Picking Your First Camera for Travel Photography
By Ryan Ellis
I hear it all the time from people looking to start out in the photography world:
“There are so many cameras out there! How does a first time buyer know how to make the right choice?”
Well if you are reading this article on Middle Class Traveler, chances are you are in the same boat and you are probably looking for something to do a little travel photography with. For a lot of people, it comes down to balancing some key ingredients:
- Size and weight
Not necessarily in that order but a good chance that cost is going to be at or near the top of the list for those just starting out. Let’s quickly take a look at each of those and then I have a couple of suggestions that could be right for you!
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Let’s work backwards and ask yourself “What is my objective here?” This question alone will lead you to exclude about half the field right off the bat. If your answer to this question doesn’t include professional wedding photography or publication in a major magazine or large format art gallery printing then you can and probably should exclude all the full format cameras.
But what is a full format camera? If at this stage in the game you don’t know, you probably don’t need one. It basically is a larger sensor to give you a larger frame similar to what 35 mm film would give you. Some cameras have a full frame sensor and other have a crop frame. This is a smaller frame size and is significantly cheaper, but that doesn’t mean it can’t produce some really fantastic images. An easy way to tell the difference is that full frame cameras will usually cost in the thousands of dollars. Crop frames cost in the hundreds. If by budget constrictions alone you have chosen the crop frame, you are in the right place!
Choosing a crop frame also takes care of size and weight because they are lighter and smaller. This is what you want if you are going to use it for travel. The last thing you need is to be trudging up the stairs of Cinque Terre lugging a 5 pound beast and all its accessories around.
Well we already have taken into account objective, cost, size and weight so let’s get to the meat of it. Performance. In the photography world, brand does matter. No two brands have dominated the space more than Nikon and Canon. You will find staunch supporters on both sides. I happen to shoot with Nikon. Usually whatever the brand you first purchase is, will be the brand you stick with out of these two forever.
Lately Sony has been making a big push with mirrorless cameras which can be even smaller and lighter than the DSLR cameras offered by Nikon and Canon. The mirrorless lack a view finder so everything is shot live off the screen. I am so used to shooting with a view finder I couldn’t imagine making the switch but you can’t argue with the results. They are really good.
Whatever brand you choose, you don’t have to shoot for the moon with your first purchase. I would argue that the right camera is only about 10 percent of the battle. Whatever brand you choose, your photography education is the most important thing that you can invest in to make your pictures look better. Throwing the camera into automatic and hitting the button isn’t going to get great results. Focus, ISO, shutter speed, aperature, lens type, and 1000 other things all matter more than the type of camera you are shooting with.
That being said here are the three cameras I think the travel photographer should first look into and all run in the $300-$400 range:
All of these will get you to where you want to be, with all the functions you will need. For now the kit lens will do just fine. I will outline the first lenses to buy in another post. If you have questions post them in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written exclusively for Middle Class Traveler. You can find more of my work over at Raleigh Traveler or have more articles like this delivered to your inbox by signing up for our newsletter here!