Have a knack for capturing images? Photography might just be the hobby for you. While your phone might be perfectly capable of taking good pictures, there’s still time before it catches up with modern digital cameras.
Getting a digital camera is the first step to take if you want to pursue photography as a hobby. With bigger sensors and more sophisticated shooting functionality than smartphones, a good camera can offer many advantages to people in the beginning of their photography journey.
Choosing one can be overwhelming with the range of options available. Plus, the different specs and technology of different camera models can be confusing for a beginner. So selecting the best camera for hobby photography requires some guidance.
Guidance is exactly what you’ll get in this post. Read on to learn everything you need to know about selecting a digital camera, including the criteria to consider and the best camera brands to choose from.
Why Photography Is a Great Hobby
We feel we need to give some context first on why photography makes good sense for hobby seekers.
Photography is an art that has been around for over a hundred years. Despite humble and expensive beginnings, we have reached a point where almost everyone has access to a good camera. As such, photography has become a popular pastime among millions of people.
But what draws people to choose to take up photography as a hobby? There are many ways it appeals to people, and some of these include the following:
1. It helps create memories
The spirit of photography has endured from its infancy to the modern day – we take photographs to capture memories. Photography’s original purpose was to provide a real slice of time and space. A photograph is a literal window into the past, giving us a glimpse into times and people that are gone.
Whether you’re away on holiday, out for a walk, or celebrating with family, you take photographs to capture the essence of those moments. Everyone who owns a smartphone has a cutting-edge camera in their pocket, which are great for capturing those everyday moments.
However, for a true shutterbug, capturing the perfect shot or arranging a magical image transcends just snapping a moment. The memory of taking photographs of family members during once-in-a-lifetime holidays or moments becomes elevated by the blend of practice and equipment.
Whether you’re the chief photographer of the family or just looking to record what goes on about you, photography as a hobby is all about creating memories.
2. It promotes an active lifestyle
The perfect shot will never come to you. If you have the drive to take pictures, you need to find the things you want to capture. Most people think of photography as vast panoramic pictures or stunning views, which certainly take up part of the subject. But these amazing pictures cannot be taken from within the four walls of your home.
When people take up photography as a hobby, they find it begins to take their place. Many budding photographers will begin to plan trips specifically so they can take pictures. Hiking is a popular pastime with photographers, as a great hiking trail will naturally bring amazing views. Even if you don’t particularly care for walking, the need to get out there and find something beautiful to capture will get you out and about.
It will be different from healthy dieting and regular gym trips, but photography will make a walker out of you. Regular walking will bring with it a much less sedentary lifestyle and better health in general.
3. Using cameras helps you learn
Despite only being around for less than 200 years, it has brought many opportunities for education and learning. Any amateur photographer will find much to learn about their equipment and the history behind their art.
The various ways photography is used offer various fascinating topics to explore, and techniques and concepts evolve all the time. When you take up photography as a hobby, there’s no end to the things you can learn.
4. It is accessible to almost anyone
In photography’s earliest days, the process of creating photographs was complicated. The development could only be done in specialized studios according to set parameters if you didn’t have access to one. The available range of photographic equipment has made the art fully accessible to almost anyone.
Now, thanks to the power of technology, anyone can take photographs and edit and print them to their vision from the comfort of their homes. Also, photography as a hobby is not limited by a person’s age or disabilities. You don’t even need to be able to hold a camera anymore, as aides exist to help make that possible. Technology has reached a point where even the blind can enjoy the art of creating photographs.
5. It is fun
More than any other benefit photography offers, those with the shutterbug will tell you the same thing: taking pictures is fun. It doesn’t matter if you are an active photographer, traveling the world to capture images of things people rarely see, or just your family photographer. You’ll no doubt enjoy planning and taking pictures, seeing your vision come to life from the world around you.
What keeps photographers coming back to the lens over and over is the sheer joy they feel whenever they hear that click.
What to look for when buying a camera
And that you understand the benefits of pursuing the hobby of photography, let’s talk about the core of it: the camera.
Choosing the perfect digital camera for your hobby is a challenging task. If you go into any technology or camera store looking for your first camera, there’s no doubt you’ll be overwhelmed by the choices. Now, dozens of companies are producing cameras, and hundreds of makes, models, and purposes for each one.
The simplest way of knowing what you need is to know what you intend to do. When you’re just starting your new hobby, you’ll have a vague idea of what you hope to achieve. Take some time to consider your goals and what you’d like to try, and use the following tips to help you decide what you need to begin with.
