Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What camera should I buy?

It seems everyone wants a better camera and I am often asked for advice on what camera they should buy. Considering the sheer number and variety of camera types, I tend to respond with a series of questions. Will you be creating serious art or casually documenting your family vacations and how much money can you spend are usually the first few. Several more questions follow before I suggest some internet searching.

But I have recently added a question to that list that I often ask myself whenever I get the urge to purchase the latest technically advanced offering. Am I getting the most out of the camera I own? Do I understand everything my camera can do? Am I taking advantage of those features I have? Am I getting excellent pictures and, if not, is it the camera's fault or mine?

Be honest. Will I use the new features? Can I afford the accessories, the additional lenses, the tax and the shipping and insurance? Will I auto-magically get better pictures?

To me, photography is about composition and exposure. All cameras help with exposure but they have their limits. You will often get a better picture if you take some level of manual control over the exposure settings. Your present camera will most likely allow you to do that. Composition is entirely up to you and has little to do with the camera. And again, you want the ability to take control over the automatic functions, like focusing for example, as you compose the photograph. More zoom is nice, but you can move closer too. You will need these skills with the new camera as well.

Taken with a Nikon D80, 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, ISO 100 and a shutter speed of 0.6 seconds.Taken from about 60 feet away in a fairly dark grove of eucalyptus trees. The D80 is not known for low light performance. Cropped and tweaked in Photoshop.

So, study your camera first. Read the manual. Understand every mode and how to push your camera's limits. Two things will happen, you will confirm what you really need in a new camera and better yet, you will instantly take better pictures.

Get more out of your camera by experimenting. Professional photographers would save the last frame on their film to experiment with settings. Do that any time you have your camera in hand (and after you get the important shots you went out to take).

If you truly need a better camera for an event, rent what you are considering buying and test it out. You just might find that your present camera is not so bad. I find the claims a bit exaggerated on all the cameras I've rented. Then search the forums for the opinions of others.

Maybe take that money and upgrade your computer or software. Take classes. Study composition, color and Photoshop. Invest in a new lens. A quality lens on a mediocre camera will take better pictures then a terrible lens on a good camera.

Once you are getting everything you can out of your present camera, a new one can take you to the next level. Check out this article by Scott Bourne to help your search. But first, consider these thoughts. They might make more difference to your photography then a new camera body.

1 comment:

  1. nice post Stu....your pics and advice are golden my friend...