Reasons Why Beginners Should Avoid Entry-Level Cameras

Reasons Why Beginners Should Avoid Entry-Level Cameras

One regular and boring argument proposed by some is that the camera doesn’t matter. That’s hogwash. A good quality camera is vitally important for photography, and here’s why.

I often wonder at some photographers’ motives for suggesting that the camera is unimportant in achieving a good image. Do they mistakenly believe are better than anyone else and, in their ignorance, have found that their photography skills were not improved by their top-of-the-range camera? Consequently, they think that good-quality cameras make no difference.

Perhaps they have entry-level cameras and don’t realize what a big difference a better camera can make. Or are they intent on holding others back? Maybe they are just argumentative curmudgeons with chips on their shoulders that get a perverse kick out of spreading negativity and derision; we've all come across people like that.

Whatever their reasons, their arguments why the camera doesn’t matter don’t stand up to scrutiny. Their line of reasoning usually follows that it’s the photographer who creates a great photo and the camera has very little to do with it. To some extent that is true. A bad photographer with a good camera won’t take great photos. Likewise, a skilled photographer will be able to create good images with a low-budget camera. But it is not as simplistic as that.

Nikon D5

The Best Camera Is Not Necessarily the One You Have With You

Moreover, however well-intentioned, glib statements like, “the best camera is the one you have with you,” are unhelpful. It just happens to be the only camera you have with you, so it’s also the worst. If you are a wildlife photographer and all you have is a cell phone when you spot a yellow-bellied sapsucker at the top of a tree, the camera you have with you is wholly inadequate and you might as well have no camera at all.

Of course, the camera is not as crucial as the skills of the photographer. Nevertheless, it is still a very important factor in creating a photo and there is very good evidence to prove that.

Why Buying a Better Camera Is Worth the Investment

There’s a strong case for arguing that beginners should buy the best cameras they can afford.

I’m an inept guitar player. I can just about strum along to most songs, and pluck notes in a stumbling, self-taught, unorthodox manner. As much as I would like to dream otherwise, I am no Django Reinhardt, Mark Knopfler, or James Taylor. Nevertheless, my playing is considerably better if I have an instrument that has a nice low action and good quality strings rather than one with a cheap plywood body, a neck that bows inwards, and frets that buzz. Superior quality guitars sound better even with my lowly abilities. With a good guitar, I can get far less unbearable results. It's also more enjoyable to play. The same applies to almost every other rookie musician and musical instrument.

Sony Alpha A1

If you give any budding artists superior tools to work with, they will get better outcomes. That is why, when he was a child, we always bought our son the best-quality drawing and painting materials possible so he could achieve the results he wanted. If we had provided him with washed-out watercolor blocks, crumbling pencils, and overly waxy crayons from a discount store in the local mall, his vision of what he wanted to achieve would have exceeded his capabilities. The restrictions of poor-quality tools would have held him back. He’s now studying art at university and, through hard work, is talented at what he does.

I have friends who trained as a chef, a carpenter, a potter, a baker, an electronics engineer, a mechanical engineer, and an engraver. When learning they were all advised to buy the best tools possible. When I worked in outdoor education, all the instructors and coaches bought top-quality climbing gear, waterproofs, hiking boots, and canoe paddles. In fact, I can’t think of any creative activity or trade where top-grade tools are not important for achieving the best possible results. Why would the same not be true of photography?

Fujifilm X-H1S

Similarly, a photographer can be held back by inferior gear because it restricts their chances of taking better photos. For example, many of the cheapest DSLRs you find in Costco and Walmart have appallingly small viewfinders that make it difficult to frame a shot. The maximum and minimum shutter speeds will be limited, so the creative possibilities will be curbed. Besides their slow focusing speeds, those cheap cameras have a limited number of focus points making it harder to frame a shot, especially if the subject is at the side of the frame. Let’s not forget also, like those low-priced plywood guitars, if it looks and feels like cheap, plastic garbage, it isn’t going to inspire the photographer.

Furthermore, the lenses that are provided with those bargain-basement cameras are usually dull and not as sharp as they might be.

