Best Camera for 1500 Dollars?

I absolutely marvel at the images photographers are able to produce. They are able to skillfully capture life’s moments with the equipment of their choice and apply skill and creativity to those images till they have seen concept to artistry. I find myself in awe at times at the ability of some photographers to catch memorable and fleeting moments; to catch the moments within the scenes of everyday life that often go unseen and are taken for granted.

I have been around or participating in photography my whole life. My mom was a photographer. I was a photographer for my middle school yearbook (haha…this is not really a qualification). I have literally had a camera in hand my whole life, but it has only been the last 5 years or so that I have really tried to be a student of photography instead of just a consumer of what technology has made so readily available.

For the record I am still terrible at photography, but it doesn’t stop me from trying. The real benefit of all my efforts is the ability capture moments of my family that I would otherwise have failed to notice or failed to capture. I have also learned a few things about selecting a camera, lenses and photo editing software. So when presented with the following question, “What is a good camera to buy to take pictures of soccer?”, I struggle to keep the answer simple!

For the moment I will put the question to side and speak to what I consider to be a few fundamentals to purchasing a camera and lens.

Know Thy Self

Before you spend a single dollar on a camera it is important to know how far you plan on taking your photography. If you tend to be someone who takes theirs hobbies very seriously or tend to push them as far as your talent and time permits  I would recommend buying a professional level camera or as much camera as your budget can afford.  The stories are all over the internet of photographers who started with 1 camera just to purchase 4 or 5 more cameras until they reached a professional level camera. Save your money and just start with a professional quality camera. I personally started with a nice point-and-shoot, then purchased a Nikon 80, Nikon D7000 and then a Nikon D800.

Lenses

This is going to sound repetitive but in the case of lenses it is important to buy quality professional grade lenses. Lenses are the eye to your camera. The quality of your images are limited to the quality of the lenses you attach to it.

Not all budgets are created equal. When pressed between a camera and a quality lenses I  spend on the lens. Quality lenses enable your photography, retain their value and will likely outlast any camera you purchase. 

It’s not all about the Benjamins

Expensive equipment doesn’t make  a good photographer. There are photographers creating images on their iPhone’s that surpass in talent anything I have produced. With that said it is very possible to be limited by your equipment if said equipment can not handle the circumstance you find yourself in while shooting. I remember trying to shoot (photograph) a black bear moving in the shadows of the trees with a zoom lens with a max aperture of 5.6 with a camera that only had a usable ISO of 400. I had been searching all day for wildlife and to find a large black bear made my day! My images on the other hand left me sorely disappointed as they were all very blurry. I tried bumping the ISO to 800, but the noise in the images was just too much…opportunity missed.

Subject Matter

Just like any other tool a specific camera and lens combo are generally geared toward a specific purpose whether that be taking action shots outdoors or shooting concerts in low light venues. Its is very important to consider what you will be shooting when you decide to purchase a camera and/or lens.

1500 Dollar Camera

So back to the question at hand; “What is a good camera to buy take pictures of soccer?”. With the aid of a few follow-up questions I am presented with the following criteria for a camera;

  1. 1500 dollar budget
  2. Ability to take outdoor action shots of soccer
  3. Easy to use
  4. Size and weight are not an issue

The following are my suggestions on how i would spend the 1500 dollars…

  • I would by the best 70-200 F2.8 or F4 lens I could find. This lens offers flexibility and speed. The VRI/VRII 2.8 are known for being tact sharp and an all around great lenses. I have never used the F4, but the reviews claim it is lighter and just as good if not better than the F2.8 versions of the lens. I would buy my lens used from FredMiranda.com. I have bought a handful of lenses from this site and have never been disappointed. More importantly I have been able to save on quality used lenses. 
  • For the camera body I would work with what I have left to purchase any newer model camera that can take at least 5fps and has a usable ISO of 800 to 1600. If a F2.8 lens is purchased the ISO abilities become a little less important. The criteria states that the camera would be used for outdoor soccer which could lend itself to night games under stadium lights.  I am not knowledgable about Cannon gear, but almost all of the new Nikon’s meet this criteria; from consumer to professional. I would also consider buying this on FredMiranda.com

So what options of lens and camera would this advice end up producing? Lets take a look…

Lens

  • Nikon 70-200 VR1 F2.8 lenses appears to be going for about $1200. Retail cost is about $2400 for the VRII version.
  • Nikon 70-200 VR F4 appears to be going for $1000 retail cost is $1200. This lens is still very new so the savings is a bit less.

Camera

  • Any entry-level Nikon D3300 or above ranging from 500 to 800 dollars retail and much less used on FredMiranda.com
  • I am not familiar with any of the newer Nikons, but the reviews . I still own and still use my Nikon D7000. It has advanced features and has clean images up to 1600 ISO. I have found used Nikon D7000 for about $500 in near mint condition.
  • The Nikon entry level to prosumer cameras still offer program modes to those learning the art of balancing ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

Final Decision?

Based on what I could find I would start my search trying to land on a Nikon 70-200 F4 with a used D7000. This combination should offer the flexibility needed and it is a little lighter combo than what the F2.8 version offers. I do not find the weight of the F2.8 versions of this lens to be heavy, but most would appreciate the lighter combo.

I am sure Cannon likely has an equivalent offering, but I have never owned or shot with a Cannon DSLR.

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