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October 20, 2021

By Gabrielle Savard

With so many cameras and lenses on the market, choosing your first photo or video equipment can be a daunting task. Fortunately, the Gosselin team is here to help! 

First of all, it's important to keep an open mind when buying your first camera. There is no such thing as a fundamentally better camera than another, but there are cameras that are better for you and more suited to your needs.

Choosing your first photo or video equipment is a bit like choosing your first car; each person has different needs that will be met by different models. If you live in downtown Montreal, for example, you probably prefer a small, easy-to-park (and perhaps electric) car to an off-road utility vehicle. Someone living in the suburbs, where parking is not a problem and charging stations are more scarce, will not choose a car according to the same criteria.

So it all starts with identifying your needs. It's easy to get lost in the advice of a friend or the recommendations of your favorite creators on Youtube, but you mustn't lose sight of the fact that it's your camera and that it must above all meet your needs.

How to Target Your Needs

Ask yourself the following questions and we'll guide you through the rest: Am I looking for a camera that is primarily photo or video? Or a 50/50?

What type of photography/video will I do? Portrait, landscape, architecture, street photography, wildlife, real estate...

Is the weight and size of my camera important to me? Will I bring my camera on a hike or a trip?

Photo taken by Jakob Owens, Unsplash. 

Choose The Type of Sensor That Suits You

The first thing to determine before buying your first camera should be what type of sensor is right for you. 

To begin, let's ask the question: what is a sensor? The sensor is the heart of a camera. It is the photosensitive part inside the housing on which images are printed to be recorded in your camera. There are a variety of sensors on the market, but we will focus on the three most popular:
- The full frame sensor
- The APS-C sensor
- The micro 4/3 sensor

The Full Frame Sensor

The full frame sensor is equivalent in size to the 35mm film; the most used film in photography before the switch to digital. It is thus the "standard" sensor or reference sensor to which we compare the other types of sensor.

"Standard" sensor does not necessarily mean "best" sensor, but we cannot ignore that the majority of professional photographers own a full frame camera. The downside of the full frame sensor? Its price. It is the largest of the three sensors, which requires more production materials and therefore, increases its cost.

The APS-C Sensor

The APS-C sensor is 1.5 times smaller than the full frame sensor. It was the first sensor to be popularized during the transition to digital due to its value for money. It is generally the most popular choice for a first camera, since it is close to the size of a full frame sensor, but at a lower cost. The bodies are also smaller in size.

PRO TIP: It's important to know, however, that the APS-C sensor adds a 1.5x crop factor to any lens you put in front of the camera. In other words, each lens will frame the image 1.5 times more "zoomed in" than if it had been placed on a full frame sensor. A 50mm lens placed on an APS-C camera will therefore be equivalent in reality to a 75mm frame.

This can be an advantage for some as they see an opportunity to get more out of their zoom (for example in wildlife photography) and a disadvantage for others (such as in real estate photography where the goal is to take wide shot photos).

The Micro 4/3 Sensor

The micro 4/3 sensor is the smallest of the three sensors and has a crop factor of 2x. Each lens placed in front of a micro 4/3 camera zooms in twice as much as if it had been placed on a full frame sensor.

The target customers of the micro 4/3 sensor are therefore wildlife and sports photographers for whom the zoom is essential. You benefit from a small format camera (the smaller the sensor, the smaller the camera) that duplicates the zoom of your lens! A 400mm lens placed on a micro 4/3 camera will actually give you an 800mm frame.

Conversely, the micro 4/3 sensor should be avoided if you want to do real estate, landscape or architectural photography since we are looking for a very wide angle of view.

Photo taken by Alexander Andrews, Unsplash.

DSLR or Mirrorless?

There are two interchangeable lens camera technologies on the market: SLR cameras and mirrorless cameras. The photographic industry is currently in the biggest technological transition since the switch to digital. The DSLR technology that has dominated the market since the first digital cameras is slowly being replaced by the new mirrorless cameras. 

