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Choosing and Buying a Digital Camera.

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  • Choosing and Buying a Digital Camera.

    This is going to be a 3 part tutorial or guide on how to choose a digital camera suited to your needs and requirements.
    This is a work in progress and not nearly finished.

    How to buy a camera! Let me start by saying that one should not take this article as the be all and end all of advice in terms of obtaining a digital camera. I get asked for my advice quite often and I try to be as honest and practical as I can. There are so many things to take into consideration and I will try to steer you through a few things you should bare in mind. If your attempt at buying a digital camera becomes a little easier... then job done. If you read this article and purchased one, then let me know how it went and how pleased you are with the camera.

    So lets cut to the chase shall we.

    A little about my photographic background: Ever since I can remember I have had the use of a camera, instamatics, SLR's, compact digitals and now a couple of quite nice digital SLR's. They have been put to a myriad of uses from school trips to proffessional portrait and wedding shoots. Making money from the capture of light is something I do more and more these days and I would suggest to anyone to give it a crack (try) as long as you understand what your punter wants and how your camera works you wont go far wrong.

    My kit at the moment includes 3 main cameras that all get used depending on situation. Two Digital SLR's and a Fuji 7000 high end compact camera.

    1: What do you need the camera for?

    The first step is to determine the use of your new camera. You need to be really honest with yourself here or you'll end up with something that will be too advanced or not do the job at hand. The following areas of photography are very generalised but will consider some of the options you will need to ponder over.

    Social and Family Photography: Everyone, in my opinion, should have a camera at hand for those moments to capture special occassions. You'll not need the most advanced camera in the world and I'll always maintain that the most simple camera is what you actually need. Group gatherings can be some of the most dynamic events you'll ever photograph. You wont always have time to pose a shot and get everything right for that perfect photograph. So the less you have to worry about the better, leaving you to be more focused on being aware of potential instances to capture. Thus a camera that is pretty much fully automatic (focusing, auto flash, auto white balance, auto exposure etc) will do the job superbly as long as you are focused on getting the shot.

    Take me Everywhere Photography: The best camera in the world is the one on you and not on the shelf at home! If you are considering becoming joined at the hip with your camera then you'll need something slimeline if not comfortable in a pocket or hand/man bag. It should be easy to turn on and have a long battery life. If you opt for something along these lines then do me a favour. As a someone who uses a camera a lot certain things annoy me when seeing other photographers. Top of that list is photographers who walk around with their (usually with expensive models) camera out and in hand, turned off and lens cover on. Imagine a classic and once in a lifetime photographic situation presents itself to you whislt you have a powered down camera in hand with lens cover on! That situation may only last a split second... An A list celeb gets out of a cab, trips up and is legs akimbo on the sidewalk... the possibillities are endless but I think you get my point. If you camera is in hand, then turn it on and have the lens cover off!

    Web and Graphic Design Photography: This where we start to consider some of the advanced camera options open to you. This is a large field and one camera wont serve all options open to you. You may use the camera for interesing displays you see in your local high street for inspiration to use later, maybe some generic office shots everyone uses with some suited woman wearing a headset (boring boring boring) or producing stock photography. The uses are of a camera are potentially endless in this large area.

    If you are freelance in your work or simply produce the odd piece of digital art then my suggestion would be to go for a camera that is a jack of all trades. Options you'll need.
    • A wide focal range - something in the range of 28mm to about 300mm. See third post for more details regarding focal length. Ignore any options of digital zoom, if it has it fine, but never use it. See third post for this important note.
    • A macro option. Maybe even super macro as some cameras seem to have.
    • A certain amount of control over - Exposure Time (fast to at least 30 seconds), F Stop, ISO, EV, Flash Options etc.
    • Ability to shoot RAW
    • Comfortable to handle
    • Tripod fitting is directly aligned with the lens and the CCD/CMOS. Meaning I have seen cameras that fit the tripod off to the right or left, under the exposure button for example. This is daft when setting up a shot, looking through the viewfinder when the relative viewing angle doesnt relate to the changing angle on the tripod. That probably doesn't make much sense, think about it and it will.

