How to Choose the Right Camera and Equipment for Your Needs
Buying a new camera is exciting, but it’s also expensive. You don’t want to lay out your hard-earned dollars on a camera and then realize it’s not The One. So, which is the ideal camera for you? If you’re looking to upgrade your game and wondering how to choose the perfect camera for your needs, there are a few things you should take into consideration before you decide.
Are you a street photographer? Sports? Fashion? Landscape? The type of camera you choose should reflect what you want to use it for. For instance, a street photographer may want a lightweight, compact mirrorless camera instead of a bulky DSLR. When you have to carry a camera and lenses around all day, the size and weight of them really start to matter.
A small camera has other advantages over a large one for street photography too. People seem to take less notice of and feel less threatened by a small camera as opposed to a hulking DSLR with a huge zoom lens, which can seem kind of, well, stalkerish.
A sports or wildlife photographer really needs a camera with a high frame rate to catch all the action, but that machine-gun speed doesn’t matter so much to landscape photographers – the ground or the sea isn’t going anywhere soon.
If you travel a lot, a lightweight and durable camera and lenses are a must. If you want to buy a film camera instead of digital for your traveling, be aware that if you take a film with a higher ISO than 400 on a plane, the security scanners can ruin your film completely or fog parts of it. Just something to be aware of!
You need to think about what type of photography you shoot the most, and what pros and cons your current camera has when you’re shooting.
LENSES AND CAMERA SYSTEMS
Another consideration for buying a new camera is whether you are already heavily invested in a particular brand through lenses, and what your budget is.
You may have bought several expensive lenses for your current camera brand, and if you change to a different brand, your current lenses are now obsolete. The same goes for any flashguns you may have for your brand too. This means you have to pay yet more hard-earned cash for a new set of lenses as well as a camera body, and this can easily run into the thousands of dollars.
You can either stay with your current camera system and lenses and upgrade to a better model or bite the bullet and sell your current lenses second-hand to help buy new ones for a new system.
Getting used to a new camera system can also take time, as each manufacturer puts their controls different places and uses menus that can seem confusing if you’re not used to them. So, think very carefully before you make the change to a completely new brand, or you could get a big dose of buyer’s remorse!
DSLR OR MIRRORLESS?
Once if you wanted to get a decent camera, you had to get a DSLR. Then Panasonic launched its first mirrorless camera, the Lumix G1, and it was a game-changer.
Like DSLR’s, mirrorless (or CSC’s as they are also known) cameras have changeable lenses, but they don’t have a complex mirror system like DSLR’s do. This means that in principle they are lighter, smaller and more mechanically simple than their cousins. They are also simpler to learn than DSLR’s, as they are more like compact cameras to use.
On the downside, the lens ranges of mirrorless camera systems aren’t as extensive as they are for DSLR’s and they don’t have an optical viewfinder. They use the rear screen or electronic viewfinders, which can take some getting used to.
The debate on which is better continues to rage on the internet, but here are the advantages and drawbacks of DSLR’s and mirrorless cameras summed up in a quick guide.
SIZE AND WEIGHT
- DSLR: Big and bulky, but this can be an advantage when using telephoto lenses, or if you’ve got big hands!
- CSC: They are smaller and lighter, but some of the lenses can be as big as a DSLR, which can make them unbalanced and hard to hold still.
- DSLR: Canon and Nikon have a huge range of lenses for every type of photography, as does Sony. Independent lens makers like Sigma also make lenses to fit all of the major brands.
- CSC: Fujifilm, Panasonic, and Olympus have good, growing ranges. Sony isn’t quite there yet but is trying to catch up.
- DSLR: A lot of photographers still prefer the traditional optical viewfinder for the natural look and immediate viewing.
- CSC: Gives you a digital rendition of the scene as opposed to your own view. Some CSC’s can have a bit of a time lag when rendering the scene, which isn’t great if you’re trying to capture an action shot.
- DSLR: This used to be a big advantage for them, but not so much anymore. They’re generally better for tracking moving subjects than CSC’s but their Live View isn’t as good for that.
- CSC: Live View AF is generally very good when using the LCD screen, and the electronic viewfinders in the latest models have great overall AF performance.
- DSLR: The best, top of the range DSLR’s can no longer match the speeds of the best CSC cameras.
- CSC: They have overtaken the ability of the DSLR to capture scenes at high speeds.
- DSLR: Once was the king of video capabilities, and Canon DSLR’s were once hugely popular with professional film-makers, but they look to be overtaken by mirrorless cameras.
- CSC: 4K video is now becoming more common with mirrorless cameras, and the Live View AF is better. This could possibly be the future of video.
- DSLR: They use the best and most cutting-edge tech in their APS-C or full-frame sensors.
- CSC: They use exactly the same sensor sizes as DSLR’s, so there is no real difference in image quality.
- DSLR: Top of the range models can go for over 1,000 shots on a single charge.
- CSC: You’ll typically get around 300-400 shots, which on a day’s shooting isn’t a lot. Bring spare batteries – you’ll need them.
- DSLR: A cheap DSLR is currently better value for money than a cheap CSC.
- CSC: If you want a CSC with an electronic viewfinder, be prepared to pay a high price. If you want a cheap one, you’ll have to make do with Live View.
There are many more comparisons that can be made between DSLR’s and mirrorless cameras, but this should give you a quick overview, and hopefully help you decide what type of camera you might like.
FULL FRAME OR CROP SENSOR?
Crop sensor cameras are cheaper than full-frame ones because their sensor size is smaller. You likely know about sensor size and image quality, so I’m not going to talk about that here, but the difference in image quality between the two can be important, especially if you want to make prints of your images. For most everyday shots, the image quality difference between full and crop frame sensors won’t matter.
f you shoot macro, a crop frame sensor can actually have advantages over a full-frame camera in certain scenarios.
The full-frame sensor will always give a higher-quality print than a crop frame, especially at larger sizes. If making prints is important to you, it’s something to take into consideration.
I’m assuming you also know about the difference in lens crop factors when you put the same lens on a full-frame and a crop sensor. If you don’t or want to refresh your memory, have a look at this video from B & H for a full explanation
Buying a camera leaves you with a lot to think about. Although you may be impatient to rush out and buy one, the smart move is to slow down, think about it, and consider some of the points I’ve covered above.
It’s all up to you now, and soon you’ll discover the thrill of holding your latest camera in your hands. Happy shooting!