This does not mean that SLR cameras are obsolete, far from it. This transition is happening very gradually and SLR cameras will still be on the market for many years to come! They are physically larger and heavier than mirrorless cameras, but less expensive. If you are on a budget and the weight doesn't bother you too much, this is a great opportunity to get a high performance camera for a very reasonable price. If, on the other hand, you're looking for a small, lightweight camera, we suggest you store around for the mirrorless camera line.

PRO TIP: Since most professional photographers are getting rid of their SLR equipment in order to go mirrorless, the used market is full of very high quality SLR cameras and lenses, often in excellent condition and at low prices. We strongly advise you to have a look at our selection of used equipment when you are looking for a camera, you will probably find an excellent deal.

Which Brand to Choose?

First of all, it is wrong to think that one brand is better than another. To bring our comparison back to cars, each brand has a different positioning in the market (for example, Tesla specializes in electric cars and Jeep specializes in 4x4s, but that doesn't mean one is inherently better than the other). When buying a camera or video equipment, you should choose a brand in the same way.

Once you have determined the type of sensor and the technology that suits you, the choice will already become easier since you will have eliminated some options in the process. Here is a table to guide you in your choices:


 DSLRMirrorlessFull FrameAPS-CMicro 4/3Photo / Video Orientation
Canon X X X X   A little more photo, close to 50/50
Nikon X X X X   More Photo
Sony   X X X   50/50
Fujifilm   X   X   A little more photo, close to 50/50
Panasonic   X X   X More video
Olympus   X     X Much more photo
Pentax X   X X   Much more photo


The Lenses

It may seem counterintuitive, but the lenses have a much greater impact on the outcome of the photo than the camera body. It is the lens that is responsible for the angle of view, the framing, the zoom and the aperture, one of the most important parameters in photography. The mistake not to make is to spend your entire budget on the camera body, without keeping enough money for a quality lens.

Photo and video cameras are sold alone or as a set with a basic lens. However, this basic lens may not be suitable for the type of photography/video you want to do. For example, a wildlife photographer will be very poorly served by an 18-55mm zoom lens (a wide-angle lens often found as the base lens in sets) that will not zoom in far enough to take a picture of an animal.

Also, lenses retain their value much longer than bodies and wear out more slowly. Often, a photographer will change his camera up to three or even four times while keeping the same lenses if he had invested in them in the first place. So in the long run, it is worthwhile to choose a quality lens when we buy our first camera and to plan the budget accordingly. 

That being said, choosing a lens is often more complex than choosing a camera body and there are some compatibility constraints between the two. So don't hesitate to contact one of our Gosselin sales consultants online or in store if you have trouble making your choice! It will be our pleasure to guide you.

Photo taken by Lucas Favre, Unsplash.

Consider Your Budget

Finally, it is important to consider your budget. There are devices for all price ranges, but you may have to make some concessions. You also have to keep in mind the accessories you have to buy with your first camera: memory card(s), carrying bag, extra battery(ies), tripod, insurance in case of breakage... it adds up quickly!

And Now... How to Use it?

Congratulations, you've bought your first equipment! A first camera can be intimidating at first glance. All the different buttons and knobs... It's a bit like sitting in the driver's seat of a car for the first time! And just as the car doesn't make the driver, the camera doesn't make the photographer or videographer. 

In order to learn how to get the most out of your camera, we strongly advise you to reserve part of your budget for one or more photo/video courses. Don't hesitate to contact Collège Gosselin, our continuing education center, which offers a multitude of private and group classes, online and in-store, as well as workshops. 

For more information on Gosselin College classes, visit our website.

We hope this guide will answer many of your questions about buying your first photo or video gear. Don't forget to also consider the handling and ergonomics of the camera when making your choice. It is important that your camera is comfortable to use. That's why we invite you to visit us in store if you want to take the cameras in hand and compare them in more detail with our consultants. Gosselin's team of enthusiasts is able to answer all your questions to ensure that you leave with the device that meets all your needs!