    Proffessional Photography:
    Where does pro photography start and where does it end? Well in my book, it is when you make enough money to call it a living! You can own a very expensive camera but it wont make you a pro photographer if are not making money from it. On the other hand, you can own a very cheap camera, make lots of money using it, and that would make you a pro photographer.

    Thus what camera you need depends on its use. Weddings for example would require a fairly decent SLR of at least 4mp in sensor size, not the hottest of technology but if you know your art this is all you need. Wildlife needs some knowledge of your subject but need not be expensive or difficult... especially if you live somewhere exotic. A back garden is always a great place to learn and cut your teeth. Then there is sports photography, portraiture, landscape... etc etc etc the list is endless. Most of you will be interested in web design so I feel that the most interesting field to you will be stock photography.

    Stock photography is a big market and will include any field of photography already mentioned. Using some basic lighting and set up indoor shots you can get away with a decent 6mp compact digital costing far less than a SLR model. Why 6mp though? Well most major stock agencies will not take images of less than 50mb in size.

    Stock Photography: is a great way of getting started in terms of making money. Anyway one can do it, and the scope for images is huge. Cook a decent meal, place on a nice shiny large white plate, set up with a glass of wine, place all on a nice clean attractive table and add candles for atmosphere... camera on tripod and snap away at different angles. Chances are that with little effort and some minor post production you'll have a stock photo that someone may be interested in. Selling it is the key and you'll need to research that bit yourself. Web Search 'PHOTOGRAPHIC STOCK AGENCIES'. Is there money to be made from it? Next time you walk down a street, look at all the photos around you. The back of busses, shop windows, ad boards... everywhere you look. These photos are either commissioned or purchased as stock. Stock photography is also used for the web in the same way that all other photography is used commercially. Also consider games, texture files need to be produced somehow... enough of that as that is my next major project.

    A note about copyright as it comes to mind: Try to take all images you intend to sell in RAW format. Do not sell on this RAW image, JPG's or TIFFs will be fine for your punter. If you need to dispute the ownership of an image, you'll be the only one with the digital negative, the RAW image file. A RAW file cannot be created from a flattened version of the image. The creation of a photograph seals the photo as yours the moment you take it. There are exceptions to this though special contracts for example whilst working for someone else. Taking shots of people will usually result in the need of a 'Release' form before you can use the images. You'll learn the finer details of this area of photography as you go along.

  • #2
    Choosing a camera Advanced

    I've had a little time to think about how to present a few cameras that may be of interest.

    I could give you a list of models I like, and I have done so! However, let me introduce a few websites I use to gather industry news and trusted reviews.
    I have been using this site for years! Or at least it seems so. The reviews are spot on and real. A rare site that gives you the feedback without trying to sell the product to you, meaning that they are not tied into a deal where they make money on the back of the review. Oh they have links to buy the product but this site is as impartial as you get.

    DP Review
    Perhaps the sleeker version of Steves Digicams. A great site and always at the front of the news and gossip queue.

    My Suggestions:

    High End Compacts:

    SLR's :
    My choice of SLR's would come in two flavours, Nikon fit or Canon fit. All boils down to collect glass, a lens range. In an ideal world we would always be able to buy the latest model of anything and not worry about the cost. However, glass will be expensive, especially if you are considering this for a living. A good lens will perhaps be the most expensive thing you buy after a house or a new car. So thinking about the future is a step in the right direction.

    Having a small collection of Nikon fit lenses I wouldn't dream of buying another D-SLR that wasn't a nikon fit system. It would only mean starting all over again.

    So on that note:

    Nikon D70 and D70s: Perhaps that the digital camera that opened the pro-sumer market wide open. Now a few years old it is still a nice piece of kit. Able to take 100+ images a minute (2.9 frames/sec), take up to 2000 images on a single charge and shutter speeds from 1/8000sec to bulb.

