If you are about to buy a camera, you are faced with so many choices, brands and ranges. This is a wonderful thing. If you do some research you can get the right option for your needs, all within your budget.
|The World in my Lens
|In this second part of the photography series I’m going to shed some layman’s advice on your options. It is really not as confusing as it may appear at first.
The first consideration I’d like to dispense with quickly is the price range. While finances should be no hindrance in your purchase, it often is. Buy wisely and accordingly. This full intent of this statement should resonate with you by the end of this article.
Set your budget first and remember that you can always upgrade or replace at a later date. No one is going to come along and spank you if you do so at a later stage. The following information is based on my own opinion, limited research and knowledge. It will help you to decide which route to take according to your budget. I’m not going to tell you which “Brand” to buy, just give you an idea what “Type” will suit your requirements.
The next important consideration is the intended use of your camera. Sure, all cameras take photos. Some just take better pictures than others… If you can’t tell the difference then you have your answer already!
Knowing your intended use of the camera you buy, enables you to make the right choice for your needs. On average people fall roughly into two categories of snapshot takers. There is the casual Photographer and the more serious Artist. Photography is for everyone. Art isn’t!
Some folks just want to take good pictures of life as it happens. How it all gets done, is not important. For the most part, the camera is left on fully automatic and the CPU in the camera makes all your decisions. You just “Point and Shoot”… moment captured!
The second type of person likes to fiddle! They are usually not happy with just letting the camera decide what’s best. They may start out on automatic and as they gain confidence and experience, begin to experiment.
When it comes to camera types the line is blurring somewhat but we can still distinguish between the three basic types.
In order, from ease to professional, we start with your basic “Point and Shoot” cameras. Just for clarity sake, cell phones also fall into this category! Next, you have your “prosumer” or “SLR like” cameras. Finally you have your SLR range. SLR cameras can vary wildly in price from the affordable entry level, to the extremely expensive, “I-can-buy-a-car-with-that-money”, range!
Let’s have a look at your “Point and Shoot” type first. Essentially any device with a lens can take photographs. Not all of them are going to do the job equally well though.
If you really just want to snap off the few occasional photographs of your friends drunk in the local pub or to document that you really were on holiday, then either buy a slim, inexpensive, easy to use camera, or a cell phone with a decent lens. You get some cell phones that take better photographs than cheap cameras.
This may sound condescending but it really isn’t. You should never buy anything for any other reason than the use it provides. Buy what you need. In the long run you will achieve a far greater level of satisfaction.
Moving along the scale we get the kind of person that likes to take lots of pictures and possibly even create lots of photo albums. It’s family photos, holiday snapshots, yearend functions, and the like.
|“Point and Shoot” at the Moon!
Here I would suggest a camera like my previous Nikon S9100. It is quite simply the best point and shoot camera for its size on the market. Read my “Photography Part One” for more details and links.
This sort of “Point and Shoot” will take very high quality photographs, perform really well under most conditions, as well as providing you with a lens that goes from wide angle to 18x zoom! All this in a relatively compact package that, while not altogether comfortable, you can slip it into your pocket! I have taken close ups of the moon with it that some cheaper SLRs were not able too!
It is important to note here that this sort of camera blurs the line between “Point and Shoot” and “Prosumer” ranges. The differences are that, in general, the manual settings are rather limited on the “Point and Shoot”.
For the person who loves photos but isn’t obsessed by how fast the shutter is opening and closing, we have the “Bridge” cameras that fall in between the “Point and Shoot” and SLR range. They look fairly serious about photography, they generally have a larger lens so the photographic quality is better, and they go from wide angle to a super zoom at a (slow) press of a button.
The very advantages of this type of camera are often also its drawbacks. It has a nice large zoom in a relatively small package but you cannot change the lens. It’s a “one lens fits all” type of camera!
It is indeed smaller and sometimes quicker to operate than an SLR. It is not small enough, however, to slip into your back pocket. So you need to carry it around as if it was a proper SLR. It is for this reason I won’t readily buy one for myself.
The Prosumer/Bridge range slots in nicely between the two price wise. It gives you the best of both worlds – up to a point – and at a price generally cheaper than an entry level SLR camera. Sometimes the complaint in this range comes in the form of crispness. The end results are just not as good as one would hope for.
This is where we neatly land up in the addiction of professional camera equipment! The SLR! Queue the theatrical choir of Angels sighing sound! If you want to take good pictures, buy a good “Point and Shoot” camera. If you want to capture great moments, buy your one way ticket to an SLR addiction!
I can get a photograph like this one below from my “Point and Shoot”…
I can only grab my camera and take a photograph like this from my desk (like the birds below) with my SLR! Enlarge the picture and see each droplet frozen in time.
SLR cameras have their drawbacks too and make no mistake about that. Every camera type has its application. The purpose of this segment is to bring up issues and points to keep in mind and assist you to make an informed decision.
There is also nothing wrong with buying both a “Point and Shoot” AND an SLR AND using them both! Most professional photographers carry different types of cameras with them. Some even only take their “Point and Shoot” cameras with them when they are “off duty”!
Some people are also not aware that the modern SLRs are fully fledged “Point and Shoot” cameras! They have a live display via the LCD screen, they take full frame HD video with sound, and of course, they take great photographs too.
If you are taking photographs for fun then take the best option for the job. If you want to take photographs for a living then you will need an SLR for the most part. I can assure you it is no fun to lug around a bag of camera equipment to go for a hike up a mountain. If you are planning on sell your results to earn a living then this is just fine. If not, then take a “Point and Shoot”, enjoy your day, and stop being a snob about it all!
I want to touch briefly on brands and prices to end this segment off. There is a rivalry about which brand is best. Nikonites, Canonites, Leicanites… I am not endorsing any brand although I am personally biased towards my favourites.
Instead, buy equipment because it can do the job you need done the best way possible. While I buy Nikon, I will often suggest a person buy another brand. Photography isn’t a fashion statement or a pissing contest. It’s about enjoyment and art.
Is it better to buy an entry level camera into an expensive brand or a fully laden lesser known brand? That all depends on what you need. Only you can make that call. If you want bells and whistles in one affordable bundle then the latter is for you. It will give you more fun for your investment and you won’t be constantly wishing for this or that when it happens to be out of current budget constraints.
If, however, you want to take photography into a lifetime hobby, buy up and not down. You can always upgrade and replace bits and pieces as you can afford it. In the long run it is cheaper to buy good pieces of equipment, expensively and slowly, than to buy it all in one cheap package.
When it comes to SLR equipment, some manufacturers have kept their standards constant over the years. Lens mounts to use just one example. You can interchange New Lens with Old Cameras and vice versa. Obviously there are limits. An Old Lens on a New Camera cannot autofocus but you can still use it manually.
So buy a brand that supports this philosophy! In the coming years you may update your camera body but continue to utilise the rest of your equipment. Remember that we are not just talking about Lenses here. It may include a myriad of items such as Flashlights, shutter release gadgets, tripods, filters, and other such paraphernalia! Do you want to throw it all away because nothing fits the “Newer” model?
Good camera equipment assists a good photographer in taking even greater photographs. Expensive camera equipment in the hands of a lousy photographer is just a fashion statement.
Buy the camera equipment youwant and need!
|That is the END of that!
Photography Part 3 is dawning as you read this…
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