The Best Camera Is 100% the One You Have With You

If you conduct a quick web search for “best camera” you will find an overwhelming number of reviews and opinions that attempt to settle the question. You’ll find articles, unboxing and review videos, feature breakdowns of every technical specification in minute detail, price comparisons that all contain affiliate links, etc.

Some folks will attempt to be brand-agnostic to appear neutral. Some folks will be highly biased toward Canon, or Sony, or Nikon, or Pentax, or whatever else because that’s what that particular photographer likes. The sheer volume of perspectives, coupled with the complexity of contemporary cameras, makes it difficult to sift through all the data to find the “best camera.”

Everyone wants to provide an authoritative take on the matter, but almost all of them will overlook two basic facts:

  • The best camera depends on your use case.
  • The best camera is 100% the one you have with you.

Anyone who asks “What is the best camera?” is probably looking to get into photography or perhaps wants to upgrade their kit. The best camera always depends on the photographer and shooting environment. A parent who wants to take better pictures of their kids will have a very different criteria than a sports photographer for whom milliseconds matter when capturing a linebacker’s expression during the snap.

From a purely technical standpoint, the “best” camera might run upwards of $4,000 once you add glass and a few necessary accessories. But then it still may not be the “best” camera for you.

As with most queries for “the best XYZ,” the question doesn’t seem to have a simple answer.

My opinion is that if you have a decent smartphone that is less than four years old, then you have a great camera for most day-to-day capture. The trick is to learn a few basic photographic principles and then take pictures like crazy.

When I went to Alaska in 2022, I brought three cameras with me:

  • iPhone 13 Pro
  • Canon 90D
  • GoPro Hero 9 Black

Out of all my cameras, I felt like I used my iPhone the most. Why?

For starters, it was the most readily accessible camera that I had. It’s easy to take pictures when your camera fits in your pocket and can shoot RAW. For example, I went on a run on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail in Anchorage, and I took lots of great pictures simply because I used the camera that was in my pocket.

There were other places where the phone in my pocket made it possible to capture images that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, like inside the Anchorage Museum, while halibut fishing, and while seeing a perfect rainbow outside my plane window at the close of our trip. In each of these scenarios, a bigger and “better” camera was either a liability or unwieldy given the circumstances.

Would it have been possible to take better pictures with a larger camera and better glass? Perhaps, but the important thing is that I actually had a camera to shoot with. The camera you have is better than no camera, because it’s the difference between getting the shot or not.

Questions for Finding the Best Camera

Here are the questions I recommend asking for finding the best camera. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it has helped me think more realistically about what the best camera is for me in a given application.

  • What types of photography will I be doing most? This can point you in the right direction for camera bodies and lenses. Different types of photography will require different setups.
  • What’s my budget? The best camera is one that you can afford.
  • What’s my intended output? If the output is social media or small-to-medium sized prints, you don’t really need a 32MP full-frame sensor. A cropped (APS-C) sensor or your smartphone will do the trick. On the other hand, if your output will be fine art prints, you probably want something higher-end.
  • Can I take the pictures I want with my smartphone? If you’re taking photos for social media, documenting your family’s adventures, or just capturing cool scenes in your day to day life, your phone may be your best option. Maybe all you need to do is to learn some basic photographic principles about exposure and composition to take you images to the next level.

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