The “Tripod” Formula for Picking the Best Camera

July 30th, 2021
man taking picture with camera in the mountains

Frederick Van Johnson, host of ThisWeekInPhoto.com, provides a lively and informative video discussion for anybody getting started in photography. After all, you need a few basic items to capture that great image: a camera body, a lens, a sensor. So how do you pick the best camera system?

That question is best answered by asking yourself a few prelude questions:

  • WHAT are you shooting?
  • WHERE are you shooting?
  • Is your photography a HOBBY or a CAREER?
  • And perhaps the most important question – how MUCH can you spend?

Frederick offers a three-legged or “tripod” analogy as a guide to creating a formula for choosing a camera and what gear you’ll need.

The First Leg: Your Genre

Are you planning to shoot landscapes, portraits, weddings, or even underwater photos? There isn’t one camera that’s amazing at all genres. The genre(s) you choose as your specialty dictate the features in your ideal camera, such as sensor size, lens sizes or weight.

Your genre might require a long, heavy lens. Or a full-frame sensor. How’s your back? Will you be able to lug heavier gear on a hike or through an airport? Consider the environment or setting where you will be shooting. If portraits are your game, or astro-photography, maybe you need to invest in a heavy tripod for stability.

The genre will also drive you towards the proper sensor size. Is a micro four-thirds sensor adequate? Or do you need a full-frame APS-C sensor to do your best work? Frederick spends a good portion of his video covering the differences and considerations for choosing the best camera body/sensor and lenses suited to your chosen genre.

The Second Leg: Your Peers

Think about the gear your peers use. Maybe get a similar or equivalent system to theirs. With the number of different types of camera gear available, it’s easy to get carried away. See how you can work with other photographers to have them show you what gear they use. They can help you by showing you tips and tricks, or even loan you a lens if you’re in a tight spot with a special need. It’s also helpful if you can borrow and experiment with a particular lens type before buying it for yourself.

But, Frederick points out that you shouldn’t just use a peer’s ecosystem as a major determinant. Make sure you love the system before you jump into making a big investment in it.

The Third Leg: Your Budget

For most of us, money IS an object. The ultimate factor in your decision-making formula is the most basic – how much can you spend? Maybe you can afford multiple camera bodies with a variety of sensor sizes. Or more lenses than just a “nifty” 50mm.

If you can only afford to start with one basic system, set up your budget limits and carefully consider some of the valuable perspectives offered by Frederick in this great video. Here’s a hidden gem that you might find interesting: a mobile phone camera to get you started. Hmm…