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Thursday, 24 January 2013

What Is The Best Camera To Buy?


As a photographer and a former photographic salesman, I have a unique perspective of both sides of the sales counter when it comes to photography and specifically photographic equipment and people's needs not to mention people's wants which are not necessarily the same thing. The one question I was always faced with is "Should I buy Canon or Nikon?" and "What is the best camera?" And my immediate response is "What do you have now?" and "What is it that you shoot?"
Photography is all about variables and trade-offs. Its shutter speed verses aperture over iso. Up on the one variable and down on the other. An intricate dance with technical parameters in order to achieve one thing, the exposure we want for that one specific subject at that specific time. There is no one single "recipe" for all occasions. The only thing I have come across which is constant, is the continued and ongoing battle between the two giants Canon and Nikon for dominance over the industry and that is not going to change. You might find yourself one day with what is rated the best system, but invariably that will change. Aiming for the Best Brand is like a young man trying to find the prettiest girl. That is a title that passes from one girl to another in a matter of moments. There will always be the next pretty girl.
If I had to rank in order of technical superiority all the available cameras, you will find that you don't have one entire brand following the other, they are intermingled. And the line-up is dependent on your specific requirements. So where does that leave us?
If you are just starting out with photography, don't get caught up in the Which Brand? Decision just yet. First you must decide what kind of camera you should get. Compact or Digital SLR? You must give some thought to why you need a camera in the first place, and what kind of photography you are interested in. You have to ask yourself a couple of questions. "Where and when would I use a camera?" "How often would I use a camera? Is it for general purposes like holidays and family occasions? Is it to photograph my kid on the sports field? Or for once a year when I am in the game park? If those are your needs then you should choose one of the very many compact cameras available. Small compact models which you can drop into your pocket or handbag. For the Game Park and sports field person, one of the larger "Bridge" type cameras that offers plenty zoom.
If you are thinking of taking it to the next level and doing some serious and precise photography, then you need a Digital SLR, and you will need to know this from the start: It can be a long and expensive journey, but very rewarding in long run. They won't fit into your handbag or pocket or a tiny camera bag. There are accessories and additional gear you will want beyond just the camera itself. So small and compact is no longer feature. If I had a hundred rand for every time I have found someone looking amongst the tiny camera pouches for something to put their newly purchased SLR into, I could buy myself a couple of more lenses. You will need a bag that is bigger than your camera, sorry.
SLR's offer you much more variables to play with. They allow you to take full control of the exposure. Their larger image sensors offer a broader dynamic range to play with, more subtle variations in colour tone, saturation, contrast, and exposure levels and much less noise in darker situations. They offer one or other RAW capture mode which is perfectly suited to image editing on your PC or Mac with the likes of Photoshop and lightroom. SLR's offer you a wide range of lenses to choose from, and no, you will not need to buy all of them, they are task specific. What is your task?
An SLR is what you want if you are passionate about photography. Getting that perfect shot, even if it means revisiting that same spot on many different occasions until you find that the light is just right, the colours in the sky are perfect, just enough clouds at just the right height.
Serious photography requires you to use your left and right brain together. Learn and understand the technical parameters at your disposal until they are instinctive, then apply that knowledge to the artistic side of the equation, composition and expression. There is also the thing that I keep firmly in mind when I'm shooting and that is my Hit Rate. Remember that the images you have seen that have been mind blowing, that inspire you. The photographers whose work you admire and the iconic images you have seen represent a very small percentage of the images they have ever taken. You are seeing their best of the best. If you go out shooting, and you come back home to review your shots on your computer (lightroom is fantastic for this) and you find that most of your shots are plain or boring, don't worry or panic! Look at the shots; figure out what's wrong with them? How could I improve on that shot? What were my exposure settings? How could it have been better? And remember those things the next time you are out shooting. My motto in life is the best way to figure out who you are, is to realise who you are not. So too, the best way to up your hit-rate is realise where you are going wrong, and you will see the more you do this, the better you will get. The best way to learn is with your camera in your hand. You can explain until you are blue in the face how to drive a car, you can give them all the theory, but they will only get it, when they are sitting behind the wheel themselves. So, learn what you can, do a course or two, read some books, but just keep shooting.
Lastly, back to the two giants. Don't get lost in the eternal struggle between them, and the opinions of just about everybody with a voice on web. Don't get lost in the splitting of hairs of technical superiority and all the while sitting back feeling indecisive and not shooting. Both Brands have their strengths and weaknesses. Your choice is Wonderful or Fantastic. The camera and its accessories are simply tools. You are the photographer. Know your needs, and choose equipment that suites those needs. Learn to use your camera to its full potential and understand its limitations; all cameras have limitations, so work around them. Don't buy things just because they seem fancy and impressive. That would be an incredible waste of money better spent on the specific things you need to do what you are doing and remember it's all about the image and not the gear. The Best camera is the one in your hand.
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