When I first bought my camera, I acted on impulse. I did not ask questions on how to select a camera. I did not ask myself what genre of photography I wanted to pursue either. This took me down a path of experimentation which lead to spending thousands of shillings on pieces of equipment that I do not even use today. 

The purpose of this article is to answer the question ‘What are some of the mistakes that camera buyers make?’ The five major mistakes that new camera purchasers make are, one, they believe that great cameras make the best photographs, two, they do not research on the cameras that they want to buy, three, they are over-concerned about online reviews, four, they do not budget for accessories and five, they think that spending more money will solve their problem. Whether you are a seasoned professional or just a beginner, you do not want to make a bad investment. In order, to avoid a bad investment I believe it is important to understand what mistakes not to make. That being said let us look at these mistakes deeply.

Mistake No. 1: Belief that great cameras take great photos  

This seems to be a universal problem for all first-time camera purchasers. There is a strong belief that ‘great cameras take great images’. I think that stereotype has been created through thousands of camera company advertisement campaigns. Adverts from camera manufacturers will feature their top of the line cameras, and to add salt to the steak, these companies will use the most experienced photographers to take images on these cameras further fanning the fire to this stereotype.

Great photographs are made by great photographers, great paintings are made by great painters, great meals are made by great chefs, great books are written by great authors. In all of history, pencils were not honoured for writing books, pans were not hired to cook for kings, paintbrushes did not develop painting techniques and great images were definitely not be made by cameras. Art is abstract. Items used to make art are not. Abstractness is a very human thing. It does not exist in the tools that we use to make art. Some tools are better than others, but when it comes to making art, it has a lot less to do with the tools and more to do with the artist.

When you go out to buy your camera, remember that the camera you buy will definitely become an extension of the person that you are. The camera will receive instructions on what images to take from you the individual. Everything that people will see, will always be a result of you the individual, not the camera. Ansel Adams said, “Images are taken by what is behind the viewfinder.” You are going to have to put in a lot more work in understanding not just your camera, but everything else other than its mechanics. You will need to understand light behaviour, composition, storytelling, posing, editing, artificial lighting, pricing, developing websites and the list goes on. So, as you go out looking for a camera, remember that your camera will be one component of a much larger system.

Mistake No. 2: Do not do Research 

I clearly fall into this category. The two times I have purchased a camera in my life, I did not do proper research. I based my decisions on what other people were saying or online reviews. I did not go to actual camera shops and ask questions, feel the cameras and ask for accredited online resources on particular products. The truth is that the majority of new camera purchasers are just like me. Even with a ton of experience in photography we still do not take the time to weight options, read accredited articles and even go to stores and ask questions.

The reason is that “Research” is considered too much work. The thought of having to sit for hours on end looking through many options so as to find that one option that meets all your seemingly unrealistic expectations is difficult. Research is all of these seemingly difficult things but it does not have to be. I recently made a blog post on questions one should ask when buying a new camera. These six questions are all points of research. This research encompasses an analysis of one’s self, their finances, activities or genres of photography, physical sizes and additional accessories that will complement one’s choice of camera. Research can also be done by asking experienced photographers as well and their thoughts on the choices that you are making. Walking into a store and asking the right questions is still part of the research.  

Even in the world of financial investment, research data is vital. Investors are not overly interested in the process of making a product. Their main concern is ‘What are the profit margins?” Is the product that they are going to bet their money on going to make a return on investment? To have some answers, research is key. So, before rushing out to go buy that new camera do some research. Within the genre of photography that you want to involve yourself in “What are the most popular camera types?” “What lenses are commonly used?” “What accessories do you need?” “What will it cost you?” Do your research!

Mistake No. 3: Over concerned about Online Reviews

I am a recent victim of this mistake. In 2018, I wanted to invest quite some money into a new camera. I have had the Canon 600D  for five years now. It is a great photo camera. However, in mid-2018, I had suddenly developed a love for cinematography. I decided that I would invest in a camera system that would allow me to have the best of both worlds. The search began and I pulled out what I called my focusing questions. These helped me narrow down to the best camera that I needed. After much research, I had narrowed down to the Canon 80D and the Sony A7 mostly because of the price. Even with a full proof system, I still made an epic mistake. 