Before you start researching cameras, you must first consider these three things:
1. What is your budget?
2. What kinds of equipment will you need?
3. What type of photography will you be pursuing?
When you know the answer to these questions, you can look at the cameras themselves.
Be realistic with your budget. If you cannot afford to drop $1,000 on a hobby you’re starting, then don’t. There’s no minimum price when it comes to setting out on a journey of photography, so wait to aim for the sky immediately. These days, many people begin their hobby simply with the camera built into their phones, while others will use older tech that has dropped in price significantly.
This is not to say that the more expensive equipment is not better – by virtue of technological advancement, the more modern a camera is, the better it will function. Remember: a camera will have several functions you won’t know how to use initially. With time and practice, you will discover and understand these things, so your first (and even second or third) camera will not need everything. But do you need the latest and greatest gear if you don’t know the fundamentals?
Set your budget and look at cameras at the lower end of it. You will find everything you need in an affordable range and can always save up to upgrade your gear when you’re fully invested.
Cameras come in a variety of sizes and shapes. You will probably have seen the blockier designs of larger cameras, but it bears noting that their size also brings a good deal of weight. You’ll need to be able to comfortably hold and manage your camera while you use it and get it to wherever you’re shooting. For example, the Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 and Nikon Coolpix B500 are quite compact and easy to carry.
Camera carry cases are abundant, but the amount you’ll have to carry will vary depending on the camera size. The more equipment you have, the more you must carry around. If you have no way of lugging your gear around, you’ll need to consider smaller equipment that can be transported easily. The same is true of any other accessories, such as lenses and tripods, that you might invest in.
You’ll likely have a good idea of what subjects you wish to capture during your photographic expeditions. The subjects you want will affect the kinds of equipment you’ll need, so consider the following:
- If you’re interested in landscape photography, you won’t need much additional equipment beyond the camera. A tripod might be necessary for certain shots, but you won’t need a dozen different lenses. Some excellent choices for this photography type are Nikon D600 and Canon EOS Rebel T7i. These DSLRs come with an impressive dynamic range for challenging high-contrast photography.
- Portrait photography, in which you focus on one or more subjects, will need a small variety of lenses and at least one type of tripod. You will also need to consider indoor and night equipment, such as flashes. If you’re looking to take up portrait photography, your camera options include the likes of Panasonic LUMIX G85 and Canon EOS RP. Canon’s offering includes a wide range of AF modes, which should help you capture the colors and details of the subject effectively.
- Wildlife photography becomes even more complicated in its needs as you’ll find you need more than just lenses. If you’re trying to capture moving or far away subjects, the types of cameras you need will differ from ones that can capture sitting birds or livestock.
- If you’re more of an outdoor sports person, high-speed cameras are a must for capturing moving subjects. In sports involving water, considerations will need to be made for protecting your equipment. Most cameras are not designed for being used around water, but action cameras such as GoPro Hero Black 11 are specifically designed for it.
First purchase considerations
When buying a digital camera for the first time, you’ll want to analyze the essential features (features that really matter in a camera). Here’s what to look at:
Image quality is measured in megapixels, the number of pixels each picture is made up of. The higher the megapixel count, the cleaner the image.
Another thing people need to remember to consider is whether they wish to take video with their cameras. Since not all DSLR cameras are made with a video mode, you’ll have to choose one that does if you want that feature.
ISO determines the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to light. Ideally, you should aim for a digital camera with ISO 1600 or above. Don’t go too high with the ISO, as that usually brings grainer photos and loud noise. Hobbyist photographers can shoot in darker areas without a flash by increasing the sensor sensitivity.
Good photography requires proper focus. Focus is what draws a viewer’s eye to the area where you want them to pay attention. So, make sure to evaluate the quality of a camera’s autofocus system before making a purchase. Does it focus accurately? Does it focus on something that’s far? Answering these questions should help you choose the right camera for your needs.
Even though you can use a tripod, it’s good to have image stabilization in your camera to reduce blurriness, vibration, and shaking. Look for “optical image stabilization”, which is present in the camera lens or body.
FPS (Frames per second)
Frames per second is how many images the camera can shoot per second. If you want to shoot fast action events or sports, get a camera with a higher fps (frames per second) capability.
Shorter focal lengths are ideal for shooting at a close range, while a longer focal length offers more depth-of-field control and a wider field view.
You also need to make a few important personal considerations, which will help determine what kind of camera you need. These are more to do with you physically, what your capabilities and accessibility needs are.