Don't Fall for the Marketing Hype

Yet, the purveyors of these low-quality cameras make them out to be amazing tools and the means to instantly become a premier photographer. That is not true. How many cheap DSLRs are sitting in cupboards and drawers, abandoned because their owners were deceived into believing that they would turn them into the next Eve Arnold, Ansel Adams, or Annie Leibovitz?

Considering the millions of units that have been sold over the last 20 years, and the majority of sales were in the entry-level range, many DSLRs must be stored away, barely used, never seeing daylight.

If you disagree with that argument, then the only alternative is that those cameras broke. Indeed, those cheap cameras are landfill fodder. Designed to fail, they have relatively short shutter lives, poorly made components, and built-in obsolescence. Consequently, they are a false economy with their cost per click far higher that more expensive cameras on the market.

It’s for those reasons I believe that every photographer should buy the best camera and lenses that they can afford.

Pentax K3 Mark III

You'll Quickly Grow Out of an Entry-Level Camera

Of course, some beginner photographers aren’t put off by their cheap gear and, despite that hindrance, they persevere. But that early progression from being a novice to an intermediate-level photographer has a steep learning curve. Soon, they outgrow the entry-level model and so need to replace their camera with one that has the functionality they require.

As a result, the world is cluttered with more plastic waste. What is more, tons of carbon dioxide and pollutants go into the air, and waterways are contaminated by that unnecessary manufacturing. That’s before we mention the damage brought about by mining the rare metals required to create the circuit boards in the cameras or considered the cheap labor in the human-rights-abusing countries where many of them are made.

Famous Photographers Don't Mention Their Cameras, Do They?

When discussing this with someone recently, I was told to look at this or that famous photographer and point out that they never talk about their cameras. That may indeed be true in a few cases, but if you research most of the great names, they have nearly all talked and written fondly about the cameras they use and have used.

Then, look next at contemporary professional photographers and consider the cameras they use; the brand doesn’t matter, but they are all employing top-of-the-range gear. Or, if you visit the elite professional studios, they shoot with the best0quality cameras too. Furthermore, all the brands have some astounding photographers as both employees and ambassadors. They are not using the cheapest cameras in their day-to-day work but the ones far higher up the tree.

Room to Grow into the Camera

But what about the complexity of the higher-quality cameras, I hear the nay-sayers shout. They are too confusing for beginners to use. I find that argument insulting to novice photographers. Who should judge what another is or isn’t capable of? Over the years I have run hundreds of workshops, and there is not a single client who would not have had the capability to take photos using any of the cameras illustrating this article if they had owned it.

Photography requires learning and it is one of the most technical of art forms. If someone has the intelligence to get their head around the exposure triangle, then there is nothing on a flagship camera they won’t learn to use. Furthermore, even the flagship models have advanced average metering, program exposure modes, simple autofocus settings, auto ISO and white balance, and can shoot JPEGs. In short, you can use an EOS R3, a Sony a9 II, a Nikon Z9, and an OM-1 as point-and-shoot cameras. Yes, they are all complex, precision instruments, and there is plenty of space to grow into them as learning progresses.

Not Everyone Can Afford the Top-End Cameras

I would be hard-pushed to afford some of the flagship cameras on the market today. If I were to spend the best part of $6,000 on a flagship Canon EOS R3, Sony a1, or Nikon D6, my wife would probably buy a shotgun.

Nikon D6

However, there are other top-of-the-range models for half that price. The Fujifilm X-H2S, the Panasonic Lumix S1R, and the OM System OM-1 are all professional-level cameras that offer exceptional performance for much less.

Additionally, one can look for used flagship models that sell for a fraction of the original price. The original award-winning Olympus OM-D E-M1 first retailed 10 years ago at $1,400. At the time of writing, it could be bought at B&H for $280. In that way, you get a lot more for that money than any entry-level camera that costs $100 more.  Likewise, a used Sony Alpha a7 was listed at under $540, and that cost around $1700 new, although that was sold as I was writing this article.

