Buying a professional camera is one of the most exciting things you can ever do as a photographer. However, choosing the best professional camera to suit your needs is not an easy task.
Nowadays, you can find cameras with different styles, shapes, speeds, performances, and prices all from different manufacturers. To make your search easy, here is a list of things that you need to know before buying a professional camera for you to make the best possible decision.
1# Determine the camera type
If you are to find the best professional camera for yourself, there is a need to know the different kinds of cameras available in the market and how they operate.
When you determine which camera type will work best for you, you will have done half the job. We shall look at three basic camera types to make your work easier.
DSLR cameras are the most expensive types in the market. DSLR refers to the Digital Single-Lens Reflex in full. These types of cameras have been in existence as early as the 1980s.
They continue to be popular among professional photographers due to their interchangeable lenses feature. This enables you to be as creative as you can give you advanced control over your photography.
DSLRs come with inbuilt mirrors that function to bounce the image via the help of the viewfinder that allows you to see the image exactly the way the lens captures it. By pressing the shutter button, you will enable the mirror to flip up, opening the shutter. This causes light to reach the image sensor that is rated through megapixels making the camera capture the final image.
The sensor size is usually 35mm or much smaller. The large sensors give you the ability to shoot at low light noise performance and enable you to achieve a better background blur.
A DSLR camera will be an excellent choice for you if you intend to take up photography as a profession or concentrate on it as a serious hobby.
One of the biggest reasons why DSLR cameras are popular with many photographers is the fact that you can switch various lenses to suit your needs and preferences.
You can choose anything from wide-angle lenses perfect for landscape photography, telephoto lenses for shooting objects at a far distance, and even fisheye lenses for taking your creativity to the next level.
It is also good to note that an entry-level DSLR camera will cost you about $500. A midrange DSLR camera will cost you a couple of dollars, whereas a professional-grade one will cost you thousands of dollars.
You may also have to learn different advanced photography concepts to operate a DSLR camera optimally.
Pros of DSLR cameras
- Interchangeable lenses
- High-quality images
- Easily customizable images
- Large sensors ideal for capturing more light as well as finer details
- You can choose between automatic controls and manual controls
- Suitable for experts and beginners
Cons of DSLR cameras
- Quite bulky making them difficult to carry
Mirrorless cameras are ideal for capturing superior image quality, just like DSLRs only that they are smaller. As well, they offer exceptionally faster performance and are more flexible in terms of creativity compared to the point and shoot cameras.
They are also lighter and more compact compared to DSLR cameras making them easier to carry from place to place.
Mirrorless cameras also come with interchangeable lenses.
What makes them different from DSLR cameras is the fact that they do not incorporate an optical viewfinder.
Nonetheless, you can always use the live view mode with the LCD screen as well as view your images through the help of an electronic viewfinder when using a mirrorless camera. Light simply goes via the lenses and hits the image sensor enabling the real-time view.
Nowadays, most Mirrorless cameras save for a few exceptions come with large sensors similar to those in DSLRs and come with similar lenses available to offer the same image quality.
Mirrorless cameras are cheaper compared to the advanced point and shoot cameras at the same time, providing quality. They are an ideal option for the serious hobbyist as well as an advanced amateur.
Pros of Mirrorless cameras
- More compact and lightweight than DSLRs making them convenient for travel photography
- Offers exceptional focus accuracy as you shoot videos
- Shoot faster and quieter compared to DSLR cameras
- Optimized lenses for high-resolution images
- Great autofocus speeds
Cons of Mirrorless cameras
- Most Mirrorless models have smaller sensors than DSLRs hence limit shooting at low light conditions and achieving great depth of field.
Point and shoot cameras
Point and shoot cameras are the most miniature cameras available, and you can put them in your pockets and travel around without the hassle of bulky DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras.
They simply provide basic photography options. The lenses are permanently attached to the camera and come with a wide zoom range.
However, with the invention of camera phones, the popularity of point and shoot cameras has declined considerably, and manufacturers are now more focused on the creation of higher-end models.
Point and shoot cameras have smaller sensors compared to more high-end models meaning the image quality is not of good quality. You can get an entry-level point and shoot camera at between $100 and $200. To achieve better image quality, consider a point, and shoot camera with a type 1 sensor that costs about $500.
