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I'm new to professional photography. When buying a camera, what are the main features that I could use to make an informed choice?

My budget range is $400 - $600.

What camera you can suggest me?

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6  
Hi Hairharan, and welcome to PhotoSE. You've indicated in your question that you are new to "professional" photography, however your budget seems to indicate you can afford a low-end consumer-grade camera. Are you actually new to photography as a means of making money (i.e. professionally), or are you simply new to photography with more advanced equipment like a DSLR or a modern mirrorless camera? If the latter, that would be a critical factor in your question, and will greatly affect the type of answers you receive. –  jrista Jan 27 '12 at 5:22
    
@jrista Thanx for ur reply, I want to learn professional photography, Making Money out of this... may be later, but learning photography matters for me at first. So for beginner or starter photographer, what camera can u suggest in my range ? Thanx again ! –  Hariharan Anbazhagan Jan 27 '12 at 5:30
2  
If the question is really what camera for a beginner, then these may help: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/2876/… and photo.stackexchange.com/questions/5883/… –  MikeW Jan 27 '12 at 5:42
    
Do you want to edit your question to say that you are a beginner looking to buy a camera with the intention of developing yourself into a professional? In other words you are a beginner but don't necessarily want to limit yourself in terms of the camera you choose? Or you may find if you search these other questions they have already answered you. –  MikeW Jan 27 '12 at 5:49
3  
"Professional" photography is defined purely by photography that makes money. Learning professional photography means learning how to invoice, manage clients and market yourself. This doesn't require any equipment. It sounds like you want to learn photography in general, so I'd suggest dropping the word "professional" from your question. –  Matt Grum Jan 27 '12 at 15:10

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

One possibility to consider might be a film camera. With a little patience, you can find a truly professional-level film body in the price range you've named. Based on what I've seen from quite a few people who've started out shooting digital, I tend to think that spending at least a little while shooting slide film has some good points. Many people no longer seem to be able to get anywhere close to correct exposures except by trial and error (or just massive bracketing).

I'm not sure I'd actually buy a pro-level body immediately though. I'd consider (for example) an old Nikon FM2 with a couple of decent lenses (e.g., a 50/1.4 and a 135/2.8). This is a manual-only camera (manual focus, manual exposure), which I think many photography teachers would agree is helpful initially to get a good handle on the basics of focus and exposure. I should also mention: the FM2 wasn't what Nikon considered their pro-level body at the time -- but a lot of pros have used a lot of FM2s (and FMs, etc.) to do a lot of truly professional work.

I don't mean to single out Nikon particularly here either: Minolta, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, etc., also made some excellent cameras that are well worth considering. One advantage to Nikon (and Pentax) is that they've continued to use the same mount, so (with a little care in selection) you can continue to use the same lenses on a newer body. With Minolta or Canon you can do the same, but only if you get an autofocus body (Maxxum/Dynax or EOS respectively).

Edit: If you really want to go digital, I'd generally agree with those recommending a used camera. New cameras in this price range are fairly restricted, and and generally aimed at people who have little or no interest in learning anything about photography.

Since you haven't told us what sort of photography you want to do (and may well not really know yet) it's hard to recommend a particular brand or model. Perhaps it makes more sense to outline (at least what I see as) the characteristics of the various brands:

Canon: Canon sells more cameras than anybody else, and they have more lenses than anybody else. Especially when it comes to the longest, fastest lenses, there's no other brand that can really compete.

Nikon: Nikon is the second biggest camera maker. They don't have quite as many lenses available as Canon -- but probably still more than you'll ever use. At least in my opinion, Nikon does considerably better at the widest angle lenses (especially their truly incomparable 14-24 zoom). Nikon currently provides the lowest noise at high ISOs of anybody.

