What Camera Should You Get?

I spent some time reading a forum post tonight in which several photographers were arguing about whether or not one camera was “good” for street photography. Several recommended against the camera in question. Several others insisted that the camera was very good for street photography. The discussion went on and on…

For what it’s worth, here is my step-by-step advice for what you should do if you are asking yourself the question, “What camera should I get for [insert your genre of photography here]?

  1. If you are obsessively reading forum posts and reviews about the pros and cons of different types of cameras, STOP NOW.
  2. If you have a camera already, put batteries and a memory card (or film) in it and go out and start shooting pictures.
  3. If you don’t already have a camera, then go to your local camera retailer — or to an online retailer like Adorama, which is where I get my stuff — and find a good camera that you can afford and purchase it.
  4. Take your new camera home, spend some time setting it up and getting familiar with its operation.
  5. Go out and shoot pictures.

As I read that forum argument, I was sorely tempted to post my own comment that read something like, “While you guys are wasting time fighting with each other about which camera is better for whatever, I’m going to go out and shoot some photos.” You can read reviews and watch videos and debate the merits of one camera system compared to another, but the best way to know what you need, how to use it, and what works best for you, is to grab a camera and go take pictures. When you do that, you will gradually learn how to use what you have. You will learn how to make the kind of photos you want to make. You will not learn that by scouring the Internet looking for other people’s personal opinions about equipment.

I should mention that I am also learning. Don’t take what I say as gospel (even though I am a pastor by profession – this is about photography, not the Sunday sermon). Just go shoot pictures. That’s what I’m trying to do.

It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you get. Now, that being said, to be fair, I switched from Canon to Fujifilm and never looked back because my experience tells me that I prefer Fujifilm for many different reasons with regard to the type of photography I prefer to work on. Notice the key phrase in that last sentence — my experience tells me. No forum debate or online review engaged in or written or recorded by some other person or persons can ever replace your experience. There’s only one way for you to get that experience: Take your camera with you wherever you go (except maybe to the shower, or to jail…don’t take your camera with you if you go to jail) and take pictures with it. Lots of pictures. Make contact sheets (or whatever the digital equivalent of a contact sheet is), and make edits. Go out and take more pictures. Rinse and repeat.

I’ve set a goal for myself: Instead of doing too much online research on photography and equipment, and instead of buying more equipment that I don’t need (I have one camera and one lens, more about that in a different upcoming post), I am going to do three things:

  1. Take my camera with me wherever I go.
  2. Take pictures.
  3. Buy books.

Regarding #3 above: Somewhere on his blog, Eric Kim, mentioned that it makes a lot more sense to buy books than to buy equipment if you want to improve as a photographer. I think that is excellent advice. He also provides a list of 75 recommended books (find that blog post here), with his favorites in bold as a starting point. I’m going to start working my way through studying these books as I continue to practice my street photography. Perhaps you should consider doing the same, if you are in the same boat I am.

By the way, what sort of boat am I in, anyway?

Well, for now suffice to say that I used to be a photographer, but then I drifted away from it for various different reasons, and now have returned to it. So, I need to brush up on a few things as well as learn a lot of things that I didn’t learn the first time around.

I’m guessing we all have a lot to learn about this great art, don’t we?

2 Replies to “What Camera Should You Get?”

  1. Marc Beebe says:

    That “what’s the best camera for …” avenue is the road to disappointment, and possibly madness and bankruptcy as well. The trap behind it is the unspoken thought that if someone buys “the best camera for” it will magically make them proficient in that field.
    As you clearly state, it won’t. Learning to use what you have is the only way to learn; there are no shortcuts to success.


    • JohnFMichael says:

      Marc, thanks for the comment. That’s another, I think, subconscious reason why I returned the Fujifilm X-H1 and am now shooting strictly 35mm film with my Minolta XE-5. I’m much more deliberate when I shoot film, and I think my results are usually much better than with digital. I have a much stronger appreciation for this camera I paid $15 for at a flea market and enjoy using it way more than that 24 megapixel Fujifilm I got rid of.


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