This is numero uno in the series I’m calling Happy Snapper – basic basics for the brand new photographer. Maybe you got a camera as a present or treated yourself or your planning to. You don’t need to wade through all the gear talk on other sites to get the info you need.

You like taking photos, you’ve got Snapseed on your iPhone or Android and you’re thinking it’s time for something more ‘serious’, bigger, sexier, more damn expensive….
So what are your options? I’m going to talk you through your options from your basic right up to your super serious.

No matter where or who you read, people will always say that you don’t need to spend big money to get a decent camera. Today more than ever. They’re not telling you that you shouldn’t spend money on gear, they’re not saying it’s wrong. What they’re trying to tell you is that you don’t have to – if you can’t afford a big fancy, sexy camera but you really want to take photos then don’t use that as an excuse or don’t feel held back by it. Your camera is your tool, it’s up to you to master it. Have I mastered mine? I seriously doubt it, nah, fact – I haven’t. But I’m trying, I’m working on it and I’m hoping I can pass on some of what I’ve learned to you guys as I go.

Later posts in the series will look at composition, light and speed but for now we’re just talking about the machines that make the photos.

You’ve already got it

You’ve probably already got a great camera on your phone – serious pixelage, decent low light capability and a fairly wide focal length. But do you exploit it? Do you play with your settings and composition enough to really get something great out of it. Focal length is the *mm* of the lens. My Galaxy S3 Mini has an equivalent of 37.5mm which is just a little wider than the human eye sees. It’s not super fantastic compared to the bigger Samsung models or whatever but it’s fine. I get some nice photos from it. Send them through Snapseed or Instagram and they can look pretty sweet.

Point and Shoot

Samsung Galaxy Camera 2

Your digital camera of a few years ago, the good old point and shoot. Named for the simplicity of the whole operation. Mobile phones have sort of ruined this market now but Samsung are still giving it socks. I really like the look of their new camera, the website makes it look like you barely need to even press the button.

Bridge cameras

Nikon COOLPIX P520

Does what it says on the tin, these cameras bridge the gap between the point and shoots and the big digital SLR. You generally can’t change the lens but you get a really decent zoom on them and they’re a good step up from your phone or point and shoot. They don’t generally have a viewfinder either – you use the screen like you would on a smaller camera. If you want to see what’s on offer at the moment, you can read What Digital Camera‘s roundup of the best bridge cameras for this year.


FUJIFILM X-Pro1 – I want this when I can afford it. So sleeeeeek!

Those big cameras are big because they have a mirror inside that reflects the image into the viewfinder so you can compose your photo. But that’s left over from the film days. Mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras use sensors like smaller cameras but you can change the lenses like SLRs. When you compare the two systems (mirrorless and DSLR) there are pros and cons on both sides, you’ll need to do some more research before you buy. Start with this Tom’s Guide comparison.


Nikon D7000 with three lenses. This is pretty much my kit right now and I love it.

The D stands for digital, and is relatively new. The SLR is single lens reflex and has been around for more than a century. The single lens means that what you see when you look through the viewfinder is what the camera sees, the mirror I mentioned earlier flips up out of the way when you release the shutter and that allows the film (or sensor) to be exposed to the light and create the picture. DSLRs are bigger and have heavier bodies than the mirrorless version but are most definitely of better quality still. The price of an entry-level DSLR is not that much different to a mirrorless set up but they’re more reliable if you’re thinking about getting more serious.

Of course there are more variations the further up you go, but this is just to let you know that if you’re thinking about getting serious about your photography there are different ways you can go and it’s important to know why you want a new camera and what you want from it. The best way to buy is to go into a small local camera shop and ask around, the staff in most shops are more than helpful and the smaller they are the less likely they are to sell you stuff you don’t need, in my experience!

So what camera are you thinking of getting? Are you going to spend some more time working with what you’ve already got? Let me know in the comments.