I'm studying photography to became a professional photographer, and I want to buy a professional camera. Because it's expensive, I want to buy the right one the first time. I want it to last through work after my graduation.

What kind of tips, specifications, and features do I need to look for as I make this purchase, including functions that I may not need now but will be needed for work?

I'm a writer/editor in an important magazine about art in my country, and I'm studying for getting photographic job. So I need a camera for very professional work.

Think on the problem that I don't know nothing about and I need to buy a gift. :D

It's for general purpose, but the most style I'll use is for photographic art, micro and macro. I need tips and specifications for lens, and useful functions (like light expose, time expose (I don't know how it's called in English, I'm Spanish native speaker), color response, color respect, etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What kind of photography are you aiming to do with it? As you work for a magazine, are we talking journalism? Product photography? Celebrity photography? I would also not recommend a "very pro" camera for a beginner. You're better off with something cheap to learn your craft on. Expensive does not equal better without experience... \$\endgroup\$
    – Mike
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 13:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Mike and thanks for feedback. About kind of photography i'll update my question. About the beginner, i know that but i want something to work after i became a pro (two years, i think). I want to get the better experience. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 13:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Every DSLR does in-camera JPEG processing. It's usually set to JPEG by default. You can, however shoot RAW+JPEG. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 22:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ I did not mean to imply that all of those covered every portion of your question, only that they are all similar, and would be good references. \$\endgroup\$
    – chills42
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 18:40

4 Answers 4


You may notice that all professionals do not use the same camera and lens. There are different models for different reasons and that means you have to get clear as to the type of professional photography you are going towards.

Any medium-to-high end model will certainly last for a few years. Good lenses last much longer and the good news is that you do not have to buy all your lenses at once.

For macro work, an advanced DSLR and high-reproduction ratio lens is must. Canon has a unique MP-E 65mm F/2.8 which is spectacular for very close macros. To use that one you need a full-fame body like a Canon 1D X, 1Ds Mark III or 5D Mark II. The higher end and more expensive ones are tougher and faster which will be more important if you start shooting action or events.

That lens is only suitable for macro photography, so you will need a couple of high-grade possibly weather-sealed lenses (in case you need to shoot in the rain or snow). Good ones to consider are the EF 24-70mm F/2.8 for general work, a bright lens for portraits like the 85mm F/1.2 and a longer lens like the 70-200mm F/2.8 for further subjects.

All these advanced cameras have all the photographic features you need for professional use such as manual exposure, bulb exposure, manual focus, custom white-balance, etc. So I would worry much less about those small details and concentrate on the lenses you want first, followed by broad features like speed (FPS), weather-sealing, resolution (depends on the sizes you want to print). You will notice after looking around that nothing is the best for everything, so you have to start with what is most important to you.

If you really need huge print sizes, you may consider a medium format camera like the Pentax 645D but this will cost significantly more and offers fewer possibilities since it is slower, less sensitive to light and with more limited lens options.

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    \$\begingroup\$ great answer, thanks. "bulb expose" is that i mean when i talk first, now i get the "english definition". thanks for links, they are really help. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like how you initially point out around 6k in lenses(depending on Mk I,II). I wish I could "get into professional photography" that way :) \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 16:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ It would be worst to by 2K of inadequate gear, followed by 6K of the right one :) I now carry about 10K of gear for most shoots but got into photography a few Ks at the time. Should have mentioned he needs backup gear too! \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented Feb 6, 2012 at 17:00

The first point to emphasise is that being a "professional" is not all about image quality. Any DSLR in production will be capable of producing "professional" quality images. I wouldn't recommend most of them for professional work however. The reason is dependability. You want gear that will always give a certain level of performance in wide range of conditions.

Key features to look for in a professional camera:

  • Tough metal body. You want gear that can be tossed around and will keep going, and will dent rather than crack on impact. If you're shooting every day that can put a lot of stress on a body if you don't have time to treat it with kid gloves.
  • Weather sealing, you can't always choose the weather you work in, and may need to get the job done regardless of the weather
  • Dual memory card slots. Memory cards fail, and if you shoot enough eventually you'll get a card failure. Shooting onto two cards at once squares the probability that you'll lose vital images because of a card failure.
  • Wifi/LAN, not essential to all types of photography, but in certain circumstances you need to wire your images to an editor as soon as possible.
  • Fast operation (many FPS) you don't always get the chance to stop and compose, when things happen very quickly you want to be able to fire off a load of shots to make sure you get something, and importantly have the camera ready to shoot again right away.
  • Pro AF unit with many AF points. A typical consumer DSLR will have 9 or so AF sensors, the top of the line models have more like 45. More sensors allows the camera to lock onto detail and track moving subjects so you lose fewer shots due to focus errors.

You'll also want professional lenses, with similar features

  • Tough metal body, lenses have to be able to take a battering as well.
  • Weather sealing.
  • Wide max aperture for shooting moving targets in low light.

And a pro flash:

  • Tough
  • Weather sealed
  • High output, fast recharge times
  • Automatic flash metering

I would recommend you look at Canon and Nikon. Not trying to be a brand snob but the reality of the situation is that Canon and Nikon produce the most comprehensive lines of professional gear, and have the widest support networks. Yes I know there are places you can hire Sony lenses, but there are many more rental shots which only stock lenses with Canon/Nikon mounts, so there's more likely to be one of these near by when you're out on assignment.

The advantage of pro gear being tough means you can pick up an older model which is likely to be still alive and kicking. I'd have a look at the Canon 1Ds mkII or Nikon D2Xs.


You should ask a slightly different question

What you should ask yourself is: "how am I going to produce professional quality images?"

The answer to that question has very little to do with the camera you use. Any current prosumer DSLR will enable you produce pro-quality images. It's not the camera that makes the image, it's you.

If you already have a DSLR made in the last 5 years then you are all set. (If there are any glaring exceptions then comments will be left and edits made!). Don't worry about the kit: worry about your ability, your approach, your attitude, your personal committment to creating beautiful images. If all those are in place then you are heading for an exciting place.

The bad news

If you do go on to become a professional photographer then you will spend most of your time doing things other than photography :-(
These include:

  • sales
  • marketing
  • book-keeping
  • organising
  • paying the bills
  • chasing invoices
  • ...

I hope this doesn't put you off, and I wish you all the very best of luck!


I think it most important to learn to be a photographer, than to own 'pro' photographic equipement. I certainly understand the desire to have equipment that might be used later in a professional career, but I don't think you have the experience to know what you might need, and will either overspend or choose overly complex gear that hinders your learning.

Many professional photographers, those employed by a journal, newspaper etc are provided equipment. Some is rented and some is owned. Therefore, what you purchase today may not even be used in your professional career. If your camera, which you own, is lost or damaged while working on the job, would you ask your employer to replace or repair it? Often these journals and newspapers prefer photographers to use their equipment in these cases

Obviously, if you plan to be a freelance photographer, then you must buy the gear.

Another factor is that many pro jobs can require certain brands or even models of camera be used. This is often the situation when an employer owns a broad range of lenses and accessories that are to be used by its photographers. In this case, you may purchase the wrong camera for your first job!

Finally, while a Canon 1D is a fine camera and extremely durable, it is heavy, and incredibly complex. Learning photography isn't about the camera, but about the eye, and knowing how to translate what you see into an image. Having a weather proof camera with dual memory card slots will not aid in this learning.

My recommendation is purchase a fairly modern dSLR, of your preferred brand. Purchase a few, reasonable lenses and learn to be a photographer. Don't worry about your needs AFTER school, those will be met by either your employer or your future income.

  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks for tips but it does not an answer for my question \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 16:47

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