How to choose a camera
The digital era has made photography accessible to all. Manufacturers such as Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and many more now offer cameras for everyone and all types of use. Whether you are a professional, a nature photographer or if you simply want to snap a few memories with your loved ones, there is a digital camera for you. However with the many technical terms, this choice can often become a complicated and difficult one. Does this sound like you? Well you’re in the right place…
Understanding the technical side
It is important to understand several technical aspects so you don’t make any mistakes and so that your photos will have the same quality that you expect from them. This can be a bit overwhelming at first, but you will understand the basics after a few explanations.
1.Image quality partly depends on the sensor!
This part of the camera is what takes the photo, but two different elements will impact the overall result: resolution and size.
This means the number of pixels that make up your photo. A high resolution will result in a sharper image with more details. Camera prices increase with the number of pixels: there are cameras with 1 to 24 megapixels on the market, however a resolution of 8 megapixels will be enough for a 27.6cm x 20.7cm print.
This influences the quality of the photo and the possibility to take photos in more obscure settings. Sensors come in different sizes:
– Sensors for compact and bridge cameras are small
– Sensors for MILCs are medium sized
– Sensors on SLRs are the biggest
A larger sensor will contain more pixels, which will then capture more light. This is why SLRs (single-lens reflex cameras) offer better image quality than a compact, particularly when there is less light available.
2.Shutter speed: to capture fast movements
You will often see fractions such as 1/400 or 1/800 on product descriptions, which represents fractions of a second. All you need to know is that the higher the number on the right is, the easier it will be to capture fast movements without your photo being blurry.
Focus length or focal distance:
The focal length (or focal distance) indicates the angle a lens can capture. The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle will be. The longer the focal length, the more limited the angle will be. It is expressed in millimetres and generally varies from 16mm (wide-angle lens) to 200mm (telephoto lens).
This is associated with the value of the focal length and determines how bright and sharp your photos will be. It is a calculation based on the relationship between the lens’ focal length and the diameter of the entrance pupil, expressed in the form of ‘f/number’. Values go from f/1 (large opening) to f/16 (small opening).
This is the setting used to decide which part of the photo will be sharp, and which parts may be blurry.
The different camera types
1.Compact cameras: Practical, light and easy to use.
Compactness and ease of use makes compact cameras suitable for those that do not want a heavy device with too many settings. They will adjust themselves to different photography conditions to make shooting easier. These days, many compact cameras have shooting support, face detection and even smile detection.
The (integrated) zoom has a different range, depending on the type of camera you choose. However, you should take note on the difference between an optical zoom and a digital zoom. The first option uses the contacts that make up the lens, resulting in no loss in quality. The second option enlarges the pixels, so image quality is reduced.
Make sure to choose an autonomous camera with a good memory card so you do not miss the special moment you want to capture forever.
Disadvantages of compact cameras:
– Image quality is not optimal because their sensors are small.
– Resolution rarely goes above 16 megapixels.
– Lens quality is mediocre.
– Unable to modify settings for the majority of devices.
– Lag between turning it on and taking the photo.
Popular compact cameras at the moment:
Canon Powershot S110 (£200)
Samsung Smart Camera EX2F (£350)
Sony Cybershot DSC-RX100 II (£600)
As their name suggests, these cameras bridge the gap between compacts and SLRs. The have the advantage to offer a slightly larger sensor than a compact, which makes for better quality photos. Integrated into the device, the lens is more efficient and allows you to have a more stabilised and more powerful zoom than compacts (around x20). Bridge cameras have both pre-defined and manual settings, making it easy to take a photo as you want it.
Overall, they are designed for people that want to have more choice when it comes to settings and better image quality, without investing as much as you would for an SLR.
Disadvantages to bridge cameras:
– Bulkiness because they are bigger than compacts.
– There is no optical viewfinder; you have to use the screen.
– Image quality is not always better than some compact cameras.
– You cannot change the lens.
Popular bridge cameras at the moment:
Ultra Zoom: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 (£300)
Nikon Coolpix P7800 (£500)
3.MILC (mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera): Another compromise between a compact and an SLR camera.
Appearing on the market as early as 2005, these mirrorless cameras are much closer to SLRs than bridges. They are smaller than SLRs because they don’t have prism systems or mirrors, which are used for shooting. Instead, the shot is not done through an optical viewfinder, but rather with an electronic viewfinder or on the screen.
Be careful! When you are looking for an MILC, check if the price is for the casing only (without a lens) or as a kit (with a lens).
Main advantages of an MILC:
– Overall it is a better quality device
– Better sensors
– Interchangeable lenses
– Similar features and engineering as SLRs
– Not as bulky as an SLR
– Fast to use
Disadvantages of MILCs:
– The zoom range available is less than on bridges
– Price can be quite high
– The flash is sometimes an extra, and not included
Popular MILCs at the moment:
Sony NEX-3N (£300)
Fujifilm X-M1 + XC 16-50mm (£700)
Olympus OM-D E-M1 (£1300 casing only)
4.SLRs : for experienced photographers
Designed for experienced photographers will good knowledge of a camera’s technical aspects. There are several products available, whether you are a hobbyist or a professional.
They are more powerful when it comes to processing an image, burst shooting, turning the device on and the reproduction of colours and details. There is also the possibility to modify the settings and buttons as you wish.
These advantages allow you to take one-of-a-kind photographs and to explore the new possibilities in photography.
Be careful! When you are looking for an SLR, check if the price is for the casing only (without a lens) or as a kit (with a lens).
Disadvantages of an SLR camera:
– Bulkiness of the casing and accompanying accessories
– Requires good technical knowledge
– Expensive (especially for top-of-the-range models)
– The flash is sometimes an extra, and not included in the price
– The zoom range can be limited
Popular SLR cameras at the moment:
Hobbyist: Canon 700D + lens 18-55 IS (£650)
Expert: Nikon D600 + 24-85mm (£1700)
Professional: Canon 5D Mark III + 24-105mm (£3400)
Other factors to take into account
Stabilisation: Some cameras and lenses have been stabilised to avoid shaking and blurriness when you take a video.
Video: It is possible to take videos with some of the most recent cameras. You should however verify that the video format is convenient for you (mp4, avi, h264 etc.). The quality of your video will depend on the camera you choose.
Weather resistance: Cameras are sometimes made to be resistant against water or dust.
Connectivity and GPS: Cameras with Wi-Fi connections mean that you can send your photos directly to your computer. They can also have a GPS system to pinpoint exactly where your photos were taken.
Accessories: Flashes, grips and extra batteries are extras that you should consider in your budget for optimum camera use.