Thursday, 24 May 2012

Travelling light (Part 2)

I'm frequently asked by friends and family to advise on the best camera to buy or the best place to buy the camera. This happened again recently and as usual I had the same question... What are you going to do with it?!

"take pictures" I hear you say... O.K. Let me rephrase that: What are you going to take photos of? And what are you going to do with the photos?  If I was a pushy salesman I'd make you buy the latest and greatest... But I'm not so, because I get asked often, and because I'm sat alone in a hotel in Germany... I'll tell you my thoughts an hopefully give some guidance on what you actually need.

Which camera you should buy is largely based on what you want to get out of the process. Below are some things to consider and because I'm extremely bored I'll explain this with an analogy... 

Photography, like many things is not just a yes/no situation. Brace yourself here comes the tenuous analogy... A friend asks you "I'm doing some DIY and I need to buy a spanner, Which is the best one?" obviously it depends what size they need... What room there is to manoeuvre (maybe they need a ratchet) and of course there are different manufacturers of tools. If you use it a lot you probably want the durable expensive items, if it's just for this task you might get away with a cheap item from lidl... And cameras actually are very similar...
The more scenarios you'll use a camera, the more often, the more you'll do with the image... The better camera you'll possibly need.

Having said that don't be fooled into thinking your current camera isn't good enough, most people carry around a perfectly good camera fit for a lot of situations in their pocket... Yes I mean your phone (Roxy).
I took these photos (left) on my iPhone 4.

In terms of brand I'd happily recommend the top three in my mind: Canon; Nikon; and fuji. I mention fuji because they do some amazing bridge cameras.

So what do I think? You should buy a normal point and shoot or bridge camera. It should be over 5 megapixels. Most people do NOT need a dSLR, they have many more functions than you need and produce a file size that is far too big for most applications.  If you're just taking snaps of events and putting them on a social media site an iPhone or equivalent is fine. If you want to go pro you might need a dSLR... If you're in between the two you'll need something in between too!

There are advantages and disadvantages to many things and cameras are the same, if you want to be more artistic, use a camera in low light levels, or take photos of things that are moving quickly (sports, dance etc) you might need to get a dSLR or decent bridge camera. With the extra capabilities of these cameras come the downsides, they're expensive! They have more capability so you need to know more about using them. They're heavy (holding my camera for 1 hour is a bit of a chore) they're cumbersome - this is my current problem, I travel a lot and taking an SLR means packing lenses and some flashes, and maybe a soft box... And a reflector... 

So the real answer to " which camera should I get" is probably 'get three'. A decent phone camera for social photography, a small/portable point and shoot  for holidays and a more serious dSLR for when you're feeling arty.

If you do decide on a dSLR the old Nikon/Canon debate will no doubt rear its head... They're both brilliant makes of camera so my tip would be find out what your friends and family have - If they all use Nikon and you buy Canon you won't be able to borrow their equipment or ask them advice on how to do things.

So if you're still confused, feel free to drop me a line and I'm sure I'll be equally unhelpful directly. :o)