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So you want a camera? A guide to what is out there and what will be the best for you.




I wanted this to be my first blog post because it was one I could never find when I started. Yes, there are hundreds of videos and blogs about what cameras people recommend and what each type is good for, but not really in the convention scope. It was always the best sports and wildlife camera, the best vlogging camera, the best landscape camera, etc. There wasn’t a ‘best panel photography camera’ or even tips.

Please note this is not your end all be all, and at the end, I will recommend books, YouTube channels, and websites that will help you even more. This is meant to be a starting point. This is also focused on cosplay, portrait, Convention Panel, and concert photography. So I will not be going into video benefits here.

So without further ado here is your guide to different types of cameras and hopefully, this will help you find what is best for you.


Smartphone Cameras


Taken with a Samsung Galaxy FE

Pros

  • Convenience – It is by far the easiest to always have on you. You use your smartphone a lot so also using it for pictures makes it so you only need a few things in your bag for vacations or just out on the town

  • Front-facing camera – The ability to have a front-facing camera so that you can see yourself is something that not all other cameras on this list will have. If you want to capture yourself at the moment this is easier and you know what is in your shot

  • Accessibility to the online world – The photos you take on your phone are jpegs, the most universally accessible and uploadable image format there is. With the internet and social media also already being on your phone you can take a photo and upload it within a single minute.

  • Easier to back up – many services will take the photos you take on your cell phone and will automatically upload them onto a cloud drive so that you won’t lose them. Other cameras on this list require an app or computer to be able to do this process

  • Can bring it anywhere – certain concert halls require people with a bigger camera that do not fit in their pocket to have certain rules and get permission from the talent before they can come in

Taken with a Google Pixel 3a XL

Cons

  • Image quality – no matter how good your phone camera is, it’s not going to beat a high-end DSLR. Usually, smartphone cameras range from 6-16 megapixels while even beginner DSLRs start at 20-26 megapixels. The higher the number is the more detail you are going to have in your image

  • Zoom range – smartphones don’t zoom like DSLR lenses, they use what is called digital zoom. Which just means cropping your image for you. That’s why when you try to zoom in on an actor from far away or your phone it ends up being a mess of pixels and yet people can get photos of birds a mile away on an interchangeable lens camera.

  • Lack of Raw files – now some phones can shoot in RAW but it is not that often. Raw files are all the raw data that is in the photo which means you can bring back shadows or highlights. Jpegs still have the quality they just aren’t as easy as edit.

  • Low light ability – some newer phones are getting better at this but your pictures will still look more grainy and strange on your phone than a more pricey camera.

  • Capturing Motion – higher-end cameras can completely freeze a subject without any motion blur.

Who It’s Good For

  • People who take casual, proximity photos.

  • People who are just documenting you, your friends, and your trips.

  • People who are looking to take fun casual photos of or with people in cosplay.

Who It’s Not Good For

  • People looking for professional quality.

  • People looking for a style of photography that requires zoom (Ex. Convention Panels).

  • People who are interesting in low-light photography.

Recommendations

If you are looking for a new phone and a good camera is what you’re looking for I would recommend

  • Google Pixel 3

  • Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus

  • iPhone XS

Point and Shoot Cameras

Point and Shoots will have many of the same benefits and weaknesses that a phone camera will have. The only places they differ are you get slightly more zoom range but you don’t have the front-facing camera or immediate access to social media. I would recommend this if you don’t like the camera your phone has, but you don’t want to get into higher-end cameras.

Recommendations

  1. Canon PowerShot ELPH 190

  2. Sony RX100

  3. Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II

Bridge Cameras (or superzoom point and shoots)

Taken by Melissa Rothman

These are a subcategory that lay between DSLR and point and shoot. They share the same flaws but they do have a greatly enhanced zoom range, more control over your camera settings, as well as a more ergonomic feel than the boxy point and shoots. Fellow NaN photographer Melissa Rothman uses a camera I would classify as one of these and produces great images.

If you are ok with the low light performance and motion blur this is a great way to get into convention panel photography without breaking the bank

Recommendations

  • Nikon COOLPIX B500

  • Panasonic DC-FZ80K

  • Canon PowerShot SX530

DSLR Interchangeable Lens Cameras


Taken with Nikon d3500 w/ 70-300 mm


Pros

  • Low light ability – depending on how much you are willing to spend on the camera body and lenses you can get amazing shots in low light.

