For some of us it can be such a temptation to own the best that money can buy, either purely for status reasons or because we want the privilege of owning the most amazing new gadget on the market. The problem is, unless you know how to use that equipment to the best of its ability, the payoff will be very minimal.
At the end of the day it’s not the camera that makes a good photographer, but how the camera is used.
So how do you choose a camera that's right for you?
What are you going to be using it for?
Take a moment to think about where this camera is going to go with you. To the park? On your holidays? To the backyard to take photos of your kids? Or is it coming with you to the Olympic Games or to shoot the next ad campaign for Tiffany’s? If you’re a casual shooter, there should be no reason you can’t happily settle for an entry level camera. And unless you’re planning to make money out of your hobby, avoid shelling out thousands for top of the line gear.
Another important question to ask yourself is whether or not you plan to take it off auto mode? If you’re happy to let the camera do all the work, then it only makes sense that your investment is a small one, because even the most expensive cameras will only give you average photos if you aren’t interested in learning how to use all of its features.
I hear it time and time again, “My camera has a thousand megapixels, so it takes really good pictures”. Ok, so maybe I exaggerate a little bit. To my knowledge, no commercially available camera has that many megapixels.
I hate to burst your bubble, but the more megapixels a camera has won’t guarantee you good photos. It’s little more than a selling point for pushy sales people to suck as much money out of you as possible. Megapixels really only have an effect on how the final image will be used, or how high a resolution you need.
For example, if you’re only planning to use your camera to take happy snaps that will end up on your Facebook account unedited, you can easily get away with posting low resolution images. Therefore, a camera with as few as 8 megapixels will do (and most modern smartphones already have this!).
On the other hand, if you enjoy taking landscape photos and you plan to print them onto large canvases to hang in your living room (or a billboard on the highway if you’re that way inclined) you’re going to need to use much higher resolution images, and this will be made easier the more megapixels you have.
So save yourself a few pennies and only buy as many megapixels as you need. Anyone trying to convince you that you need 40 megapixels to take pictures of your cats is just trying to make money off of you.
Do you need a detachable lens?
This question fits snugly under the banner of “what are you going to use it for?” Again, if the only planned use of your camera is for travel snaps and pictures of your cats, you should opt for a point and shoot or compact camera that comes with a fixed lens that gives you a good range of focal lengths from wide to telephoto.
If, however, you particularly enjoy portraiture or wildlife photography, you may wish to invest in specialised lenses to suit your needs. For this you will need to buy a camera body and interchangeable lenses – an 85mm for portraiture or a 300mm for wildlife, for example.
The Point and Shoot
The humble point and shoot, though small in size, shouldn’t be overlooked for its stature. Modern compact cameras pack quite a punch when it comes to features.
Many have surprisingly high sensitivity sensors and noise handling capabilities, fairly decent zoom lengths and video recording. An added bonus with these cameras is that they can often open up to a very wide aperture (f1.8-2), which means they are capable of reading more light in low-light situations, and believe it or not, they are actually pretty good for macro photography. What’s more, they can easily fit into your pocket!
The perfect option for anyone wishing to record their travel, family or everyday memories at the easy press of a button, without worrying too much about the technical side of the art.
Compact System or Mirrorless cameras
The enthusiast’s camera of choice! These gadgets have become really popular in the past 5 years and it’s easy to see why. With all the functionality of an expensive SLR, at up to half the weight and size, they’re an excellent option for hobbyists or anyone wishing to develop their skills shooting in manual and enter the realm of professional photography.
The downside to these cameras is the lack in range of lenses and accessories and generally a lesser battery life. But that comes as little inconvenience for those not interested in working in the industry professionally.
SLR’s – the big guns!
The weapon of choice for serious hobbyists or anyone looking to pursue a career in photography. These cameras have it all – complete manual functionality, high quality video recording and a full range of lenses and equipment ranging from everyday kit essentials to the best that money can buy.
Besides the obvious leap in price, these machines can be heavy and cumbersome, not an ideal option for keen travellers and street photographers.
So there you have it. I hope that if you’re in the market for a new camera, you will find this guide useful. And remember, save money by only buying what you need. You can always upgrade later!