Beginners Camera Guide 2019

– Daniel Bilsborough. Founder of the Djb Photography School

2 minute read

My goal is to help you choose a camera that allows you to maximise your ability to learn photography as fast as possible while producing imagery that you can be proud of.

Why would you even listen to me?

Hi! I’m Daniel, photographer and founder of the djb photography school. Before you read on take a look at my travel photography portfolio here: If you like my work then I think you’ll enjoy the educational material here. If not, that’s ok!

Today, if you’re interested in learning photography it’s only worth buying a camera at a certain price point. Your camera phones can do so much! If you’re looking at spending the least amount of money to learn the most about photography then please read on.

What do I mean by “a camera that allows you to learn the most?”

Any digital camera that has manual mode. You can change lenses. DSLR, mirrorless or micro 4/3rds. The camera itself has reasonably high ISO handling, I consider that to be around the ISO 6400 mark. One good lens that allows you to adequately experiment with shallow depth of field. No zooming, just one single focal length prime lens. Don’t use the kit lenses! You may as well be using your phone.


Nikon D3200, D3300, 3400 + Nikon 35mm F1.8G
(New or used, total price under $580AU.)

Nikon D3500 + Nikon 35mm F1.8G.
(Better camera body, total price under $750AU.)

Other Considerations

Sony RX100 MkIII.
Tiny, portable, manual mode, good lens. But a tad expensive at $700, can’t change lenses, high noise at 6400 ISO.

Sony E Mount mirrorless range.
Great cameras, reasonably small, large variety of lens choices. Sigma 16mm F1.4 Art is an excellent lens and is only available for Sony E mount and micro 4/3 cameras. $595AU. Sigma 30mm F/1.4 DC Art also excellent choice, available on Canon, Nikon and Sony. $480AU. For a Sony camera and good lens your minimum spend is around $900AU.

Canon APS-C.
One advantage of choosing the Canon system is that all Canon EF lenses have in-lens motors. This means that there is no need to think about the compatibility of lenses with your Canon camera body. Every EF lens will work with every Canon body (99% of the time). With the Nikon range some camera body’s do not work with some lenses. When I say “do not work” I mean the lens will be manual focus only. So some Nikon lenses rely on the camera body to have an AF (autofocus) motor inside them. This means that we need to spend more on a camera body or lens to make sure the camera can autofocus! This is not the case with Canon.

However, the problem with the Canon range for beginners is that I couldn’t find a good value 30mm-35mm prime lens. There’s the Canon 35mm F2.0 for $900. The Sigma 30mm F/1.4 DC Art for $480 and the Canon 28mm F/1.8 for $620. The Nikon 35mm F1.8G is just $250. Your only option with Canon is the Canon 50mm F1.8. For me this focal length is too long for everyday use.

The Nikon DX selection.
Any Nikon DSLR body that is a D3xxx or D5xxx does not have an in-camera AF motor. So if you buy a D3200, 3300, 3400, 3500, 5400, 5500, 5600 you can only use lenses that have an AF motor in the lens itself. The Nikon 35mm F1.8G is one of the best value good quality prime lenses with a built-in autofocus motor. It is also one of the cheapest lenses I’ve seen that offers you a 50mm “as the eye can see” full frame equivalent focal length. This one lens makes the Nikon range of cameras extremely appealing to beginners. Much more so that anything else I’ve seen.

What about micro 4/3 cameras?

Here’s my issue with any camera that has a sensor size which is smaller than APS-C: It’s basically impossible to find a lens that offers sufficiently shallow depth of field for you to experiment with. I believe one of the biggest reasons to buy a camera in the first place is so that you CAN experiment with a nice blurry background. Have you seen “portrait mode” on your iPhone? There the shallow DOF is created using software. It’s not the same. Yet.

In general, the smaller the sensor size the more difficult it is to achieve a shallow depth of field. The biggest the sensor size, the easier it is. That’s why camera phones use software to replicate shallow DOF – they’re sensor sizes are tiny!

What About Fuji and Olympus?

One reason – they’re expensive! For example the Olympus M Zuiko 17mm f1.2 Pro will cost you $1200. For one lens! You pay more for high quality lenses that are small. If you’re happy to increase your budget for a lighter, better looking camera that performs equally as well then have a look at these two brands. Similarly, the Canon and Nikon mirrorless systems aren’t cheap. You’re paying more for a smaller size and weight.

No limit on dollars?

If you’re simply after a great value full frame camera that doesn’t hold you back in any way, check out the Nikon D750 and Nikon 35mm F1.4G lens.

What not to buy?

Stay away from kit lenses! That means the usual 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses. Buy the camera body only and don’t be tempted by “wow 2 lenses for only $100 more” BS. Your phone camera will produce better images than these two lenses. Save your money and put that into a good quality lens that you’ll be able to re-sell when you’re ready to move on :)

Did I miss something? Let me know!

97 Google reviews – We do one thing very well. 4 students every week.

Most Saturday mornings in Melbourne we teach beginners about travel photography on our 3 hour DSLR and mirrorless express photography courses. You can come along if you like! Learn how to use your camera in manual mode! But really… don’t take my word it. Read the google reviews, we work super hard to give our students the best possible photography education experience in the world. Yes… In. The. World. Our photography teaching methodology has evolved over 8 years with 1092 students from all over the planet. $149 per student and you’re guaranteed to understand shutter speed, aperture, ISO and manual mode.

btw hi I’m Daniel! My photography has been featured in National Geographic Traveler magazine and I’m the founder of the Djb Photography School. I teach people how to improve their photography skills as fast as possible.

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