Choosing a camera to start photography

Welcome back to !

My advice was sought so many times on this particular subject. Just like the article about Ebay shopping in Mauritius, I hope that this article will bring some more light into your lives ๐Ÿ™‚

Some months ago, owning a DSLR (Digital single-lens reflex) camera was considered as a privilege, reserved for the rich ones. Mauritians can now acquire the entry level camera D3000 for as low as Rs20, 000 (VAT inclusive). DSLRs are now part of our daily life, they are now everywhere…

Impressed by the wonderful shots captured by Mauritians around us, many among us are tempted to go for a camera but unfortunately, we end up asking ourselves if investing all of our savings in a good camera will really be worth. After all, we are talking about spending over 20k, at least to start with the basic camera and lens.

As a student, it is kindda difficult to go to your parents and convince them by saying “Pa/Ma, mo envie aster 1 camera Rs20, 000” or even as an independent person, spending thousands of bucks on a camera is quite a big deal.

Today, I am writing this article with one main point in mind : A LIMITED BUDGET, putting myself in your shoes.

Features you should look for

Let’s forget about the small compact or the bulky camera for a few minutes…

If you want to step into digital photography, you should start avoiding to switch your camera to the “Automatic” mode. Instead, you should progressively learn how to control the amount of light and the time duration during which the light enters the camera, the sensitivity among others. Technically, you will be playing with the Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO settings. Hopefully, I might come up with detailed articles to demonstrate each of these mentioned words very soon. [Update : It seems that I already wrote something about some of the points above, have a look at this post]

So, while choosing a camera, you should make sure that you can control/have on the camera :

  • Aperture
    It is a measure for the wideness of the lens opening, thus controlling the amount of light entering the camera.
  • Shutter Speed
    The amount of time during which light is allow to enter the camera’s sensor. You will need shutter speeds of several seconds in order to be able to shoot trailing lights along roads while you will need extremely short shutter speed if you want to shoot water droplets.
  • ISO
    The sensitivity of the camera’s sensor.
  • Viewfinder
    The small opening at the back of the camera which allows you to view what you are shooting.
  • Built in flash
  • Image stabilization/Vibration Reduction.
    This one helps in low light conditions.
  • Macro mode
    This mode allows you to shoot much closer to the object as in normal mode.
    A side note : a normal basic camera lens of a DSLR (Nikorr 18-55 VR for example) has a minimum shooting distance of about 0.28m, i.e. the camera will not focus on objects which lie under that distance. My 70-300 Tamron lens allows me to shoot at 1.5m in normal mode while in macro mode, I can be at a nearest distance of 0.9m only from my subject.
  • Memory Card and reader
    You should get a memory card of a decent size. 2GB might be the minimum nowadays. A memory card reader is optional here but do note that transfer speeds are usually higher if you connect your card to your computer using a reader.

Remember, do not fight over the number of megapixels. I don’t think that most of you will be printing your shots for your family album or even posting billboard-sized printouts.


Optionally, you can go for the following features:

  • Recording Movies
    You should not forget that you are looking for a camera to make photos. If you really want to shoot video, go for a camcorder instead, it might offer more options for a lower price!
  • Live View
    The live view allows you to see what you are shooting using the LCD at the back of the camera, just like in compact (point and shoot) cameras. However, do take note that in Live View mode, things turn out to be much slower, focusing can turn out to be a real pain.
  • RAW
    Cameras usually save the processed images in JPEG Format. On the other hand, a RAW shot contains all the data captured when the shot was taken. This allows the photographer to access unprocessed values, thus modifying them at his will.
  • Time lapse/Interval shooting
    This feature allows you to automatically take a shot at a regular interval. You can then turn these sequence of images into a nice movie like the one I have here.
  • Continuous shooting
    Ever pressed the shutter button 1/2 a second before the actual time? In continuous shooting mode, the camera can take several shots per second when the button is pressed.
  • Spare Rechargeable batteries
    The recent cameras now come with rechargeable batteries, specifically designed for the camera model. It costs less than AA or AAA alkaline batteries or even, rechargeable AA/AAA batteries and I believe that they might be more effective for camera use.

Should you really wait for the latest model?

Do you (or your parents) wait for the latest BMW or Mercedes model to be announced so that you can go to purchase it?

Unless you already own a camera, I do not advise anyone to wait for some camera model to be announced for a few reasons :

  • You do not really need to the latest camera model to learn photography.
  • You probably won’t find any difference between a camera offering a video mode of 720p or 1024p, except for the price. As I said, you are most probably looking to buy a camera for still photography not for shooting videos.
  • New stuffs usually cost more and the price of previous models will be most probably reviewed.

And finally, by the time this new item is onto the shelves in Mauritius, another model can probably be announced by either the same manufacturer or a competitor.

Will you wait for that new one to be available too?

