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Buying your first camera? Here’s what you need to consider
By Abhilash Pavuluri
If you’ve been following these weekly photography articles, you’ll have an idea of what to expect when it comes to camera hardware in general. Hopefully, they’ll have served as a jumpstart to your photography. But what about a camera? What factors do you need to consider when making a purchase? Considering how complex (or how simple) some cameras are these days, the choice is not that easy. However, this guide lists down a few simple factors to consider when buying your first camera.
1. Use case:
What will you be needing this new camera for? While it’s simply easy to get a professional DSLR in the hopes that it’ll take high quality photos, that is rarely the case. Most people buy DSLR cameras and end up shelving them because they’re too bulky, too complicated and often come with unimpressive lenses.
Figuring out what you need a camera for is a huge help. If it’s for the occasional family vacation or even casual snapshots, you already have a camera in your smartphone that is very much capable of taking those photos. If you want to take it a notch higher, point-and-shoots are a great value-for-money investment. You have a tool dedicated to imaging while still being simple and not that expensive.
DSLRs should never be considered for a first camera unless you are aspiring to become a photographer(and even then, you would do well to practice on a point and shoot first). For reasons mentioned above, we strongly recommend that you avoid DSLRs as a first camera.
A pixel(the short form of Picture Element) is a single unit that captures information and sends it to your camera. In theory, the higher the number of megapixels, the more information gets sent and the more detailed your photos will be. That was and has always been the general consensus. However let’s get this out of the way immediately: Megapixel count is not that important unless you work with print.
That’s right. In fact, megapixels should be at the lower end of things to consider when buying a digital camera, since most consumer and prosumer camera come with adequate megapixels anyway.
Why isn’t this important? Because as much as it matters, what also matters is the size of each pixel and the way they’re spread across the sensor. While conventional smartphone cameras, for example, have anywhere from 10-20 MP, some manufacturers like HTC took a step back and developed sensors with a mere 4 MP count. The difference is that HTC developed what they called “Ultrapixels”, or really big pixels. So 4 really big pixels have the same light gathering power as 10 small ones.
Considering what you learnt about sensor sizes in the last article, choose a camera wisely based on this parameter. A 10 MP smartphone camera is not the same as a 10 MP DSLR camera.
3. Form factor:
It’s all well and good the day you buy a hefty DSLR. But you’ll slowly start taking it out less and less the moment you realise how much effort needs to be put in just to carry one around. DSLR cameras may be the best for true photography, but that doesn’t mean they’re the most practical. For those of you who need DSLR-like features in a smaller form factor, Mirrorless cameras are slowly taking over the market in terms of portability and features. Gone are the days when you had limited pickings in mirrorless cameras;they now come with multiple adapter features and a not-very-expensive price.
If you’re on a budget but need DSLR-like features, bridge-cameras (or advanced point and shoot cameras) are also a very attractive proposition. Beware,however: most of them use ⅔ inch or 1-inch sensors. With that being said, bridge cameras are good for learning photography at an economic price.
4. Functionality and performance:
Now that we’ve stressed that megapixels are not all that matter in a camera, what really does? Performance, yes, but how can we measure that?
For some people who do a lot of action or sports photography, performance could be measured in terms of the number of frames per second (fps) a camera can shoot. For those who shoot in a lot of low-light situations, noise handling performance is key.
It really comes down to your preferences. Some cameras (like the Canon EOS 7D Mark II) have features that are much better suited to sports or wildlife photography, while some cameras (like the Panasonic GH4) have been praised for their 4K video shooting. Of course, newer models are slowly bridging the gap between these niche cameras by including almost every feature possible (like the Sony A9). But that comes at a cost.
What about functionality? Pick up any demo camera and fiddle with it. How easy is it to use? Can you change settings on the fly without going through the menu too much? While most point-and-shoot cameras are simplified to the point where there’s not much you can do with them, DSLR cameras let you control nearly every aspect for the camera and there’s a button or dial for everything. Of course, using DSLRs is also becoming easier thanks to touch-screens and user guides.
Finally, price. Are you really paying for a worthy investment? Combine all the previous factors we spoke about and do the math yourself. The tech behind photography gets better and better every day, and there’s really no need to rush out and buy the first expensive camera you see. Take your time and go through the internet a few times,reviewing each camera online and then in real life before making a purchase.