What camera should I buy?
Ah.... the eternal question for beginners and professionals alike.
Buying a new digital camera can be a very daunting thing, especially for the newcomers to photography who are still grappling with terms like 'megapixels', 'f-stop' and 'focal length'. These newbies are lucky enough to be starting out in what can be a wonderful, fulfilling and rewarding art and buying your first camera, is as exciting as buying your very first car.
Sadly though, it's like a minefield out there. The dream camera can be seen on the horizon, but to get there you need to avoid the hundreds of 'wrong camera' mines.... perhaps you may even need to cop a few along the way?
What camera should I buy? ...It's a question to which I will never give a defined answer. In fact, just like "Does my bum look big in this?", it's a question where there simply is no right answer.
Photography is a subjective art, right from the moment that you pick up a camera, until the viewer is looking at your image. What appeals to one, may not appeal to another. So here is how I don't answer the question....
What is the intended use? ...There is no need to go buy the latest and greatest 30+ megapixel DSLR, if you only intend to take happy snaps and print them at 6x4 or just keep them on the computer. Also, it would be crazy to buy that megapixel monster if your intention is to carry it in your pocket, because with a DSLR that is not going to happen!
So think about your needs and how you intend to use the camera. This should lead you towards buying a compact, a mid-sized camera or that megapixel monster.
How many megapixels? ...Again "intended use". Small prints or computer viewing of images do not need heaps of megapixels. Most cameras have reasonable resolution these days, so an 10-12 megapixel camera is readily available in compacts, mids and DSLRs. These will be more than enough to make A3 prints with good clarity.
Yes you can get higher megapixel counts, but ask yourself "Do I really need them?" In a nutshell "if you intend to print big, go big" is a good rule of thumb.
What camera is the easiest to use? ...There would be very few cameras that don't have a "full auto" mode that allows the photographer to simply point and shoot. But ease of use extends far beyond that. Think about the ergonomics (how the camera fits your hands), the use of the menu and how it is structured. Can you change quickly and easily from one shooting style to another? ...that kind of thing.
These will be quite personal and opinions will vary greatly from person to person. So "hands on" is the only way. Go to your local camera store and pick one up, shoot a few shots, delve into the menu operations and get a good feel for how the camera operates.
Which has the best image quality? ...This will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, from camera to camera. So find your need first, then seek out image samples from cameras that meet your criteria. Online review sites such as DPReview are a great resource for images and these can be used to compare. Delve deep into the "full size" images at 100% viewing size and find what appeals to "you".
As a landscape photographer, I like lots of detail and neutral colour, but a wedding/portrait photographer may rather a little less micro-detail and a slighter warmer base tone to images. Cameras are tools and when you are driving a nail, you need a hammer. It's all about the right tool for the job.
"What lens do I need?" ...Very good question! There is no point buying a camera body, if the lens you want or need is not available for it. So now you need to think about the "system". Try to look forward, what will I need down the track, will the x,y or z manufacturer be able to meet my need? Thinking about the system and what additional equipment you need now and into the future, may well turn your head in another direction.
As a starter however, a zoom lens that offers both wide angle and moderate zoom is a great place to begin. Try and avoid the massive zoom ranges, as these generally make compromises in order to achieve the extended range and these can often lead to a little less image quality. They are very convenient however, so if you are willing to trade a bit of image quality for single lens convenience, then that is your call.
My budget is only $XXXX ...Budget is the biggest killjoy. I doesn't matter if we are buying a house, a car or a camera, that darn "budget" just keeps raising its ugly head. :(
Obviously budget will be the ultimate deciding factor for many and my advice is to not overextend... on anything! Car, house, camera... whatever! If you can't afford it, then don't buy it! Buy something that is within your means, as the stress and ultimate heartache of losing it in the end should not be endured.
When thinking about your budget, think about this... "Camera bodies come and go, but good glass can last a lifetime". So if you have the extra coin, invest in the better glass, perhaps even drop down one body model to allow for that glass, as you can always update the body later.
Cameras are getting cheaper all the time and if you are a newbie, perhaps you could learn the ropes on a much smaller camera to begin with. This would also allow you time to find out more about your own needs and likes with regard to your new art.
So there is my NON-answer. Just a whole bunch of things to think about when making your decision. I may not have given you the answer you wanted hear. I may not have made your decision any easier, but I am sure that when it is made you will feel a lot more comfortable about it.