Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What Camera Should I Get?

A Nikon DSLR and lens.
One question I get asked all the time is "what camera should I get?"

There are so many camera choices available, and probably more than most people realize. There are many different camera manufacturers and each one has a long lineup of models. There are many different sizes and shapes and megapixel-counts and prices. What's best? Which one should you get?

First, if you already own a camera, then you have a perfectly good photographic tool. Camera manufacturers and retailers (and those paid by the manufacturers and retailers) do an excellent job of making your current gear seem inferior and obsolete. They want you to spend your money, and so they do everything that they can to make you feel like you need to spend your hard-earned money.

But the fact is that no new camera will ever make you a better photographer, no matter how expensive it might be. Photography is much more about your mind and heart than your gear. If your photographs aren't good enough, it's because you're not good enough. Your old camera is most likely just fine.

Perhaps, though, you really do need a camera--either your first camera or to replace some outdated or broken gear. What should you get?
Steam Locomotive Wheels - Ogden, Utah
Captured with my cell phone.
I've been surprised by my new cell phone. It's an LG G4 and its camera does a good job. Well, the JPEGs aren't great, but the RAW files can be manipulated quite well. And Google's Snapseed app can post-process RAW files. You can easily print 11" x 17" and, with a good quality image, as big as 16" x 24" prints. That means it would be possible to do professional work with this camera. And the full-manual controls allow you to do pretty much anything that you could with a more-expensive fixed-lens camera. There are several cell phone cameras that are just as good, if not better, than the G4.

Suppose that you want something a bit more versatile than a cell phone. What do I recommend? 
Regular Unleaded Pool - Gray Mountain, Arizona
A cheap Panasonic super-zoom captured this.
My first suggestion is something that's small and fits into your pocket. The Sony RX100 II (or any of the RX100 models) offers DSLR-like quality and control in a pocket-sized camera. The Panasonic ZS40 has surprisingly decent image image quality if you need more focal length versatility and have a tiny budget. Neither of these cameras cost a whole lot of anything, and nobody will know that the you didn't use a DSLR to capture your images (unless you told them or they saw your camera).

If you want a DSLR you don't have to spend much money. The Nikon D3300 (or the almost identical D3200) are every bit as good as (and arguably better than) most full-frame cameras from 10 years ago, yet you can easily find them (with a lens) for under $500 if you shop around.
Sunset At Morro Rock - Morro Bay, California
Captured with an entry-level DSLR.
What about mirrorless? There are good options. Samsung has a number of good models that can be found for cheep since they're pulling out of the digital interchangeable-lens market. They made good cameras, but sales never matched expectations. Some older Fuji X-Trans cameras (like the X-E1) can be had for a fraction of what they used to, yet they're still pretty darn good.

And let's not forget about film. Since almost everyone has gone digital, film cameras, which still work just fine, can be had for practically nothing. There are tons and tons of very good film gear that can be had for really cheap. Friends and family may have some collecting dust in a closet. And film is still every bit as good as it was 20 years ago, and probably even better than when the legends of photography were shooting.

My point is this: spend less on gear, which will allow you to spend more on experiences (with that gear). You don't need to be rich to be a photographer. You can find great photographic gear for very little money. In fact, maybe you don't have to spend anything.

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