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Is It Worth It To Buy A Camera?

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Is It Worth It To Buy A Camera In The Long Term?

With the rise of smartphones taking incredible photos, it starts to beg the question of whether or not it’s worth it to buy a camera anymore. With some phones having three different lenses, 4K video, and a plethora of photo editing apps, why would anyone use a camera anymore? The truth is, there will always be a need for cameras that smartphones cannot replace.

The advantage of buying a camera comes in better image quality, more creative possibilities, lens choices, and camera settings that aren’t possible on a smartphone. For those who love to take pictures with their phones, buying a camera opens new doors in creativity that are well worth the extra cost.

Let’s dive deeper into why buying a camera may be worthwhile for you and how to know which one to buy.

Is Buying A Camera A Good Investment?

One of the big concerns you might have is how long the camera will last. Ultimately if you plan to spend a few hundred dollars on your first camera, you’d hope it lasts for quite a few years. Unlike smartphones that you blast through every couple of years, a camera is something that will stay with you for years to come. A camera body is something that you can continue to use and can “upgrade” by purchasing better quality lenses throughout the years.

Resale Values

In terms of resale value, a camera body is a lot like a used car. The second it drives off the lot, you lose a little bit of value. With that said, it’s possible to resell your camera body within a few years of purchasing for only a few hundred less than you bought it. The resale value will ultimately depend on what upgrades the camera model has come out and whether or not it’s in demand.

To give you a bit of an example, the first camera I ever bought was a Canon Rebel T3i with a kit lens for around $750. Fast forward nearly 10 years, and I’m seeing the same camera being sold for around $300 on Craigslist or eBay. The big drop in price mainly comes with older technology and multiple upgrades to the rebel series cameras since then. With that said, my T3i camera is still in perfect working order and continues to take pictures to this day. For only $750 and a decade of use out of it, I’d say that’s worth every penny spent.

Why Lenses Hold Value Longer

There tends to be a linear drop in value with camera bodies as time goes on, but that’s not the case with all camera gear. Particularly so with lenses.

Lenses are something that don’t get upgraded and replaced quite as often as a camera body. Since there isn’t as much technology to be improved upon in a lens, it mostly comes down to the quality of the glass. If you look at any camera store, you’ll notice how some lenses are only a few hundred dollars while others are upwards of $3000 or more.

The difference here comes down to quality. More expensive lenses have better sharpness, increased light transmission, and better focusing capabilities. These aspects are always something in demand for photographers. That’s a big reason why lenses don’t lose much of their resale value over the years.

If you’re looking to purchase camera gear purely from a money perspective, your equipment’s resale value will depend. Camera bodies tend to lose value over time, while lenses and certain camera accessories remain the same for years. It might seem like a lot of money that you’re losing over time, but just consider that to the resale value of a smartphone 10 years later. You’d be lucky to get only a few dollars for it. Looking at it purely from the perspective of taking photos, buying a camera is a better investment compared to a smartphone.

How To Know If Buying A Camera Is Worth It

You don’t need to have any ambitions of becoming a professional photographer to buy a camera. If you get hung up on whether or not buying a camera is worth it for you, ask yourself the following questions.

– What Do You Want To Take Pictures Of?

Sometimes you need to get a camera to get the type of pictures you want. For example, if you want to take pictures of the stars, buying a camera is your only option. Without being able to control your shutter speed, its much harder to take pictures in low light. If you have an interest in wildlife photography, buying a camera is another must. Since you need to zoom into the animals, it’s necessary to have a detachable zoom lens that you can use. With a smartphone, that just isn’t possible.

The list goes on with long exposure, portraits, and so on. When deciding if it’s worth it to buy a camera, ask yourself what type of photos you wish you could take. More often than not, getting a camera is the missing link you’ve been looking for.

– What Does Your Smartphone Camera NOT Have That You Wish It Did?

You’ve probably said something about your smartphone camera that you wish it were better at. Maybe you wish portrait mode looked more realistic, or it took better photos in low light. You see, smartphones work great to take general photos in bright conditions. The second the lighting conditions are a little bit off, or you need to zoom in, smartphones begin to lose their appeal. With an actual camera, the sky is the limit, and there’s literally nothing you can’t capture with it. That’s the beauty of being in control of your camera settings!

– Do You Want Better Quality Photos?

The main reason everyone is so tempted to upgrade their phones is to get a better camera. As smartphones progress, they still lack in comparison to even older camera models. The reason for this comes down to sensor size. A camera sensor is a small rectangle inside of your camera that collects light and turns it into the picture you see. With a larger camera sensor, it can process more information and improve the quality of your photos.