So, if anyone advises you to wait for a new model to be announced and you are especially tight on budget, you know what you should do.

And what zoom should I go for ?

Everyone dreams of a camera which can shoot as close as a few cms to get the minute details of an insect’s eyes and also, do some paparazzi work in order to grab a nice portrait of a “zoli 35” sitting 500meters away, using the same camera and lens.

Unfortunately, we live in a real world and these are rarely possible with limited budget. Point and shoot cameras usually offer a 3-5x zoom and may additionally offer digital zoom, which is completely useless in a digital camera. On the other hand, zoom on DSLRs depends on the lens attached to it. The most common basic kit lens offered with cameras nowadays are about 3x. You can read more about this in an article in which I demonstrate and talk about the power of lenses.

If you are really planning to invest into a DSLR, I would highly recommend you to spend a few thousand bucks for a higher zoom lens instead of the basic 18-55 lens, just as I did a few months ago.

My 18-55 VR lens for sale

As I just mentioned, I went for a 18-105 lens recently. Since then, my kit lens, a nikkor 18-55mm VR lens is carefully packed and stored, waiting for someone to take it away. A similar unused lens usually costs around Rs6k in Mauritius and around $150 on ebay (shipping, customs charge included).

I can offer my lens at half the price or even less. It comes together with a free UV Filter and a free lens hood. So, instead of buying a camera with a brand new 18-55 lens, you can go for mine at a much cheaper price. Feel free to contact me.

The last words…

Bridge cameras are usually more interesting. They are available at very affordable prices while offering more or less the same features of a DSLR. The zoom on these cameras can go up to 20x and I can tell you that 20x on a DSLR costs a lot of money, I really mean A LOT!

For info, I previously owned a 5MP second hand bridge camera before I took the decision to invest into my D5000 camera. You should also keep in mind that if you go for a DSLR, that might not be your final purchase. After nearly 1 year, I ended up spending twice the initial amount allocated to photography. Photography is a costly hobby, so be careful in your setting your budget.

To end this article, I will advise you to go for something within your budget because at the end of the day, you are the one paying, not the guy who’s asking you to wait for a model which has not yet been announced.

30 thoughts on “Choosing a camera to start photography

Add yours

  1. Epic useful post. Helpful tip on the bridge cameras. I’ve heard a lot on those Ds but a bridge camera does look useful after reading the last bit. At least, for someone who has a tight budget & is still new to photography. Thanks for the tips, very helpful indeed. ๐Ÿ™‚


  2. This is interesting, loads of information here. Yeah, my tendency is to leave my digital camera (Panasonic DMC-FX33) in iA intelligent auto mode. I should experiment in manual mode to get a feel for real photography.


  3. nice article,, for me a bridge is better to start (its not difficult on dslrs, but without approximate values you’ll end up your shutter cycle) lol .. a decent camera for me would be a bridge having 2.8 or less as maximum aperture and atleast 10X zoom ๐Ÿ™‚ .. an external shoe on the bridge would really be appreciated but i don’t know if it really exists .. lol .. btw megapixels won’t make any difference once you press the shutter ๐Ÿ˜‰


  4. At the expense of being bashed and beaten up by the camera addicts, I honestly think that most people owning a DSLR buy one only to brag around with it. All they needed in fact was just a point and shoot camera. Most people do not even care about the quality of shoot as long as it captures the moment. And that is all about photography. A camera is used to capture a moment. However, some will say that for capturing the beauty of the moment, you should have a good DSLR camera.

    I would simply say that the time you will take adjusting the ISO, aperture etc.. The moment will have passed and you wouldn’t even have seen it since you were adjusting your camera. So, unless you are doing pictures of models, or taking pictures to be put onto billboards, just go to the nearby shop, get yourself a camera around rs2-6000.. a budget most mauritians wouldn’t have to think twice or look for online advices to buy a camera and start shooting your nice pictures.

    “A good picture is in the end not taken from a good camera but from a good photographer “, Ashfaq. K, 2010.
    A good photographer will most of the times take wonderful pictures with a simple camera “jetable” of rs300. More than half of the pictures which have been classified as “the top pictures of the year” were most of times taken with camera of less quality than yashvin’s.. no offense .. but this is the truth.. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Neways, my ending word .. Just keep it real ! Buy something with some money which you do not have to save months .. Take pictures, put them on internet, print them, .. whatever you want , .. They will remain pictures.. The memories remain with you till you die .. not the pictures..


  5. @ashfaq: lol, it seems that you have never shot using a DSLR, or most probably, you have not been correctly exposed and trained to enjoy the pleasure and features of a DSLR.

    Without a good experience handling DSLRs, I find it totally fake to say, I quote “I would simply say that the time you will take adjusting the ISO, aperture etc.. The moment will have passed and you wouldnรขโ‚ฌโ„ขt even have seen it since you were adjusting your camera.

