Camera and Lens Buying Guide - Scroll for Flashes & Tripods
Choosing which camera to buy can be a daunting task but hopefully this Camera Buying Guide will help. I’ll add more items over time.
I’ve taken a look through several review websites for the best budget camera for 2021 and I’ve included the list of top rated cameras from various makers at the budget price points.
- Nikon D3500
- Sony Alpha a6000
- Nikon D5300
- Nikon D5600
- Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
- Canon EOS 200D
- Canon EOS 4000D
Amazon Search & Wex Affiliate Links.
Pretty much all cameras available today offer excellent image quality, regardless of price, so the choice really comes down to the features you need, your budget and how the camera feels in your hands.
Decide on a Budget
Firstly I would suggest you decide on your budget taking into account the lens you need. See my recommended lenses below.
Next decide on a camera manufacturer. The main players are still Canon and Nikon but Sony, Pentax and Panasonic are also popular. Canon and Nikon have been around a long time and there is a huge second hand market plus accessories tend to be cheaper and more plentiful from 3rd party suppliers.
Canon and Nikon also tend to have the cheapest entry level cameras. The other camera makes can have a more limited range of lenses, flashguns and accessories and these tend to cost more.
Digital SLR or Mirrorless
The next choice is whether to go down the traditional DSLR route or the new mirror-less electronic viewfinder models. Both have their advantages and disadvantages so if you are not sure which is which then take a look at this page https://digitalphotographycourses.co.uk/difference-between-bridge-camera-dslr-or-mirroless-camera
Another thing to consider is full frame or DX but as a beginner I would definitely choose the cheaper DX option as the lenses also cost a lot less. Also the 1.5x crop factor will make your telephoto lenses effectively 50% longer, so a 200mm becomes a 300mm compared to a Full Frame FX camera.
Any of the Nikon D3000 or D5000 series are a recommended choice and don’t be afraid to buy good or excellent condition cameras from the likes of MPB.com. Which one you go for depends on your budget but my personal recommendation for a low cost starter kit is a Nikon D3400 or D5200 with the Tamron 18-270mm lens. These are both available at MPB.com for less than £400. Of the two cameras I would choose the D5200 as it has the flippy out screen. I already use a D5000 and a D5100 as my training cameras as they are so easy to use. If you would like WiFi so you can transfer image to your phone then pay a bit extra for the Nikon D5300.
System Cost and Future Upgrades
One extra thing to consider when buying a camera is the costs of lenses and flashguns (see below). There is a huge second hand market for Canon and Nikon cameras and lenses plus many compatible flashes at a fraction of the branded models.
It was announced in July 2022 that Nikon would stop making DSLR cameras to concentrate on Mirrorless cameras. This was always going to happen so it comes as no surprise to me. At the moment mirrorless cameras are more expensive than their equivalent spec DSLR but I believe that prices will drop in the future. Nikon recently introduced the Nikon Z30 at about £700 but I cannot recommend this camera as it does not have a viewfinder and it is really intendedas a video vlogging camera. Anyone who has truggled to take picures with their phone in bright sunlight will understand the problem.
Don’t Buy a Standard Lens
Whichever way you go I would suggest you avoid buying the camera with the standard 18-55mm lens as you will soon find this zoom range very limited. Many people make the mistake of buying a DSLR with an 18-55mm and then buy a 75-300mm telephoto zoom. As they now have two lenses they need a camera bag and two filters. This comes to about £300 and you need to change lenses every time you go from a landscape to a bird or something far away. This often means you take the camera out with just one lens or you take both lenses but miss the shots by changing lenses. Constantly changing lenses can result in dust getting on the sensor which can show on your images.
On our beginners photography courses I recommend photographers buy the camera as a body only, which saves about £90, then buy one of the travel super zooms from Tamron, Sigma or Panasonic. Depending on your budget these have a range from 18-270mm through to 18-400mm. This mean you can go from a wide angle landscape to a bird in a tree at the twist of the wrist. It also save money in the long run.
Many people will tell you that you will get better quality from using two lenses and I wouldn’t disagree. The thing is I firmly believe that photography is about taking photographs, rather than pixel-peeping, and you could keep missing pictures by having the wrong lens fitted. As you became more advanced you can buy more specialists, better quality lenses that fit your photography needs.
Which camera & lens would I personally buy?
As you can imagine this is a question I get a lot. First of all let me say that I have nothing against Canon, Sony, Panasonic or any other make. They all produce excellent results and this decision is based purely on which cameras I believe are the easiest for a new photographer to use and understand. For reasons and the techniques we talk about on the beginner’s course the entry level Nikons have a better menu system, and display, which makes the techniques I talk about easier to understand.
Speedlight Flashgun Buying Guide
When choosing a Speedlight flashgun you have the choice of going for one of the makers brands, like Nikon or Canon, or one of the third party brands at a fraction of the price. I’ve included information and links for products I’ve personally had experience with on past courses.
I would suggest going for a flashgun that either excepts wireless receivers, or has them built in, so you can use off camera flash.
Flash Triggering Methods
Some flashguns are triggered remotely using an optical system, like the Nikon Creative Lighting System or the similar Canon Flash Wireless System. These optical systems use the camera’s pop-up flash to trigger the remote flash so have a more limited range and require line of sight between flash and camera. The good news with these systems is they are built into the camera so do not require additional triggers. The downside is that the pop-up flash needs to fire so this can lead to reflections or light where you don’t want it.