When you compare a smartphone’s sensor to even the lowest end DSLR camera, the DSLR has a 5x bigger sensor. In that sense, you could think of it as 5x the quality of your smartphone. Even with the absolute top of the line smartphone, you still always get better quality photos using a camera. Since the sensor is so much larger on an actual camera, there’s no competition.

– Have You Wanted To Get More Creative With Your Photography?

When you see certain professional photos online, you’ve probably wondered how they captured them. How did they manage to blur that waterfall or take a photo with such a blurry background? There isn’t some fancy trick that they keep secret from you. In reality, it’s because they have control of their camera settings.

Unlike a smartphone, cameras have a ton of different settings and modes to help you get more creative. Without control over these settings, it’s impossible to capture things exactly as you want them. A smartphone will always capture the best guess of what it thinks you want. With a camera, you can get more creative and tell the camera exactly what to do. Learning your different camera settings is extremely rewarding and a surefire way to take better photos.

The Advantage To Using A DSLR or Mirrorless Camera

There are a ton of advantages to using a DSLR or mirrorless camera compared to a smartphone. Going over some of these reasons, it’s clear why it’s still worth it to buy a camera.

– Interchangeable Lenses

The top advantage of using a DSLR or mirrorless camera is the fact you can change lenses. Depending on what type of photos you want to take, you can easily swap lenses. There are a variety of different lenses out there to offer varying effects on your photos. For example, a wide angle lens helps you to see an entire scene and capture everything at once. Rather than having to take some sort of panorama, using a wide-angle lens can get the job done too!

The same is true with mid-range and telephoto lenses, offering you more versatility to control how your camera sees the world. Being able to change perspectives is a huge creative advantage unique to cameras.

Now besides zoom ranges, different lenses also offer different apertures. All lenses will have a controllable aperture to affect background blur, but some are better at it than others. Certain lenses that utilize a wide aperture can create extremely blurred backgrounds while keeping the subject perfectly sharp. This is something totally unique to cameras that smartphones are not capable of.

– Bigger Sensor Size (Better Image Quality)

Like I mentioned earlier, a camera has a sensor 5x bigger than that of a smartphone. Your sensor is responsible for reading the light passing through the lens and turning it into a picture. With a larger sensor size, there’s far more information to be displayed in the final photo. The result from this ends up being a much higher quality image.

No matter how much money you try to spend on the latest and greatest smartphone, it still won’t compare in quality to a regular camera. Until the day that smartphones have an equally large sensor, there’s no competition here.

– Manual Camera Settings

One of the huge perks to using a DSLR or mirrorless camera is having access to manual camera settings. You don’t need to always use manual settings, but it’s nice to have the option. As you progress and feel more comfortable with your camera, you’ll begin to take advantage of these settings. With manual camera settings, you can take better photos in any lighting conditions because you can tell your camera what to do. When you’re using a smartphone, it’s just making the best guess for you. By using a proper camera, you always have a say in the final result of your pictures.

– Longer Lifespan

It’s not uncommon for people to own their cameras for decades at a time. I’ve even bought a well over 30 years old camera, and it still works perfectly. If you compare that to a smartphone, you’d be hard-pressed to find an original iPhone in perfect working order. With a camera, the demands have been similar for years. They’ve served the same purpose of capturing high-quality images and are designed to last.

Phones, on the other hand, are constantly facing software updates and new technology. Within a year of buying your phone, it suddenly becomes old technology. With cameras, that’s not the case. Sure, cameras are always improving, but that doesn’t mean your old camera isn’t worth using anymore.

I’ve owned multiple camera bodies over the last ten years, and all of them work perfectly. I can’t say the same about my phones.

– Better Accessories

In terms of accessories such as filters, carrying cases, straps, mounts, and so on, there’s no comparing a camera to a smartphone. When you purchase a camera, you get instant access to an endless mountain of high-quality accessories. Things like lens filters are a huge bonus for photographers. With these, you can manipulate how light enters your camera and capture some incredible photos that are only possible from a DSLR or mirrorless. If you’re a gear nut, you’ll seriously appreciate the better accessory options when you buy a camera.

The Downside To Using A DSLR Or Mirrorless Camera

Even though there are a ton of convincing reasons why DSLR or Mirrorless cameras are worth it to buy, there are some downsides. Here are some cons to consider when deciding if it’s worth it to buy a camera.