For these, you should consider the following:
1. How big are your hands?
The size of your hands will affect what kind of camera you can hold. The button layouts are designed to fit certain hand spans, so it’s only ideal if you can comfortably hold or use it. If you’ve got big hands, cameras like Kodak Z95 and Fujifilm HS10 offer extended grips and a little more surface for comfortable holding.
2. Are you just starting? Or are you already seasoned in photography?
Each type of camera comes with a different level of complexity. Buying an extremely complicated camera is optional when you’re just starting. Stick to what you know and remember; you will learn as you go and can always upgrade later.
3. What kinds of things do you want to photograph?
Photographing landscapes may not require the same kind of camera as shooting a wedding will. Some cameras cannot capture high-speed subjects like racecars, and others are made to withstand the elements. What you want to photograph will help determine whether you need a DSLR, a high-speed camera, or a GoPro.
4. How much control do you want over your pictures?
Compact cameras like Kodak FZ43-BK and OLYMPUS Tough TG-6 are designed to be almost fully automatic, whereas DSLRs require a lot of manual control. If you want to aim and shoot, you won’t want one who cannot do that. However, if you want to learn the ins and outs of creating your perfect image, you’ll want something that gives you the freedom to experiment.
5. Do you want to stick to one camera or upgrade later?
Even if your budget is small, there’s plenty of chances for you to save for something bigger and better. You want to save a thousand dollars on something you’ll replace in six months, just as you wouldn’t want to spend $200 on a camera you’ll use for a decade.
Types of cameras
Cameras come in many types, each with specific uses and sets of features. Some types are less ideal for those just starting, and others offer a much smoother learning curve. When choosing a camera type, you’ll have access to the following:
Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR)
A camera captures images based on the light that travels through its lens. A DSLR camera will record what you see through the lens. These cameras are the most common, as they have evolved from classic analog SLR cameras. However, they tend to be bigger, as they follow traditional design traits, making them heavier to transport and handle. As such, they are a great option for beginners and professionals alike.
DSLRs will have all the basic features of a digital camera, though many won’t offer video as an option due to the nature of their shutters and design. These are ideal for capturing still images of stationary subjects and offer various interchangeable lenses.
The Nikon D3500 is a great DSLR for hobby photography. It comes with a 3-inch LCD, 24 megapixels camera, and a native ISO range of 100-25600 (this is excellent). Canon’s 77D or 80D should also work just fine.
These are some of the simplest designs of cameras around. Known as “Point and Shoot” cameras, compact cameras are easy to use and small in design. Generally, they are no bigger or heavier than a cell phone. Compact cameras offer all the features of a DSLR and basic additions such as video modes and built-in flashes.
They have one built-in lens that cannot be changed or replaced, so you will be limited in zoom and shot widths. However, they are more technically advanced and will offer a different kind of high-quality image than a good DSLR.
For hobby photography, the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III is a great compact camera. Its controls are fitted at the ideal spots, and its dials offer a hassle-free operation. You also get a 16-megapixel sensor and a great ISO range.
Mirrorless cameras strip out some of the hardware in bulkier DSLRs to create smaller, lighter devices. They are ideal for photographers looking to travel a lot, as they are easier to carry about and use at a moment’s notice. Their biggest drawback is their poor battery life, and if you enjoy the feel of a DSLR as part of your experience, this will be missing, too.
A great mirrorless camera option is Canon M50. It boasts a 24-megapixel mirrorless APS-C camera, which is terrific for such a compact offering. More options include the Sony Alpha a6400, Fujifilm X-S10, and Nikon Z5.
As the name suggests, bridge cameras offer a middle ground between DSLR and compact cameras in terms of complexity and utility. They allow users to switch out their lenses and provide the precision of DSLR manual controls without weight or size. They also offer an LCD screen without a viewfinder, like mirrorless and most compact cameras.
Digital camera accessories you might need
Once you have decided on which type of camera to get, it’s time to consider what accessories you’ll need to go with it. A good photographer will only leave the house with a host of tools and extras. Other items are great to have but only necessary for some.
These are the number one must-have for every photographer, hobbyist, or professional. No one wants to risk damage to or loss of their equipment, and a good carry case is a key to preventing this. Most will come with enough space for other essentials – such as a battery and memory card – while others are designed for more heavy-duty work. A good case like Nanuk 935 Waterproof is a vital accessory regardless of how much or how little you carry with you.
We’ve all felt that frustration caused by discovering the batteries powering our devices are dead. Imagine traveling dozens of miles to a beautiful hiking trail to capture some breathtaking shots of nature, only to find your camera battery dead. This situation is real but easily counteracted by having at least one spare camera battery. Most cameras have easily replaceable rechargeable batteries, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping a spare or two on hand.