If flagship models are out of your price range and you want a new camera, then most manufacturers have high-end enthusiasts and slightly lower-specced professional cameras that can save you hundreds of dollars. These are far better than the bottom-end models.

Is Your Smartphone's Camera Good Enough for What You Need

Although the advent of the smartphone ripped the budget camera market apart, some manufacturers still see entry-level cameras as their cash cow. For point-and-shoot photography, there is little need for most people to own an interchangeable lens camera (ILC). The sensor and processor technology in many phones is so good that for day-to-day photography - which accounts for the majority of the 1.6 trillion photos that will be shot this year - they are perfect. Even budget cell phones have amazing cameras. A cheap DSLR with a trashy lens used in auto mode will make very little difference for those sorts of photos.

It’s only when the photographer starts to specialize and wants to do more than just compose a frame that they need an ILC to achieve their goals. That’s the time to buy the best camera possible. Likewise, the best lenses.

There’s one final reason for encouraging people to get into photography with better cameras. It will encourage competition at the top end of the market. Currently, the big manufacturers make it difficult for users to leave the brand. Those photographers who initially invested in a budget-level camera and were not disheartened by its poor quality will want their next camera to be compatible with the lenses and other accessories they already have. So, they stick with that brand. If, however, they realize from the start that they should buy a better camera, they will compare prices higher up the ladder and see what they can get for their money. That competition at the top end will push prices down. That must be good for all photographers.

Of course, there will always be exceptions to what I have written. Moreover, this point of view is thinking out of the box and it challenges commonly held beliefs. But do you agree or disagree with me? Did you quickly find an entry-level camera too restricting? Is your top-of-the-range camera too difficult for you to use? It would be great to hear and discuss your thoughts in the comments.

Ivor Rackham's picture

Earning a living as a photographer, website developer, and writer and Based in the North East of England, much of Ivor's work is training others; helping people become better photographers. He has a special interest in supporting people with their mental well-being through photography. In 2023 he became a brand ambassador for the OM System

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do not start by any means with a camera that is easy to use ! lol

The basics of photography, metering, exposure, and focusing, are pretty much the same on every camera. The way you access them are the same on every level of camera, with the exception of one brand that constantly changes things around between all models over time.

So, it's as easy to get a photo with a top of the range model, if not easier. Entry level cameras are restricted in their functions, so it's actually harder to get a good picture with them.

What are these restricted functions you talk of? Can you give an example of a particular camera that incorporates such restrictions.

There's a camera on the market that has only nine focus points, and only one of those is cross-type. It doesn't have an articulated screen. The viewfinder only covers 95% of the scene and it is incredibly small and hard to see through, a common fault of many entry-level cameras. Continuous shooting is only three frames a second. The maximum and minimum shutter speeds are only 1/4000 and 30 seconds. The maximum ISO is only 6400. It has no spot metering and only one command dial. It has no custom modes to save your settings to, and no programmable buttons. There's no Bluetooth connectivity and only a miserable 500 shots before the battery dies.

"A bad photographer with a good camera won’t take great photos." A beginner often does not have an idea if he or she will be a good photographer. I know there are exceptions for those who have borrowed a camera and show some talent. So why invest in a better camera/lens combo until you know? If it turns out the best camera for you is your phone then you are going to lose some money on the resale. Why not lose a smaller amount on that lower investment? And that makes more sense for somebody who may never earn a buck with their photography. Why tie up funds in more expensive gear when you could have made a few more payments on bills?

Besides, entry level cameras improve alongside enthusiast and top of the line cameras. Today's entry level cameras are good. While I no longer use it, my old Canon 1100D has better image quality than my Canon 20D. My A6000 and A6400 are even better. And I still use the 20D, and will continue to do so until I am ready to replace a long EF zoom with a long zoom for the Sony. I still get good photos with low ISO settings.

Thanks for joining the discussion. Answering your question, I think it's because the cheapest cameras are still expensive but short lived. So it is better to invest in something that is has a better build quality and will not end up in landfill after 80000 shots.

Anyone can learn to take great photos. It isn't a matter of being born with talent, it's about putting in the effort to learn. I think people are aware of whether they have the staying power and ability to put in the hard work to learn.

