Choosing your camera
What to Look for and Things to consider before you invest in a camera! Finding the right camera can be tricky. There are always trade-offs. The biggest thing to consider before making an investment is deciding where and how you’re most likely to use it. And don’t just think about today – consider long-term over the next 5 years. Are the kids playing sports? Are they about to graduate? What do you love to do in your “free time”?
Let’s get started thinking about some of today’s amazing options:
Choosing the right Digital SLR
SLR cameras like Nikon & Canon have been around for decades. They offer great flexibility for beginners in AUTO, as well as tons of capability for seasoned pros. You can find a nice SLR system for any budget, typically averaging around $500 for camera body and 2 lenses, depending on features. (More later)
- FAST RESPONSE best for sports, kids, action photos. When you press the shutter the camera tries its level best to make the shot – as close as possible to the split second you want to capture
- SETTINGS like focus, exposure and more are WAY easier to access on most SLR’s and give you great control -when you want it.
- FLASH – this is HUGE. You can decide when this happens. And if you invest in a speedlight (like Nikon SB700 or Canon 430 EX – see below) the world is your oyster. Many smaller cameras are limited in this important ‘upgrade’.
The built- in flash is limited to about 10-12′, and only straight ahead – lacks direction & softening options (bounce – to get the flash to the person at the back of the group), swivel (same but for vertical photos), color (match existing lights), diffusion).
You’ll need an ‘extra’ flash to cover telephoto distance, and most offer these 4 options. Pro models also talk to each other and can be set remotely as well as ‘off-camera’. My personal favorites are Nikon’s SB700 ($280-330), Canon 430EX.
- LENS CHOICES – ALWAYS take a look at the ALL options available for any camera body – consider what you’ll want in a few years – not just today. Just because a camera and a lens both say Nikon does NOT mean they work together (stay tuned for more later – older bodies may not work with newer lenses & vice versa — & be VERY careful where you purchase your gear – it might not be made for USA market & carry USA warranty).
Some ‘systems’ give you more choices, more affordability overall, or more advanced options should you decide to upgrade later (with the accompanying higher $$ of course).
- Real Viewfinder! Don’t underestimate being able to hold a camera up to your eye (which is also MUCH steadier anyway!)!!
The ‘live view’ feature should really only be used for low or high level shots when you can’t get there with your face and for video. Plus it sucks up your battery.
- Features for PROS – pro bodies matter! Full frame sensor (better sharpness), weather resistance, easier-to-access external buttons (faster response to get the shot!), & high speed flash sync (to add flash in bright sun – which I teach EVERYONE how to do but better results with a Pro camera) are available in some camera bodies (at a higher price point obviously). I’m planning a more in-depth post on these difference so stay tuned. I personally LOVE crop frame instead of full frame but that discussion is for another day – you don’t really need to invest in a full frame system for pro quality images (but they ARE more gorgeous). If you have no idea what full frame is and the difference don’t worry!
Filters – some smaller camera offer filter capability but many don’t. A protective filter for your expensive lenses might be a good idea if you have kiddos, or are hard on your gear like we are. There are quite a few options: UV, Haze, Skylight, … ALWAYS get the best quality you can afford. Look for Multi-coated in the description. This filter can usually be left on at all times, unlike the other 2 below.
If you shoot landscapes and gardens, or any water, a circular polarizer (one of my “must have” accessories) does wonders for great color.
TIP! If you have several lenses, purchase 1 circular polarizer to fit the largest one, then use a step-up ring to fit it on the smaller filter thread lenses. For instance, we have large telephoto lenses that use 77mm filter, and smaller lenses including 62mm and 52mm filter sizes. So we would need a 52-77 step up ring, and a 62-77 step up ring. Step up rings are REALLY cheap! About $5. Much cheaper than buying another filter, $25+!
If you plan to shoot video, a variable neutral density filter is awesome – but you probably won’t need one otherwise.
- Size can be a slight deterrent, especially if you frequently travel. But consider responsiveness – slr cameras are designed to capture split-second action.