This won’t matter early on in your photographic journey, as it is only advisable to worry a little about them once you’re a little more experienced. However, when you know your desired artistic output will require a little more nuance, you’ll want to splash out on an extra lens or two. Lenses change how much or how little your camera can capture. Zoom lenses like NIKON NIKKOR Z 24-70mm give a greater range to how far away you can snap your subject, while wide lenses increase the width of your picture’s range. Other specialist lenses, such as micro, macro, and fisheye, exist for more specific purposes.
Tripods exist to hold your camera at a stable height and angle, keeping it steady while you shoot. Tripods are ideal for landscape or portrait photography, as they help keep your subjects in view without being affected by your natural hand movements.
Thanks to digital technology, analog film is a thing of the past, as all digital cameras use memory cards to store your shots. Keeping an extra card or two handy is essential if you’re planning for long or extensive shoots. When you’re on the go, you’ll be less able to download your snaps to a computer, so extra cards are the best way to keep yourself going.
While some photographers use a simple microfiber cloth to keep their gear clean, you can never go wrong with a proper cleaning kit. Maintaining your gear is essential to its longevity, so it’s a good idea to keep lens wipes and cloths handy, at the very least. VSGO VS-S02-E APS-C is great for cleaning your camera’s sensor. You can also find cleaning kits for DSLRs with ease.
Best Camera Brands
Canon is one of the most respected names in the photographic industry. They pioneered the use of 35mm film in the mass market and were one of the biggest sellers of cameras in the 70s and 80s. With almost 100 years of industry experience and innovation, their cameras are reliable and respectable for both veteran and beginner photographers. Some good Canon cameras for hobbyist photographers are Canon EOS Rebel T7 and Canon EOS REBEL SL3. Both have a 9-point AF system and many more useful features.
Olympus cameras were a mainstay of classic analog technology that lasted. Their tightly designed and brilliantly made cameras still run to this day. While they still produce DSLR cameras, their compacts are great for photographers of all skill levels. In recent years, they have focused more on compact cameras, creating popular items like the Olympus Pen E-PL10.
Nikon is the yin to Canon’s yang. These two camera giants have grown side-by-side throughout the last hundred years, driving each other to create the best cameras out there. For each Canon EOS camera, Nikon has provided one of their D series. When choosing, you can’t go wrong with models like D3400 and D61
Much of the technology industry is dominated by Sony brand electronics, and the camera industry is now no different. Though they are relatively new to it compared to Canon and Nikon, Sony has managed to carve out its niche. Their focus on digital technology makes Sony almost unrivaled regarding mirrorless cameras. Its Alpha A6000 is a great entry point for any budding photographer, while Sony’s compacts are perfect for family get-togethers and holidays.
Kodak’s original claim to fame was their world-famous film stock. Back in the day, pictures were often known instead as “kodaks” due to the ubiquity of their stock. They still exist today and have even begun their range of affordable compact digital cameras. They’re solid, reliable, and a great place to start with simple photography. Some of Kodak’s best offerings include the AZ401-WH PIXPRO and AZ362-BK4.
GoPro made a name for itself by focusing mainly on action photography. Their unique selling point is cameras that are made for the outdoors. Waterproof and dirt-proof, GoPro is a number one choice for cyclists, surfers, sailors, and even skydivers for its versatility. Most come with straps and catches to allow them to be mounted to you for a first-person perspective on any extreme sport. GoPro’s Hero 11 is an excellent choice for talking action shots while doing any activity.
Polaroid has developed a unique presence in the world of photography. Their range of instant cameras has made them well-renowned for both nostalgic and modern reasons. Their Polaroid Go, and Polaroid Now ranges are great compacts that provide as much joy from instant snaps as they always have. Since most of their focus is on the iconic Polaroid 600, people forget they still have a place in digital photography.
As you can see, several camera brands and types can be suitable for a hobbyist photographer. However, you’ll have to make some technical and personal considerations before throwing money at a specific camera. Make sure to consider the ISO, megapixels, Autofocus, and image stabilization, along with budget and what you’ll be shooting to choose the best option for your needs.Most of the cameras we’ve mentioned are available below $1500 (and some below $500), so you shouldn’t need to stretch your budget to fulfill your passion for photography. Cameras like Nikon D3500 and Alpha A6000 come from proven brands, so you’ll likely be able to use them for several years as you pursue your new hobby.