Almost every phone these days has a digital camera built in. But what if you want more? You want better zoom, more precise shooting, or just manually adjusting the shutter speed or aperture? You can’t do that on every phone. So here’s a quick how to for picking a digital camera to use in the place of or in combination with you camera phone.
Ask yourself five questions –
1) What do I plan to take pictures of?
2) Where do I plan to use my camera?
3) How much control over the composition do I want?
4) How much do I want to spend?
5) Do I want to fit the camera in my pocket, in a small bag, or do I want to carry tons of accessories and tripods, etc?
Most people just want something to take pictures of cool stuff they see – people, buildings, flowers, sunset, parties. They don’t care about adjusting settings and don’t want something that could be difficult to carry around. For these people a pocket sized camera will work well. You can get these for under $100 to over $300 and in multiple colors.
Other people want to take cool pictures everyday but also want to take their camera to places where they won’t be able to be within 50 feet of their subject. Think air shows, the zoo, a graduation, a kids soccer game, the street from the Top of the Rock in NYC. Still, though, they do not want to have to lug around big bags or change lenses. They want a point and shoot camera that also gives them the chance to do a little more. In this case, a bridge camera might work best. These cameras have really large zoom lenses, but pack compactly. You can pick up one of these generally in the $300 – 700 price range.
Some people really don’t care how much they lug around, don’t mind changing lenses, and generally want far more control over the composition of the picture than the average user. They shoot pictures for money or their skill has outgrown the bridge camera. They might want to shoot pictures all day long in places like wildlife reserves, national parks, weddings, etc. They also know they can get the bang for their buck by buying a DSLR, which has a >$500 price range.
Some people buy cameras that a) are way to complicated for their skill level with no intention of ever learning how to use it, b) don’t match what they want to shoot, or c) don’t fit where they want to use it. In a search of Amazon DSLR listings, it was surprising the number of parents who bought these advanced cameras to shoot a kids game but complained about the price or the quality. They might have been better served by a bridge camera, as would have the users who bought a non Sony NEX pocket camera and wanted amazing zoom. Some may have gotten exactly what they needed with a DSLR but could have thrown in another $100 for a decent intro lesson (or $20 for a book on how to use this camera or compose better).
I currently shoot with a Sony a55 with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses. I anticipate getting an 11-18mm lens in the next six months. I have been teaching myself the art of photography for five years now and have progressed from a simple point and shoot, to a bridge, to a point and shoot, to a point and shoot and a bridge, to a more advanced bridge and a point and shoot, to a DSLR. I was able to change my camera as I learned more and learned what I wanted to do and how to do it. I have a camera phone but usually only use it in a pinch or to take pics of documents as a reminder. If you want to do a one time buy but really plan on sticking with it, go for the DSLR but don’t rely on factory settings or AUTO shooting. Really teach yourself or take some lessons from a pro.
Check out all your options and think about the five questions I mentioned above when picking a camera. Go to an actual camera store (they do still exist) or go online and chat with customer service at some stores like Wolf Camera or Butterfly Photo to find out what best fits you. Some photographers are brand loyal and will never buy another brand but I suggest buying what works for you. I’ve shot with Fujifilm, Kodak, and Sony. The difference each time was moreso that a great photo depends on the photographer, not the camera!
What kind of cameras do you shoot with? What are your photography dreams?