Sony: If Canon excels at the long end, and Nikon at wide angles, that leaves the middle for the number three seller, and Sony seems to have taken that to heart. Their 85mm and 135mm lenses are probably the best you can get. At the same time, their wide angle selection is weak compared to Nikon, and the few long lenses they have are steeply priced. Sony is (sort of) the newest vendor of high-end cameras, and it shows -- they seem to be doing more to try to shake things up and change the rules of the game (some consider this a strength, others a weakness). Their in-body image stabilization means you get stabilization on essentially all lenses. Sony bought out the Minolta camera business, and continues to use the same lens mount, so there's a decent selection of used lenses going back to the mid-1980's. Although their newest designs seem to have improved noise levels, older Sonys were known as rather weak in terms of noise at high ISOs (but also unusually good bit depth, color fidelity, etc., at low ISOs).

Pentax: Some obvious points for Pentax are weather sealing, build quality (especially of lenses -- some people compare their "limited" lenses to jewelry, but I consider that an insult; most jewelry looks clumsy by comparison), compact designs, and some of the best features for the price (and when I say "compact designs", I'm not talking about P&S cameras; I mean their serious SLRs are generally smaller and lighter than the competitors). Like Nikon, they've also continued to use the same mount nearly forever, so you can buy/use lots of old lenses. Like Sony, they use in-body image stabilization, so it works with all lenses -- even old ones that won't autofocus.

I'll stop there for now, but hope that gives at least some idea of (how I see) the landscape.

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Thx Mr.Jerry, I do have a great trust on film cameras.. But as a beginner I would like to take Digital Camera, so that i can get instant results... Can u suggest me any DSLR's in my price range !! –  Hariharan Anbazhagan Jan 27 '12 at 8:56
1  
Hi, film cameras have some advantages but the beginners need to do experiments and try to be creative. This is much easier and also cheaper with digital camera. –  Juhele Jan 27 '12 at 9:20
    
@HariharanA: See the edit in my answer. –  Jerry Coffin Jan 27 '12 at 17:18
    
@JerryCoffin Thx for ur edit. I m really glad.... Can u pls clear me one more thing, Now I got narrowed to Canon or Nikon DSLRs under my Budget.... How about taking Nikon D3100, or u can suggest me any other equal product from Canon ?? –  Hariharan Anbazhagan Jan 27 '12 at 17:42
    
@HariharanA: I believe the closest equivalent from Canon is probably the T2i or T3 (though I'm no expert on Canon's entry-level cameras -- others may have better ideas). –  Jerry Coffin Jan 27 '12 at 17:48

what about Pentax K-r? I think that the body with 18-55 kit lens could fit into your price range. I have his predecessor K-x and I am very satisfied. The Exmor CMOS chip has very low noise also when using high ISO - so you can better shoot in low light - even ISO 1600 is very good.

Pentax kit lenses are very good compared to entry level Canons and Nikons (according to the user comparison etc.) and the 18-55 is almost universal lens and very handy (small and light). I still use it very often.

Pentax also has very good backward compatibility with old lenses and is also able to use exposition metering and AF indicating also with very old manual lenses.

It can also shoot HD video. Recommend to look here and compare quality of the output for potential candidates.

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+1 for suggesting Pentax K-r. I used to have the Pentax K10D and it was a solid performer. I agree that the Pentax kit lenses are a better quality then those of other manufacturers. I eventually picked up the Pentax 50mm f1.4 for $350 and was extremely satisfied with the results. –  Jakub Jan 27 '12 at 17:31

My 2c on this one... I can see where the OP is coming from, and understand the desire, I just think his English is a little confusing.

Any DLSR can be used to learn concepts that in time, can result in professional photography, I truly believe that. But as a note to the OP, you are not going to get a professional grade camera -new at least- for that price range, nor would I recommend one to a beginner, lest they become frustrated and confused with the features and flexibility and usage of a pro-level camera.

As you are brand new to this, and clearly would like to go pro in the future, I would recommend the same as I would anyone else wanting to get into photography. Get the cheapest body you can and spend your money on good lenses!

