Buying a camera: 6 questions to ask yourself

Jun 16, 2023

Photographer and filmmaker for families and small businesses in Dulwich and Bromley inLondon

Buying a camera, to photograph your family or to take pictures for your business with, can be very daunting. There are so many different brands, sizes, and specs to consider. In this article I hope to help you think more about what it is you want and need from your camera. Let’s dive in!

Photographer and Filmmaker Saskia Albers standing in Central London with her camera is here to help you buy your own camera.

1. What is my skill level in photography?

Some people might want to be able to adjust all the camera settings, so that they can get the picture they like. While other people might prefer a point and shoot camera. Do you want to learn about ISO, shutter speeds and aperture? Great! But remember, your camera is a tool and a good camera will not automatically give you great photos. It’s your knowledge and creativity that bring your photographs to life. Learning the basics of photography is essential. Familiarize yourself with shutter speed, aperture, ISO, lighting, framing, composition, and other key concepts to create visually captivating images.

If you do not want to bother at all with any camera settings then getting a smaller point and shoot style camera will most likely be the best way to go. You can have a look at the Sony Alpha, 6000 or 6400, the Sony Alpha 7C, the Canon M5 or M6 or the Fujifilm X110V. I do believe that it is always good to have a camera of which you can change the lens. Therefore, I have not looked into systems of which the lens cannot be removed.

2. Does the weight and size of the camera matter to me?

The best camera is the one you have on you. If you won’t take a big or heavy camera with you then definitely consider size and weight when buying your camera.

I personally like to have the option of using a viewfinder and would not go for a camera that only has a LiveView screen. I want this because sometimes in certain light conditions it can be hard to see the screen. This might however not matter to you. But if it does then you might like to make sure that it has one.

Another thing to look out for is if you can operate aperture, ISO and shutter speed settings from your camera body/lens itself. As with some smaller cameras you will not have separate dials for these and need to go into the menu instead. So, if you want to use your camera in manual mode then I would recommend getting a camera on which you can adjust these settings without going into the menu.

3. What will I be using the camera for?

Is photography a hobby? Then you might not need a camera with all the advanced features. However, if you plan to go professional with your camera, then it will be best to invest in a camera that is on a professional level. You will need a camera that will give you the opportunity to grow.

As a documentary family photographer the most important features I looked for in my camera were a very good auto-focus system making it ideal for photographing kids and capturing spontaneous family moments. I also needed my camera to do exceptionally well in low-light conditions, allowing for beautiful documentary photography indoors without the need for a flash.

These are a few cameras you could consider: Sony Alpha A7 and A9 series, Canon R series and Fujifilm X-T4, XT-3 and X-Pro3.

Saskia Albers family and personal branding photographer and filmmaker with her Sony camera in Central London.
Me and my Sony A7r3 which I love for it’s great capabilities in low light and great auto-focus system which is what I need as a documentary family photographer.

4. What is my budget for my photo camera?

If you want the best quality camera for the least amount of money, then you can always look at getting one second hand. I can recommend camera store like Wex or MBP for your second-hand camera or lens. Most of the time it will come with a 6month warranty unless otherwise stated.

You can also save money by not going for the latest camera model. Camera updates made by manufacturers in their new model can be minute and insignificant to you. So, if you have a tight budget then it might be worth it to look at the predecessor of the camera you fancy,

5. What lens should I buy for my camera?

I would recommend you buy your lens and camera body separately. The lenses that come in kits are usually not the best. These lenses are often cheaper and slower models. It is therefore a good idea to get a separate lens with a lower f-stop. The lower the f-stop the more expensive the lens will get. So, if you are starting out you might find you do not need a lens with an aperture of f1.2. However, I would not buy a lens that has a f-stop greater than 2.8.

When you are starting out you do not really need more than one lens. Just buy the best one you can for the money you have. Instead of spreading the money and buying multiple lenses of less superior quality.

Most photographers prefer prime lenses as the quality of the lens is generally better. However, I believe both zooms and prime lenses can be great, and both have their pros and cons. You should therefore go for the one that has your personal preference.

Zoom lenses offer versatility, allowing you to zoom in and out without changing lenses (a good option when you’re starting out). On the other hand, prime lenses have a fixed focal length, which can provide superior image quality and wider apertures for beautiful depth-of-field effects. I personally like to use my prime lens, because it makes me work harder to get a good image.

Don’t forget that when you buy a camera brand that you are buying into their accessory as well. Each brand comes with their own brand ecosystem. This means that you cannot combine a Sony compatible lens with a canon body. So, if you already have access to lenses from an older camera, then it might very well be more economical to stay with the same brand.

6. How do I know this is the right camera for me?

Last but not least make sure you test the top three cameras on your list. You can hire them, or you can go into a physical store to find out how they feel in your hand. For example, to see how easy it is for you to operate them and if you prefer one menu layout over the other.

Saskia Albers family and personal branding photographer and filmmaker with her old Minolta camera in Central London.
With my old Minolta film camera which I bought second hand for £50,-


In the end cameras nowadays are pretty much all amazing. So, I am sure that with any camera you will buy, you will be very happy. And if in doubt then have a look at any camera from the Sony Alpha series, Fujifilm X series and the Canon R series.

But remember: your camera is a tool. You will need to learn about photography to actually take better photos. If you want to be able to photograph in manual mode, then it is important to go for a camera that will allow you to access the controls easily on the camera body and/or lens itself.

Join ‘The Picture Playground’ to take creative control of your images! It’s a beginner’s photography workshop for parents where you will understand your camera’s dials and buttons (manual mode). And learn about how to take great photos of your loved ones by using composition, light and moment to guide you. I’m here to support you on your photography journey!

A few key terms for buying a camera

Focal length – is written on your lens in millimetres (mm). A short focal length of 24mm will give you a wider view and the higher the number (mm) the tighter your view will be. Standard focal lengths I enjoy are 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. If you are buying one lens, then I would go for the 35mm. This to me is a great lens for taking portraits, as well as for photographing in smaller spaces (in your home).

Aperture – Aperture is comparable to the pupil of your eye. The lens of your camera has a hole in it that can get bigger or smaller to let in more or less light. The size of the hole is measured in f-stop. The smaller the f-stop the bigger the hole, and more light will come into the camera. But aperture doesn’t only affect light, but also something called ‘depth of field’. A lens with an f-stop of 1.4 has a narrow depth of field. This will cause the object to be in focus with everything in front and at the back to be blurred. Some photographers really love using low f-stops, but I personally rarely go lower than f2.8.

Sensor – The image sensor is the part of the camera that records the image, reads the colours and the light coming into your camera. There are different sensor sizes. The most common ones in digital cameras are Full-frame APS-C and Micro 4/3. Full-frame sensors are most similar to the standard 35mm film sensors.

Once you’ve bought your camera, then I am sure that you’d love to know how to take creative control of your images! Learn how to use your camera in manual mode and sign up for ‘The Picture Playground’, my beginner’s photography workshop for parents.


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