By Rob Dekker.
Here’s the scene:
You like taking pics and thought that maybe one day you’d get “a decent camera”.
You walk into the local chain store and the sales person see’s you coming ….. you get blinded by science, mega wogs, giga bytes, 70 million times zoom and uber pixels, usually with three choices of their favourite brand and four different models in each brand, not to mention the deal of the week with a free kit bag and lens cleaning cloth, plus a side order of fries ………
You now walk out even more confused ??? SO………….
BUY WHAT SUITS YOUR NEEDS.
Now, i’m not going to tell anyone who can afford to and wants to buy a Ferrari, not to do so, but if they are just going to work and back ……………
Principally I think you know where i’m going here.
However, what doesn’t make a lot of sense, is the people i’ve come across in the last year who have bought camera gear wayyyy above their understanding. One guy told me he ….. “wanted to go on holiday and look cool with one of those big lenses”, so went and found a good(?) second hand deal online???
The questions to ask here are:
- What are you going to do with your photo’s ? Posting them on social media for most people to see on a smart phone or tablet then you don’t need a whole lot of image quality or megapixels. A basic sized laptop screen will only really require around 6 megapixels for a decent image. Answer = smart phone or smart camera.
- What sort of photography are you going to do ? Basic family snaps and holiday scenery ? Then in reality your smart phone or tablet will be fine. I recently did some processing work for a neighbour,who is, shall I say …a little bit older than me …and went on holiday with her ipad. Even after some cropping and editing, I presented some really pleasing images for her to show people on her medium sized flat screen TV. Just learning to keep your camera still or lean it on something when your taking the photos (so much sharper especially in low light) can make a smart phone shot look mega!!
- Are you going to shoot some action, landscape scenery or wildlife ? Now we are talking about something a little more serious for sure. Smart phones are super awesome but you can get better results with purpose built stills cameras. The reason for this is that smart phones are a “jack of all trades” but not a master of photography……….. which brings me to the next and most important point …..
A BETTER CAMERA IS NOT GOING TO MAKE YOU A BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER
If you ‘suck’ at taking photos with a smart phone then maybe its better that you leave photography to other people, because thinking of buying a flash twin lens kit DSLR from that store probably isn’t going to help things much.
Most people don’t even understand how to keep that DAMN thing still …… Cameras and smart phones are sooo forgiving nowadays but any movement of hand and waving the thing around while you ‘take that selfie’ is going to reduce image quality and leave you with blurred images.
A landscape photographer will set their machine on a tripod, carefully select the settings and wait for the right light before pressing the button. They understand the need to keep the camera perfectly still to maximise sharpness. A real artist need only press once, because they know they have the right image ‘in the bag’.
If you don’t understand the principles of photography but would like to get better ….. Go and do a course first with your existing camera or buy the new camera and get a course thrown in with the deal.
However, it’s most likely the camera you have in the bottom drawer need only get charged and clean the lens before it becomes your best starting place.
A classic photography saying is the best camera for you …. is the one you have in your hand!!!
THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY
Are………. composition(subject arrangement) and lighting.
You can go onto a camera forum and talk forever about megapixels and optical quality of lenses and all that associated technical mumbo jumbo, but quite simply, the best images can be taken with almost any camera. It’s the 6 or 8 inches behind the camera that matter (depending on how big your head is ?)
I have taken wedding photographs and some of the favourite ones were just plain, simple, clear, sharp, shots of the grand daughter and grand father locked in conversation … go figure !! Forget all the artistic stuff I tried for, the image which captures a moment but does it with reasonable sharpness and clarity worked best.
Hold that darn thing stilll …. ooops have I just repeated myself? Cameras are very forgiving but I chuckle when I see people showing photos of them and a mate and say ….. what a lovely photo !!! …no sorry, the photo was absolute garbage but your memory of the moment was what you found lovely.
If you gave any half decent photographer a smart phone or an old compact camera, we’d come up with some reasonable images. Yes you could discredit the lack of megapixels or poor quality at large blow up sizes, but what you would get is a well composed image, even a WOW shot from sports action because we know the principles of photography and what works.
Learning how to handle the light, shooting into bright sun, away from sun, working with shadows to create effect and mood. Learning to get the right amount of foreground and background, posing people, getting the right amount of elements in a photo to make it interesting ….
A photo of a bay with the ocean and a wave may look cool to you because your memory of the day is what made it special, however the person looking at it goes, yeah cool, whatever !!….. but when you put in a sailing boat, a child playing on the beach, a dog running, a seagull, suddenly the image starts telling a story !! Shooting a sunset by just shooting the clouds …. boring, seen it a million times … add some foreground and a kite surfer or a couple walking on the beach, now it’s looking wayyy cool !!!
NOTHING WRONG WITH A TWIN LENS DSLR KIT….
