is truly a field that has something for everyone. Whether you love
gadgets and want the latest high-tech tools or you are always on-the-go
and need something light-weight and easy, you can be sure there are cameras
and gear out there to match your needs.
Shoot Vs the SLR
- digital or film - that does not have a removable lens is technically
classified as a "point and shoot". If you're just starting out, the camera
you most likely already own, or the camera you'll probably buy first, will
fall into this category. For the most part, these sleek little cameras
are lightweight, compact, and easy to travel with.
SLRs (or single
lens reflex cameras), on the other hand, have lenses that are removable
and interchangeable. In addition, they usually offer many more options
for controlling the camera including the use of completely manual settings.
biggest (and probably most important) difference between a point and shoot
and an SLR lies in the quality of the pictures it's capable of making.
While point-and-shoot cameras have their own advantages, they cannot compete
with SLRs in terms of image quality. SLRs, specifically digital SLR cameras,
have much larger image sensors. This larger sensor size produces a much
higher-quality image and therefore a better picture.
How to Choose
Which one is Best for You
The truth is,
you can take great photos with lousy cameras and lousy photos with great
cameras. Your decision about what to buy rides mostly, then, on where you
plan to sell the pictures your camera produces.
I, for instance,
own a number of cameras -- film and digital -- and a point and shoot is
Point and shoots
are great cameras to start learning on because they don't typically have
all the bells and whistles an SLR camera has. You can master basic photography
techniques without getting bogged down in the technical specifics of your
camera. And they're great on trips where a bulkier camera might be more
of a hindrance than a help.
The big downside
to point and shoots is that they don't produce images of a high enough
quality for most publications and stock agencies. If you can afford an
SLR, you'll need one to break into these markets.
In my opinion,
this is no longer a point of discussion. Digital is the clear choice for
anyone buying a new camera today.
Not only is
it a great learning tool (because you can see your pictures instantly on
the LCD screen on your camera and thus adjust your picture-taking habits
accordingly) but these days a high-resolution digital SLR is just as competitive
as scanned film. And it's becoming more widely accepted (and even preferred)
by most commercial photography markets.
If you're getting
advice from someone who's saying that digital is not as good as film, you're
being mislead. It's that simple.
If you already own a film camera and aren't ready to buy a new one. Stick
with film for now. It has done an admirable job for decades and is still
capable of producing outstanding results. But if you are considering buying
a new camera as you enter your new career - digital is the only way to
bombarded by megapixel mania.We've been led to believe camera quality is
all about how many pixels you have. But in reality, the number of pixels
you have is only half of the quality equation..
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other half is the size of the digital sensor. Larger sensors are made up
of larger pixels. Larger pixels have qualities that are better than their
smaller brothers. Qualities you may find out you need to enter the market
that's important to you.
cameras are almost always made with smaller sensors and thus smaller pixels
(think: 1/10th the size of a 35mm negative). So while they may have a lot
of pixels (8 million - or 8 megapixels -- is not uncommon) each one of
those pixels is extremely tiny.
SLRs, on the
other hand, are always made with a larger sensor (anywhere from 1/2 the
size of, to equal to, a 35mm negative). They may even have fewer pixels
than the point and shoots, but each one is significantly larger so therefore
your image quality will be better.
The truth is,
there is no such thing as the "Ideal Kit". No more than there is an ideal
mate, or an ideal car. It's all subjective, and all dependent on what your
While I always
have at least one camera with me - I probably have a half dozen "kits"
depending on what kind of shooting I plan to do that day. So here are my
camera preferences. You, of course, will develop your own as you progress
in your career...
My Point and
Shoot I always have a point and shoot with me. My favorite is an eights
megapixel about the size of a deck of cards.
While I can't
make a 20"x30" fine art print with it and most print stock agencies won't
accept pictures from this kind of camera, I can make beautiful 8"x12" fine
art prints, and some magazines will accept the file for use up to about
1/2 page photograph (this is true for point-and-shoot cameras over five
megapixels -- anything less than that isn't considered salable quality).
are a lot of different (and equally great) makes and camera models out
there, I'm not going to tell you mine. It was simply the one that felt
best in my hand when I was at the store that day.
If you have
big fingers, consider the size of the buttons when you chose a camera.
If you have other equipment like a PDA, printer, or laptop that supports
a certain type of memory card over others, look for cameras that use that
type of memory card. If you travel a lot and want something you can put
in your pocket, look at the smaller models.
I suggest you
go to a store rather than order online because I think you need to hold
the camera in your hand before you buy it and flip through all the screens
to see if you like it.
I have two of them. First a large Canon pro model: the 1D Mark II and a
smaller Olympus E-1, about 1/2 the size and weight of the Canons.
Both are considered
professional grade, which means they are ruggedly built and have a fair
amount of water resistance. I've shot with each of them in the rain, sleet,
and snow, and never had a problem. While the heavier Canon produces great
quality digital files (and I've enlarged many shots to 30"x40") it's very
heavy and not much fun to lug around. Moreover, I can never get a candid
shot with this camera. If I put my telephoto lenses on, I look like the
pros you see wandering the sideline at sporting events.
the smaller Olympus E-1 sees most of the action. It's light enough to carry,
not intimidating to bystanders, and produces a file good enough for enlargements
up to about 20"x30" for fine art. Stock agency images are also fine. For
me, it's kind of a "Jack of all trades, Master of none" camera. The larger
Canon I reserve for studio work, sports photography, and landscapes where
I have a lot of time and most shots are on a tripod.
It's very important
to physically handle multiple cameras before you buy. It isn't enough to
Google all the reviews and make your decision on the internet based on
statistics. A camera is like a pair of jeans. You've got to try it on before
you buy and make sure it fits. It needs to feel comfortable in your hand
and the buttons need to be easy to push with your fingers.
I have one
last camera that sees a lot of use. It's a type you won't hear discussed
much because there is only one manufacturer and one model made in the world
and not much demand from a consumer's point of view.
It's an Epson
RD1, referred to as a DRF, or Digital Rangefinder. If you remember the
old Leica rangefinder cameras, which were the first 35mm cameras and started
the whole revolution back in the 1930's, it looks just like that. It also
takes interchangeable Leica lenses, and I have a nice selection of those
from the "old days".
unobtrusive, light weight, and the lens-camera combination takes magnificent
photos. The last time I was in Paris at the AWAI photo workshop, I had
the Canon and the Epson and the Canon never made it out of the bag in 10
days of exploring the city. It also has analog controls just like an old
film camera. Almost nothing is done with a menu and screen. This camera
was made for zone focusing. That's what makes it such a great street shooter
where speed, silence, and unobtrusiveness are required.
So which camera
goes in my bag? I always take the point and shoot and the Olympus E-1 with
the following exceptions...
The Canon 1D
MkII is my sport shooter and often my preference for landscapes; the Epson
RD1 is for "street shooting" when I want great results without being noticed.
is a professional photographer whose images hang in public corporations
and private foundations from San Diego to Boston and in homes from the
Americas to the Far East.
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