For a long time, I wanted to start as hobbyist photographer, thus soon I will be taking a photography class in my city where I will be able to learn the basics of photography.

At this point my photography experience is very very crude; I've only used the camera of my cellphone to "capture happy moments".

As I will be getting more serious about my new hobby, I want to buy a new camera. My budget is around $1000 for this. I would like it to be portable and not very bulky, as my main interest will be be human and environment photography while travelling.


3 Answers 3


On a photography course, you'll get a chance to find out what features you can't live without, and what features don't matter to you at all. You'll also probably get a chance to try out the cameras your fellow students have brought.

So my advice would be: borrow a camera from a friend, take the course, and then buy your own camera.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 I have to agree, spend the money on the gear after the course and get a sense of what your options are and then buy armed with better knowledge. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Dec 11, 2010 at 15:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Awesome answer. I can vouch for this since I have many photography students who tell me they would have bought something else had they known what they learned in the course. Where I work, it has happened that we loaned a student a camera for the course in a similar circumstance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Dec 11, 2010 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is very true. I went through compact, bridge, low-end slr, medium end slr, and then finally high-end slr (d300) in order to find a camera that met my needs. I would've saved a lot of money just going to the final product... \$\endgroup\$
    – mmr
    Dec 12, 2010 at 20:18

I think @matt-bishop's answer really is an excellent one: Find a camera to borrow (or, if you must, rent) for the duration of the course, and then figure out what (if anything -- who knows, you may find you're not into photography?!) you want to buy afterward.

That said, I think it's worth expanding on this question -- perhaps even if you borrow or rent, you'll have choices to make, and want help narrowing those choices down. And perhaps you have reasons to really want to go with a purchase to start off with? :) (Though I think, really, that quote may well refer more to money, than tangible things -- but there are other risks with borrowing tangible things.)

Anyway, here are a few points that I would suggest you keep in mind:

  1. Make certain that the camera you choose has the ability for full manual control of exposure. More than likely, your class will require this. Even if it doesn't, it's something that will really make possible a deeper understanding of photography -- not to mention giving you the ultimate control you may want (at least in some circumstances) once you've mastered the basics. In particular, you'll want to be sure that you're able to control:

    • Shutter Speed, so that you can have different amounts of blurring or stopping action;

    • Aperture, so that you can control your depth of field.

    And you'll want to have the ability to control both, independently -- having neither be automatically chosen for you (at least having the ability to do this; which doesn't necessarily mean you'll always use it). If you have those controls, you'll presumably also have the ability to control Sensitivity (ISO) (or if shooting film, to have the camera aware of your choice, if you meter in-camera; see below), White Balance, and more.

  2. Taking this control even further, having a Bulb mode would be recommended -- this gives you the ability to leave the shutter open for an arbitrary length of time, which can be especially handy if/when you do any night photography.

  3. In any (or certainly most) modern camera(s), there will be a built-in light meter. If, though, you decide to borrow (or buy from a flea market or thrift store, or what have you) an old mechanical film camera, it's possible that you won't have one in-camera. If so (and perhaps even if not, though it's probably not worth the expense starting out unless you need it), you'll probably really want to have a light meter. There are some low-end ones (or perhaps used ones) that can be obtained fairly inexpensively. Most likely, though, you'll just have one in the camera.

  4. While not strictly necessary, you'll very likely want to have interchangeable lenses, thus making an SLR the likely choice. This can be handy for a number of reasons, but one reason is simply that, when learning, it makes it easier to inspect the inner workings of the camera (e.g. watching the shutter open and close, or examining the aperture) (note: be careful when doing this -- there are very sensitive parts inside a camera, especially the sensor on digital cameras, that you do NOT want to touch, or perhaps even expose to the air for dust reasons. Still, I thought this worth mentioning.) Other reasons include the ability to shoot with a prime lens, which, while valuable for a number of reasons to the seasoned photographer, are valuable for the learner in part because they remove some complexity -- fewer controls to worry about, while also forcing you to pay more attention to such things as where you are relative to your subject, since you're unable to zoom in or out. It's also likely difficult (though I doubt impossible) to get bulb mode without going the SLR route.

  5. Having the ability to have some sort of remote mechanism for firing the shutter (whether it's an infrared remote, a traditional cable release, a modern electronic cable release, or anything else that might exist) can be quite useful -- if you want to do self portraits, or when doing long exposures (to avoid camera shake).

  6. You'll also want to think about what extra gear you might want, in addition to the camera (and lens) -- tripod, cable release/remote, light meter... I haven't mentioned a tripod before now, but it's another near-indespensible thing for night photography, and can be useful in many other situations as well. So, be sure to leave some room in your budget for one -- even if you start out with something cheap and light (which can be nice, though you may want something heavier for added stability if you start using it a lot).

There may well be other things to look at, too, but I think I've covered most of the basics. I consider point 1 to be especially important, so even if you ignore everything else, I recommend you heed that.

Good luck, and happy learning!


I remember when I took my first photography class and I had a bridge camera, Nikon P90. It was not sufficient for me then, because it is a camera with basic things, you can't switch lenses, so you can't pursue very good image quality. However, it depends what you are searching for, what type of class you are taking (for very beginners or you will reach intermediate skills too)... Too much to consider. Although, if you like to take over photography as a serious hobby, you may consider investing your money in a semi-pro camera, like Canon 550D or Nikon D90. I personally own a Canon 550D, which is great! You can use several types of lenses, it has adequate features to shoot with, it is not very big and it is very easy to use, especially when you get used to its settings. If you are eventually not sure what camera brand to go with, www.lenshero.com is a very good website that will help you, in case you want to have a look at the specifications. You can even compare several camera bodies and see the pros and cons of each.

Finally, bear in mind that once you start with one model, like Nikon or Canon, you will get used to its own settings, and you will be investing on lenses compatible only with one brand. In this case, it would not be neither financial wise to switch brands, or easy for you to learn a new manual of operation. Therefore, my advice is to stuck on a brand and invest on it, rather than switching from one brand to another. After all, remember that there is NOT a PERFECT camera.

Hope that helps you decide!

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ The 550D is not a "semi-pro camera"; it's an entry level camera. Even the now very old D90 which at least has dual-dial control still wouldn't normally be considered semi-pro. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Mar 31, 2014 at 12:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Semi pro starts at about the level of a D300s or whatever has since replaced it Nikon's lineup. A D90 is a better choice than a Canon 550D as it is lacks fewer of the more important features you'll want once you've learned a bit. But it's definitely right up there in the lower end of the consumer spectrum. \$\endgroup\$
    – jwenting
    Mar 31, 2014 at 12:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Philip - You are right, my mistake. However, my Canon 550D is great for a beginner :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Morpho
    Mar 31, 2014 at 14:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even entry level cameras can be good enough for beginners and intermediate photographers, who are still learning the basics and some of the intermediate parts of Photography. Professional cameras are useful, when pursuing excellent image quality, because of the technology improvements, or in case you want to be a professional photographer. However, I do not believe that any beginner should start with a pro camera, until he learns the basics. There is a rule of thumb for me - a camera will not make you a photographer, it can only help you in terms of quality and extra stuff. \$\endgroup\$
    – Morpho
    Mar 31, 2014 at 15:14

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