Advances have made digital photography really good. Point and shoot cameras do well for making pictures to share on your computer, and even some phones do pretty good pictures. But when you decide you want to start taking photography seriously, you will need to move up to a DSLR camera.
These are what purists call “real” cameras, and they are what professionals use. A DSLR has a mirror inside, and you look through the lens when you take the picture, so you see exactly what will be in the picture.
These cameras also have interchangeable lenses. Some say the lens even more important than the camera, and it is true that even the best camera cannot make up for a cheap lens. A great lens can make an average camera better though.
The Cadillac of cameras is either Nikon or Canon, and there is debate as to which is best. The real deal is, Nikon is designed by photographers and Canon is designed by engineers. Basically Nikon is easier to use, especially at the beginning level. Canon is a little less expensive and has more lens options. But realize, lenses and accessories are not interchangeable, so once you chose one or the other, that will influence your photographic future for years to come.
There are other companies, like Pentax or Olympus, who are “real” camera makers. Sony is one of many electronics companies now in the camera market. You could save a little money with one of these brands, but if you get serious about photography, you will likely end up with a Nikon of Canon eventually.
Whatever your budget is for your camera, you should spend at least that much on your first lens, and more if you can. If you have to trim somewhere, trim the level of camera, but get all the lens you can afford.
DSLR cameras come as beginner, intermediate and advanced. Some people feel the advanced are the only professional cameras, and those usually cost $3,000 or more. Its true that level of camera will do amazing things, but if you are a beginner, it will be quite a while before you are ready to use those options anyway.e
A lot of professional news photographers use intermediate level cameras, as do others whose primary use is not photography but they still need high quality.
The camera companies make an entry level, or beginner type camera, that starts at around $400, not counting any lenses or accessories. There are some online companies that sell bundles, that include lenses and accessories. If you are careful to avoid the scam websites, you can get a pretty good bundle for about $600.
Some camera companies make an even lower level camera that is almost all automatic. These should be avoided because you give up creative control with these and that is the reason you are jumping from a point and shoot to start with.
Jumping to a DSLR does take some financial commitment. There is no way around that. The truth that “you get what you pay for,” is even more a fact in photography. But if you are a beginner with DLSR cameras, it might be best to start with an entry level camera. You won’t know how to use the advanced functions anyway, and many of the intermediate ones will be beyond your ability a well.
A beginner camera at this level will make just as good of a photograph as an advanced in many cases. It is just that if you know how, you can do even more with the advanced levels. It is better to learn on the beginner level camera and master that first. Spend any money you save this way on getting better lenses. You will also need things like a camera strap and a bag for your camera, but those are relatively inexpensive.
You can master the beginner level camera, and then move up to a higher level when you are ready. Very often you can trade in your camera on a better one, or higher level. Nikon’s and Canons retain some value even at the beginning level.
That brings us to whether you should buy a used camera. You might get a great deal buying one that has just been traded in by someone moving up to a higher level camera. The electronics makes buying used a bit of a risk, but if you get one from someone you know, or a reputable camera store in your area, you should be ok. Buying used online cameras is very risky, so it depends on how much you want to gamble.
There are refurbished cameras that can be a good deal. These are cameras that have been sent back to the factory and have been brought back to company standards. They are like new and usually come with a warranty.
When you are ready, do some shopping around. Beware of scam websites. If something is too good to be true, it is a scam and you should walk away. Remember, you get what you pay for in photography. That being said, there are some very reputable online camera dealers, such as B&H and 47st. Photo.
At the same time, it might be a good idea to buy from a local camera store. You need to have a store where you can ask knowledgeable people questions, and even get some guidance. It will probably cost a little more to buy from a local camera store, but you will get more personal service, and you will start a relationship that will benefit you for years to come. A local store might even let you give one a test drive.
A good plan would be to get the first camera from a local store you trust, and then when you are ready to shop for add-ons, accessories and so forth, you can get those online.
Take your time while shopping for the best deal. Even shopping is a learning experience when it comes to DSLR photography.