How to choose a system

This article is dedicated to choosing the first photographic system and is intended for amateur photographers. If you are a professional, then you probably know exactly what equipment you need for your business.

This article only covers APS-C and 35mm full frame SLR and mirrorless systems. Pricing issues are not covered in the article, since each amateur photographer has his own budget.

So where to start when choosing a system?

Firstly, definitely not from the camera, as most amateur photographers usually do. The camera is actually a consumable item. New models appear every 2 to 3 years and bring more and more new functions. Even the latest model will inevitably become obsolete in 3-4 years, so choosing a camera is very simple: just find the model that has all the functions you need.

For example:

  • if you often shoot in adverse weather conditions, it is advisable to have a camera with dust and moisture protection;
  • if you often shoot while traveling or on a walk, then it is desirable that the camera is light and compact;
  • whether you're shooting sports or reportage, fast burst speeds, a reliable shutter and good image quality at high ISOs are important;
  • if you want to shoot mainly landscapes or macro, you won't need the autofocus in most cases.

Otherwise, all modern cameras are more or less the same and the difference lies only in the location of the control elements, the presence or absence of a viewfinder and its type (optical or electronic), the presence of a LCD display, the ability to use a battery pack, etc.

If you are just starting to learn photography, there is no point in buying a new camera - a properly functioning used one is pretty enough.

Secondly, you need to decide in which genres you will mainly shoot. For example, landscapes, architecture, portraits, travel photography, shooting of distant objects, macrophotography, etc. After that, you need to check each photographic system for the availability of lenses that will allow you to shoot in these genres.

Genre of photography Suitable lenses
Landscapes, architecture (Ultra) wide-angle lenses
Portrait photography Short and medium telephoto primes
Sports Fast telephoto lenses when shooting indoors. When shooting outdoors in good lighting conditions, you can use slow telephoto lenses with fast AF
Travel photography Standard zooms, superzooms - with image stabilization
Reportages, weddings Fast standard zooms
Wildlife Medium telephoto primes and telephoto zooms
Macrophotography Macro lenses. The longer the focal length, the longer the closest working distance, which means the better the lens is suitable for shooting insects. For the rest of subjects, you can use any macro lenses with the magnification ratio that suits you. Note that some conventional non-macro lenses allow you to shoot with magnification ratios of 1:3-1:2, which is a pretty good result

If compact size and weight of equipment are important to you, choose APS-C system. If you need the best image quality and are OK with the heavy weight and size of your equipment, then 35mm full frame systems are for you. Besides, if you start straight with a 35mm full frame system, you can acquire the professional equipment available in that system after you improve your photographic skills. APS-C systems are always aimed at hobbyists only, so if you want to make money from photography in the future and get professional image quality, you will inevitably have to migrate to 35mm full frame system.

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