The Right Camera!?

Some purchase advice
In this article, Little-photo-college.net provides you with purchase advice free of charge. Find the ideal camera for yourself. In digital photography, there are a vast amount of different cameras and systems on offer. When purchasing a new camera, it is often up to the purchaser. Little-photo-college.net aims to help you find the perfect camera.

Before providing some tips on the right camera, a quick remark – during your shopping trip, don’t forget to visit specialist retailers as well as checking online. Photography retailers not only provide good advice, but also often have very good offers available. The existence of a specialist retailer can be relevant to professional and amateur photographers equally. Receiving good advice from a specialist can be useful and help avoid a poor purchase choice.


The best camera!?
Many people are searching for the best camera. Is there any such thing as a perfect camera? The question can be answered with a resounding “no”. Every user has to choose a camera based on their individual requirements. Therefore, you should not let yourself be guided by reviews alone.

Many modern cameras today provide more than sufficient image quality for most uses. Especially for the most common images sizes (9x13 – 13x18) and for viewing images on a TV screen or a projector, the image quality of most brand name cameras should be sufficient. Qualities such as image noise performance are important. This sort of criteria should certainly be taken into consideration; however, it is important to first think about almost trivial qualities such as size and weight. What size and weight is acceptable? Remember that not only image quality, but also actually managing the equipment and how compact the camera is, is important.

Also focal length range (optical zoom), swivel screen, durability, power supply or upgradability can be very important when it comes to choosing a digital camera.

These features are often connected to their respective camera types. In digital photography, the various cameras can be divided into the following types of cameras: small compact cameras, bridge cameras, mirror less system cameras, SLR cameras, digital medium format cameras. By choosing one of these camera categories, you are simultaneously making a decision about the weight and size of the camera equipment. Fundamental information about the various types of cameras can be found in the article “Types of cameras”.

As already mentioned, the image quality of a digital camera does not only depend on the resolution (number of pixels). Other important aspects are, e.g., lens quality, size of image sensor, image noise performance (especially important in poor lighting conditions), dynamic range, colour display … A sensor can only register what passes through the lens. This means that poor lens quality will give poor results, no matter how high the sensor resolution is. A camera is only as good as its weakest element. These properties cannot be found in the camera’s technical data, provided by the manufacturer.
The image quality of a digital camera mainly depends on the following aspects:

  • Lens
  • Camera electronics – firmware camera internal software
  • Sensor technology CCD or C-MOS

To obtain more information about cameras, you should not forget to check product tests and read reviews by other users. It is often difficult to make a decision due to contradictory reviews. Remember that not every reviewer makes an objective judgement. It is best to have a wide range of information to be able to weigh up pros and cons.

Below are some recommendations for camera comparisons and reviews

Don’t forget that you are the one who has to be satisfied with the image quality of your camera. Don’t let reviews ruin your camera for you. The image’s message is key, not technical perfection.
 
A fitting citation by Gisèle Freund, a German-born French photographer and photography historian

 „Das Auge macht das Bild, nicht die Kamera“ (Gisèle Freund, 1912 – 2000) (“The eye captures the image not the camera“)

In the same gist – concentrate on the photography itself instead of on technical data. More information about Gisèle Freund can be found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gis%C3%A8le_Freund

Short summary of the top most important aspects that need to be considered when buying a new camera:

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Image quality/Image display (print, computer display, internet, projector, display size)
  • Speed
  • Focal length range
  • Image stabiliser
  • Screen (swivelled, size)
  • Optical or digital viewfinder
  • Mechanical zoom or zoom-by-wire
  • Power supply
  • Durability (waterproof? slip proof? shock resistant?)
  • Upgradability (remote release, flash devices, lens and converter)
  • Usability
  • Facial recognition technology + “smile shot” (makes focusing on people easier) 
  • Connectors (HD TV connector, WLAN transmission…)
  • Video recording (video resolution, number of frames per second, sound quality, zoom function while recording…)
  • ...

 

Questions you should ask yourself before purchasing a camera
How large and heavy should the camera be?

  • The best camera is the one you have on you – a top-of-the-range model that you keep at home due to its size is quite pointless.
  • Don’t be tempted to buy a camera that you know from the start is too large and heavy.

Can one camera fulfil all my photographic requirements?

  • Requirements often contradict one another, e.g., it should be as small as possible but at the same time should have the highest light intensity and little image noise even with high ISO rates.
  • Often it is better to have more than one camera so that they are optimal in their field of application, e.g., a compact digital camera to carry with you and a SLR camera for ambitious artistic purposes.

Do you wish to capture images in poor lighting conditions?

  • If night images or images captured in poor lighting conditions are your speciality, you should go for a digital single-lens reflex camera. Due to their larger image sensors, they have an advantage over most compact digital cameras.

Do you wish to capture images of sport?

  • To capture images of sport, you require a camera that can capture rapid bursts of images (serial images), has a fast autofocus and preferably a  fast lens with a respective focal length (usually telephoto lenses are an advantage)

Do you wish to capture images of children?
Capturing photos of children playing and running around is difficult for most cameras. Here again, a rapid burst mode and fast autofocus are an advantage. The shutter release delay should be as short as possible. Often the right camera use by pre-focussing can already help here – more on this can be found in the article on focus on Little-photo-college.net.
Do you wish to capture images of animals?

  • In this case, it is important to think about the distance to the image subject in advance. A high-performance telephoto focal length (the important thing here is the optical zoom – a digital zoom reduces image quality) is in this case often an essential piece of equipment.                    

Do you wish to capture portraits with a shallow depth of field?

  • If you wish to, e.g., capture portraits with a shallow depth of field, cameras with larger sensors and fast lenses with a focal length range of 60 to 100mm are preferable.
  • Compact digital cameras generally have very small sensors due to their small size. The crop factor results in the lenses on compact cameras have much shorter focal lengths, in order to have comparable 35mm equivalent focal lengths. This results in these cameras having comparable 35mm equivalent focal lengths with the same diaphragm, but a much greater depth of field than cameras with larger sensors.

How do you use images? How large should copies or prints be?

  • The larger the images should be, the more important the camera’s image quality is. If you want images sizes larger than 20x30cm in high quality, you should place more weight on this criterion.

Do you have restricted movement?
In these cases, a swivel display screen can be advantageous.  This allows you to capture from different perspectives even if your mobility is restricted.

  • Even for people who are not restricted, a swivel display screen can increase photographic quality and be more convenient. For, e.g., journalists, a swivel display can be advantageous. For instance, when in a crowd the camera can be lifted up over the crowd and still capture the image subject.

The list is not completely comprehensive due to the many different requirements when it comes to photo equipment. These questions can be tailored to meet your individual needs. Technical data and further information about the current cameras can be found on the manufacturer’s website.

More information about gear can found in the respective article.

 

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