So you want to buy a new camera? (Part I)
Let's face it. Buying a new camera is a daunting task when there are so many new models out there all the time. With this ever changing industry, it can be tempting to chase the latest and greatest. But realistically, it is impossible... and honestly, not the right approach either. Add all the jargon and camera babble that comes with it, and the result is an utterly confused budding photographer. So, what should you consider when you want to buy a new camera?
Let's put the camera aside for a moment and talk about cars. Yes, cars. If you want to buy a car, you most likely consider what you will use it for (mostly city; mostly commuting; mostly long distance; rough or special terrain), how often you will drive it, its size (passengers and/or storage capacity), how comfortable you feel behind the wheel and on the road, the gas consumption, options and gadgets, the price tag, the cost of insurance, the maintenance, and so on.
In other words, you look at your needs, do a bit of research, consider the pros and cons, look at your budget. And then you make your decision based on those considerations.
The purchase of a camera is very much the same. The questions to ask yourself are different, that's all. You need to consider your true level of interest in photography, whether you want to learn what makes a camera tick, the type of photography you will use it for, how often you will use it, whether you will print enlargements, how well it fits in your hands, how easy it is to use, the lens options, the accessories, etc.
In other words, the best camera is the one that will best meet your needs. Start by identifying your level of interest in photography along with what you like to photograph, and you will already be ahead of the game when it comes to choosing a camera. Doing a little soul searching and knowing yourself is the best thing to help you with your choice.
There are ultimately three different camera families: D-SLR, Mirror less and Compact cameras. Each category addresses different needs.
The SLR camera family
If you are truly interested in learning photography along with its technical aspect, such as aperture, shutter speed, proper exposure, focusing modes etc., and you are ready to carry a large size camera with interchangeable lenses, then a SLR is probably the way to go. You will get high quality images with all the creative control you want. It really breaks my heart to see people spend a lot of money on an expensive SLR camera only to leave it in the closet because they find it big to carry or too complicated to use and leave it on Auto because it is easier.
The mirror-less camera family
If you are interested in learning about photography along with the technical aspect of a camera, want the flexibility of manual functions and the creativity that comes with it, but you don't want a heavy/bulky camera, then a mirror less camera would be a good option. These are light in weight, compact in size, and produce high quality images. This would be a good option for urban/street photography for example, when you don't want to look intrusive pointing a camera while walking the streets.
The compact camera family
If family events, your vacation at the beach, or every day situations are your favourite moments to capture on camera, that's great! Then a compact camera is probably a better choice and investment. These are easy to use, have many options to choose from to get various effects, they are easy to slip in a pocket and don't break the bank. With the quality of smartphones evolving fast, the point and shoot cameras will slowly become less relevant.
How to Decide?
To recap, here are some questions that will help you assess the category of camera that best suits your needs:
- Are you ready to learn about the nuts and bolts of a camera?
- Do you want to have full creative control?
- Will you enlarge your photos to display on your walls?
- If your answer is 'Yes', consider an SLR camera.
- If you said yes to the above AND the camera small weigh and size if important, then consider a mirror-less camera.
- Do you mostly capture birthdays and family events?
- Do you want the camera to decide the settings for you?
- If your answer is 'Yes' to these questions, then consider a compact camera.
Now that you have identified the type of camera that best fits your needs and interests, it is time to review the various options and modes available. That's what we'll do in Part II of this article.
About the Author
Sophie has been a photographer, educator and traveller for most of her adult life. She founded Better Paris Photos in 2008 (which became Better Travel Photos in 2014) to deliver exceptional photography experiences to travellers.