What Kind of Camera should I get?
Presented by Glenn Springer, TIF, RHCC

There are lots of options!
Digital cameras range from Smart Phones to DSLR's and more.

iPhone photo of me taken by Rosa. I use this on many of my web pages and as my avatar on Facebook, Google+, etc.

Another point-and-shoot picture. This one is used as the cover picture on a book!

  

"High on a mountaintop in Tennessee". Here I am carrying 50 lbs of camera gear on my back.
Iris took this picture of me with a little point-and-shoot. I taught her everything she knows...

 

I’ve been hesitating about writing this article for a long time, despite the fact that it is by far the most frequently asked question I get.

If there was only one answer to that question, then there would only be one kind of camera available. And although we joke a lot about whether Nikon is better than Canon or about some of the other brands, they’re all pretty good. It’s kind of like motorcycle jokes, you can get some people pretty upset by making snide remarks about Harley Davidson’s…

So I’m going to avoid those kinds of comparisons and recommendations.

Do you see yourself somewhere in this?

  • You’re between the ages of 13 and 85, you live or cottage in the Highlands,
  • you have kids or grandkids or a dog, you like taking pictures of them or your friends or loved ones,
  • you saw a deer in your back yard the other day and wished you could have gotten a good picture of it,
  • you’ve seen a great sunset or sunrise (not too many are up at dawn!).
  • You have a computer of some kind,
  • if you’re in the bottom third of the age group, you know how to use it and you have so many Facebook friends that it takes you hours to go through your newsfeed.
  • If you’re in the middle third,you go hiking or bicycling or maybe motorcycling or boating around the Highlands and you can manage well enough with your computer,
  • if you’re in the top third, you’re thinking about photography as a new hobby because you’re slowing down;
    • everything hurts except the things that don’t work anymore, and
    • you have to ask your grandkids how to turn the computer on.

I assume that most of the people reading this article are not professional photographers looking to sell their artwork or their services, or shooting ad layouts for national brands or magazines. If you are, there’s equipment out there that will cost you the equivalent of a luxury car and you probably won’t get anything out of this article.

Let me say this: recently there was a front cover picture on Time Magazine shot with an iPhone. One of my more popular fine art photos, printed two feet wide on museum-quality paper, was shot with a $60 point-and-shoot camera. You don’t NEED thousands of dollars of equipment that weighs over 50 lbs to make good pictures.

What you need is to know how. Take a course, attend workshops, read books and articles, shoot lots of pictures.

 

Here’s another idea: join a camera club. It’s a great way to share and learn! There doesn’t seem to be one up here, perhaps I should start one! It’s a lot of work, but I’m game if there’s enough interest. Contact me if you think it might be a good idea.

 

 

The precise control you need to produce an exhibition-quality print of this kind of image requires a DSLR.

Again, fine control over depth-of-field is easier with a large format DSLR with a big sensor.

 

On the other hand, this digital painting was made from a point-and-shoot image. The quality is good enough for a large format art print! This rainstorm made it impossible to use the DSLR (I tried!) due to the wind and rain. I took the P&S out for a couple of seconds to make the exposure.

This image was made on the pier at Port Dover on Lake Erie.

Ansel Adams used to carry around hundreds of pounds of large format camera equipment. But we live in a different era – the digital age – today. And we can instantly see the results of our efforts and correct immediately if necessary. So let’s look at a few kinds of digital cameras:

Smartphones. The iconic iPhone, but there are a bunch of others out there with names like Samsung, Android, etc. These have increasingly better cameras in them and their big advantage is that people seem to always have one in a pocket or purse. They say the best camera to have is the one you have with you! The downside is, you have to jump through a lot of hoops to make them do anything out of the ordinary.

Point-and-shoot cameras. Again, they’re easy to carry around, they don’t take up a lot of space or weight if you’re out doing adventurous things like climbing and hiking and bicycling… they offer some incredibly high pixel counts, huge zoom ratios. The downside is that because of the small sensor sizes, you can’t get a shallow depth-of-field which helps to isolate subjects. Also there’s a frustrating lag between the time you push the shutter release and when it takes the picture.

Mirrorless/compact cameras. This is a new generation of cameras, offered by almost all of the major brands. They feature interchangeable lenses, APS-C sensors (like in the smaller DSLR’s), small, compact size, pretty high-end flexibility and options. Some well-known professionals, like Trey Ratcliffe and Dan Bailey have endorsed them. They emulate many of the features of the DSLR’s at a fraction of the size and weight.

You can’t do ALL of the stuff you would with a full DSLR, not easily, anyway. But it’s an attractive alternative for those who don’t need to shoot ultra-telephotos, tether them to computers, drive external flash arrays, etc. If I were buying an extra camera today, it would be one of those. However, it won’t accept any of the lenses I have in my bag now, I’d need all new ones.

DSLR’s. That stands for “Digital single-lens-reflex” cameras. All of us old-timers, who used to shoot with film SLR’s (Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Minolta, etc.) have gone in this direction because they just look and feel and work a lot like the ones we’re used to. But they have a lot of bells and whistles now. You can use them like point-and-shoots, you can get the same high quality images that you used to need a medium-format camera like a Hasselblad or Mamiya for. Especially the full-frame ones that have large sensors (stick with Nikon or Canon here).

If you need to reach out and touch a grizzly bear at 500 yards, you need one of these. Or if you’re in a challenging lighting situation or shooting a tough subject, if you can identify the challenge, you can usually solve it.

The downside of the DSLR is the size and weight. Not only of the camera, but also all the accessories and extra stuff you’re going to want to carry with you. A friend of mine is enroute to Alaska as you read this, and he told me about almost 100 lbs of equipment he wants to bring. They’re not going to let him on that little Cessna float plane with all that stuff.

But if that doesn’t bother you, and if you’re into accumulating fine cameras and especially if you don’t want to be limited in what you can do by your equipment, then I still recommend the DSLR. If you can imagine it, you can do it.

The ghost town that was downtown Minden during the flooding last spring. Shot with a point-and-shoot camera.

 

Whatever camera you get, learn how to use it and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the images you can make.

 

  

This highly complex image is the result of the marriage of several different exposures into an "HDR" image and subsequent manipulation with plug-ins like Topaz Adjust and Nik Color Efex Pro within Photoshop. Careful exposures with a DSLR on a tripod were essential, especially since the image has been printed as an acrylic facemount about 1 meter wide.

Links to FACzen Photography:
We teach you how to become a better photographer. And we sell fine art images. Please check us out at the links below.

           

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