Help please – which camera?

About ten years ago I was finishing my PhD – it had been a lonnnnnnnnng slog, you can probably get some idea of how epic from the magnitude (and overly flowery nature) of my acknowledgements page, that you can read here. Throughout the time of finishing and writing up my PhD I promised myself many things to spur me on – if I finished I’d buy myself a Rigby and Peller Corset or Basque, I’d buy myself a Leather Jacket, and I’d buy myself a decent camera.

Well funnily enough, as soon as I handed the thing in and passed my viva, the need for all of these rewards dropped off – they didn’t seem important anymore, I was now Dr George, the system recognised my effort, and to be honest that was all I needed to know it had been worth it. That’s a post for another time, but this weekend I have been thinking about how much of my life has been and gone in the last ten years, some of the experiences I’ve had, and how much has been captured more latterly on my phone camera. Which is great, but it’s not as great as having decent photos.

(cc) on flickr by Nesster

So I’m back on the hunt, I have no idea what I need or what I should look for. I had expected to spend at least £1k but could easily be convinced to spend more (but no more than £2k) if it was worth it. So help me out you lovely lot, I’d love to know what questions I should ask myself, what I should consider or where I should go to buy a new camera. All thoughts, as ever, very welcome.

Thanks in advance.

12 thoughts on “Help please – which camera?

  1. Having chatted, I think either the Canon 60D or the Canon 7D would be more than sufficient.

    as for a lens, consider the following

    do you want to blur the background? if so you want a ‘fast’ lens ie a number for f/2.8 or less..

    if that is not so much a concern, then I think you could do much worse than the Canon 18-135mm EF-S lens.

    re: Nikon.. Great cameras but I don’t know enough to recommend which ones.

    if budget were even less of a consideration, I would look at the 24-70L or the 24-105L but that puts the price up quite a lot 😉

  2. I got a number of twitter responses to my question about cameras. I’ve copied them over to here:

    @mistergough Get a Canon. 5D if you have the budget. Or non-SLR G12 if you don’t.

    @rufflemuffin I was looking for a while at Canon 60d alt for still and film.

    @DougalDoug kinda depends how much u want to spend. I’d probably stick to nikon or canon. Be warned though, it’s an expensive hobby! oh, and if it’s all new to you I’d recommend an intro course, just to learn some of the basics

    @scotbaston haha I understand.. in that case, no point spending out on a long zoom lens. an 18-85mm lens would be fine. Smaller camera, no video = 600D (cheaper) or larger camera, w/ video = 60D (£+). recommend 17-85mm or 18-135mm lens. This is ‘best’ canon combo within your budget but doesn’t inc memory card etc lol stretchable budget is dangerous 😉 big hands = stay away from 600D. look at maybe 60D or 7D depending on budget

    @GuyLetts SLR:Just been through this. Bought Canon EOS 550D. No-brainer. 600D newer but not better & £++. Also consider P’sonic Lumix G3

    @niccombe I have a nikon D80 & it is brilliant (now been replaced by a D90). more about the lens though a good body only goes do far 🙂

  3. If I had enough money, I’d upgrade my Canon 450D (which I’ve had since autumn 2008) to a Canon 5D MkII. What lenses will depend on what you’re photographing. I use Canon EF-S 18-55mm + 70-300mm lens (originally a Tamron, which broke, and now a cheap Sigma, which I don’t like much). If I could afford them, I’d also get a fixed lens or 2. I’ve seen some great photos taken with the Canon fixed length lenses.
    The software that comes with the Canons is pretty good (I know some say the Canon cameras’ interface & the software is much better than other brands’) & there is possibly a little more warmth in the colours. It’s well worth looking at pictures on Flickr by camera. It will give you some idea of differences between cameras.

  4. Already some great suggestions. I personally think the Canon 60D is a great suggestion as it also doubles up as a very good video camera should you want that. I would combine it with a good lens such as the 18-135 that Scott touches on or really splash out and get the lovely 24-70L f2.8 (I’ve just hired one for my cousins wedding next month)

    If you want to spend more then the 7D is even better and the 5D Mk2 probably the best bit of Canon kit on the market at the moment but it will shortly be replaced with the Mk3 which might mean the price is dropped and you could get a bargain – you are still talking circa £2.5k with a decent L series lens on the front of it though!

    I am not too hot on Nikon’s being a Canon user so I’m sure others may suggest that. Either way I reckon a good idea is to go into a shop and have a look/feel for yourself and see what you find comfortable. are a very competitive online option when you do make a decision though.

  5. Oh and memory cards.. look no further than for the cheapest anywhere. Get a good quality and fast san disc card. 4-8GB will do fine unless you want to take 1000 shots a day like me 🙂

  6. I have the Canon 5D2 and the 24-70mm f2.8 L, an awesome combination. The 5D2 currently has the best image quality of all the Canon range.. but it does have its faults.. The low light focussing and focussing in general is somewhat lacking. With that being the case, I would recommend the 7D or 60D as they have better focus systems and are pretty close on image quality.