MAKE SURE it’s comfortable to hold for long enough to photograph whatever you love.
- Weight Can you hold it up for a whole game or party??
- Price can be a factor of course! Consider long-term “kit” including lenses and flash options. PLAN AHEAD! Add it up NOW (then add a piece at a time). Slr kits are great but does 200mm give you the best zoom for sports or wildlife (300mm is probably better). overall might not offer all the long-term options you’ll want. We’re glad to help you with a wish list you can add to over time!
- Updates! Plan to replace your camera body about every 5 years to take advantage of current technology (latest advances in low light shooting are mind-blowing compared to the camera models 5 years ago). Keep in mind (some) camera manufacturers are always updating – newer bodies & lenses may be incompatible I’m still using 10 year old flashes but some of our ancient lenses won’t autofocus on the newer bodies so we need to update.
DSLR Features to look for
- Comfort! Consider weight & size. For instance there’s a huge difference in a Canon 5D and a Nikon D7200. Dont just buy online. Go hold one! Or better yet rent one for a week if you’re planning a big investment. It wont take great photos from the closet! You have to want to carry it!
- Controls & Size. I have small hands. Some of the larger cameras are just too big to reach settings, and really heavy to carry. Conversely a larger person may find the Nikon D3300 too small to grip & set controls.
- Frames per second. Look for a camera body that will shoot fast if you’re into sports, action, or wildlife
- Zone focus – also for sports & action – do you need to be able to track erratically moving subjects? Then contact me BEFORE you buy. Some are way better than others!! See this post comparing popular Nikon & Canon cameras
- Compact! Great for Travel. I’ve used the Sony A6000 (nice but not as responsive as I need), and we just added a Nikon Z6 to our gear! Having a ‘REAL CAMERA” with more zoom makes way better photos than any iPhone, even the dual camera models!
- Immediate feedback. While you’re NOT looking through the lens (no mirror), electronic displays show white balance and exposure issues BEFORE you shoot – which means I’m usually getting more of what I want on the 1ST SHOT, fixing color & exposure compensation immediately. With my SLR I have to shoot and check on playback, make adjustments, shoot and check again…
- Fast continuous shooting electronic shutters allow iPhone and mirrorless cameras to shoot quickly.
- Silent! The new Nikon Z6 and some of the other mirrorless cameras can turn off the shutter noise. It’s freaky to shoot that way when you’re used to mirror flipping noise, but wow – it’s amazing!
- Customizable. For the experienced photographer there are many options to set up & customize. Can be a double-edged sword. See Cons.
Difficult Menus off AUTO. Great for beginner who might never take it off AUTO because menus and settings tend to be much more Complicated and best left to very experienced users. READ LOTS OF REVIEWS! These are NOT designed like SLRS.
- Learning Curve. Because menus have so many options, buttons can be mapped & customized, settings are so different than slr, it can take some extra time to set up your camera for YOU. Once you do it’s great but finding that 1 setting you want to change can be tough.
- Small print. Compact cameras gave very small text – harder to see settings on the screen.
- Screen only. Harder to shoot in bright sun which can make the screen very hard to see. Most don’t have a viewfinder I can put up to my eye.
- Wake up! When I pick up my slr & press the shutter it’s ready to fire. With my Sony a6000 I have to wake it back up many times. Not a big deal for casual shooting but if you’re shooting news, sports, wildlife, you might have missed your shot. This is my least favorite! (& a big reason I heart my slr – see #1 above
- Too small? Small cameras can make it tough to operate with larger hands.
Mirrorless Features to look for
- Viewfinder to be able to see what you’re shooting in bright sun. Most small cameras just have a screen.
- Easy! let me again stress to look for a model that has easy, understandable menus & settings.
REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR
You might want to RENT a camera or go out with a friend who has one you’re considering BEFORE you buy! There’s NO SUBSTITUTION for actually USING it! There are several local camera stores to check out, as well as online options like BorrowLenses…
Contact Malinda with your budget and what you’re photographing.