This week’s feature is going to be based on a specific question that I happen to get asked more than the average person simply based on what I do for a living. Everyone out there that is looking to buy a camera typically looks to anyone they know with a little experience behind the lens for some real world advice. That is cool with me but it’s always one of those hard-to-answer questions simply because it really depends on a lot of factors. Anything from your budget, to pixel count, to quality, to brand names to customer reviews to whether or not it features HD video, to company reputation and everything in between makes a difference. If you happen to be one of those people out there that want to make the jump from a point and shoot digi cam to a full-on digital SLR set up then this column is for you. Check it out…
Let’s start with pixel count because for the average person this seems to be a pretty important point of interest. Most of the time that you hear someone talk about digital cameras they can usually be heard saying something about how many pixels it has and typically the rule of thumb is; the more, the better. But don’t be fooled by the number of pixels alone and just base everything on that. There are plenty of point and shoot digital cameras out there that have more pixels than some professional DSLR’s but they have a smaller sensor that is nowhere near as good. It’s actually about the quality and size of the sensor just as much as it is about the pixel count and obviously all of those factors play a huge role in image quality. Simply put a pixel is just a small block and a digital image is made up of millions of those tiny little blocks. They vary in color and shade and when put together in rows and columns make up an image. Also, one million pixels make up a single megapixel. So technically an 18-megapixel camera like the Canon1DX shown above can shoot images containing up to 18 million little blocks. That’s a shit load of little blocks. You should also know that the more pixels, the better when it comes time to make prints. Although it might be hard to tell the quality difference between most professional DSLR’s in print seeing as how magazines are typically not much bigger than say 8 ½ x 11 inches or so it is important to realize that if you are interested in doing big gallery style prints then more megapixels can only help in that case.
Another big part to searching out a new DLSR is deciding what brand to go with. There are plenty of companies that make quality cameras these days but a choice has to be made eventually. For most photographers like myself that switched from film to digital it was an easy decision to stick with whatever brand that we were already shooting with seeing as how most photographers had already invested in a variety of lenses for their specific set up. There are two main brands out there that you need to worry about…Canon and Nikon. In my opinion that is really all you need to know when it comes to what brands to look for if you are looking to become a serious photographer. It’s up to you to ultimately make the call on which company you want to go with but overall both are great choices. I know people that have shot Nikon all of their careers and others that have shot only Canon and both with great results. Each brand offer cameras from the entry-level to the pro-level and both produce any type of lens you could possibly want with quality glass. I happen to have shot with Canon cameras since day one years ago and that is just what I stuck with after the initial investment in Canon lenses. Although I am pretty neutral when it comes to what brand is better, if you look at any major sporting event on television you will notice that nearly every photographer out there has a big white lens on the front of their camera which has sort of become Canon’s signature over the years. To me, that says something, and there must be a reason for it right? If Nikon offered superior products wouldn’t that ratio be the other way around? Just remember that whatever brand you go with initially, there is a good chance that won’t change for years to come so give it a little thought before you invest your hard earned money.
I don’t want to bore you with straight up tech specs and to be honest I could sit here for hours explaining in detail how each of these can help you decide which camera to buy. If you happen to want me to go into detail on any of these individual topics leave a comment below or shoot me an email. Here is a list of a few things that you should understand before buying a new camera…
*How many megapixels does it have?
*Is the sensor full-frame?
*If not, then what is the crop factor?
*How many frames does it shoot per second?
*Can it shoot both Raw & Jpeg images at the same time?
*Is the body mainly plastic or magnesium?
*Is it weather sealed?
*Are there multiple card slots for CF as well as SD cards?
*What is the maximum flash sync speed?
*Does it film HD video?
*Does it have an auto sensor-cleaning mode?
*What is the ISO range?
*What kind of warranty does it come with?
Price is also a big deciding factor which affects anyone from the most basic beginners to the biggest names in photography simply because not everyone has unlimited funds to shell out for camera gear. That would be nice though wouldn’t it? Only you know how much you have in the bank to spend on a new camera but keep in mind that you can get started with something like a used Canon 20D on EBay for around $250 which is super cheap considering it’s a great starter DSLR or you could go the opposite end of that spectrum and get a Canon 1D Mark IV for around $4,500 but honestly if you are in the market to buy that camera, then hopefully you would also be able to write this entire article as well. Should you buy used? Well, that’s up to you but honestly with the way that the digital camera industry changes so quickly, buying used is actually not a bad way to go. Used or refurbished cameras can be a great way to get that camera you always wanted but couldn’t quite afford brand new.
The main point to all of this was to just simply educate you a little bit about the process of buying a camera and hopefully inspire you to go out and do some research on your own. Visit a few actual camera stores and feel out the camera before you buy it. See how it feels in your hands and see if it it’s meets all of your technical needs. Hell, you can even go as far as renting a camera for a weekend to truly give it a test run out in the field. It takes a long time to really understand and value what you want in a camera so if you are really at the beginner level you are just going to have to commit at some point and pull the trigger on a camera and go from there. That is the only way you are going to learn what you like and don’t like in a camera. Whether you end up with a Canon or Nikon won’t really matter until you get more experience and understand why you would want one over the other. Also, don’t think that those are the only two brands worth buying as there are plenty of companies offering quality DSLR’s as well. Canon and Nikon just happen to be the most well known contenders in the photo game. Investing in an expensive set up can be a daunting task so hopefully you learned something and feel a little more comfortable with the idea of emptying your wallet in exchange for a camera.
Be sure to check back next Wednesday for the sixth edition of Through the Lens and as always feel free to leave any questions in the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will hit you back as soon as I can. Also just like last week feel free to leave future feature ideas in the comments as well and make sure to enter your best natural light photo in our first monthly “Reader Contest” sponsored by Fit Bike Co. Hit this link for another look at the details, rules and guidelines.