The price, however, can be as high as $1500. If you were looking for something simple without lots of creative control as well as fancy extras, then a point and shoot camera would be a great place to start.
Pros of point and shoot cameras
- Great for everyday uses
- Compact and highly lightweight for enhanced portability
- Resilient built
- Reasonably priced
Cons of point and shoot cameras
- Offer poor image quality compared to DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras.
# 2 Performance and speed
A critical feature that you have to look for when shopping for a professional camera is performance and speed.
A slow camera that features a slow focus will surely not give you desired results. Luckily, most modern cameras offer excellent performances and speeds for both casual and professional users.
Typically, Mirrorless and DSLR cameras provide a more impressive performance compared to point and shoot cameras.
A good quality camera should provide you with faster tracking of subjects, speedier focus, and quick adjustment of the exposure when it comes to performance.
Experts recommend that you get a camera with a minimum of 5fps (frames per second) if you are an average user. You can go for a higher fps say between 10fps and 20fps if you plan to shoot more of sports photography; in most cases, 5fps just enough for most users.
# 3 Image stabilization
Another essential aspect to look at if you are to find the ideal professional camera is image stabilization. Image stabilization is perfect for physically shifting elements efficiently, preventing or minimizing blur in your images.
You will find the image stabilization feature particularly helpful when taking handheld shots, using telephoto lenses, which are difficult to hold and even when shooting at night.
DSLR cameras are available with optical image stabilization, whereas Mirrorless cameras feature IBIS that stands for In-Body Image Stabilization.
The In-Body Image Stabilization causes the sensor to move physically as a response to vibrations.
The IBIS stabilization feature present in Mirrorless cameras works well with typically any type of lens. You will find that cameras with image stabilization features tend to be more expensive.
# 4 Megapixels really don’t matter
Megapixels refer to the resolution measurement that a camera has.
The more the number of megapixels, the higher the image quality you will receive, consequently giving you sharper prints.
For instance, with a 20 Megapixel camera, you can be able to achieve superior quality images and make 12×18 inch prints.
Nonetheless, this does not mean that you go for a zillion megapixels; you can as well create 40×60 inch canvas prints through a 12-megapixel camera by merely reducing the resolution of the print.
It is also not right to assume that if a camera has a higher number of pixels that it will offer exceptionally high-quality images. You must also factor in the size of the sensor as well as the camera lens when it comes to top-quality photos.
# 4 Video recording
Nowadays, it is easy to find cameras that have video shooting abilities. You can find highly advanced Mirrorless as well as DSLR cameras that enable you to capture cinema-quality videos.
Such models also have a wide array of compatible lenses, and feature enhanced creativity functions. The video resolution can be as high as 4K, but you will find most models with 1080P.
When you are shooting at 1080P, you can opt for 60fps, 30fps, or 24fps. 24fps is ideal for recording movies, whereas 30fps is a standard, and 60fps is considered as more of a luxury.
Some cameras have as low as 15fps that is more of a slideshow than an actual video.
If video recording is an essential feature for you, consider models that can shoot at higher resolutions and, most notably, find Optical image stabilization or In Body image stabilization.
This will make it easier to capture non-jittery shots without having to depend too much on a tripod stand.
# 5 Interchangeable lenses
Getting a camera that enables you to change the lenses is a great choice when you want to boost your creative juices when shooting.
You can choose between cameras that have prime lenses that come with a fixed focal length or zoom lenses that come with different focal lengths.
There are different types of lenses available include ultra-wide lenses, wide lenses as well as telephoto lenses that you can use to give you a whole different perspective when it comes to photography.
# 6 Ergonomics
Ergonomics is another significant factor you should look at when buying a professional camera. It refers to how the camera feels when you are holding.
How comfortable is it for you to hold the camera? How do you feel when holding it up next to your face?
As aforementioned, DSLR and Mirrorless cameras are usually bulky. DSLRs pose a massive problem for photographers since they are the bulkiest.
Consider a camera with a small compact size that is easy to carry if you plan to do a lot of travel photography, so you never miss the most critical moments and end up taking fewer photos.
Experts recommend that you try out different models and determine how they feel on your hands before investing in one.