Most manufacturers are now moving to a radio frequency trigger system that has a greater range and does not require line of sight. Some flashguns will work with both systems.
I’ve been using Yongnuo Speedlights for some time and I’ve found them reliable and good value. They also produce excellent wireless triggers and receivers which allow you to use older non-wireless flashes as a wireless system. I use this with my Nikon SB-700s.
The latest Yongnuo flashes have built in receivers and HSS.
Yongnuo Flash & Transmitters for Canon
Yongnuo Flash & Transmitters for Nikon
I’ve recently started moving over the Godox (or PixaPro) flash system, as I use Godox Studio Flashes, and they all use the same wireless trigger system. If you plan to also invest in Godox Studio Lighting then this might be a better option.
The Yongnuo system works out slightly cheaper but the Godox range is greater if you plan to expand or shoot studio porraits.
Godox Flash & Transmitters for Canon
Godox Flash & Transmitters for Nikon
There are many other manufactures making compatible flashes for Nikon and Canon but less so for Sony, Panasonic and Pentax. If you have one of these cameras then you may need to pay a premium and buy the brand from your camera maker.
Amazon Affiliate Search Box
You can support me, and this website, by shopping through this Amazon Affiliate search box below. It does not cost you any more but I get a small commission. It’s not a lot, but it buys me a coffee, and I figure Amazon make plenty of profit already.
I’ve included links for the Tamron 18-270mm, 16-300mm and 18-400mm zoom lenses suggested on the courses but you can type anything else into the box.
I also have affiliate links with Wex Photographic which you can is buy following this Wex Photographic – Affiliate Link
How Many Megapixels?
Another question I get is how many megapixel do you need? We talk about this on the beginners course but anything above 12MP is good but up to 24MP is even better. The thing to remember is megapixels does not equal quality but print size. A 12MP camera will allow for prints up to 24×16 inches providing you don’t crop them. Having more than 12MP gives you a bit of flexibility to crop
The Next Level Camera Choice
Which camera you choose when upgrading from a beginners model can be just as confusing as choosing your first camera. Added to this many photographers start considering full frame cameras so let me cover that topic first.
Is it worth upgrading to Full Frame?
It really depends on what you are photographing. Full frame cameras outshine DX cameras mainly when used for low light photography as they tend to offer less noise at higher ISOs. This is why most professional wedding photographers use FX as they can shoot at 3200 or 6400 ISO and get less noise. If you do a lot of low light or star photography then consider full frame but be aware you will need all new lenses.
However if most of your photography is landscapes at low ISOs or wildlife, where the DX crop factor gives you extra reach, the I would probably stick with a DX camera.
Buying Used Cameras or Lenses
Most photographers look after their gear really well so don’t worry about buying used. Really good websites for pre-used kit are wexphotovideo.com and MPB.com. Both have a wide range of second hand cameras and lenses, in various conditions, at less than new prices. UK Tamron lenses have a 5 year warranty when you register them so this might swing you decision towards a new lens.
I have bought and sold cameras or lenses on eBay but I would suggest buyer beware and ensure the seller has a good rating and feedback. Always research your prices first so you don’t get carried away and bid more than you could get it elsewhere.
These are products that haven’t come through the normal UK supply lines. They could be from Europe or the far east and may not have a UK Warranty. This could mean returning a faulty camera or lens back to China or Hong Kong at your expense. These lenses are often cheaper because VAT or Import duties my not of been paid and you could be liable.
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about cameras or lenses or would like any links drop me an email@example.com
More Recommendations Coming Soon.
My sturdy tripod of choice is the Manfrotto MK190XPRO4 Tripod and XPRO Ball Head with 200PL Plate. At Wex this is about £219 (which is overpriced) but they often have 20% off deals which makes it a much more attractive buy. If I see a deal then I’ll usually post it on the Facebook Group.
Most tripods also come with a Carbon Fibre option and these are lighter but more expensive.
The best tripods are big, heavy and solid but for a inexpensive and compact Travel Tripod I use the Manfrotto Compact Action Aluminum Tripod at about £46. This is lightweight, folds up small but extends to a decent height and is OK for a light camera with the Tamron zoom. Try not to extend more than you really have to or weight it down with your camera bag.
Manfrotto BeFree Range
The Manfrotto BeFree range are a well respected mid sized and mid priced tripod suitable for general use or travel.
My main dislike of these is that some versions have twist lock legs rather than the faster snap lock legs I prefer.
Amazon Travel Tripod, TYCKA and Carrying Bag.
- ULTRA STABLE: The tripod fork is finely crafted by using our precision CNC machine to ensure the highest quality product
- 360° PANORAMA: With two independent control knobs, the specially designed ball-head can rotate 360° allowing you to get the perfect shot every time. The ball-head also has two built-in levels which allows you to get the straightest shot possible
- EASY SET UP: 4-section column legs with quick release flip-locks allows you to adjust the working height from 14″ to 55″ in seconds
- PORTABLE: 14″ compact storage size and 4.1 lbs weight, you can easily take it to anywhere for outdoor shooting.