The Three Golden Rules When Buying a Camera
Author: Robin Whalley
There probably isn’t a week that goes by without someone asking me which camera I think they should buy. Usually they expect me to tell them buy Canon or Nikon or some other big manufacturer. They often ask me to compare features such as mega pixels for them and they seem to spend hours agonising over which camera is the best value for money. When I tell them to forget all this they think I have gone mad. But once they understand my three golden rules life becomes much simpler.
Rule 1 – Stop chasing technology
It’s too easy to get caught up in the megapixel race. I currently shoot with a 21Megapixel full frame DSLR. Not because more pixels gives a better quality because they don’t. I use this camera because my stock library asks me to produce files of this resolution. I also need to be able produce large, very high quality prints for display. If I look back at some of the images I shot on my 10Megapixel camera I find they still make excellent A3+ prints. If you are never going to print images larger than A3 and there are no other technical demands on your work, then a 10-12 Megapixel camera is more than adequate.
Remember, the next technological advance is always around the corner. At the end of the day if all you want to do is look at your work on a screen or print it at up to A3, do you really need these advances. Invest your money in buying quality not features.
Rule 2 – Pick the camera type before you pick a manufacturer
So, what type of camera is right for you? The market splits down broadly into 3 segments.
- The compact camera that is small and slim and fits into your pocket. Typically these are highly automated and have a small lens. They tend to have small sensors also but as a rule of thumb will produce good quality images at up to A4. They give only limited control over the cameras features and are best thought of as point and shoot cameras.
- Next there is the bridge cameras which tend to have a larger, higher quality lens and sensor and allows you to take more control in shooting your image. For example you can adjust the aperture or shutter speed. They are a little larger than the compact cameras but still smaller than the SLR.
- The SLR is the largest of the three types and typically has a detachable lens which can be swapped. The SLR gives the greatest flexibility in terms of lens choice. They tend to give the highest quality images and also tend to be the most expensive. People often buy the SLR because they want to know more about photography but then tend to be put off by the weight and size of the camera.
So here is the rule. Pick a compact camera unless there is a reason why you need a bridge camera. Pick a bridge camera unless there is a reason why you need an SLR. Even now I find myself hunting for a good bridge camera because I miss great shots with the SLR and would like a pocket sized quality camera.
You also need to consider the practical disadvantages of each of these camera types. It’s not the camera features that make you use it; it’s the disadvantages that will prevent you using the camera. A camera you don’t use is worthless.
Rule 3 – Pick what feels right for you
Now you know which type of camera you will be buying, forget trying to get the best make and model. Instead pick up all the cameras in the range you are considering and try them out. Which feels most comfortable in your hand? Which is easiest to shoot with? Which has an easy to follow menu? Most of the main manufacturers these days produce excellent cameras so you need to pick the one that feels best for you to use.
Follow these rules and you will be much happier with your camera purchase as well as getting value for money.
About the Author
Robin Whalley is a UK based Landscape Photographer whose work has appeared in magazines such as Canon EOS User, Photography Monthly and Outdoor Photography. He has been a finalist in both Photographer of the Year and Landscape Photographer of the Year, where his work has been included in national exhibitions. His Lenscraft website is packed with landscape photography and tutorials to help the aspiring photographer.