Of course it's also about affordability. Luckily, there are lots of top end cameras for sale at MPB and in the used section at B&H where people can make great savings buying pre-owned gear.

"Answering your question, I think it's because the cheapest cameras are still expensive but short lived. So it is better to invest in something that is has a better build quality and will not end up in landfill after 80000 shots."

But if a beginner's camera these days have better sensors, focusing etc. than higher end cameras of the past, then it isn't a beginner camera that is the issue. The problem lies in companies that don't build better cameras and make them modular and able to have firmware updates. They should be designed so sensors, focusing hardware etc. can be updated without buying a whole new body. The cameras should be the sensor, focusing mechanism and a few other key parts. The body should be a housing that is also the physical interface with the camera. The big problem isn't beginner camera vs high end camera. It is that all cameras are designed as more or less disposable. Companies prioritize profits over resources and environment. If a camera is designed so it can be repaired, then why not designed so fewer resources are used to update it?

if you not sure about your talents, it's a reason do not enter photography at all. "Trying" it's a stupid waste of time, you need to dive with head or not dive at all. Cowards always lose

I agree 🤣 I am still a beginner and I use the gfx-100s. It doesn't make a bad photographer a good one, but excites a gear head photographer get out and shoot pictures

Thanks Rhonald. It's good to hear you find the camera inspiring.

While I do agree that the lower end is probably just too low for anyone who wants to learn photography and not just shoot snaps, I think veering directly towards the top of the line is a bit crazy. I could have easily gotten an R5 instead of the R6, but I just didn't need that much camera. In my humble opinion, people getting into photography should buy mid-range.

Just to stay in a range of camera I know (Canon), I would expect a newcomer who's serious to buy into the RP, the original R or maybe the R7 or R8. There's no way such a camera will limit a newcomer for years to come.

I would not recommend the R3 for sure.

Before I got my first Canon camera which was the XSI, my real dream camera was a 40D. I remember going to B&h and picking it up and you just being impressed by the full size knowing that it was full of features to learn and a nice big lens on it that I could focus to whatever point that I wanted, it felt absolutely amazing. I ended up buying a XSI, because I did the research and it was pretty much a revolutionary camera for its time.

That said as the years went by, I ran into the limitations and upgraded to a t2i. Better color just overall better quality. And then from there on to a 7D. Like some other photographers I fell onto that path of buying a gear that you need for what you plan to shoot.

That said, in not all but many cases it's definitely better to overbuy. At least that's my opinion being around consumer electronics & computer sales for upwards of 30 years.

I appreciate a good entry level camera for its size and form factor. Something like the X-T30, the EOS M200, the Nikon Z30 etc. They all fill that convenience niche that a big pro camera can't.

I have had various full frame flagships and they all have offered a power and feature set that I have scarcely used for my travel-street-doc-snap photography. This coupled with the size and weight that gets then left at home on a shelf is what devalues them for me.

I need a camera I'm not annoyed about carrying all day even if I never took a shot. What's the point of a phenomenal EOS R5 or a Z9 if I don't bring it with me? Phones can't replace the entry level either, because they lack the dedicated experience in ergonomics, UX, and hardware. I can't use the best lens and see myself in the screen to compose a vacation selfie at the same time for example. I can't have my phone set up ready to shoot my preferences in an instant like I can with my Canon G7XII set to C on the mode dial.

Entry level, point and shoot, and compact cameras fill a huge gap for people who know how much power they need and will use, but want a tool built or purpose. I don't need a Ferrari to go grocery shopping, but an electric scooter isn't the best either. 😂

Plus the fuji cameras and other retro styled cameras are just fun to use. I love the tactile feel that you don't really get with top of the line professional gear. Having a camera that's fun to use is important when learning as it actually encourages you to do the most important thing which is to get out and shoot more.

Both does the job.

Clickbait over substance. That said, it works, we both click and we both commented!

