How To Buy The Best Camera

by Stephanie Oberto

As a sales associate at Pro Photo Supply, I love matchmaking. I don’t mean I manage a lucrative side hustle where I set up nerdy customers on dates (although, I definitely will from now on), I mean I love setting a customer up with the best camera for their needs. However, people don’t always know how to know what they want. You know? I mean, they know the sort of pictures they want to point their face at, but they don’t know how that translates into camera-speak.

One time a customer called the store and asked, “I want to make music videos. What is the very best camera you guys sell?” I said, “Tell me more about the content and style of the videos.” He got frustrated and repeated his initial question. Again, I tried coaxing more details out of him. We went back and forth like this for a while until he fumed, “Can you or can you not tell me what the very best camera in your store is?!” I said, “I cannot.” Click.

He hung up on me.

People sometimes grow frustrated or embarrassed trying to communicate their desires because they are unfamiliar with technology and its limitations. But, Stephanie, what is the best camera? You’re supposed to tell me how to buy the best camera!

Please understand that’s like asking a real matchmaker who the best human is. She’s going to say something like, “Tell me more about the type of person you are, and what you’re looking for.”

“…an intelligent person with a cool job and invigorating hobbies, but with plenty of time for me and my four children…..someone who’s physically attractive, who’s charismatic in an understated way…they must love speed skating and have super long hair yet gracefully keep it out of their skates…”

Enter: Priorities.


The Camera Dating Profile

Let me give you the inside scoop on the dating profile questions I ask before I match a customer with a camera.

1. What do you want to take pictures of?

Customers sometimes trip over this question because the answer seems obvious to them. I often get answers like, “I want to take pictures of everything,” or “just regular life stuff,” or “hiking.” Here are the categories in my brain I use to help you find a camera and/or lens:

  • Landscape
  • Portrait/one person
  • Scene/street/multiple people
  • Travel
  • Macro
  • Wildlife
  • Event/Indoor Sports
  • Outdoor Sports
  • Other (astro, underwater, high speed, fisheye, etc.)

Therefore, if you answer, “hiking,” I will need to know a few more things: Do you want to shoot landscapes of where you hike? Do you want to take portraits of your girlfriend eating grapes on a tree stump? Do you have a burning desire for close-ups of banana slug antenna? Notice how I generally approach subject matter from a lens angle standpoint. If you consider the listed categories beforehand, you will be that much closer to getting matched with your dream camera setup.

2. How do you want to take pictures?

People want the smallest camera that takes the best pictures and features gobs of zoom. Sorry everyone. You have to give up at least one of those things. In order to increase image quality, it requires a larger sensor and/or more optical glass…this increases camera size. If you want more zoom, it requires more optical glass…this increases size unless you also decrease the sensor size which decreases quality.


 There are three major factors when choosing a camera: compactness, quality, and zoom. You can have two.

3. Are you hip?

At first glance, this seems like a judge-y thing for me to consider, but we are in Portland after all. Certain brands such as Fujifilm make super attractive gear (I don’t mean personality). When a hipster customer wanders into the store, I make sure to tempt them with a stylin’ Fuji X100F or Olympus PEN-F.

There are often more tangents and preferences discussed before a person and a camera finally exchange vows. However, these are the three main questions I explore before recommending the best camera.

I know it’s tough out there, but don’t lose heart. There are plenty of cameras in the sea…just don’t pay money for those.


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