I tend to get a lot of technical questions from friends/acquaintances who are interested in buying a camera. They always begin by asking what’s the best camera they can buy without emptying their pockets.
It’s a simultaneously funny and annoying question. A good camera will always cost money. Any entry-level DSLR will cost you at least $300 (that’s if you find the camera used on sites such as craigslist, ebay, etc…).
In most instances you’re going to shell out at least $600 plus or more. If you buy a DSLR, you’ll probably want to ditch the stock lens that comes with it. It’s usually a terrible lens. It’s better to buy the body only. Shell out a couple extra hundred for a prime 50mm lens.
If you’re a beginner, and I mean “touch a camera and it’ll explode beginner” or minimally played with a camera you should avoid throwing a “large” sum of money on a high end amateur level camera (such as the Canon 5D MK 2) just yet.
Before I go any further let me make this clear. The Canon 5D MK 2 is an absolutely amazing camera. It’s what I exclusively shoot on. I also use it as my primary camera for videos if I’m unable to grab cameras such as the Sony F3, Sony EX3, etc. The camera’s ability will stand the test of time against the 1Ds, F55, Black Magics, REDS, and so on.
Still, a MK 2 will cost you (at the minimum) $2000 used and around $2500 or more new. That sounds like a hefty price, but it isn’t. The MK 2 is considered by Canon an “amateur” level camera. A 5D MK 3 will cost you around $5,000. A Canon 1D X will cost upwards $6,000. I haven’t even touched on the Hasselblad DSLR cameras which are upwards $17,000 to $50,000.
I’m not taking into account people who ask about video and photography. An Arri Alexa starter kit will cost $80,000. A Sony F3 is cheaper, around $13,000.
I say this to point out if you’re going to invest in a camera, you shouldn’t harp on the issue of money. Harp on experience and practice. The MK 2 may be an “amateur” level camera, but many professionals use it. I’ve shot videos for Lenovo and freelanced for The New York Times using it.
If you’re beginning, you shouldn’t say, “I’ll buy a T2i for $400, but if I have the $2500 I should get a MK 2.” You shouldn’t even think, “I have $3000 in the bank, so I’ll just buy a MK 2, MK 3, ID X, etc…”
You need to stumble. You need to learn your limitations, the intricacies of cameras. You need to understand the basic concepts. Why engage in a duel to the death with a T-Rex when you’re unable to curb-stomp the velociraptor?
If you can’t explain how Shutter Speed affects the movement of a subject or you don’t understand why shooting at an aperture of f/2 with five or six people in the shot keeps leaving someone out of focus then you’re shelling out $2000+ for a Rubik Cube. That’s exactly what it will be in your hands.
There is nothing worse than meeting someone purporting to be a professional photographer who doesn’t understand the difference between TV and AV mode or constantly needs to turn on the LCD screen to take a photograph rather than being able to used the viewfinder and figure out the appropriate settings for a certain situation. I still do not consider myself a professional photographer at this moment, even though I make money.
I began taking photos with a Canon T2i. I thought I was hot shit. Now, I wouldn’t dare show the interwebz the flailing of my beginning stage.
Get a cheap, entry-level DSLR. Play around. Offer your friends some free shoots. Don’t charge anyone yet at your larval stage. Learn the basics, and when you feel you’ve become stronger (and you realize your adamant objections to spending $2000 or more on a camera were ever so silly) then go buy that 7D, MK 2, MK 3, 1D, etc…
P.S. For the love of all entities pure and holy please DO NOT upload 70 pictures from your first “photoshoot” to facebook, then ask me for constructive criticism. Just don’t. Message me. I’ll put you in one of the private, facebook photography groups where you can receive constructive criticism without the necessity of looking ridiculous.