–TOM UPTON is a certified camera matchmaker by the Camera Matchmakers of America Association, a BFA, and resident pundit at #PhotoTrainer.com in Palo Alto California.
Goodbye My Dear. Next!
First things first, those point n shoots we were infatuated with for decades have become photography’s lovelorn. I am going to advise you on how to find love in a DSLR or a DSLM. (Digital Single Lens Reflex/Mirrorless camera) We have all seen the Billboards from Apple, now iPhone6 photos can be blown up to 24 feet. iPhone. Yup. You no longer need a point and shoot or consumer grade fixed lens camera. I have a lonelyhearts drawer full of them from the Olympus stylus (1990) film job to the five hundred dollar Canon SD100 (2011), batteries and all. Caput. Done. Next!
Looking for Love
It is not my intention to tell you what to buy, furthermore, I will not go into the very expensive pro camera versions. I wish to avoid, the scourges of the internet spawned by people with short little spans of attention, those “LISTS OF 12 THINGS” to buying a new camera. I believe I can be most helpful in telling you what to look for in your camera search and how features and size will help you make an informed decision on a camera that you will love to have and to hold from this day forward. When you love your camera you can get into creative flow. This is a pep talk in finding a camera you can love.
Your interest in practicing better photography is well served by new big clean sensors, found coincidentally in the new cameras available today. These cameras also have the ability to change lenses for optical and pictorial variety. This variety of lenses feeds the creative practice of good photography. You can expect to pay anywhere from $600 to $3000 to get started. Still not as bad as owning a boat, so no whining.
The digital market landscape for good cameras basically offers you a variety of “entry level” low cost cameras. The high end “pro-sumer” level offers an even more delectable array of durable and high performance cameras. Both entry level and pro-sumer genres have a low end and a high end to their range of offerings, so there is actually a great chance you can find love in a personal camera match!
There are abundant options in the entry level cameras with good features, excellent resolution and compactness. (is that a word?) Size matters though and in many cases women like the smaller entry level cameras because they fit well in one’s right hand. This grip is an important factor so think about it when you are test holding the camera at the store. These cameras are light weight and have lightweight inexpensive “kit” lenses that are usually in the 18mm-55mm range, so that you can shoot wide angle views and then zoom into your subjects when needed. AND as you settle into your photography interest, you can buy other lenses, that hew closer to you area of photographic interest, be it portraits, nature, travel, kids, or pets. Cool indeedy.
I will not be shy about my preference for the DSLR (digital single lens reflex) with the optical viewfinder over the DSLM variety (digital single lens mirriroless) . I pretty much grew up looking THROUGH a camera. Camera design up till about 10 years ago was informed by that behavior. These cameras have evolved well and serve the avid and beginning photographer very well with superb quality and a great depth of features.
Driven by the ability to see the image on the screen before you shoot, as you would use your smartphone camera, the DSLM camera format, also referred to as the four-thirds camera format offer photography buffs something they have been clamoring for years, a smaller lighter camera. By doing away with the mirror, prism, and viewfinder reticle, a good 50% of the camera’s bulk can be eliminated! With decent image quality. This camera is literally the size of a large smartphone with just a bit of added thickness. The key here (and it may be generational) is a practice that has been borrowed from videography, that of viewing the image ON an illuminated display monitor or screen. Some more expensive DSLMs offer an electronic viewfinder. I like the EF! Drawbacks to the Mirrorless camera are a congested and confusing user interface and auto focus lag time. To get focus that equals the low end DSLR you have to spend for a high end DSLM. In photography, focus matters.
The difference between looking through a camera viewfinder and working off a video screen may be something to consider in the use of the camera you want to spend quality time with. Think about it, see what feels most comfortable to you. Many of the mid-range mirrorless cameras now have very accurate and detailed electronic viewfinders that appeal to old photo-goats, like me. (There is always another camera to buy…) Looking at the viewfinder in bright sun can be a bit of a frustration.
To have and to hold
Do some online research, ask your shutterbug friends what they use and like. Think about the camera you might like to use. Note the costs of bodies, lenses, a decent bag, and a tripod for starters. I would look at the Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic offerings. Sites like B&H Photo Video and Adorama are great places to start getting baseline pricing awareness. Use this info when in camera stores, understand that they know these numbers too! Do your deeper research and dpreview.com is a great place to see what professional camera evaluators think, I am a photographer, once I find a camera I like I just want to get to work, I will leave the details to the experts. I use the ‘Operation’ category in dpreview.com to get a concise overview of what I am going to buy and my life of love with this camera.
Find a camera store. The next step is to hold the camera you want to buy in your hands. Make note of the prices and know everyone wants your business. Be diligently skeptical of internet advice and moderately skeptical of salesperson advice. Proceed with purpose and clarity. Now the important part, hold the camera in your hands, close your eyes, and feel the body. Sense how it fits in your hands. Hold the camera at the grip with your right hand and support the lens with the heel and palm of your left hand. This is the standard basic shooting position. Bring it to your eye and get a sense of how you will frame up shots and make adjustments physically as you work your subject visually. Do not freak out at all the controls and data you seen presented on the screens on or in the camera (we will take care of that in my class, where I teach digital camera owners The Way to Shoot). For now, imagine you are a sculptor and you have clay in your hands. You are a painter and you are regarding your canvas…The camera is a tool, toy, gizmo, and instrument that will help you become visually expressive, think about your relationship with this device and using it regularly like your car, your coffeemaker, the food processor, the cookware you own. Do not dwell on the buttons, dials and controls right now, you can learn that easily. Think about bringing this new instrument into your life.
I am not going to tell you what to buy, that is your project. Do not be taken in by wordy and talkative sales persons. Ask what things mean when presented with jargon. While they are dying breed as camera stores are disappearing, camera sales people can be helpful if you are curious. Tell them what you like to photograph and how often. Do not buy right away without some cross-referencing online and visiting DPREVIEW.COM for a review of your intended. Did you hear me? Do not buy right away…I like to buy locally as much as I can, camera sales people know the online prices of things, and that shipping is usually free. Use this to bargain a bit, support your local camera store when you can. If you are inclined to shop online I have also set up the PhotoTrainer aStore on Amazon. I showcase and comment on products I like, use or endorse from personal experience. Use this as a reliable resource or a springboard in your journey in finding Camera Love. Godspeed.