– They’re Much Heavier

The big problem with buying a camera is that they’re a lot heavier than your smartphone. With a DSLR or Mirrorless, there are just more components to it than a smartphone. A camera isn’t designed just to fit in your pocket and be ready to go. It requires you to think ahead and get a bag or carrying case to bring it around with you. Especially when you plan for a longer outing, having to carry around your camera might be an extra hassle.

With that said, there are smaller point and shoot style cameras that are a lot lighter than a DSLR. However, they still are a bit heavier than your typical smartphone.

– They Are Bulkier

Cameras weren’t designed to fit into your pocket and be ready for action. They’re a lot bigger in size and end up taking more room than a smartphone. Couple that with your few lenses, tripod, filters, and whatever else you own, and you’ve already filled a bag. Unless you plan on buying a dedicated camera bag, you’ll have a hard time carrying around a camera comfortably. After all, it is essentially just a big box.

– You Need To Learn How To Use It

For some, this might not seem like a downside, while this is the worst part imaginable for others. The convenience of just turning on the camera and pressing the shutter button isn’t really there with most cameras. Even with fully automatic settings, you still need to learn how to review photos, get focus, and understand the menu system. Unlike turning on a smartphone camera, using a real camera isn’t as intuitive for some beginners. It can take a bit of time to get used to, which may be a deal-breaker for you.

– Photos Need To Be Downloaded And Backed Up Manually

Unlike your smartphone that automatically saves photos, syncs them to the cloud, and calls it a day, cameras are different. All of the photos are saved to an SD card, which needs to be later uploaded to your computer and backed up to a hard drive. This is an extra step that could be annoying for some and requires you to own some type of computer. Once you take more images, you’ll end up needing to buy an external hard drive just to have enough space. With a little more to think about in terms of storage and backup, cameras aren’t as streamlined as smartphones.

Does A More Expensive Camera Take Better Pictures?

Now, if you’ve been looking to buy a camera, you’ve seen how many price ranges there are. Some cameras are less than $500, while others are $10,000. So what the heck is the difference?

More expensive cameras tend to have a combination of things to increase the price. Things like larger sensor size, focusing speeds, drive modes, settings, wifi, Bluetooth, and other capabilities are just a few at play. In short, more expensive cameras do take better pictures in terms of actual resolution. However, it’s important to remember that resolution doesn’t always equal better photos.

To highlight what I mean, imagine if you gave a total beginner a professional-level camera. Since they wouldn’t know what to make of it, they would neglect many additional features that make that camera so great. Sure the photos they take would be higher resolution, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good photo.

If I tried to take an out of focus and crooked picture of you, I’m willing to bet you wouldn’t call it a “good picture.” Even if the photo had the best resolution in the world, you still wouldn’t be happy with it. When you think of it that way, the resolution a more expensive camera offers doesn’t always matter if the photo isn’t well composed.

What I’m trying to get at that is “better pictures” is a relative term. If we are just talking about image quality, yes, more expensive cameras can take better photos. However, does that mean every photo you take will be a masterpiece? No.

The truth is, by learning how to use your camera settings and beginning to understand composition, you can take amazing photos with any camera. It doesn’t matter if you’re using one of the cheapest cameras you could find on eBay. There is more that goes into capturing a great photo besides resolution. With the advantages that a camera offers over a smartphone, you’re already guaranteed to take better pictures.

Should You Buy A Camera Or A New Phone?

So now it comes down to one big question. Is it worth it to buy a camera, or should you upgrade to the latest smartphone? The answer depends on what you hope to get out of your camera. If you’re totally happy with what a smartphone offers and you’ve never felt the need for something more, then you likely won’t appreciate the advantages of a proper camera. If you sit on the other side of things and wish your phone camera could offer you more, than you’ll love every minute of owning a camera.

Cameras will open more doors for creativity than a smartphone will never be able to offer. No matter how advanced your phone gets, it still won’t override the unique advantages of a DSLR or mirrorless. Ultimately you need to consider what you want out of a camera and what option fits your needs best!

– Brendan 🙂

Photo of author
Brendan is an outdoor lifestyle and travel photographer from Vancouver, Canada who loves getting outside and eating donuts. He has worked all over the globe shooting for a variety of tourism boards and clients in North America, Europe, and South America. Brendan's mission is to help others improve their photography through easy to understand tutorials, without all the technical fluff that leads to feelings of overwhelm. Follow along each week as he shares new photography and photo editing tips to bring your work to new levels!

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