How to Choose a Camera in 2024 (Beginner’s Guide)
black dslr camera on brown wooden table

How to Choose a Camera in 2024 (Beginner’s Guide)

Choosing your first camera can be a daunting task, given the wide variety of models available and the technical jargon used in product descriptions. This guide will help you navigate through the process and make an informed decision for your first camera purchase.

The market is flooded with cameras, each boasting unique features and specifications. It can be overwhelming, especially if you’re venturing into photography for the first time. However, by adhering to some basic principles and considering specific limitations, this guide will help steer you in the right direction.

black and silver nikon dslr camera on brown wooden table

Understanding Different Types of Cameras

Before diving into specific camera models, it’s essential to understand the different types of cameras available and their respective advantages and limitations. The three main types of cameras are:

  1. Point-and-Shoot Cameras: Also known as compact cameras, point-and-shoot cameras are small, lightweight, and easy to use. They’re ideal for beginners and casual photographers who prioritise convenience and simplicity. Point-and-shoot cameras typically have fixed lenses and limited manual controls but offer automatic shooting modes that handle most settings for you.
  2. Mirrorless Cameras: Mirrorless cameras combine the portability of point-and-shoot cameras with the versatility of interchangeable lenses and advanced features. They use electronic viewfinders (EVFs) or LCD screens for composing images, eliminating the need for a bulky mirror mechanism found in DSLR cameras. Mirrorless cameras are popular among professionals and enthusiasts for their compact size, excellent image quality, and advanced autofocus capabilities.
  3. DSLR Cameras: Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras are traditional cameras that use a mirror and optical viewfinder system to reflect light from the lens to the viewfinder. They offer a wide range of lenses and accessories, manual controls for advanced users, and excellent image quality. DSLRs are favoured by enthusiasts and professional photographers who demand high performance and versatility.


Undoubtedly, the most significant factor when choosing your first camera is your budget. Photography can be an expensive hobby, and it’s important not to splurge on your first camera. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, you might discover that photography isn’t your cup of tea, resulting in your initial investment gathering dust in a box. Secondly, you might find photography challenging at first, grappling with all the settings and rules, but soon outgrow the camera and crave something with more features. This is particularly true for photographers who discover a passion for a specific genre of photography that requires specialised equipment only available on certain cameras.

Canon camera on table

Size and Weight

After budget, the physical size and weight of the camera you want to buy come into play. It’s advisable to visit a store and try out a few cameras in person. Many photographers will tell you that they’ve chosen a specific camera brand or model because of how it feels in their hands.

Smaller cameras are lighter and easier to travel with, especially if you’re traveling long distances and carrying lots of other equipment. However, you might prefer something chunky and heavy, giving a more substantial and legitimate feel in your hands, even if this means less mobility. Pay attention to the layout of the buttons on the camera as well as its size. Smaller cameras will have less space for buttons and switches and therefore rely on menu screens within the camera to alter settings, which can become frustrating quite quickly.

Lens Systems

In its simplest form, there are two types of lens systems used on cameras: fixed or interchangeable. Fixed lens systems have just one lens that can’t be removed from the camera body, so you’re stuck with whatever the camera manufacturer has decided to build the camera with. In contrast, interchangeable lens systems open up a world of possibilities when it comes to shooting different types of subjects.

Fixed lens cameras may have prime lenses (which cannot zoom in or out) or zoom lenses (which can). Prime lenses are typically smaller, lighter, and can occasionally be sharper and more detailed than zoom lenses due to the simpler manufacturing process. However, zoom lenses offer greater flexibility when it comes to composition and suitability for different types of photographic subjects.

close-up photo of black camera body

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Camera

Once you’ve decided on the type of camera that best suits your needs and preferences, consider the following factors when comparing different models:

  1. Megapixels: While higher megapixel counts don’t necessarily equate to better image quality, they can provide more detail and flexibility for cropping and printing large prints. However, for most beginners, anything above 12-16 megapixels is sufficient for everyday photography needs.
  2. Sensor Size: The size of the camera sensor directly impacts image quality, especially in low-light conditions. Larger sensors typically produce better image quality with less noise and better dynamic range. Consider cameras with APS-C or full-frame sensors for superior image quality and versatility.
  3. Lens Compatibility: If you’re considering a camera with interchangeable lenses, research the availability and affordability of lenses compatible with the camera system. A diverse selection of lenses allows you to explore various types of photography and expand your creative possibilities.
  4. Autofocus System: A reliable autofocus system is essential for capturing sharp and well-focused images, especially when photographing moving subjects or in challenging lighting conditions. Look for cameras with advanced autofocus systems that offer fast and accurate focusing performance.
  5. Ergonomics and Handling: Pay attention to the camera’s ergonomics and handling, considering factors such as size, weight, grip, button layout, and menu system. Choose a camera that feels comfortable and intuitive to use, as you’ll likely be spending hours holding and operating it.
  6. Features and Controls: Evaluate the camera’s features and controls, including manual modes, customizable buttons, touchscreen interfaces, built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity, and advanced shooting modes. Choose a camera that offers the features and controls you need to grow and expand your skills as a photographer.
  7. Brand and Ecosystem: Consider the brand reputation, customer support, and ecosystem of accessories and software associated with the camera brand. Investing in a camera system with a robust ecosystem ensures compatibility, support, and future growth opportunities as you advance in your photography journey.

Researching and Comparing Camera Models

Once you’ve identified your preferences and priorities, research and compare different camera models that meet your criteria. Read reviews, watch video tutorials, and visit camera stores to get hands-on experience with various cameras. Consider factors such as image quality, performance, usability, and overall value for money when comparing camera models.

black nikon dslr camera on black surface

Seeking Recommendations and Advice

Don’t hesitate to seek recommendations and advice from experienced photographers, friends, and online communities. Reach out to photographers whose work you admire, join photography forums and social media groups, and ask for input and insights from fellow enthusiasts. Hearing firsthand experiences and recommendations can help you make an informed decision and narrow down your choices.

Choosing your first camera is an exciting milestone in your photography journey. By understanding the different types of cameras, considering key factors and features, and researching and comparing camera models, you can find the perfect camera that suits your needs, preferences, and budget. Remember that the best camera is the one that inspires you to pick it up and start capturing moments, so trust your instincts and enjoy the process of exploring the world of photography with your new camera. 

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