This may mean a second hand DLSR body (don't discount it!). But if new is what you are after then the Canon 1100D (I think they call it the Rebel T3 in the US?) or the Nikon D3100 are perfectly viable options. They have P/A/S/M modes and that is all you need. Don't whatever you do, shoot in "Auto" ;-) If you must, use P instead which is nearly the same aside from it being a tad more controllable allowing you a bit more flexibility (and it doesn't pop the flash up every five seconds!). These two models will be at the lower end of your budget, and allow room to buy a decent lens as well. The kit 18-55 is enough to get you going, but honestly (and since you have the long term goal to go pro) this is a cheap and crappy lens (IMHO) and you will want to replace it. A good lens to start with is a standard 50mm f/1.8. This is (I think) the cheapest lens you can buy in either the Canon or Nikon range and with the wide aperture will give you a wide range of creative options and perform better in low-light than the kit lens which even at its widest end is going to be around f/3.5, and reduce down to f/5.6 at the long end (as a beginner, that's code for "won't perform very well in low light and won't give you much in the way of selective focus").

If however you would prefer the flexibility of zooming with a twist of the wrist rather than with your feet, and you'd be happy with the 18-55 kit lens, then you can afford to spend a little more on the camera body. The Canon 450D (T2i in the US) or Nikon D5100 should be at the upper end of your price bracket.

You can see here a comparison of all the camera models I've listed above. Remember that megapixels aren't everything, and indeed on a crop sensor camera like these, it can (but depends on technology, post processing, etc) have a detrimental effect on the image quality you capture - sharpness, noise, etc.

If you wanted to get one of the cheaper bodies second hand, that would also allow you to purchase not only the 50mm but another lens too. I picked up an EF 85mm f/1.8 second hand for £260 on the weekend which I was very happy with! So definitely consider second hand kit too to maximise your budget.

I know you also mentioned you didn't want to go down the film route, but I have a second hand Canon EOS 3 body which is certainly pro spec, but was extremely cheap (£150 a couple of years ago), and it's always a lot of fun to shoot with. I can use all the same EF lenses on it that I use with my 7D too so love that about it. (Though it won't of course accept any EF-S lenses like the 7D would).

--

I would recommend visiting a camera dealer (an independent one) and asking their advice. In my experience they are very knowledgeable and can offer options you hadn't considered. In chain stores or superstores however I've found the opposite, that staff really don't have a clue about photography or are on commission to sell a certain product - so choose your store wisely! :) Go in, and try out the different cameras. Choose based on how it feels in your hand, how easy you find the buttons to access, the menus to navigate, and for good measure throw in a healthy pinch of gut instinct. If it 'feels' right for you, it probably is.

At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what equipment you end up purchasing. The important thing is to get out there, take lots of pictures. There's a line from Henri Cartier-Bresson about your first 10,000 photos being awful (don't quote me on that - I cant remember it exactly), but the message is clear - practice, practice, practice. It helps too if you have a friend you can do it with, and someone to constantly ask questions to.

Experiment with different apertures, and think about each shot before you fire the shutter button. Read up online or in books about basic skills -- having a grasp of how to balance the three aspects of exposure (ISO, Shutter Speed, and Aperture) is vitally important in obtaining the shots you desire.

I hope that helps.

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Honestly, in that price range you are not talking about a professional level camera. You may be able to find a used Nikon D90 or a Canon Rebel T2i as there are now upgrades available for both of those models.

For an entry-level professional grade body you are probably going to spend at least $1000 and perhaps a bit more.

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Thx Mr. Steve. How about buying a DSLR to learn professional photography? –  Hariharan Anbazhagan Jan 27 '12 at 6:07

I appreciate there may be a language issue but to be honest, this question is so ill-focussed that providing a sensible answer is impossible. For example, what is "professional photography"?

You should separate learning to take photographs from learning the skills of a professional photographer.

For the former almost any camera will do at the outset, you could start with a basic camera and learn the basics of composition and exposure. Then you could learn how to manipulate the controls of a more complex camera. The goal IMHO is knowing how you want your picture to turn out and then using your camera to realise that vision.

Professional skills? learn about finding customers, doing work that pleases them and getting paid.

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