Perhaps it's best to leave that choice to the beginner. Not saying one way is better than another, but might be best to play it safe and learn with something more 'palletable' to one's ability. Then, if one chooses to opt for the 'top-of-the-line, don't be bitching and complaining if thing's don't work out to your satisfaction. Or your learning time is greater than you'd like.

The choice is with the beginner. But don't you think it's always good to give a point of view that challenges commonly held beliefs that might be incorrect, to help novice photographers make an informed choice, as opposed to jumping in with what the advertising departments of the big manufacturers tell them?

It's actually easier to get better photos with a higher-grade camera, not least because of the dreadful viewfinders in the cheap models and their restricted focusing abilities.

Yes, well you just reiterated what I just said. It's up to the beginner. As for, It's actually easier to get better photos with a higher-grade camera....that may be so, but if that's all the beginner is after...then do it. If the beginner wants to truly learn about photography and its properties, then I would suggest getting a manual camera, read some books or take some lessons and get familiar with how light works in the world of photography. If the beginner just wants good photos and nothing else, then get a PHD camera and have at it. Personally, I prefer to know what's going on to be able to have better control and create better results. But that's just me. As for dreadful viewfinders in cheap models....I do believe cameras now-a-days are beyond that point. I've never seen a newer camera with a dreadful viewfinder. Some with lesser abilities than others...yes...but never.....dreadful.

You clearly don't handle as many cameras as me! Trust me, there are some truly awful low-end cameras out there. I've had clients turn up on workshops with them and they struggle because of how difficult they are to use, especially with the poor viewfinders. I had one novice who could not frame a shot, so I tried her DSLR and placed the horizon on the bottom third. In the photo, the horizon was in the middle. Another client could not see the image clearly through the viewfinder, and there was no dioptre adjustment. The annoying thing is that the reviews on some sites praise these cameras, and they are really bad.

By beginner, I am assuming it is someone starting off on their journey to learn photography and wants to treat photography as an art form and grow into it, as opposed to someone who just wants to point and shoot to record stuff that happened. In the latter case, they would probably be better off with their smartphone.

Oh, I absolutely know about aweful cameras out there. I once was asked to shoot a friend's wedding on the spur of the moment, and I mean...spur of the moment. They handed me an old Exacta, can't remember which model, it wouldn't focus for anything. I mean nothing. Their photos came back almost all out of focus so I asked them to let me look at it. Sure enough it way off. I certainly hope a beginner wouldn't want to choose something like that. I was speaking more on the lines of how a beginner might want to go about learning photography. Whether just getting the camera that will let them take good photos immediately or if they want to go through a process of learning to know the properties of light so they can become fully involved in its process. When I started I wanted to know as much as I could about how light works and how the camera responds to the light, but that was a different time...when there wasn't that much of a choice. Just people have choices to be able to obtain instant gratification or go through...the process. There are plenty of beginners out there using just their smartphones too. It's all about what they're after. I'm just glad I learned via going through the process. As for how many cameras I've handled? At 71, I've handled quite a few. Especially being a former camera repair technician.

We live in a world FULL of billions amateur photos. I really cannot understand, why somebody want waste time to add some new piece to this black hole of forgotten nonseen photos. You point of view was actual in 90s but now it's totally outdated. Photography now is only a two option: a fulltime job or hobby for self-esteem. If it's a job you need good camera from the start, period.

В чем проблема, Артёмис? Тибе сегодня плохо? Остынь, прими таблетку. Это ведь не трата твоего времени, не так ли? Oh, the article is talking about beginners....those are people just starting out, learning, not experienced. So the last sentence of your comment doesn't apply, period.

It is indeed so easy to make rules for others. But the fact is that most of the world's most famous photographs are taken with straightforward equipment.
I do not have the financial basis to buy the camera and lenses I want—just going ahead with my existing equipment. And I do the best I can with it.
Often I hear comments such as, "Wow, what a nice picture! You must have a good camera." "or "It looks perfect; you must be good at dodging and burning".
We live in a materialistic world; photo shops are full of must-have gadgets. The newbie can start with more beginner's equipment.
It is also true that high-quality tools make it easier to get the job done. I have experienced that myself. In the years 2014-2019, I collaborated with National Geographic. None of the pictures I sent them taken with my cameras were published. All the published photos had been born with borrowed valuables from Sony and Hasselblad.
Hasselblad is the brand that I dream of. They have cameras with which you take finished pictures—no need to spend time on image editing.
So I'm still waiting.


