Thursday, June 25, 2015

What Cameras Are Best? Which Should You Buy?

Glacier Point Infrared - Yosemite National Park, California
I get asked often to comment about gear. People are searching high and low for any little tidbit that will help them decide which camera to buy. Sometimes people want to know what my opinions are on all of this.

Once upon a time camera makers would introduce a new-and-improved model every five years or so, and typically each manufacturer had two or three models to choose from. For the most part, from one company to the next and from one model to another, there were not huge differences. And you could expect whatever you bought would last at least one decade, if not two or three decades.

Nowadays, every year or two camera manufacturers introduce a new and improved camera for each model that they have. Each camera maker seems to have between a half-dozen and a dozen different camera models, and there seems to be large differences between them all. Oh, and you are using ancient technology if your camera is more than five years old.

No wonder people are spending so much time and energy researching gear! The problem is that the more time and energy that is spent on the web looking up different cameras, the less time and energy you have for what's important in photography.

So I have three thoughts to (hopefully) help you get through this.
Gas Station Sunset - Ehrenburg, Arizona
Captured using an obsolete cell phone camera.
1. Dance with the one who brought you, as the old saying goes. You probably already own a camera, and, although camera makers, retailers, and magazines (who make their money from camera makers and retailers) will tell you otherwise, what you already have is more than sufficient. The camera you have, unless perhaps it is broken, is a capable photographic tool.

Instead of replacing your perfectly good (but not perfectly new) camera with something that is slightly better (and new), use the money to travel or buy photography books or something else beneficial. There are things that are more important than gear.

And if you purchase that new camera, will your photographs improve? Not likely, because photography is in the mind and heart of the photographer, and not in the sensor. You can improve your photography, but that improvement cannot be bought with money--it requires thought and practice.
The Closed Road - Fish Camp, California
Captured using a Nokia Lumia 1020 cell phone. 
2. Have you seen Apple's iPhone advertisements that seem to be popping up everywhere? It shows a very nice photograph and says "Shot on an iPhone 6." These are found on full-page magazine ads and on billboards.

What occurs to me is that your gear doesn't matter. What is the point of buying Canon's 50 megapixel camera if an 8 megapixel camera can capture beautiful images that look good printed full-page in magazines or enlarged huge on billboards? You have the ability to create fantastic images that will look great no matter how large they're made, and you don't have to spend gobs of money. That's fantastic! And it means that you don't have to chase the latest-and-greatest and you don't have to fall for the highest-resolution offering.
Cathedral Spires From Cook's Meadow - Yosemite National Park, California
Captured using Nikon's cheap entry level DSLR.
3. A lot of people are surprised to learn that my primary digital camera is an entry-level DSLR aimed at beginners: the Nikon D3300. That's because those who market cameras use terms like "entry-level" and "prosumer" (whatever that means) and "professional" and other similar labels to make you feel the need to move up. They want you to spend more, so they market gear in such a way that you feel like what you can afford is not sufficient.

But the D3300 is a better camera in pretty much every way than all of the "professional" digital cameras from just 10 years ago. Those cameras produced images that were published in books and magazines and hung on gallery walls. This camera is capable of the same, but Nikon and those who sell Nikons don't want you to know that. They want you to believe that it's a good starting point for beginning photographers, but that you'll want to upgrade as your skills improve.

Don't get caught in the trap of thinking that some camera isn't good enough because of the label some marketing guy gave it, or because of how little it costs. It's plenty good enough just as long as the photographer using it is good enough.

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