Consider the one with a simple to use the menu, so you do not waste lots of time trying to understand how the controls work or referring to the user manual preventing you from using the camera efficiently.
You will find models with touchscreen offering a user-friendly experience. However, such models can give you a hard time, particularly if the controls are poorly organized or in situations where the screen is not well calibrated to the touch.
# 7 Connectivity
WIFI connectivity is an excellent feature that most modern cameras incorporate to make it easier for you to share your photos on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The WIFI connectivity feature enables you to share your photos directly to social media platforms without having to connect the camera to your laptop or desktop.
There is no need for copying, publishing, or even processing the photos that most photographers find incredibly tiresome.
Most manufacturers nowadays have their propriety apps compatible with android as well as iOS that enable you to connect the camera wirelessly and transfer your photos efficiently.
You can even find advanced models that have Bluetooth connectivity through which you connect with your Smartphone and transfer the images you capture them.
As well, consider one that includes a GPS feature. This is certainly most helpful if you do lots of travel photography and enables you to trace the location where you took each of your pictures.
This allows you to create fun memories. However, it is good to note that GPS tends to consume lots of battery, so you have to use it with utmost caution only when there is a need.
# 8 Battery Life
It is also a great idea to consider the battery life of the professional camera. You will find that DSLR cameras tend to have a longer battery life compared to the point and shoot cameras and Mirrorless cameras.
If you go for a mirrorless camera, it is worth buying additional spare batteries, so there is no hindrance to your photography.
# 9 Viewfinders
The viewfinder feature in a camera is of utmost importance. This is because you will experience many problems when viewing under bright sunlight when using LCD screens.
In addition, the viewfinder can help you get more precise focus and ward off distractions coming from outside.
Optical viewfinders that are present in DSLR cameras are ideal for capturing the most exact and clear images without necessarily draining the battery.
Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, have electronic viewers that show an automatic view of the image you have taken as per your current camera settings.
With an electronic viewfinder, you can be able to see the color settings together with the exposure as you capture your photos. You can also view all the information that you require and zoom to determine the focus.
# 10 Sensor size
The sensor is the part of the professional camera that captures all the images that you take. The larger the sensor you go for, the more exceptional the performance will be, especially when you are shooting under low light conditions.
You can find cameras with sensors as large as even 1-inch while some have 35mm sensors, and there is no standard sensor measurement
If you want to achieve the highest quality images, then you have to go for the largest sensor possible. Check the manufacturer’s information on the sensor size before you decide to settle on a specific camera.
It is also advisable to compare various sensor charts from different manufacturers online if you are to locate one ideal for your needs. You will notice that cameras with full-frame sensors tend to be the most expensive.
# 11 RAW Vs. JPEG
As you shop around, you will come across cameras that can capture images in both RAW and JPEG formats. Others can capture images in JPEG only
If you plan to take photography as a profession or a serious hobby, then it is recommended that you go for a high-end model that has interchangeable lenses that allows you to capture images in RAW format.
As Opposed to JPEG formats, shooting in the RAW format gives you the much-needed flexibility during post-processing. The RAW format gives you an entirely new perspective; you can brighten shadows, you can change color balance and even minimize highlights.
# 12 Additional accessories
You will also need additional accessories to make your purchase complete and make your photography much more comfortable.
Consider a durable camera bag with that is according to your budget to enable you to carry your camera quickly, especially during travel and landscape photography. Buy a memory card as well, preferably 32GB or more, to serve as an additional storage space your camera’s memory.
If possible, you can even go for an SD card with as much as 20GB storage space that is ideal for capturing 4k videos or when you have gone on a trip and do not have the opportunity to download the pictures to your phone or laptop.
You could buy an extra SD card to assist you during emergencies. An external flash is also a worthwhile investment for enhancing your outdoor photography. Also, consider a tripod stand in case you plan to experiment with landscape photography as well as prolonged exposure photography.
The amount of money you plan to invest in your camera is heavily dependent upon how much importance it will have for you.
If you plan to use it professionally or for a serious hobby, consider a DSLR camera or a Mirrorless camera going at least 500 dollars or more during the entry-level.
You may invest in a more expensive one as you continue to improve your photography skills. However, be careful not to buy a camera that is too expensive with too many extra features that you will probably never use during your career or adventures.