The fact is that most of the world's most famous photographs were taken with equipment far less capable than today's entry level cameras. The venerable Nikon F had a top shutter speed of 1/1000, and flash sync at 1/60th, while today's entry level cameras commonly go to 1/2000 or 1/4000 and sync at 1/200th.

The only real aspect of the article that makes sense is to avoid (relatively) expensive-but-disposable cameras--the bottom of the line, plastic, low-durability cameras. Used gear is often (almost always!) a better alternative, but it requires more knowledge on the part of the so-called beginner, who won't recognize which of the older cameras is the best for them. But even picking the 'wrong' old flagship is going to be better than today's entry level disposable ILC camera.

Buying pro stuff used is a good advice for beginners, as you waste significantly less money and your CO2-impact is way lower. Had been buying the wrong stuff always new for too many years when learning photography, upgraded the bodies too early instead of the lenses.

Anyway, there's always a "but": In case the person who wants to start photography just for the reason of creating nice memories when travelling s/he'd better start with a top level bridge camera. My wife has one (FZ1000 ii), and she nearly always has the shot when I'm still changing lenses (don't want to carry two bodies with different lenses when travelling). Maybe it's not what I would have achieved, but it's sufficiently good, and that's what counts after all.

Yes, that's a totally different reason. Bridge cameras still fill a nice hole between the phone camera and the ILC for exactly the reasons you say. And Panasonic make some super cameras of that type.

I've been into photography for about 5 years and started with a Canon 200D. Simple, small, light, and cheap. I didn't know how much I would enjoy the hobby and looking back I am very happy with my choice to be a beginner with a beginner-level camera. If I had my current camera back then (Sony A7IV), the bulk and weight would have meant I took it with me less and it's not even a particularly big or heavy camera.

I upgraded after about 2.5 years and by this time I knew I was in for the long haul, I knew what types of photography I enjoyed most and I had much more idea about what I needed (not wanted). Each to their own but I look back now and would recommend that to most new photographers (after getting what they can from a camera phone).

My only regret was not planning my way up so that lenses could be used when I upgraded but I didn't know and cheap APS-C Canon lenses allowed me to have a wide, mid-range, and telephoto lens, something that I couldn't have done otherwise.

There is no right way but experience has taught me that your right way would have been wrong for me.

Experience is our best teacher. I fully agree with you. If not for my budget, I would have plunged to buy expensive model just like any other iphone. The moment you buy ,it become an old version. Cant' keep up with latest technology.

Ivor wrote:

"One regular and boring argument proposed by some is that the camera doesn’t matter. That’s hogwash."

I completely agree with you Ivor.

Another lame argument is "people took great photos with Kodak Brownie cameras"

Yes, they did. But they did not take the kind of photos I want to take.

"Taking a great photo" is not the only goal that photographers have. Personally, I want to take a whole bunch of great photos - gazillions of them!

While a Kodak Brownie may be capable of producing a great image, it will not be capable of producing all of the images that I want to take. Coming away from an outing with one solid image, or even one truly great image, is nowhere near good enough these days.

I don't think that the people who say weird things like "the camera doesn't matter" are not necessarily mean-spirited or haughty. I think that many of them are more casual photographers who would be tickled pink to get one great photo every once in a while. They are not necessarily pushing themselves to get as many marketable frames as humanly possible every time they go on a shoot. They are not obsessed with amassing as comprehensive of an image library as they possibly can.

They are the ones who pack up and leave right after sunset because "it's too dark to shoot" ..... while more successful photographers stick around another half hour and get images that they sell to publishers and that get used worldwide in all manner of ad campaigns and publications.

How much the camera matters really depends on how lofty one's objectives are, the end use of the images taken, and what type of ultra-challenging conditions one may find themselves shooting in.

