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Digital Camera Recommendations for Photography Students

  1. News
  2. Digital Camera Recommendations for Photography Students
Smiling photography student.

Suggested Camera Bodies for Professional Photography Students

What to Look for When Choosing a Great Camera for Photography School

There are so many great choices to choose from when purchasing a digital camera for photography school. So many options in fact, that it can be daunting to pick the right one for you! Things like image quality, dynamic range and the ability to shoot 4K video may be among the features you’re looking for.  Putting aside your personal wish list, we’ve compiled a few things for you to consider if you are about to make this purchase. Overall, the best student camera will be easy to use, have the features you’ll need to produce stunning images, and be aligned with the type of photography work you plan to do. This blog will include cameras for most budgets and highlight some of the features you may want to look for.  

Professional Photography student prepares to take a photograph.
Photography student taking some street photographs.

Don’t Get Starstruck by Camera Specs  

Listen…we get that you want the best camera you can afford, and that may mean you’re focusing on the specs of your dream camera. But, are all specs created equal? There are major differences in the capabilities of compact cameras versus DSLR or mirrorless, and if you intend to “go professional”, you likely want a camera body with all the bells and whistles. So if you’re wondering what bells and/or whistles to fork out money for, here are our thoughts on a few.  


It’s easy to be seduced by megapixel counts when selecting a camera. You may fairly assume that more is better, and camera manufacturers want you to think this way. In reality, unless you intend to print skyscraper-size prints, you likely won’t ever take full advantage of that lofty megapixel count. Additionally, a downside of a higher megapixel count is larger file sizes. This can have an impact on your file storage capacity and can also affect how fast your camera can actually capture image files. So, if you’re deciding between a body with a higher count versus a shiny new prime lens…we say, save your money for the prime lens.  


We can assume that your goal is to buy a camera that will produce images of the highest quality. When shopping around for a camera, there are specs that will let you know about a camera’s image quality potential, and they all relate to its sensor. Think of it this way – your camera’s digital sensor is essentially the ‘film’, and most DSLRs will have either an APS-C or full-frame sensor, so what’s the difference? APS-C sensors will have a crop factor, referring to how lenses are magnified when attached to this type of sensor. Essentially, you lose a bit of the lens area when attaching it to this type of sensor. So, choosing a camera body with a full-frame sensor will allow you to get the most out of your camera.  

Choosing Between DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras

The debate rages on over the winner in the battle between mirrorless cameras and DSLR cameras. While the decision will likely remain a personal one, there are some key differences to know before you make your final decision.  

Let’s look at the basics and investigate the key differences between these two types of cameras. Really, the answer is in the names. DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex, which uses a mirror inside the camera to reflect light up into the optical viewfinder, allowing you to see the scene as the lens sees it (no digital processing). When you press the shutter button, the mirror moves out of the way to reveal the image sensor, capturing the image.  

You’ve probably guessed by now that mirrorless cameras don’t have a mirror. Instead, mirrorless cameras pass the light directly to the image sensor and then display the image on either the back of the camera or through the electronic viewfinder. By removing the mirror from the function of a camera, a few advantages become apparent. The major advantages are smaller size, reduced weight, and less noise. (We mean audible noise here, not visual noise). 

While CAT doesn’t firmly dictate students use DSLR cameras, the majority of our Professional Photography students still continue to use DSLR cameras. DSLR cameras offer a wider selection of interchangeable lenses, longer battery life, and better low-light shooting capabilities, thanks to the optical viewfinder.  

Camera Brands and Models Centre for Arts and Technology Recommends 

We’ve discussed brands and mirrorless vs. DSLR, so now what? If you don’t feel any more confident in making this decision after reading to this point, here’s where we get precise on what we recommend you buy if you are considering attending CAT’s Professional Photography program. We’ll include two bodies per brand, the highest model available, and its more affordable, lower-end counterpart. But first! A general note on camera bodies and lenses:  

Camera Body 

Any DSLR or Mirrorless camera body from one of the major camera manufacturers will be suitable for use in our program. However, we highly recommend that you purchase a full-frame sensor DSLR or a pro-series mirrorless camera from Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon or Sony as the shortcomings of many cropped-sensor or micro 4/3 camera bodies will become immediately apparent. A full-frame sensor DSLR or pro-series mirrorless camera body will also take you beyond graduation and into your shooting career where the need for professional quality images and equipment becomes of utmost importance. 

Camera Lens

Invest your dollars wisely and purchase the best lens you can afford. Camera bodies are replaced as technology advances, every couple of years, or more frequently if you shoot often. A good lens, however, can last an entire career if cared for properly. Buy the ‘fastest’ lenses that you can, i.e. low aperture numbers like f1.4, f1.8, f2.8. And, if possible, stay away from ‘kit’ lenses and/or variable ‘f’-stop lenses as their optics are often made with plastic, therefore, giving inferior image quality. 

Canon Recommended Bodies 




  • Body Type: Full-frame DSLR 
  • Sensor: Full-frame CMOS 
  • Megapixels: 20 MP 
  • ISO: Auto, 100 – 51200 
  • Autofocus: 61 selectable points 
  • Screen type: 3.2-inch fixed LCD screen 
  • Continuous shooting speed: 16fps 
Canon EOS RP



  • Body Type: SLR-style Mirrorless 
  • Sensor: Full-frame CMOS 
  • Megapixels: 26.2MP 
  • ISO: Auto, 100 – 40000 
  • Autofocus: 4,779 selectable points 
  • Screen type: 3-inch articulating touchscreen 
  • Continuous shooting speed: 5fps 
Nikon D4

Nikon Recommended Bodies 



  • Body Type: Full-frame DSLR 
  • Sensor: CMOS 
  • Megapixels: 16 MP 
  • ISO: 100 – 12,800 
  • Autofocus: 51 selectable points 
  • Screen type: 3.2-inch fixed LCD screen 
  • Continuous shooting speed: 11.0 fps 
Nikon D750



  • Body Type: Full-frame DSLR 
  • Sensor: CMOS 
  • Megapixels: 24 MP 
  • ISO: Auto, 100 – 12800 
  • Autofocus: 51 selectable points 
  • Screen type: 3.2 -inch articulating LCD 
  • Continuous shooting speed: 6.5fps 

Sony Recommended Bodies 

Sony A9 II

A9 II 


  • Body Type: SLR-style mirrorless 
  • Sensor: Stacked CMOS 
  • Megapixels: 24 MP 
  • ISO: Auto, 100 – 51200 
  • Autofocus: 693 selectable points 
  • Screen type: 3-inch tilting LCD 
  • Continuous shooting speed: 20 fps 



  • Body Type: SLR-style mirrorless 
  • Sensor: CMOS 
  • Megapixels: 12 MP 
  • ISO: Auto, 100 – 102400 
  • Autofocus: 169 selectable points 
  • Screen type: 3-inch tilting LCD 
  • Continuous shooting speed: 5 fps 

Our Professional Photography Program Advisors have additional recommendations and can assist you if you are ready to make your school camera purchase! If you’d like to book an appointment, please contact the school at 1.866.860.ARTS or fill out an inquiry form 

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