    Still, I would like to know the sources where you read that 1/2 the cameras etc…

    Finally, I would like to hear Carrot’s point on view on your comment…


  6. @ashfaq,

    It is quite literally the complete opposite of what you said. DSLRs have buttons and dials for every setting (ISO, aperture etc..) making it very fast to adjust settings, unlike a point and shoot where you only have 2 buttons to control everything (that’s if you can control anything at all).
    The focus system on a DSLR is also much much faster than any point and shoot. Even a cheapo lense will focus faster than a P&S.
    The picture quality from a DSLR cannot be compared to a cheap P&S; the pixel density is usually 10x less (bigger sensor with same pixel count) resulting in much less noise, better depth of field etc.
    Lastly, and I think the most important aspect, the time between being switched on to taking a picture is 1.5sec tops, a P&S would take at least twice that.

    In the end I do agree that a good camera in the hands of a crap photographer will not result in better pictures, might even be worse with all the manual controls.


  7. @ashfaq: @Yashvin:
    The camera does not make the photographer. & it applies both ways. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Regardless of whether you have a DSLR, bridge or P&S, if you have this passion of photography, the good pictures will come out naturally.

    DSLRs vs P&S – Bigger sensor, manual control, better low-light performance vs portability, cheap, easy to use & better at capturing on the spur of the moment. Each to his own. ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. Get the D3100. The best DSLR for the price, has even 1080p recording!!
    D5000 is not worth anymore, considering the awesome D3100 only around $800.


  9. btw @ashfaq : pa blier, lor n’importe ki dslr ena mode Automatic .. so si zamais ena pou shoot ene moment ,, nek ena pou vire dial e autofocus .. li pou pran moins letemps ki ena p&s ki pou autofocus …


  10. update

    Courts is currently offering a nice camera that would be great for learning photography @ 8k.

    The canon powershot sx120is. The only “con” thing is that it doesnt have a viewfinder but it features aperture, shutter and manual mode ๐Ÿ™‚


  11. Thanks for this great article!! Keen to learn photography but indeed budget is a constraint. Any beginners model to advise me? in Mru?


    1. @Aerrow : Yeah, as you noticed, the budget determines which camera you can afford. You don’t necessarily need to have the latest model to learn photography. Any camera will do, as long as you can control light.

      It is a bit difficult for me to advise a specific model, but if you can first of all visit the local shops and then tell us what models are in your budget, we can surely advise you which one suits your purpose. That’s the best thing to do.


  12. Guys, mo pu pas commande Nikon cameras soon la, kuma mo fini gagne imP clien ki sure pu pran.

    Mo compagnie fek vin 1 authorised nikon dealer, 1 accord parย Nikon Corporationย Czech.Mai faute de finance ek akoz demande boku investissement, mo pa p amenE pu gard en stock.
    nou pu van lor international price mem, mai seulment pu ena VAT added to it, sa pa kav barE.
    mo penC li pu moins cher ki lor ebay, koz customs here pu pran zot 60% valeur camera la, ek lorla bizin calcule shipping.
    Si zt envi kon kit prix pu kit Nikon/ Nikkor product, zt kav request lor sa paz la:


  13. There are a few technical things you didn’t mention, so I’ll just add a few comments here:

    – Megapixels don’t count, sensor size does. So, your 14 Megapixels point-and-shoot will not hold long against a 8 Megapixels DSLR in terms of quality. Also, jumping from 10 MP to 12 MP is not worth it. Jumping from 10 to 14 is, if you are making gigantic prints of your photos, which most entry-level photographers won’t.

    – RAW is a must. It’s too easy to mess up exposure. RAW will allow you to correct those in post-processing.

    – Second-hand equipment is worth checking for DSLRs unless you’re extremely rich. So don’t scoff at used equipment. Investigate, check them out on Ebay etc. If you think the quality is Excellent or Near Mint, those equipment would be worth almost as good as new ones, but will cost cheaper. Sometimes, a LOT cheaper. Especially older lenses, for example, EF series for Canon.

    – Aperture of Lens / Fast Lenses: If you have the money, invest in fast-lenses. They do not always give better quality pictures than “non-fast” lenses, but they certainly help when shooting in low-light or when you want a blurry background (via Depth of Field).

    – Zooms are not the only important thing: if you’re into landscape photography, you’d want a wide-angle lens instead of a long (and heavy) zoom.

    – The camera does not matter. It’s what you do with it that counts. You can buy a Rs. 150,000 camera. Then if you leave it at home because it’s too big to carry around, it’s a total waste. Or, you can buy a Rs. 3000 camera that shoots crappy pics but if it allows you to take lots of pictures, then it’s more worth than your Rs. 150,000 one.