  • Image quality – DSLR cameras usually have 20-45 megapixels and if you get a good lens that will result in images you could print on a massive scale if you wanted or the ability to crop in on that detail you needed.

  • Autofocus – if you want to catch a moving subject these and mirrorless are going t be your best friends. With the right lens, you can get and keep focus for amazing in-focus images.

  • Capturing motion – DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can do something called raising your shutter speed. This makes it so you can freeze even extremely fast things in place and get sharp images as if they were standing still.

  • Zoom range – lens gives you the ability to go as wide as a full fish eyes and as narrow as taking a picture of a deer a half a mile away and all of those images in between.

  • Ability to take RAW images – as I said before. Raws are not needed but if you like to make edits or you are in an extremely dark or bright area they could help you save photos

  • Multiple frames per second – most even beginner DSLRs let you hold down the shutter button and make it so you can snap multiple shots at once, usually around 3-10 frames per second so this is ideal for fast-moving subjects so you can find that perfect angle


Cons


  • Size – with the body, lens, filters, tripods, etc, etc. it is very easy to be carrying a lot of weight around. DSLRs are especially heavy compared to all the other types of cameras on this list. So if you want to lose a little weight but still want a DSLR I would look into a crop sensor camera.

  • Price – even beginner DSLR cameras on not cheap, let alone all the lenses you are going to want to get for it. If you don’t have good financial stability I would recommend looking into lensrentals.com, they let you rent gear for a con weekend and save thousands of dollars if you are only going to use it for that task.

  • Desire to upgrade – if you start at the bottom and you enjoy photography, you are going to find yourself looking for a way to sell your gear and upgrade quicker than you thought.

  • Your viewfinder doesn’t show what your image will look like – a DSLR camera will show you what your frame looks like, but there are settings you have to control that can affect the sharpness and darkness of a photo that you will not see until you look back at your images. So you will have to learn and test how those settings work or use automatic modes to get the images you want.

  • The need to buy lenses – unlike the items on the list before this, there is a lot of extra costs that go into getting an interchangeable lens camera.

  • Complex controls – it will take time and research to figure out how to use your camera well

  • Harder to post on social media – though most modern DSLRs have WiFi or Bluetooth and apps on your phone that can make it so your camera can send your phone images, it is still not as easy as just taking the picture on your phone

Who it’s good for

  • People looking for something to fill all General photography needs, if you want to do a wide range of different photos interchangeable lens cameras are perfect.

  • People who need the higher quality.

  • People who need the ability to freeze motion.

  • People who want to get paid for photography, whether that be portrait or event work or something else will be looking for someone with an interchangeable lens camera not someone with a point and shoot.

Who it’s not good for

  • People on a tight budget – you need at the very least 400 dollars for a decent camera and lens and that cost is going to grow

  • People who only take casual pictures of things close to them to post on social media – it would be cheaper and easier just to keep using your phone

  • People who want to be able to take pictures without any thought beforehand and have it come out the way they see it – interchangeable lens cameras and DSLRs especially take a lot of trial and error.

  • People who don’t like editing photos – while you could just post what the photo looks like I feel like that’s losing part of the reason you invested. It doesn’t have to be giant things but finding what color, contrast, and crop you like can help your photos stand out

Recommended DSLR Bodies

  • Beginner

    • Nikon D3500 (the camera I use :D)

    • Canon SL2


  • Intermediate

    • Canon 80D

    • Nikon D7200


  • Pro

    • Nikon d500

    • Nikon d850

    • Canon EOS 6d Mark II


Recommended DSLR Lenses

Cosplay (and portrait)

  • 35mm f 1.8

  • 50mm f 1.8

    • If you want a good Inexpensive off-brand try Yongnuo


  • 85mm f 1.8

  • 20-700mm f2.8

Con Panels

If you are near the front or middle

  • 70-200mm f2.8

If you are in the back

  • Nikon 200-500mm f5.6

  • Tamron 150-600mm f5-6.3

  • Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3

    • Contemporary (cheaper)

    • Sport (better build quality but more expensive)


If you don’t know where you will be

  • Sigma 60-600mm f4.5-6.3 Sport

Concerts

  • 70-200mm f2.8

  • And if you can get closer to 85mm f1.8



Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras


Taken with Sony A7III w/ 70-200 mm 2.8


Note: I’m only gonna be talking about the Sony mirrorless camera because I don’t know much about the others. Nikon has the Z6 and Z7, Canon has the EOS RP and Fujifilm has a full mirrorless line up but I don’t want to recommend something I don’t know about.