7 years ago when a client wanted to buy several 48" by 32" prints from me, and I had to decline the sale because the images they wanted weren't good enough at the pixel level to enlarge that much. Well, that taught me that the camera does matter very much, and that pixel peeping is not ridiculous at all. I lost, quite literally, thousands of dollars because the photos didn't have enough megapixels and the detail was not resolved well enough to upscale the images effectively. Sure I sold a few dozen 36" by 24" metal prints, and made thousands of dollars from that sale, but I could have earned even more money if I had been using a better camera.

This is actually hogwash

Here's a key example. My beginner camera was being used to shoot in dark circumstances. Going and doing the research of why it was so much trouble to take these pictures, I learned that the camera itself just wasn't capable.

At the time the camera I replaced it with didn't exist, but if it did and I was in the same situation I would have bought that better more capable camera.

I was most definitely a beginner and that's even before I started shooting portraits. So what one says doesn't matter much is absolute hog wash to someone else.

I relate to your experience readily. When I was just starting out as a beginner in photography, I started out trying to take a good photo of an American flag. I spend hours and hours parked in parking lots all over southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey taking photos of flags out the window of my car.

I had joined a local photography club and after one of the Tuesday night meetings, I showed my flag photos to some of the members and asked them why I couldn't get a picture that showed the blue stripes nice and blue (not too dark) but that also showed the white stripes nicely (not blown out). I would show one pic to them and say, "I want the blue stripes to look like this" and then I would show another pic to them and say, "and I want the white to look like this". Then I asked, "why can't I get the blue and the white to both look great in the same photo?"

They then explained dynamic range to me, and told me that I would need the very best camera made in order to have any hope of getting both values to look the way I wanted in a single exposure. Of course I was photographing flags being blown by the wind so multiple exposures were impossible.

So, you can see that even as a rank beginner that had never even heard about "dynamic range" before, and had no idea what it was, and didn't even understand how a camera exposes a scene, the camera I had, which was a fairly/ decent starter camera, was not good enough to capture what my little beginner mind wanted to capture.

When it comes to the concept of saying that gear doesn't matter, a universal law that is more consistent and longer standing than even the laws of physics, is that the statement will be done in front of or while holding a $4000+ camera body, with a $2000+ lens attached to it, while speaking into to a $500+ mic.

While more of a comedy, it reflects the most common delivery of the statement.

C'mon! ANYTIME someone decides to buy a camera, any camera, instead of using a phone camera, I'm 100% behind the decision. I don't care what kind of CAMERA it is, it is not a phone camera and that's not a good thing, it's a great thing!!!!!

Marketable frames and sells has been mentioned. Is that really a concern? Some beginners want to make a living, or supplement other work with photography, but that should not be an issue in the beginning. Learning composition, how different focal lengths affect the look of a photo, how various types of light and direction of light changes the look among other things is what they need to concentrate on.

If they absolutely need certain types of equipment for specific needs, then buy used high end equipment that gets the job done. Once they consistently make good photos, then make the investment in new high end gear. Save the greenbacks and concentrate on the basics.

Mike, you asked:

"Marketable frames and sells has been mentioned. Is that really a concern?"

I don't think it is a concern for the vast majority of beginners.

When I talked about marketable images, I was replying specifically in response to the oft-said comment that the camera doesn't matter. I was NOT talking within the overall context of this article about beginners. I was only responding to that statement, in and of itself, irregardless of any further context.

I'm a simple man. If a camera has a front and rear command dial and an exposure comp wheel, I'd say it's a good learners camera.

That said, it's often the lenses, and less so the body, that hold back photographers from achieving their creative vision - either for lack of focusing/tracking speed, or reach, or aperture, or what have you.

I am asked regularly by beginners what camera they should by. AS a die-hard Nikon shooter, I of course recommend Nikons, but with the caveat that Canon, Sony, et al, all make fine gear. I tell them that to a great extent, the brand isn't important, but what is important is the camera's capabilities. So I tell them two things -- buy the best, baddest camera they can afford (without going into debt), and to do the same with lenses (I always recommend they steer clear of 3rd party lenses (sorry Sigma)). I always add that if they are truly bit by the photography bug, by buying the fanciest camera they can afford, they won't have to worry about upgrading any time soon -- this fancy camera will suit them well for the foreseeable future. But if they do go entry-level, they'll be upgrading in a few months, and the money spent on the entry level camera will be wasted.

