I am often asked, “What is the best camera?” Or, “Which is a good camera to buy?” Typically, the person asking is anxious and excited, someone planning to pursue photography as a hobby or a potential career. The answer needn’t be as complicated as it is often made out to be. Let’s begin by addressing some of the reasons why buying your first camera feels like such a complicated decision.
- You don’t know what all the tech jargon means
- You don’t really know what you intend to shoot and what you don’t care to shoot
- Cameras are expensive
- There is a massive industry whose only job is to sell you the latest, greatest camera that will apparently turn you into an amazing photographer.
Let me start by tackling these issues in reverse. The words megapixel, autofocus, low light and image stabilization enter the lexicon of many amateurs and hobbyists long before they even begin to marvel at form, shadows, light and texture. While understanding camera technology is important, the current levels of tech obsession are grossly overdone even for most working professionals, let alone hobbyists.
Ask yourself a simple question – how many of your photos are going to be printed and how many will never ever go beyond being shared on Instagram or Facebook. I am not belittling social media but it’s important to understand that even if your camera has 1000 megapixels, Instagram and Facebook just about accept an image that is 1080 pixels wide. If I translate that sentence to English, it means that even a budget smartphone today produces an image that is overkill for Instagram and Facebook in terms of megapixels.
Similarly, autofocus speeds and low light performance are great tools but mean absolutely nothing unless your primary photographic subjects are Olympic athletes or the secret life of fruit bats. I assure you that the autofocus on your smart phone paired with the powerful presence of a biscuit will slow your pet dog down to the point where you can nail the perfect shot sans a one lakh rupee DSLR.
So, to begin with, disregard all the hoopla around camera specs. Perhaps the only camera specs to really think about are size and weight. I feel compelled to explain my standpoint at this juncture. As you delve into the wonderful world of photography, the one thing your camera needs to be really good at is becoming a seamless part of your life. It is this ability to have an unobtrusive camera as companion that will allow you to test and explore the subjects that really make you tick.
In the interests of full disclosure, my approach to exploring photography is everyday rather than simply on holidays or on the odd day that you decide to lug your DSLR around to a few monuments. And so my top recommendation for a beginner camera is a really good cellphone. Hey, don’t fall off your chair!
It’s no secret that cellphone cameras have come a long way but what most people don’t realize is that cellphones have a neat trick up their sleeve that no DSLR can accomplish. Cellphone cameras don’t make people uncomfortable! Imagine yourself aiming a DSLR roughly the size of your head at your parents as they break into a laugh or aiming one at your siblings when they act corny. In all probability if the size of the camera doesn’t catch their attention, the gun shot slap of the shutter will. Professional photographers spend considerable time refining their technique to use DSLRs without setting off their subjects. Cellphone cameras offer amateurs and hobbyists a massive head start to explore varied subjects without having to learn how to manipulate a DSLR.
My top picks for good cellphone cameras are:
- Google Pixel 3A/3 (Whichever doesn’t send your bank account into a tailspin)
- iPhone XR/XS (For those who are still paying Apple tax, myself included)
- One Plus 7/7 PRO (Arguably the best value for money)
- Redmi Note 7 pro (For those on a tight budget)
All the above cellphones share one single thing in common. Their cameras start up fast and often don’t need you to unlock your phone. All of them have reasonably good lenses and sensors. So pick one that fits your budget. You really can’t go wrong!
For those of you who think that cellphone cameras don’t give you enough control over photos, come join the MYNT Cellphone Photography Capsule. I will give you a money back guarantee if I can’t change your mind about cellphone cameras.
I can sense the frown on your forehead as you wonder how a cellphone camera can shoot in dim lighting and how it can capture the details of flowers and the beautifully random movement of birds. While we at MYNT can teach you how to shoot any and all of these subjects with your cellphone, a dedicated camera can offer you some advantages. However, the answer to your woes is still not a DSLR. Most of us find ourselves in dimly lit conditions at parties, that is of course, when we aren’t marveling at birds and flowers. A DSLR at a party is like an SUV at an F1 race. It’s plain clumsy and overkill. The same holds true for beautiful vistas we encounter when we travel. A small pocketable camera with a good viewfinder will let you shoot some stunning and candid images in almost any light condition.
My Top Picks:
- Sony RX100 VII or Sony RX 100 VA (Get whichever is carrying a heavier discount)
- Panasonic Lumix TZ 200 or Lumix DC-LX100 Mark II (The latter offers more control but doesn’t fit in a jeans pocket and the former fits in a jeans pocket and has an impressive auto mode)
- Fujifilm X100f (Hands down the best camera if you are really committed to honing your photographic craft. NOTE: Doesn’t have a zoom lens! Many pros don’t use zoom lenses either ☺)
- Ricoh GR (A similar approach as the Fuji X100f but can fit in a shirt pocket)
Some of you may wonder why I am recommending tiny point-and-shoot cameras that cost as much or more than DSLRS. The reason is simple. These cameras pack a massive punch in a small package. In many light conditions you can’t tell their images apart from a DSLR and they help you overcome many of the complications in understanding camera technology with an easy learning curve. These cameras can be found in the hands of many working pros for the simple no fuss approach to photography they offer.
For those of you who are still unconvinced, only and only if you see yourself making a living from photography, consider a DSLR or an interchangeable lens camera (ILC). These cameras by virtue of allowing you to mount varied lenses are more flexible and can grow with your interests and skill. These cameras demand that you spend time understanding the technology built into them and spend time learning to use the technology to render your imagination into images.
My top picks:
- Fujifilm XE 3 with 18-55 kit lens (Perhaps the only thing this camera won’t excel at is shooting wildlife. In every other way it’s near perfect. The analog controls can be a great learning tool for beginners and pros)
- Canon 200D Mark II with EF-S 18-55 kit lens (Optional get the twin kit lens pack that includes an EF-S 55-250 lens if you intend to shoot live performances and birds)
- Nikon 3500D with Nikkor 18-55 kit lens (Optional get the twin-kit lens pack that includes a Nikkor 70-300 lens if you intend to shoot live performances and birds)
Here is hoping that I have spared you hours of internet research and agonizing over budgets. Get a camera that catches your fancy and come join us at MYNT to get your photographic journey started.
P.S: In case you think I am being paid by these companies to push their phones or cameras, I swear by all my photographic gods that is not the case.