Friday, January 24, 2014

How To Pick the Perfect Camera For You {Photography Contributor}

Hi!  It’s Kimmie. I blog over at Bugaboo, Mini, Mr. & MeI've been looking forward to starting my photography posts here on Hi! It’s Jilly for weeks and weeks!  Let me begin by saying: I'm no expert.  I'm far from an expert.  Suuuuuper far.  (I call myself a "photo-er" not a photographer, because it sounds less professional.)  BUT.  I love photography.  And I've come a long way with mine in a short amount of time.  Don't believe me?  Ok.  Check out this post from early in my blog.  

Then check out this post from when my newest son was born.  I'm proof that self-taught can be pretty awesome!

I had so many ideas swimming around in my head I wasn't sure where to start.  I decided on a specific post about how to start taking pictures, but after conferring with the masses (aka peeps on Facebook) I realized maybe we should start at the VERY beginning.  As in, choosing a camera.  One that’s spot on, perfect for YOU.  

With all the choices out there, it can be pretty daunting.  But, I've got some tips, steps, pros, cons and ideas compiled for you!  Let’s get started.

First off, you need to narrow down your field.  In very basic terms, your choices are essentially between a Point and Shoot (P&S) or dSLR (digital Single-Lens Reflex).

For our purposes, we’ll define dSLR as a camera with a removable lens, for which the lenses are usually sold separately.  (Of note: there have been a number of camera manufacturers who attach the dSLR label to camera models that technically AREN’T.  So, if you’re already set on a dSLR, make sure you know what you’re getting.)

Questions to ask yourself:

What will you be using it for?  (Snapshots of the kids, document my travels, blog photos, business photos, to start a new hobby, to upgrade from current camera, artistic photography, nature, high speed events, landscapes, to enlarge photos into posters, distant shots)

What is the most important quality in a camera?  (size, portability, price, picture quality, functionality, zoom, speed, ISO range, ease of use, bells and whistles)

What conditions will you be shooting in?  (Indoors, outdoors, bright, dim)

What is your price range?

dSLR Cameras
In general, if you want a camera with great image quality, you’ll probably want to go with at least a very high-end P&S or a dSLR.  dSLR’s not only usually have more megapixels (though if you read up on this, you’ll know that megapixels aren’t the only determining factor) and always have a larger image sensor.  

Consequently they can be used at a higher ISO, faster shutter speed and have much less grain in the image.  dSLR’s are great for adaptability since you can change the lens to suit your needs.  Also, you can use the camera on manual setting OR automatic.  There’s rarely any shutter lag (which means when you push the button, it takes the photo right away) and they also have the option to take multiple shots by holding down your shutter release button.  dSLR’s generally keep their value longer than a P&S - plus the lenses you buy for one dSLR can often be shared among camera bodies, depending on what you purchase.

dSLR’s are obviously larger and heavier than their P&S counterparts.  They can be difficult and inconvenient to travel with, and cumbersome in some settings.  Also, along with all of the adaptability and functionality afforded, there is a learning curve.  dSLR’s can be quite complex, so buying one really isn’t worth the investment if you aren’t also willing to invest the time into learning how to use it to its full capacity.  Another downside can be price.  dSLR’s are always pricier than P&S cameras.  Many dSLR manufacturers have started offering models at a fraction of normal dSLR cost, so the price for some cameras has gone down.  However, add to the cost of the camera the fact that you need to buy lenses separately and it can be quite a significant investment.

Point and Shoot Cameras
P&S cameras are lightweight and small.  Some slide easily into your pocket, which makes them ideal for taking them nearly everywhere you go, having a camera at the ready at all times (of course, a lot of modern cell phones have quality P&S cameras in them and you take those everywhere you go anyway!)  They are also very quiet and unobtrusive, which can be nice in a variety of settings.  They also function well in automode, and some actually only have automode as an option, so the ease of use is inherent.  In addition, most are very affordable - you can find a P&S to fit in nearly any budget.

The image quality on a P&S suffers - even with higher megapixels - because the image sensor is so much smaller.  If you plan on making enlargements of your photography, the images will be distorted.  Limited manual controls leads to less adaptability.  There is only one lens which can only zoom so far - not to mention that the ISO range is much smaller with P&S cameras.  Additionally, there is always a shutter lag - though how long depends on the specific camera.

If you're still not sure, you could start with this article: Should you buy a dSLR or Point and Shoot Digital Camera?

Once you’ve decided on the main type of camera you’d like, there’re still a lot of options.  Here are some ideas that will help you pick a specific camera.

5 Steps to Choosing Your Camera

1. Educate yourself.  Especially read up on megapixels, optical zoom, shutter lag, and ISO range.   

2. Ask around.  Your friends and family will no doubt have suggestions for you, and these suggestions can be a great place to start your research.

3. Read photography blogs and see what they have to say about specific cameras. 

4. Read reviews.  Now, with that said, also remember that sometimes you have to take what you read worth a grain of salt.  Some problems are very specific to the person writing the review, some are more about user error, and some just aren’t especially helpful.  So read what people have to say, read the ratings, but in the end, trust yourself.

5. If you see photography you like, on facebook, on blogs, websites, etc, don’t be afraid to ask what kind of camera was used.

What I Use:

Currently I use a Nikon D5300 and I love it.  LOVE it.

I used to use a Nikon Coolpix L820 and it was an awesome Point and Shoot.  It had a lot of functionality for a P&S.

My reasoning for getting a dSLR to replace my high-tier P&S:  Increased adaptability and functionality - I loved the idea of using different lenses to suit my specific needs and I loved the idea of being able to adjust my aperture and shutter speed to determine my depth of field and the blurriness of my moving targets.  I also wanted a camera that would take good photos in low light situations without an internal flash - which you simply can’t do with a P&S.  Photographing my kids (which is difficult to begin with!) is a priority to me - and having a camera with no lag time is key to capturing their moments (and movements!)  I found an amazing difference in the crispness of the images between my P&S (which was a top of the line, really) and my dSLR.


“Optical zoom” is the important one - don’t fall for the “more zoom” gimmick when it’s “digital zoom”!

More megapixels doesn’t mean better quality!  An 8 megapixel dSLR will still outperform a 10 megapixel P&S for image quality.

Shop around.  Look for sales.  Watch for “packages” - many stores will package a dSLR camera body with simple lens.  Some will throw in an extra battery or even a camera bag.  Some P&S cameras come in similar packages.

(check out this article on  Gadget Review)

Some ideas to start with (These are all top-rated from 2013)
Easy, compact P&S Cameras:

Top Tier P&S Cameras:

dSLR Cameras:

Top of the line dSLR’s:

Hope this helps!  Pop over to bugaboo blog and say hi! See you next month!


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