    – Crappy cameras are good too. They force you to learn photography. They will teach you how ISO, low light etc will affect photo quality and if you mess up, expect a ton of graininess.

    – Skip the fancy features like Movie Shooting. If you want HD shooting, buy a video camera. If you’re buying a DSLR, it’s for stills mainly. I don’t say that movie-capable DSLRs are not good, but they are certainly more expensive. There’s a catch too: They cannot shoot for long. The sensor gets hot and the card fills up fast. Get a hard-drive based video camera for HD shooting, get a DSLR according to your budget for stills.

    – Don’t blow out your budget. DSLRs and lenses come at every imaginable prices. DSLRs from $500+kit lens to $5000 body only. Lenses from $100 to $9999. Everything in between is there. You don’t want to blow out your budget. Why? because you’ll have more money to buy good equipment afterwards. For example, you’d want filters. You’d want a tripod. You’d want an external flash. You’d want higher-quality lenses. Now, if you spend all your budget in a body+kit, you will have spent a lot for average-y stuff. Because let’s face it, if it’s given for free, quality is average.

    That’s it. ๐Ÿ™‚


  14. hi yashvin, i will go for the canon sx 40 hs one because it has wider aperture, longer shutter speed, longer battery stamina perform better in low light and record better movies, support external flash compared to the nikon p510 which has a 42x zoom and 16.1 megapixel (not of my interest) thanx a lot for your help though. i think i am getting too much excited for the cam ( wonder if will get it in Mauritius -;D if so how much it will be hope it will not be disappointing LOL)


      1. It depends on camera and what the person wants to do. You might be going for a long zoom to catch distant subjects (or spy on people) but if you are serious about photography, you put more emphasis on factors such as quality, composition among others.

        As an amateur photographer who tried both DSLR and bridge cameras, there’s first of all, a big difference in the quality of pictures. Handling a long zoom in a DSLR gives better output as compared to bridge cameras. Even for DSLRs, there are different lenses at different prices obviously, each of them offering different quality results.

        I would advise you to read reviews on the camera and analyse the quality of the pictures at such zoom. And read critics posted by other readers/owners.


  15. Im thinking of the canon eos 100D but i am actually confused whether to buy a lens first? or a camera first? And im unable to find the difference between Canon eos 100D/Rebel Sl1/ Kiss X7

    * its the same thing i guess but still confused somewhat.

    About lenses, If i am just starting with my first dslr after compact cameras, should i get something original and expensive?

    I am getting the camera for 530 dollars on ebay free shipping to Mauritius without a lens, if i want to buy a lens i understand i would need to buy it separately but for a start , how do you recommend a lens to be? getting a cheap one? or an original 379 dollars one? ๐Ÿ˜›


    1. Hi! Welcome to the world of DSLRs ๐Ÿ™‚

      As you guessed it right, it is the same camera body, just different names for different regions.

      Now, to answer your lens-related questions:
      1. If possible, buy both the camera and lens altogether. Why? Shipping will definitely cost you less than buying the 2 items from two different sellers. And buying a camera with its kit lens will definitely cost you less than buying them separately.

      2. For your first lens, the 18-55 kit lens is normally ok to start with but if you have some extra cash, I would highly recommend you to go for a longer zoom lens, something like a 18-105 (or equivalent for Canon). Thought it will cost you more, it will be more handy in most situations and a long term investment. Personally, I purchased a 18-55 kit lens and soon hereafter, I purchased a 18-105. That 18-55 lens was abandoned in my drawer for several months and finally, I was able to sell it for peanuts :/

      So, everything depends on your budget.


      1. Thank you for your reply, according to my mathematics, you are completely right, choosing the camera and the lens apart is costing me almost 21000 MRU but on Ebay deals, i just saw a new REBEL sl1 being sold for about 480 dollars with the 18-55 lens with 99 dollars as shipping. Planning for this buy i will need to recharge my pockets a bit for the shipping cost lol. Just because I’m receiving this lens together with the camera at a cheap price, I’m planning for buying a second lens later since all Ebay deals covers only the 18-55 lens and not a longer range one.

        The second thing is that i don’t know why i get the feeling like it would be better than having the “EOS 100D” Written on my camera rather than the “rebel SL1” XD, I would like to know your honest opinion about that, should i really worry of that? because if i do, i will surely pay the 10D really expensive since no ebay deals includes one which “eos 100D” is written, most of them are the rebel sl1. SO basically which one seems more classy ? ๐Ÿ˜›

        And yup For a start, im looking forward for the 18-55 lens because it’s coming together, but my ebay cart still got another lens for the near future, inspired to the fact that some lenses are not that expensive at the end of the day. But there are some lens which goes more than 300 bucks. Anyway, Happy to hear from you and looking forward about entering the DSLR world really soon ๐Ÿ˜€


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