Introduction to Photography I: Do You Need an SLR Camera?

You collected a lot of money. You checked all the cameras on the market. You even memorized their specifications. You even know what kit lens comes with them, and what are the second best options. But do you REALLY need an SLR?

Compare the following two photos and tell yourself which one is better:

Life I

5D Mark II + 40mm 2.8 STM

The first photo is shot with a compact Canon A630 while the latter with a Canon 5D Mark II. If you voted for the first, you have to admit and accept that it is the photographer, not the camera, that produces better/good photos.

If two photos are not enough to compare, let us look at two other photos:


Nikon D850

The first is shot with an entry-level Nikon D3300 + 18-105 kit lens,  while the second is shot with a professional Nikon D850, the best Nikon camera as of now, with 24-70 f/2.8 lens, which is one of the two best zoom lenses available.

You should not buy an SLR camera in any case, if you say yes to at least one of the following:

  • I did not own or extensively use a camera, be it a compact, semi-SLR, or film one, before.
  • I do not know what aperture or shutter priority modes mean.
  • I do not know if I have a style or what my photography style is.
  • I will not use the camera in aperture/shutter priority or manual mode.
  • I will shoot photos only for memories.
  • I will not use other lenses than the kit one.
  • I do not want to/have time to edit photos later.
  • I am not interested in art per se.
  • I want to show-off.

You said no to them all? Then you might better get an SLR camera. But let us ask some more questions to make sure if you need one:

  • As you already do or did have a camera, do you really need something more capable? Are there things that you want to do yet the camera does not allow you?

If you think that the camera is limiting you, you should get an SLR. Yet before that we should ask another question:

  • Are you sure that it is the camera, not the lack of necessary knowledge to properly run the camera, that limits your photography?

Until realizing that metering modes exist, I ruined a lot of photos and blamed the “incapable, small, stupid” camera. For example, look at the following photo:

 Jesus in Bazilika, Budapest

It would be ruined if I did not use spot metering as the camera would weigh the whole frame and decide on the amount of light that needs to fall on the sensor (I use aperture priority mode almost always). So maybe you need to know more about your camera, and techniques? If you are sure that you know the techniques already, as I did in 2016, let us ask another question:

  • Do you really want to mess with it all?

Photography is fun, but rarely. Carrying the camera, lenses, additional battery, tripod, filters… all day, setting things all up, looking around to find a photo rather than to enjoy, post-processing the files, receiving negative comments, not liking what you liked on camera screen after seeing it on the bigger screen… These are all messy. My backpack is always half-full as I carry all these stuff.

Are these all fine? A last question remains:

  • Do you plan to make money from photography someday or is photography the art that you want to do?

If you say yes to at least one of these, then yes, you should buy an SLR camera. If you do not, I would recommend getting a compact or slr-like/semi-SLR camera, and enjoying your life.

In the next post, I will try to answer what SLR to buy.

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