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The Best Camera for Car Photography

By: j.wilder

The reality is, there is no "best camera for car photography." Here's why.

camera for car photography
Photo by jwilder, 2019. iPhone 6s (the camera I had with me).

The Best Camera for Car Photography

What is the best camera for car photography?

The quick answer is any current interchangeable lens mirrorless (or DSLR) camera from Sony, Canon, Nikon, or Fujifilm.

But do you need a camera? Is your smartphone enough?

Do You Need a Camera?

Smartphone cameras get smarter every year.

So do you need another camera?

Maybe.

Here are the top reasons to invest in a full featured camera.

1. It's a Camera - Full featured cameras are designed from the ground up to create photos. They are designed specifically for photographers. They aren't general purpose hand-held computing devices. Smartphones are about ease of use. This means trade-offs.

2. Full Control - Full featured cameras allow you to control almost every aspect of the photo-taking process.

3. Interchangeable Lens - Being able to pick the right lens for your photography needs is crucial. The quality of lenses ranges greatly, as well as the price. You can choose a fixed lens or swap it out for a zoom. With smartphones, your stuck with what's on the device.

4. RAW - Having the ability to shoot in RAW is important if you edit your photos as part of your process. However, I think smartphones will start adding this capability.

If you don't need any of these features, then a smartphone is exactly what you need. You can still take great shots with a smartphone and edit your photos to give them an added pop.

However, if you want camera-first design, full control, and interchangeable lenses, then you want a full featured camera.

So, let's look at a smart way to find the best camera for you.

What Are Your Car Photography Goals?

Whether you are photographing birds, people, architecture or cars, the pool of cameras to choose from are the same.

There are an insane number of cameras on the market! Just look at Sony. They currently list 21 interchangeable lens cameras and 24 compact cameras, for a total of 45 cameras! And that's just Sony.

Because there are so many cameras to choose from, it is best to focus your effort on getting crystal clear about your photography goals and camera features you need to achieve them.

Answer these questions and you will be better prepared to do camera research.

What type of car photography do you want to do?

  • Motorsports.
  • Static car photo shoots.
  • Car shows and meets.
  • Automotive photojournalism.
  • On-the-street car photography.
  • Professional or enthusiast.

Next, let's focus on lenses.

Car Photography Lens

With all types of photography, your lens choices are going to be the biggest factor in terms of cost and effect.

To shoot motorsports you are going to have to get a good telephoto lens, 200mm or longer, with fast autofocus. You will also need image stabilization in the lens or the camera body.

For car meets in the evening, you might want a wide angle fixed (non-zoom) lens with a wide aperture like 1.8, so your camera can gather as much light as possible.

For static car shoots, you might want to invest in a versatile 24x70mm 2.8 to get closeup interior shots at 24mm and exterior shots from a distance at 70mm.

For car shows, the 24x70mm 2.8 is also a good lens that allows you to get close to the car (to avoid people) and interior shots at 24mm. Being able to zoom up to 70mm will come in handy too.

The 24x70mm 2.8 is a great workhorse first lens.

As you gain more experience, you will probably want to pick up fixed focal length (prime) lens for specific scenarios. Fixed focal length lens are usually lighter weight, sharper, and usually let in more light than a zoom.

What's Your Budget?

The next thing you need to think about is how much are you willing to spend.

Once you determine your budget you can more confidently choose a camera based on the features you need (and the features you don't need).

Summary

Here are the three questions you really need to ask (yourself).

1. What are your car photography goals?
2. What camera features do you need in order to attain your goals?
3. How much are you willing to spend?

Do your research, ask good questions, know the camera features you need, and make your own choice.

Tips

Most of the car photography you see on social media is highly edited (post-processed) to get the look the photographer wants. Pro photographers look for every opportunity to stand out, and post-processing can be half of the photography process. So don't think a specific camera can make you Pepper Yandell.

Please do not buy a camera based on anyone's recommendation. Buy based on the features you need. Most articles on the 'net that recommend cameras for car photography do not justify their recommendations. They are simply trying to make money by you clicking their Amazon link (or other affiliate link). Do your research, ask good questions, but make your own choice.

Buy a good book about your camera. Most camera manuals are worthless.

Finally

If you are new to car photography you might want to check out this article that focuses on Car Photography Tips for beginners. It's a great place to start.

Keep shooting.

James Wilder

James Wilder is the owner, writer, photographer, designer, and developer for CarPhotography.Life.

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