to protect your camera and keep your accessories in one place.

Get a Neoprene Camera Cover

This is just an extra layer of protection for your camera and is easy to carry around with your camera even if you don’t want to lug around your whole bag.

Get a Tripod and a Remote

If you ever want to take a picture of everyone (including yourself) a tripod and a remote will make your life so much easier. I was able to get a remote for my camera on eBay for less than a dollar.


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?

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3 thoughts on “Camera Buying Guide”

  1. Thank you for sharing your advice on buying a new manual camera. I have never bought one but the advice you gave is definitely important when making the investment. I’m sure that your new camera will take amazing photos and look forward to seeing the results!

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