Should I buy this camera? Is this a good camera? How many times do I hear this!
The bottom line is – a camera is just a piece of equipment. What do you want to do with it – that is a good place to start. Aside from price (which is not irrelevant, of course) – what are your photographic goals? I think consumers are winning as far as how great the technology that is available in cameras today. There are many choices of cameras that can produce stunning images in many situations.
SLR vs. Mirrorless vs. Point and Shoot vs. Small Pro Camera
Big vs. small. Changeable lens vs. all in one. Heavy vs. light? Sensor size?Telephoto or macro?
Going SLR and adding lenses to your kit is a real travel commitment. When I carry my 70-200mm f2.8 and 24-70 f2.8 lenses along with a flash or two, extra batteries, small tripod and other accessories, my bag is heavy. Do you really want to be schlepping this thing around on vacation? Are you sure!? Going this route is a real commitment if you intend to take it along on vacation or other trips.
Perhaps one of the newer small body cameras that have removable lenses are an option. The lens quality and image quality may be more than adequate for any of your needs, even if the price is not so great yet. I am fond of the small fixed lens APS-C sensor cameras – pro-level shots in a small no-compromise package. BUT – you need to know your lens limits if all you have is a 35mm lens with you!
As I have said in the lens selection post, go to the store and play with any and all cameras. Do your research online BEFORE going to the store. If someone posts about an issue – test this for yourself in the store. For instance, if a camera has a reported slow autofocus, try this in the store yourself. Compare cameras side by side. If your store does not let you do this – find a new store! (Really.)
I would typically start to narrow down my selection of any camera by deciding on a minimum sensor size, then decide what zoom ranges and aperture I want in total. There are very capable point and shoot cameras that have APS-C sensors (partial frame, but large) telephoto to 300mm and f2.8 apertures at the widest angles. Pixel count is important, but by the time you select the above, this becomes almost a non-issue unless you plan to enlarge to very bug sizes. (BTW – ignore “digital zoom” on any camera, especially many of the point and shoot cameras.)
Some people argue that they want the largest pixel count that they can get so they can “edit by cropping”. I understand this idea, but philosophically, this to me is like hitting a golf shot by aiming off the fairway waiting for your slice to bring it back. You should frame your shots and take a picture and not depend on excess pixels to select your shot by cropping. Having the pixel overhead is great – and of course, I would never turn it down – but that alone is not a reason to make a camera choice.
Be Honest With Yourself
If you don’t know what an f-stop is and depth of field sounds like a baseball term and you don’t have a clue about ISO tradeoffs, you can still go out and make great shots. However, you may want to consider if a high-end SLR is right for you. Do you want a pro camera that you will use as a point and shoot – or should you get a great point and shoot that has manual capabilities so you can control it like a pro? You will need to decide. But, be warned, if you get a $6K camera body and shoot in “idiot” mode, every photographer who sees you will emit a slightly audible *sigh* as you walk past…
If you are already shooting regularly, then you probably know what to look for. The question that is hardest to answer is from someone who is looking to get into photography. There is no right answer as there is no one right camera.
Regardless of what you are looking to do photographically – my best advice is to be honest with yourself. Upgrading is easier than jumping in new – and that is where I see the most confusion. If this is a first time purchase, do your homework – and if at all possible, borrow or play with a similar model to what you are considering. As much as you read reviews and can test at the store – do it.
And don’t forget to take your eye from behind the camera and enjoy yourself!