I Guess I’m a Photographer

When my oldest and I went on our NFL trip in 2021, I purchased a Sony A6600 and a Tamron 18-300mm lens. If you don’t know what those are, don’t worry, I had no idea then and am just now starting to understand.

I took pictures of the stadiums before they refused to let me bring in the camera. I was upset, but I still got some excellent shots and used them at some national parks. Before I knew it, I was taking pictures of my kids playing sports.

My Dad used to videotape all of my football games. I was an offensive lineman, and there were few exciting plays to watch, but I appreciated him doing it. I also remember a playoff game where I saw a photographer and stared him down, giving him my meanest game face. I want to help kids have that same experience I did.

Choosing a Brand

There are three major Camera brands: Canon, Sony, and Nikon. Whatever brand you choose, you should expect to be in its ecosystem. Third-party lenses exist, but they are still designed to work with specific brands. Adapters are also available, but they may limit some of the feature benefits you get from matching a Nikon lens with a Nikon camera.

Canon is the largest camera brand, accounting for almost half of all cameras sold worldwide. I used to own a Canon, but I was never blown away by the pictures it took. As I’m learning, there could be many reasons. Therefore, I’m not telling you not to get a Canon, but I wanted to try something new.

I have been happy with other Sony products, and their being the second-largest brand made me feel comfortable joining their cult.

The Camera

Assuming you aren’t getting a point-and-click, you can choose between APS-C and Full-Frame. The Sony A6600 I got is APS-C. These are cheaper and lighter options and can even provide more “reach,” as the sensor being used can provide a higher pixel density for images being captured.

Although I did save money by buying an open-box version from Best Buy, I wish I had looked at used cameras more seriously. There are plenty of hobbyists who have given up the craft or professionals who are looking to upgrade their gear. I wish I had gotten a used full-frame camera.

There are few one-size-fits-all cameras besides Sony’s flagship Alpha 1, which is now three years old and $6500. You need to know what you are trying to do with your camera. Some are better for low light, others for sports/high-action, video, and portraits. Here’s a quick Reddit post that goes over Sony’s cameras.

If money was not an option, I would buy the brand new Sony Alpha 9III, a full-frame camera that can shoot 120 pictures a second due to a global shutter. Taking sports photos is crucial, and every possible frame is vital to telling the story you want to tell. But it is tough to justify the cost of a pure hobby camera.

The Lenses

Getting a camera is just a start. You may get a lens included with your body, but even if that is the case, you need to be aware of all the different options available.

Sony Glass can provide you with prices between $200-$13000. A focal length of 12mm to 600mm. And apertures between between f/1.4 and f/6.3. Also, if you buy a lens for an APS-C body, it cannot be used with a full-frame camera. Therefore, if you are trying to future-proof yourself, avoid spending too much on APS-C lenses. However, if you are on a lower budget, APS-C lenses are generally lighter and less expensive.

Be aware that third parties make lenses that work for your camera. I was pleased with the Tamron lens I bought. However, brands like Sony can limit features like auto burst for non-Sony lenses. This is really only an issue at the highest end of products.

The Skills

In classic Tom fashion, I skipped some steps. I got quality gear before actually learning any photography skills. I’m not completely inept when it comes to art. I do think I have a fairly good eye and sense of composition, but I couldn’t define what aperture means. Before I drop thousands of more dollars on a full-frame camera that I probably don’t need, I need to learn some basics.

I’ve started watching some YouTube channels to get a feel for what I’m doing wrong. I hope one day to stop shooting everything in AUTO mode. For now, here’s the best I have to offer.

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