A common question that I therefore hear often:
“I am going to buy a [new] camera. What should I buy?”
Followed often by:
“Oh. Isn’t there anything cheaper?”
Starting with the last question: there’s no free lunches. As for the first – that’s like asking “what car should I buy”. I have noi idea what car you should buy – it depends in needs, budget, availability, and so on.
I have two small cameras: a Canon G9 and a Fuji X100. And three SLR cameras: A Canon 7D, a 1Ds Mark3, and a 1D Mark4. They each have pros and cons. All I can give you is some pointers.
You buy a compact camera if:
- You have a restricted budget.
- Size and weight are more important to you than flexibility and quality.
- You will replace it every few years.
- You do not need special lenses (wide angle, telephoto, macro, etc).
- You shoot mainly static subjects.
- You want to be inconspicuous.
You buy an SLR if:
- Quality is paramount.
- You are willing to learn.
- You want to be able to shoot quickly once you aim at a subject.
- You will shoot a lot of “difficult” subjects (sports; night scenes).
- You are willing to invest for the future.
- You wil by extra lenses.
- You need to be able to use a big flash.
A few recommendations, then:
- Think carefully about what your requirements are. What will you use the camera for? What do you need it to do? What do you expect from it?
- If you buy a compact camera, look for one with a large sensor. These are available nowadays – small sensor cameras produce graining pictures, especially in the dark, and have trouble producing those blurry backgrounds we all love.
- If you buy an SLR camera, I would recommend a Canon Digital Rebel – but that said, there are no “bad” cameras. Nikon and Canon are the pro brands, but Olympus, Pentax, Sony, and in the compact cameras, brands like Samsung, are just as good. Sony wants to be one of the big boys. Samsung is innovative. And so on.
- So go hold the camera. Try the controls. Try how it feels. Fall in love – else you will not get most use out of the camera.
- Make sure the controls are easy and convenient. I find, for example, that touch screens are gimmicky and inconvenient – you keep hitting the wrong thing all too often, and you have to take your hands off the camera to set anything.
- If you buy an SLR, consider not getting the “kit lens” – these are not very good – but invest in a better lens or two.
- Include a “portrait lens” – 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4.
- Read dpreview.com for a review of your chosen camera.
- Have realistic expectations. A compact camera will not do for sports shooting, for example.
Does all that help? Yes, some thinking is required, and compromising – just like when you buy a car.