Pros

  • Low light, image quality, capturing motion, zoom range – All of these are the same benefits as DSLRs

  • Superior tracking auto-focus – while most of the auto-focus benefits are the same as the DSLR mirrorless camera has better continuous tracking autofocus. That means you can track the subject and get the frame you want while your camera worries about what it should be focusing on all in real-time

  • Electronic viewfinder – this gets rid of the DSLR problem of not being able to tell how dark or bright your image will be. Since mirrorless cameras don’t have you see through the lens they have you seen through a tiny screen that will show you exactly what your image will look like

  • Higher frames per second – makes mirrorless camera have higher frames per second than DSLRs at the same price points

  • Silent shutter – if you are at a slow song in a concert or people ask for silence for any reason silent shutter will be your best friend. With a press of a button, your camera will be completely silent.

  • Eye AF – this makes it so you can hold down a button you assign it to and it will focus on the subject's eye and keep it in focus. This is incredible for any photos that involve people and can help get in-focus images.

  • Size/weight compared to DSLRs – mirrorless cameras are much lighter and slimmer than many DSLRs

Cons

  • Price – while the body prices are comparable to DSLRs the lens are going to be a little bit more expensive because of the mechanics of the camera

  • size/weight compared to phones and point and shoots – with lens and accessories they are still going to be heavier and bulkier

  • The need to buy lenses – same as DSLR

  • The complexity of camera settings – same as DSLR but helped by the EVF

Who mirrorless cameras are for and who they are not for are the same as DSLRs

Recommended Mirrorless Camera Bodies

  • Beginner

    • Sony a6000 (check out eBay for really amazing deals!)

    • Sony a6300


  • Intermediate

    • Sony a7 III

    • Sony a7R III


  • Pro

    • Sony A9


Recommended Mirrorless Camera Lenses

Note: With the sigma mc-11 adapter You can use any lens that goes on a canon EOS mount so you count also use any of the Canon, Sigma, or Tamron lenses in the DSLR list (Sigma lenses work the best with the sigma adapter)

Cosplay/portrait

  • 70-200mm f2.8

  • 70-200mm f4

  • 35mm f1.8

  • 50mm f1.8

  • 85mm f1.8

Con Panels

Front or middle of the crowd

  • 70-200mm f2.8

  • 100-400 f4.5-5.6

In the back

  • 200-600mm f5.6-6.3

Concerts

  • 70-200mm f2.8

  • 85mm f1.8

  • 24-70 f2.8

So You Want to Learn?

Now I know this is a lot to process for someone completely new to cameras. You can always reach out and I will try and help you as much as I can. If you want other ways here is what has helped me :

Free

YouTube Channels

  • Tony and Chelsae Northrup (reviews, tips, podcasts, live critiques)

  • DPReview (mainly gear reviews)

  • Jared Polin (gear reviews and gear comparisons with a few tutorials )

  • Kai W (funny, lighthearted tips and reviews)

  • Peter Mikonon (Vlogs with tips on a mix of photo and video uses)

Websites

  • Dpreveiw.com

  • DXOMark.com

  • Cameradecision.com

Paid


Books

  • How To Create Stunning Digital Photography by Tony Northrup

  • Digital Photography Complete Course: Learn Everything You Need to Know in 20 Weeks by David Taylor

  • The Beginners Guide To Concert Photography: A Step-By-Step Manual Into The World Of Music Photography by Matthias Hombauer

  • Concert and Live Music Photography: Pro Tips from the Pit by J. Dennis Thomas

  • Cosplay Composition: David Love Photography & Design by David Love


You Made it to The End!

Alright, finally we are at the end of this article. I want you all to be able to take photos and make your mark. I know you all can do it! So take deep breaths and hopefully you now know what camera you wanna get.

Happy shooting everyone!


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