I've been giving this advice for over 20 years, and have received nothing but positive feedback -- everyone who listens is glad they did, and the ones who didn't listen all wish they had.

For 3rd party lenses, depending on the camera, you can effectively be locked out of first party lenses. For example, before mirrorless became as great as it is, and people were almost exclusively using DSLRs, then many entry level cameras had arbitrary firmware level restrictions. For example, Disabling the lens calibration / af-finetune functions. In those cases if you went with first party lenses, especially wider aperture lenses, where you would get consistent front or back focusing with no fixing unless you can track down a leaked copy of the service center software for your camera that isn't filled with malware, and then calibrate the lens and camera using your PC and a USB connection to the camera.
In those cases, the safest and most convenient method is you buy lenses from companies like Tamron and Sigma, and then use their lens calibration software and a lens dock.

Many camera makers treat calibration like a premium feature, even though it is essentially a function to compensate for poor manufacturing and quality control of the camera maker. Entry level cameras have looser tolerances than higher end cameras, thus an entry level camera is more likely to have front or back focusing issues when the AF module and sensor are separate.

Is there even such thing as an "entry level camera" anymore? Some of the least expensive new mirrorless cameras are more powerful than a "flagship" DSLR from a decade ago.

People used to start on compact cameras... So did I... So in today World that translates to hi end smartphone 😉

They are certainly for sale in the local supermarkets where I live.

One weird thing is that entry level cameras are far more difficult to use than higher end professional use focused cameras. It is better to have good access to all of the manual controls without having to dig through menus. Many entry level cameras will impose weird and highly contrived software limits limit many things that someone even at the entry level would do. For example, Nikon likes to disable HSS on their entry level stuff (D5xxx and D3xxx being the worst) thus many people will quickly find that they can't use a fill flash outdoors during the day time.


At the close of 2011, my wife wanted me to go digital. But when she told me that her budget was a Canon T6i, I talked her out of it. I had created an Excel spreadsheet that listed the features that are available on my Canon A-1 and Canon New F-1 (one of my bucket list cameras) with their respective motor drives. The Canon EOS 5D III matched the specs, as well as the frame rates.
December 2012 she was browsing a website that jacks up the MSRP so they can offer 75% discounts; their package deal included a cheapy tripod. "You buying me a 5D?", "Yes." I asked to go to B&H and found the 5D cheaper than Rakuten.

Call me a full-frame bigot, but I want the same image size as 35mm film.

I often forget that my smartphone can take photos, but their autofocus is not as fast as a DSLR, plus it can't take photos in a burst.

Yes to that! Beginner should start with phone... A good smartphone is tge best device to learn... Always with you... You can shoot RAW, edit photos... Basically you have camera and computer in pocket size device... Once you know enough about exposure triangle, composition and have a bit of editing knowledge you'll know what you need. Sorry for sport and wildlife photographers as those will have to buy camera as phone won't be able to perform for them...

My advice backs up a step further to "Are you going to use it?". A lot of budding photographers are driven by the desire to take better candid or travel photos. The first hurdle they need to overcome to do that isn't learning about's having the camera with them in the first place. The best camera is the one you have, so if you're not willing to, or are unsure you're going to be willing to carry along an actual camera, be it a point and shoot, rangefinder, or DSLR/Mirrorless, then save your money and get a low end beginner camera. Once you've finally confirmed you're going to take it with you everywhere you go that offers photo ops, then you can more confidently spend the money on something nicer. Many will discover they only ever have their phones on them though.

Buying a camera further up your manufacturer of choices product range secondhand reduces cost and risk to a beginner. They get a better camera without the risk of needing to wait for a firmware update to make it work as advertised.
They can also get most of their money back should they have second thoughts.
It will also take them longer to out grow the camera, if they ever do.

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