How to Choose a Camera

As a mother beginning to learn about photography, I think out of everything, this was by far one of the hardest things I had to do. For one, there’s the DSLR or point and shoot cameras. Not to mention the endless debate between Nikon vs. Canon. Another, there are SO many types out there. Do I want to pay extra for a full frame camera as opposed to a crop frame? Is it worth that extra investment? What’s the difference? Here’s some of the info I have gathered and what works for me.

DSLR or Point and Shoot

First, what is a DSLR?

A DSLR is a Digital Single-Lens Reflex Camera. Essentially, what it does is it has a mirror between the lens and the image sensor and when you look into the camera, you are looking at the mirror. When you push the shutter button, the mirror flips up and instead of sending the image to your viewfinder, the light goes directly to the back of the camera into the image sensor and captures the image there. So what you see in the viewfinder is what you will get in the picture.

Most of the professional cameras are DSLRs. There are mirrorless cameras out there as well which has a digital display that shows you exactly what the camera sees rather than the traditional viewfinder, but I’m not as familiar with those.

DSLR’s also have interchangeable lenses and different modes of shooting. This gives you complete control over how you want your final images to look like. They can also have video recording options and live preview, which is super nice when you want to record your kid blowing out her candles on her birthday!

Photo by Math on Unsplash

What is a point and shoot camera?

A digital point and shoot camera is more compact than a DSLR. They still have different modes of shooting, but they don’t have interchangeable lenses. Popular ones include the Canon Powershot and Sony Cyber-shot. Nikon has one too called the Coolpix, but it is much bulkier, and the main reasons for a point and shoot camera besides their ease of use is the portability.

Digital point and shoot cameras are nice because you can essentially take it anywhere. They can fit in the palm of your hands. However, with the invention of smartphones and their amazing quality cameras, I think digital point and shoot cameras are obsolete. Why would anyone want to carry an extra camera that’s basically the same size as their phone instead of just using their phone?

Should I get a DSLR or point and shoot camera?

Personally, I have owned both.

I loved my point and shoot camera and took it EVERYWHERE. But, this was before the days of iPhone Xs Plus and their amazing camera abilities (Portrait mode anyone?! Um, yes for days!). The only reason I would get a point and shoot these days is if I didn’t have enough memory on my phone for as many pictures as I planned on taking. Or if I didn’t want to use up all my phone’s battery life on taking pictures (but you could always get a portable battery pack).

I love, love, love my DSLR and highly recommend it. Here’s why: they have interchangeable lenses and manual mode so you get total control over how your pictures turn out. The images that these cameras produce are so high quality, it’s unbelievable. These are the pictures you will want to blow up and frame in your house.

Nikon vs. Canon

This is one of those questions that can be debated forever. Ultimately, both are really great brands. But, that doesn’t help you out and help you decide, right? Here’s my experience with it.

I started out with Canon Powershot. It was a great camera, but when I decided to purchase my first DSLR, I randomly chose Nikon because that was what a friend’s dad uses and swears by. I should have done my research myself. That being said, I still ABSOLUTELY LOVE my Nikon. And that’s the problem with this debate. It seems like people love the camera they started out with. This is great news for someone looking to get a camera and don’t know which brand to get! You basically can’t go wrong.

Having shot both Nikon and Canon, here’s the differences I’ve noticed.
  • I like the colors produced on a Nikon better than a Canon. I shoot on the cooler side and prefer a really light, airy feel to my photos so the Canon is a little too dark and warm for me. It’s not a big deal, though, as you can adjust the temperature of a photo in the settings.
  • Battery life seems to last longer on a Nikon
  • Canons are lighter than Nikon, making it easier to carry for long periods of time. Personally, I prefer the sturdier, more robust feeling on a Nikon. The body on the Canon just feels cheap to me.
  • Nikon has easier nomenclature. For beginners, this is nice because it’s not a guessing game which button or setting does what.
  • Canon seems to have a more intuitive button placement. It just seems so natural with the position of the buttons. Your fingers can seamlessly glide to the settings you need without having to adjust your grip on the camera.

So, which brand is better?

Short answer: neither! It is really up to personal preference and the individual models. For every Canon camera out there, there is a Nikon camera to rival it and vice versa. My advice, research your entry level cameras (unless you want to splurge on a professional one!) and go out to a store and just play with it. Hold it in your hand and see how it feels.

You can also rent cameras too so you might consider renting both brands and seeing which one you like. Most people that start out with one brand don’t ever change brands, but you can’t go wrong with either choice. (PS. I have Nikon if you couldn’t tell :))

Full frame camera vs crop frame

Most of the entry level cameras are going to be crop frame. The sensors are smaller and the lenses are generally cheaper. They are typically smaller cameras (small sensors=small body to house it in) and lighter than a full frame.

So, what does crop frame mean? And how does that affect my image?

Exactly what it sounds like. Frame sizes are compared to the traditional 35mm film cameras so a crop frame camera would be smaller than that. Crop frames also typically means a longer focal length so you have to be further from the subject to get everything in the picture. Not so ideal for a mom who has to constantly “adjust” their kids for the pictures.

ISO on a full frame camera

The sensitivity of light on your camera (ISO) directly affects the amount of grain in your pictures. The more sensitive your camera is to light, the less grain your picture will have in dark settings. A full frame camera is going to have a bigger sensor which can let in more light so you can shoot at a higher ISO without compromising the quality of the image. So, if you are shooting in situations where the light is volatile, a full frame camera might be beneficial to you. However, most cameras these days have pretty good ISO settings so unless you shoot in low light situations pretty often, you don’t really need a bigger sensor.

For me, since I mostly shoot my kids and want to capture every moment in their lives, I wanted a bigger sensor. I do a lot of my photography inside my house so the lighting is not always ideal. I can’t always go outside to chase that natural light. And my kids don’t necessarily hang out in the room with the big windows. So sometimes we are in the playroom where there’s only one tiny window. I hate the look of indoor lighting so I would rather shoot at a higher ISO than turn on the lights.

Blurry backgrounds

This is my favorite part of professional photos! I love the blurry backgrounds (bokeh) on photos produced on DSLRs because it really makes the subject pop by making everything in the background disappear. Full frame cameras have a shorter focal length and shallower depth of field so they produce more bokeh. More bokeh=more attention on the subject. And what momma doesn’t want their kid to be the center of attention?!

Full frame or crop frame? My verdict.

Having owned both a full frame and crop frame, I love my full frame camera. I just like the fact that I don’t have to be as far away from the subject to get everything in view. For mommas, sometimes, we have to be right there with our kids. We don’t have the luxury to step a few steps back. This is better in tight spaces too like being inside the home. For newborn photos, this is especially preferable because you won’t want to miss a single detail of that sweet precious bundle of joy!

So that’s a lot of information, but I still don’t know where to start!

I know you are reading this article because you want me to tell you what to do. A lot of other articles are going to say you can’t go wrong with anything you choose, and it’s true but that doesn’t help you. So, here is what I did and would tell you to do.

Depending on budget, invest in a full frame DSLR camera. These are going to be the ones that produce the nice, blurry, creamy backgrounds that everyone loves.

But, the question of Nikon vs. Canon? I can’t choose for you. Go out and play with both brands and compare each model. If this helps you decide, I have the Nikon and love it. 🙂

Hope this helps you and if you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment below and I will try to answer it! Also, if you have anything to add, I would love to hear it!


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