Ok, so I’ve just trashed the person who buys these things because their ego is bigger than their ability. But once again I will never discredit anyone who wants to buy this stuff because they can and want to … choice is there to be had.
If your a bit more serious or want to record nice family moments with something a bit better than a smart phone, shoot the kids footy, take some nice high quality holiday snaps and the hubby wants to use it when he goes to watch car racing, now the game is changing.
There is a massive range of choice and with technology, better things are coming in smaller packages. You don’t need to buy a DSLR or an interchangeable lens camera at all as some of the ‘superzoom’ or ‘bridge’ cameras are getting ‘out of hand’ with their technology.
Classic case in point was someone I know well who takes pretty good photos. He had a Nikon DSLR released in 2004. He was considering upgrading and after his own research and my input, got rid of the big bulky DSLR (which still looked fancy…. another point to come) and purchased a Sony with a smaller image sensor but designed around 2014 and built in zoom which suited 99% of his needs. The Sony, much smaller, much lighter has better image quality than his big old camera, why ?? Because technology had rendered his 10 year older camera obsolete.
So, have a real good think about your requirements:
- What am I going to be shooting? family, sports, wildlife, landscape, macro insects?
- How much % of the time will I shoot each subject? Go back and look at your photography up till now and what you seriously believe you want to do more of, then decide what is going to suit your needs. You don’t need a V8 if your towing rubbish to the tip once a year and rest of the time stuck in traffic on the way to work.
- Where or how will I display my images? your mates Facebook account on smart phone or large scale prints on your wall ?
- How important is small size and portability? Am I getting older or just too many kids and not enough hands?
If your a dedicated wildlife shooter, happy to trek miles for that one golden shot with extra pounds of gear on your back and going to print that sucker as large or larger than life on your wall at home …. get a DSLR with a massive lens. Now your talking Canon, Nikon or Pentax.
If your a family holiday snapper with occasional extra requirements for a little sport action and going to post on social media or do slide shows on your TV at home, perhaps a 20/30 x superzoom camera is for you, for example the popular Nikon Coolpix.
Something small and light, but serious about image quality with a little bit of zoom to get closer to that castle across the valley in Europe? Try one of the Sony RX cameras ……
A happy snapper of the kids and nice moments plus the odd beach scene, with no sports or specialist uses and likes posting on social media? Smart phone all the way !!!
A BIT OF BUYING ADVICE
Megapixels: Simply too much is made of them because manufacturers have made a race to see who can outdo each other. Most people only need about 6. However, because image sensors have become so good, that the quality of each pixel has allowed them to increase how many they put in.
What more megapixels gives you is more resolution (detail) in your shots and allows you to blow your images up larger. With a smart phone screen, the images are downsized anyway, so to have 20+ megapixels is simply a waste.
When you blow up a shot and put it on a wall, then it matters. We have a almost 3metre by 3metre glass printed image on a bathroom wall in a new home … was done with a slightly older crop sensor 12mp DSLR!!!
If you shoot wildlife, then it really helps having more because that little finch on the branch that won’t let you come close can be cropped enough to get an almost decent image.
I recently went from a 16mp sensor to a 24. A whopping 50% increase and shoot both cameras at weddings. I honestly don’t see a lot and certainly my clients don’t see any difference.
It’s becoming a situation where having so many megapixels is becoming an improvement of diminishing returns….. much like buying a high powered car. If you upgrade your current model which is 400 horsepower to the 430 horsepower model you’ll barely notice the difference. If you had a 100 horsepower car and went to 150 then the increase was 50% and it would be noticeable straight away…. I hope my car examples are helping here??
Megazoom: Another marketing area where manufacturers have been competing is how many times zoom we will give you in their superzoom range.
Well the question here is…. do you really need to photograph the fly on the fence at the end of your house? It becomes ridiculous and almost unusable for MOST people to need such (50-70 x zoom) ….and they come at a price, not in $$$ terms but image quality.
As you get larger zooms with massive ranges, you have to move the glass elements inside the lens barrel further, usually made for amateurs with cheaper quality materials.
Now without getting too scientific on you, this means the light getting through the lens is bounced about and defracted more and more, resulting in poorer image quality once it finally gets to the sensor inside the camera body.
I have read so many times when camera reviewers have said…. “but last years model with less zoom range actually had better image quality”
To be able to hand hold a lens at 50 or 70 x zoom is a joke. Its like a telescope!! The cameras stabilization system is working overtime and your at the absolute end of image quality …… just darn awful.
Buying used online
Beware….. I’m not getting at reliability here, although that’s something to be weary of and factor in your decision as opposed to buying new and getting some warranty.
