In my first blog post, I will briefly discuss my philosophy about the right digital camera for a new photographer.
Point 1 – The quality of the lens counts.
I began my use of a digital camera in 2001 with a 4.2 Megapixel and when I look back at those photos I find them sharp and clear given the state of the technology fourteen years ago. Why were they so good? It had to be in some part due to the Olympus lens. Olympus is world known for the optics in the scientific and medical instruments. Today, all major camera manufacturers, such as Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Sony to name a few, make cameras with quality lens.
Point 2 – Sensor size counts.
Is more Megapixels better? However, what’s really important is sensor size.
This is a big generality. I believe it applies almost 100% of the time. Think about it for a second. If you have small sensor (i.e. 1/2.3) like in a compact point and shoot digital camera or even smaller on your cell phone vs. a larger sensor such as a full frame (i.e. 35 mm “full frame”) the quality of the photos will be very different. Most professionals use full frame cameras.
So the question really becomes what is your intended of use images. If you’re using the images for your website, then an 800 pixel image from the smaller sensors will work just fine. If you are looking to make 16X20 prints then a Four Thirds, Foveon and APS-C sensors will be quite satisfactory along with a good lens. The full frame sensor will of course be better but at much higher cost that the Four Thirds, Foveon and APS-C sensors. That said, the images from a 4.2 Megapixel camera couldn’t make a quality 16X20 print, but a camera with 10-12 or more megapixels is capable of making excellent prints.
Point 3 – What kind of Camera?
There are many choices: DSLR, Super-zoom, interchangeable lens mirror-less, or compact camera.
My thoughts are rather simple:
First, purchase a camera with a view finder.
Why? It really comes down to two things:
- In bright conditions it is difficult to see what you are photographing without having a view finder. The LCD screen just isn’t bright enough.
- How stable you can hold the camera when taking a photo is important. With a view finder you are holding the camera against your eye with elbows close to your body. This is a much more stable position that holding the camera away from your face so you can view the LCD screen.
Second, don’t purchase a camera with interchangeable lenses unless you really want to have a wide selection of different lenses. Consider a camera like a Super-zoom, which can give you both wide and telephoto capability in a single camera. They are generally less costly and weigh less than a camera with multiple interchangeable lenses.
Point 4 – What do I buy?
Purchase a camera that you can afford, while considering the first three points. Start simple; you can get a very good camera for as little as a few hundred dollars or you may consider buying a good used camera.
I’ve had students who have purchased $1000+ cameras and they struggled because it was too complex to operate with many more features than they needed. Such cameras are geared for the advanced amateur or professional. If you are always shooting in automatic mode, then you’re really not getting the full benefits from having an adjustable camera. In fact, in my opinion, if you have any more than a point and shoot camera, you have spend too much.
[In my classes I ask students to take the NO AUTO Pledge. When a student has completed the course they should be able to take better photos and never use the automatic mode again.]
Point 5 – What is most important?
Learn to use the camera you have. Learn about the camera controls, speed, aperture, ISO and shooting modes, depth of field, correct exposure, photographic composition and lighting. If you then still desire to have a $1000+ camera you can always purchase it after you have mastered a less expensive model and that camera limits your ability to take the photos you desire.
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