    All three cameras (5D2, 7D and 60D) are great DSLR video cameras.. the video quality is superb.. but it is not as simple to use as a camcorder.

    as for lenses, there is one truth… get the best lens you can afford, as it will outlast any camera body if looked after. Also, it is usually the case that the quality is affected with the longer zoom range.. ie 18-200 or 70-300 vs the shorter zooms of 24-70 or 70-200.

    but as is nearly always the case, you get what you pay for

  7. oh.. one other reason NOT to get a 5D2 is that it has no on board flash, which would mean buying a speedlight adding further expense

  8. My two cents:
    The Nikon v Canon debate will roll and roll, and to be honest there is very little to choose between them. Canon is probably a bit more ubiquitous, but it depends who you know I guess. It can be helpful if you know some people with the same brand to help you decipher the menus! That said, I’m a Nikon shooter and my friends are Canon. Personally I wouldn’t change system now, partly because of the cost of changing lenses but also because I know how Nikon’s work now.

    As for specific recommendations, I can only really talk about Nikon. As I say though, the difference between the equivelant model across brands will be fairly marginal, and given that over time you’ll get more lenses, and upgrade you are probably making a decision to buy into a system that is much bigger than the difference between the brands’ models would suggest.

    My first DSLR was a Nikon D80 together with the 18-200 lens, and together they cost about a grand at the time. I loved them. Both have compromises, especially the lens, but as a way to get started it was perfect. I was particularly keen to get the versatility of the 11x lens so I didn’t get frustrated by limited zoom when I was just starting out. The D80 wasn’t the greatest in low light, but it’s replacement, the D90 is apparently way better though, and you can pick it up at a great price now (£540 when I just glanced).

    I’ve recently upgraded to the new D7000 and my initial impressions are very positive. I’ve also got the Nikon 16-85 f3.5-5.6 (which from the first couple of uses seems great) and will probably add the 70-300 f4.5-5.6 soon.

    Probably the most important thing is to think about what sort of photography you think you might be interested in. I knew I wanted to be able to take travel pics without worrying about changing lenses when I was learning, hence the versatile 18-200. But horses for courses – different people will have different priorities.

    Oh, and one extra thing I would definitely advocate whichever brand you get and whatever you main zoom lens(es) (assuming you go for a zoom): get yourself a nifty fifty – the 50mm f1.8 lens that either manufacturer does. If you can find the older Nikon one you can pick it up for less than £100 and it is brilliant value and a great complement to the zooms.

    I’ve rambled on there and not sure if it’s much use, but you asked… !

  9. Things to ask yourself.

    Do you need the best?

    If you buy something that suits your needs now, will soon be wanting to upgrade or stay with what you buy?

    how much weight are you willing to carry?

    size of the camera vs size of hands (already discussed)

    would you benefit from the higher quality (and priced) cameras and lenses?

    What do you want to shoot?

    how do you want to shoot? ie close to subject or far away?

    will you shoot in low light?

    will you shoot sports?

    What will you do with the photos once taken? ie print or share on web?

    if print, how large?

    I suspect that unless you are going to print images very large then anything 16Megapixel+ is much more than sufficient even when cropping an image.

    Have you considered how much editing of images you want to do? highly recommend Adobe Lightroom. editing is not cheating, it is finishing an image. Canon software is good, but not so user friendly

  10. Borrow one. Use it indoors to learn the various settings (focusing & shooting modes) then take it out twice, once during the day and once in the evening or at night. Decide if you really need to buy expensive lenses and have the facility to change them. If not, forget an SLR and go for a good compact of the £300-400 variety. I use the camera which is most convenient, which is almost always a smartphone, occasionally a compact (for better zoom) and rarely an SLR (for an even better zoom and for doing creative stuff). Good luck!

    1. ‘use an SLR for an even better zoom’ ?? you are kidding right? SLR’s give better quality but because of the increased sensor size a zoom lens needs to be so much larger. Some of the compact superzooms have zooms much greater than an SLR (assuming you don’t have a resident donkey to carry a 600+mm lens)

      sorry for the rant, but poor information doesn’t help someone decide on a most appropriate purchase

  11. Good Eve, mmm…decision time. Well I would award the best value DSLR to Pentax with the K-r. Excellent handling, innovative design and intuitive navigation. Very fast, accurate and build quality. Next on the DSLR list would be a Sony A55. Faster, smaller and a vari angle LCD screen to boot! Have you considered a NEX? A Compact Camera System! We have a demonstration NEX 5 that you could test drive? Decisions, decisions. We will help you, come see us or drop an email.

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