What do you do? Where do you start? Do you ask your Great Aunt who was a photographer in the 90’s what cameras to consider?

In this day and age, the world of cameras is constantly evolving, which is why we recommend talking to the professionals (hi! that’s us!). Your local camera store is perhaps the best resource for guidance on purchasing a camera as a gift.

If this is your first venture into the world of digital imaging, it can be overwhelming the amount of information that is floating around. It is best to understand a few things about cameras and the industry as a whole.

First, the “best” camera will always be the one that motivates a person to use it, regardless of the specs. Before you dive into a world of frame rates and ISO values, think about the person you are buying for and what might energize them to take pictures. For some, the picture taking process is most enjoyable when you don’t have to go home and edit to get the desired look. There are cameras that produce JPEGs that are beautiful right out of camera, and some cameras that capture a lot of data to use for editing purposes. If your loved one likes digital arts and manipulation, you might want the megapixels above all else.

Second, the camera industry is in a period of change right now. We’ve seen this before, when the shift was made from film to digital SLRs. Now, those single lens reflexes are being removed from the equation and being replaced by more technologically advanced cameras called “mirrorless” cameras. There are several advantages to mirrorless cameras, including but not limited to: reduced size and weight, improved image quality, and superior autofocus tracking. This is not to discredit the validity of entry level DSLRs, as they are still more budget friendly and still perform very well, but there is a high likelihood of mirrorless cameras fully replacing DSLRs. In the future, lenses and support will be more readily available for mirrorless cameras. This is when you ask yourself: are you setting someone up to grow upon the foundation you lay for them or are you gifting a toy for casual use?

Here are some things to consider before going in to help us best help you:

  • What kind of photography is your loved one interested in? Are they a budding videographer?
    • Some cameras are better suited for portraits while some are better suited for wildlife. Most mirrorless cameras have improved autofocusing technology and image quality, so you won’t necessarily have to make compromises in one way or another if you go that route. However, landscape photographers will need many more megapixels than your average portrait photographer.
    • Videographers look for a different set of specs than photographers. Some cameras are considered “hybrid” cameras, meaning they are ideal for switching back and forth between stills and video. If they express interest in videography, they might have a need for an articulating screen and HDMI ports, among other things.
  • Is this a new hobby or an upgrade on existing gear?
    • Often times when people are shopping for a camera for Christmas, it is for a young family member who has expressed interest in learning how to take pictures. There is a whole market of beginner cameras for this express purpose. If it is their first camera, remember that accessories are essential! Cameras are not ready for a beginner straight out of the box. They will need a memory card, a bag, an extra battery, and protection for the screen and lens.
    • If it is an upgrade: come prepared to answer questions about their existing gear and their photography goals. Are they looking to replace their camera with something familiar or something on the cutting edge? Do they have brand loyalty to the system that they are using? What do they like and dislike about what they are using now? Do they already have their heart set on a camera? If they know what they want, get them that. New camera gear can get very personal for the professionals or even the advanced enthusiast.
  • Are you on a budget?
    • As mentioned before, there are certainly options for budget friendly entry-level cameras! My favorite resource to recommend for budgeting is DPReview’s buying guide. This guide breaks down cameras and lenses by budget and brand, giving you a good idea of what is available in your price range.
    • Used gear can be very helpful for people on a budget that do not want to compromise on quality and performance. Make sure you are buying your used gear from a reputable source (aka your beloved local camera store). Gear that we take in for trade is inspected thoroughly and warrantied for 90 days after purchase, that way you do not have to worry about things going wrong.
    • If you are on an extreme budget and still want to support your photographer, there are several options for photography related gifts that don’t break the bank. Upgrade their phone camera with phone lenses! Give a comfy camera strap! Did you know that Fujifilm still makes their Instax cameras? Knowledge can be more valuable than gear, so try a book all about photography!

When it comes down to it, the gift of photography is an incredible one. In any way, shape, or form. If you are shopping for a camera as a gift, please feel free to come in or call us for advice.

Photo by Jim Kalligas on Unsplash