2018 was a great year for SONY. In just under two years Sony had been able to beat camera manufacturers Canon and Nikon in camera sales. They had EYE AUTOFOCUS!! This changed everything for portrait photographers like myself. Believe me, when I say it changed everything, it freaking changed everything!!! At the time I was using YouTube as a resource and I was going through quite a number of channels and trying to get a feel of what different YouTubers had to say and considering their experiences.  Trust me the Canon did not stand a chance. 

There was so much on these Sony camera systems that I got lost in that euphoria. I decided to go with the Sony A7 yet I was very heavily invested in the Canon ecosystem. Switching between systems was difficult, the colour profiles were different and to make matters worse the Sony A7’s video capabilities were not as impressive. So now, I was left with more problems than I had had before (facepalm). I have not watched a YouTube camera review in 10 months.

A lot of new camera buyers are going to fall in the same trap that I did. Even experienced photographers will fall to it at times. The truth is, do not over concern yourself with online reviews. This is especially so if you are a beginner. Though YouTube is a great information resource, not all the information in those videos is credible. Not everyone on YouTube is a professional. There is a vast amount of information on online forums and YouTube and it is your responsibility to create mechanisms to enable you to discern the difference between credible information and someone’s opinions.

Mistake No. 4: They do not Budget for Accessories 

Is there, anything on this list that I have not done? May 5th 2015. This is the day I bought my Canon 600D. After purchasing and testing the camera, the store owner asks me, ‘Derek, will you be carrying your camera like that?’ My answer is an obvious NO. The store owner then says ‘Then get a bag for it.” At the back of my mind, I am thinking, “I need a bag because the streets are not safe.” I had to go into my pocket and spend an extra four thousand Kenya shillings. As I am about to leave I notice, the store owner take out the memory card and asks ‘Do you have a memory card?” “No, I do not”, I reply as I pull out my phone to look for another four thousand shillings. The store owner does not stop there. He goes on to ask, “ You said you were shooting an event this weekend right?” “Yes”, I reply. “Why do you ask?” I enquired. “Well, you said that the event was almost a full day and you might even have to shoot into the night. Don’t you think you might need an extra battery?” Let us just say, in total, I spent an extra ten thousand shillings that I had not intended to spend.

To avoid this mistake. Take your time to go to research on accessories that will come in handy with your camera and how much they will cost so that you are not caught off guard like I was.

Mistake No. 5: Think more Money will Solve the Problem

More money can solve problems but not all the time. Individuals who are looking for cameras almost always want to spend more money on a new system. This is because camera manufacturers are always advertising newer features that promise improved image quality and performance. This is a mistake that more experienced photographers would make over beginner photographers. Newer features almost always convince photographers to switch, yet the truth is that a new feature does not make an older model camera any worse.

One of the features that made a lot of Canon users switch over to Sony systems was Sony’s new Eye Autofocus feature. Eye Autofocus was really amazing in that the camera continuously kept the focus on a subjects eye as they moved towards or away from the camera. This is something that DSLRs do poorly. With DSLRs, one has to pace themselves with the subject as the subject moved and it still did not guarantee sharp focus with each shot. However, that does not mean that it cannot be done. Photographer Dani Diamond (@danidiamondphotography) has been using a DSLR throughout his career and has perfected this technique. He only recently changed his camera in 2018 from the Nikon D810 to the D850 after using the D810 for (not sure) 10 years or so.

Dani Diamond has saved so much money by not investing in every other new system that came up over the years because he understood one thing, spending more money on a new camera system will not solve all the challenges that come with photography. By trying to solve one problem, camera manufacturers reap more money and put you the photographer in a little more debt. Every new model of camera that comes out always makes us develop FOMO (fear of missing out). I believe that if you want to sharpen your photography skills and save a little bit of money invest in an older model camera if you can find one. Spend less and achieve more. Limitations will always make you a more creative photographer.

Mistakes are part of life’s experiences. They will happen anytime anywhere. I believe that we can learn a lot from the mistakes of others and that is why I developed this blog post. I do not want you to make the same mistakes that I did. I want you to feel happy with the choices that you make and not have to regret them. I hope that this post was of some help. If you do have a question or comment leave them in the comment section below, I will be taking my time to go through them and get back to you.

See you soon.