Does this sound familiar? You have owned a DSLR for a year or two and after looking at other photographers’ work you notice a quality difference of the images. Is your first instinct to run out and buy a new camera to bring your photography up to the next level? The question you need to ask is “should I buy a new camera or a new lens?”
When should you consider buying a new camera? Probably not a soon as you think. If you have a DSLR that is working correctly and has a sensor larger than 10 megapixel, you have a camera that can produce prints that are larger than you may realize. I have printed photos from a Nikon D3100 (14 mp sensor) over 10 x 12 inches and they look beautiful.
Larger megapixel cameras produce much larger files. These larger files require larger flash cards in your camera, more computer power to process and require additional storage space on your hard drive. The difference in a 14 or 16 megapixel image and a 24 megapixel image is not worth the additional expense for almost all home photographers. Even as professional portrait photographers, one of our camera bodies (Nikon D700) is a 12 megapixel and we produce beautiful prints with that camera.
There are many tradeoffs as you go up the Nikon or Canon ladder. If your photography is primarily of your family holidays, vacations and kids sports, then the entry-level Nikon or Canon camera body will provide you with excellent image quality. As you go up the camera body ladder, the manufacturer adds additional features, the body gets larger and heavier and the image quality does not necessarily increase in direct correlation to the money invested.
Before you start to consider investing in equipment ask yourself if you are happy with your brand of choice (Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc.), then stick with that brand. My wife and I use Nikon, and like the way the cameras handle, and have invested heavily in Nikon line equipment and lenses. The other brands offer excellent cameras, don’t change brands because of anyone’s blog post.
Once you have settled on your brand, stick to it. Why? Because it will save you money in the long run. Once you start investing in equipment that you can use on multiple camera bodies, you will see a better return on your investment. As you progress in your photography you will reach a point where you have more money invested in lenses than your camera body (bodies).
When you keep your current camera body, and start to invest in high quality lenses, you will not regret the decision. First you will see an immediate improvement in the quality of your images – yes, lenses make that much of a difference! Second, you will be able to keep your lenses for years, even if you upgrade camera bodies. This is why it is important to invest wisely and stay with one brand.
Before we start discussion specific lenses, you need to know that most high quality lenses are designed for professional, full-frame sensor camera bodies. If you put them on your crop-frame, or smaller sensor camera body they will work perfectly. These lenses also tend to be built to last longer than the basic lenses that come with most entry level DSLR’s.
Which lens should you buy? That depends on what you want to photograph. Your camera most likely came with an 18-55mm lens in the f/3.5-4.5 range (click here if you want more information about what these numbers mean). Do you take lots of photographs of family events and holidays? Than consider a 35mm to 50mm lens. These are great all-around lenses and are not too expensive as a first lens investment. They are also “fast” lenses that allow you to take photos in much lower light – they have f/stops down in the f/1.8 or lower range. The lower the number, the higher the price. For more information about these lenses, read this earlier post.
Do you want to take photos of your child’s sports activities, or school events? Than you may want to look into a zoom lens. What if close-up detail images interest you? My wife loves to take photos of snowflakes – then consider a macro lens. We will discuss these lenses in a future post, so check back.
I hope this has caused you to think before running out to the nearest camera store and buying an all new camera without first considering if you really need it. I still use my D3100 and it captures amazing images. It is smaller and lighter to carry and our larger full-frame camera bodies, and paired with higher quality lenses, works great.
What are your thoughts or questions?
Final note: If this post has been helpful, then please consider using Adorama link below when purchasing equipment as this helps to support this blog. We buy most of our lenses and camera equipment from Adorama Camera in New York. The shipping is fast and the service is excellent.