What I do laugh at is people who think their 10 year old 6-12 megapixel camera is worth so much !! Just because it may be a DSLR (and looks cool) with twin lenses and they paid $2000 for it new …. technology and depreciation take a HUGE toll on value. Take 30% off for walking out the door and another 10% each year thereafter ??? (you get my point)
When you go on second hand online sites …. such as Gumtree here in Australia, check the age and value of the camera. Sometimes you can get a fair deal, but often people have no idea that technology has marched on so much over the years. The 10 year old DSLR could now hardly compete in SOME areas with a Nokia 1020 smart phone (40 megapixel !! yes that’s not a typo) of just a year or two ago.
Go and look online at new DSLR or superzoom deals and then compare what some of these clowns are trying to sell their gear for on second hand sites. Occasionally people get it right but most of them are trying to pawn off a 6 year old technology with Kit lenses for a couple hundred less than full price of a new much better camera …..
Lenses that come with new cameras in deals are starter kit stuff and most pro photographers won’t go much near them.
They are not all bad and designed for a purpose to get people started. When you understand how lenses work, you realize that with careful settings and at certain lens zoom range ( e.g. an 18-55mm kit zoom may perform at its sharpest at 24mm, be horrible at 55mm or 18mm) you can get very acceptable results. Remember they are produced in mass, cheaply, have very little resale value on the second hand market. They are designed as a starter.
Good quality optical glass is a huge asset and 3rd party companies like Sigma and Tamron do make some fantastic lense at half the price of the branded gear. But then branded lens gear is often designed in context with their own camera bodies with electronics to match and for a certain look or feel.
There is no brand that is better than any other in overall terms. It’s a fact that Canon has a huge market lead, followed by Nikon and the rest fight for the crumbs!!!
Canon and Nikon do so well because they have marketed and done the basics right for so long. Pentax and Olympus were right up there in the 60’s/70’s/80’s and now fighting furiously to gain traction amongst the serious users for the left over crumbs.
Sony has done reasonably well because they brought new tech and small size to the game, whilst Samsung and Fuji also fight for the left overs. Fuji have gained some following from a few pro’s recently because of beautiful new lenses and the way their camera’s process images with colours etc …. each to their own taste.
None of the above have any bad camera’s, so people who state that one brand or another is better …. are full of nonsense !!! The photography forums are full of inter brand rivalry and tech geek gobbledy gook !!! Its pointless and senseless and people blowing hot air. Canon are in every shop, not because they’re so much better, because they’ve done the business right. All the lesser selling brands have to put out gob smacking camera’s just to gain some credibility.
Buy what suits your hands, what sort of operating system you like, how easy is the menu to find its way around. Do you like the look of it and will it make you want to take pictures …………that’s pretty simply where it’s at !!
The more I take and do paid work, the less I worry about brands and the tiny degree of sharpness blah blah. For me they have become a tool and I see things that pro’s want for their chosen area. Some brands tend better towards certain types of work. If you want a bit of video, look towards Panasonic, Sony and Canon right now.
Over the last 10 – 15 years at least Canon and Nikon have been the pro shooters choice but that doesn’t mean that the tiny Olympus in the store is not the better camera for you. Now more than ever pro’s are starting to realize that they can use other brands because the image quality and small size match their needs. It is usually the issue of ‘rocking’ up to a paid job with a small camera that makes them look inferior they need to get over.
For me, I started with Russian made film cameras, then Canon Film camera’s, Fuji superzoom digital, Canon DSLR before moving to Pentax for better low light performance. I’ve photographed most of my life, now i’m doing paid work, do I need Full Frame professional ?? almost not … but perhaps just that extra smidge of capability I am considering Nikon D750 or the Pentax equivalent when it comes out next year. But;
Give me a camera ….. any camera and i’ll take photo’s, I like what I like and what suits my needs, period.
- Seriously and honestly look at what you shoot and how often you do it?
- Think about portability and would a big camera be too heavy and do you want to change lenses?
- Don’t buy something your not comfortable with or can’t use.
- Be careful buying used, check it against new camera prices and is that older DSLR really worth the money.
- Learn to use your existing camera better before upgrading.
- Do a photography course.
- Keep that darn thing still !!! Holding your camera steady or on a bench/fencepost/table will improve image quality hugely.
- Have someone who knows what they’re doing to check your camera settings if someone has played with it, could be giving you funny results.
- Brands don’t really matter, buy what suits you.
- Don’t get sucked in by megapixels or huge zoom range if you don’t need it.
- Consider a smart camera option. Samsung do a great smart camera which gives you great quality and social media upload.
- If regular small video’s are important, certain brands do this better than others.
- Rugged cameras such as Pentax WG series, Olympus and Panasonic are awesome for underwater and beach, for family and education, water proof, drop proof etc …. awesome for families and schools etc
- Consider a proper camera store for advice as opposed to a chain store. Specialists generally have a greater grasp on how your requirements will be better met.