Photography Troubleshooting: What Digital Camera?

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Kaz-D's avatar
Courtesy of sine-out and his fantastic knowledge, we now bring you the fourth in this series of articles. sine-out has answered all the questions that have come up so far. Do you have one? Is there something you need help with? Drop us a comment and we'll see what we can do! And as always, if you have information that could help someone out, let us know!

"How do I select a new camera?"


"One of the most often asked questions I've seen regarding photography, above how to do something, is 'what is the best camera?', or 'what camera should I get?'.

Or something along those lines. The critical thing to note is that there is no such thing as the best camera.
Sure there are cameras that are technically better at certain things, for example, some cameras have very high resolutions, other are very good at low light photography, some are very small, and so on, but there's no such thing as an all encompassing camera that any person can point at and say 'that's the best one you can get', because all photographers are different and thus, have different requirements out of their camera.

As such, the type of camera I could recommend to you depends entirely on what sort of photographs you take, what sort of photographs you want to take, your budget, and a whole slew of other variables and in some cases, compromises, that will help to narrow down your choice.

I use myself as an example.

When I first started to get interested in photography, all I had was a Vivitar 3765 (at least, I think it was). It was a point and shoot camera in the truest sense, it was slow, the picture quality was mediocre at best and it had no manual controls to speak of. Suffice to say, I managed to reach my creative limits with that camera very quickly. Any further creative development on my part necessitated a new camera.

When I managed to get the money for a new camera, I was convinced that I needed a dSLR, so I did my research which eventually lead me to the Nikon D50. During my research, however, I also came across the Panasonic Lumix FZ30, which is a Bridge camera.

It took me several weeks going over the pros and cons of either, I even made detailed analyses on both, listing all the factors of the cameras that I felt were the most important.

Obviously, I finally chose the Nikon D50.

The point, at the time, was that all my decisions in leading to my purchase were compromises. What I gained in some areas I might lose in others. For example, the Nikon D50 with its larger sensor was much better under low light than the FZ30, but it also had a (slightly) lower resolution.

Of course, at the time I was making this decision (middle of 2006), the market wasn't as developed as it is today.
I wouldn't dismiss any class of camera today in your final decision.

You'll probably have noticed that I've tried to avoid pointing to any one type of camera as a suggestion to go to. I mean, while there's no such thing as 'the best' camera, surely, you'd think that I'd be able to point to one camera, or camera form factor that would be 'good enough' for nearly any scenario. But even giving a recommendation for that is fraught with difficulty.

For example, I could say that getting a Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera (MILC) also commonly called a Compact System Camera (CSC) would make for a good general purpose camera form factor, as they allow interchangeable lenses, and thus have flexibility to enable being general purpose, but aren't large or heavy in themselves that people would avoid actually using the cameras because they'd be a hassle to carry around all the time. I could say that, but then there'd be many people who'd disagree, some prefer the Phase Detection auto-focus of SLR cameras, some think that even CSC's are too large, and would prefer a camera with a fixed lens.

All my waffling is trying to make the ultimate point that it's basically subjective.
Set yourself a budget (ideally one you can afford :B), figure out what you want the camera to do, and then do lots and lots of research.
Ideally, actually get a hold of the cameras your looking at, and see how they feel to actually use (ergonomics are extremely important, after all, you want to be comfortable in using the camera, or you just won't use it).

Once you've made a shortlist of the cameras you're considering, then you can get third party opinions and suggestions, to give you different perspectives in case you've missed anything obvious that would make a camera a hit or miss to you.

Unfortunately, doing all of this can take time, and it does take a modicum of effort. However, the reward in taking that time and effort, I think are worth it."

~ sine-out

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CinnaPyre's avatar
I was wondering if you could help me a little: I wrote a journal… and I hoped you give me advice or suggest a camera.