    If you are seriously interested in getting into photography then you wont go wrong with this model. I'm not 100% sure if it is still produced, but get the kit deal if you can. With the Nikon 18-70mm DX lens. If a little to expensive, consider the Nikon D40 or if you want to push the boat out - the D80.


    • #3
      Buying a Digital Camera - Glossary

      This will be a mini guide to some of those technical terms you may have heard of. Hopefully you won't be so bamboozled when choosing a camera once reading this small list.

      ISO : ISO is the sensitivity of the film or sensor. When using your film you choose it's ISO dependant on available light or the desired effect. Broadly speaking the lower the ISO the less sensitive the film is and equally the higher the ISO the more sensitive it is.

      Shooting in situations with less light will require a higher ISO. Bear in mind that a camera will electronically boost the signal to produce this sensitivity adjustment, and that you can't do this as well in photoshop for example. So choose the best ISO for the situation.

      ISO's will typically run from about 100 to 800 and 25 or 50 to 1600 on more expensive models.

      In optimal conditions always try to use the lowest ISO, higher ISO's will give you more grain and less quality.

      SLR : Single Lens Reflex. You'll find most professional cameras will be of this type, not always. Simply put, light enters the lens onto a mirror which reflects light upwards to a prism where the light is bent towards the veiwfinder and to the users eyes. The user can the see what the camera sees as the light has come directly from the lens. The film or CCD sits behind the mirror and clicking the exposure button will release the mirror so it flicks up and allows the film/ccd to capture the light. For that fraction of a second (in most cases) the user will not be able to see anything through the viewfinder.

      D SLR : Digital SLR. As above but refers specifically to cameras that employ a means of digital capture such as a CCD or CMOS sensor.

      AF : Auto Focus. Quite simple really, the ability to focus automatically.

      AP : Aperture Priority.

      DoF (Depth of Field)

      RAW : Consider RAW to be a digital (film) negative. Very simply put it is the data captured and unedited or flattened allowing you to post edit the shot with more control and a lower level of destruction of the image. Many capture devices work by capturing 4 types of light R(ed), G(reen), B(lue) and Contrast. The colour captured is actually 8 bit (some models 12 bit). That may sound strange as that is only 256 colours... but in fact that is 256 levels of Red, Green and Blue giving in reality 256 * 256 * 256 and thus 16,777,216 possible colours. To confuse you, the image data captured by the sensor isn't even colour but Black and White (or shades of gray) and you'll have to reseach that for yourself. I have digressed enough, the point is this... the data is captured individually at each pixel as R, G and B as well as Contrast. This allows you to edit that information in an application such ADOBE Bridge or Photoshop independantly of the other levels of data. For example you wish to edit the Red levels in the image, you can do so without effecting levels of Green or Blue. RAW gives you so much more power to turn an awful shot into a worthy treasured shot.

      It is worth mentioning though, you can only do so much. An out of focus shot is an out of focus shot and although can be sharpened RAW wont perform biblical miracles for you. So the tip is not to be lazy when using RAW, take every shot to the best of your ability.

      Optical Zoom V's Digital Zoom - There is no competition here. Never use the digital zoom! At all never! If it has the option that is. Digital zoom is simply the ability to interpolate the image to a larger size within the camera. You can do this with more control in some of the most basic image editing suites. There is a use for it, and that is for folk who have no interest in getting involved with such software. Optical zoom is magnification of the data via the glass in your lens and will always render a higher quality magnification. See focal length.

      Focal Length - Don't be confused by this. It really is quite simple. Focal length is based on a 'mm' defintion. The smaller the focal number in 'mm' the more wide angle it will be and the higher the number the more zoomed in you'll be. To put this in real terms.

      28mm - Suitable for scenic panoramic shots where you want extreme wide angle. However some cameras will go down to about 17mm.
      50mm - Often considered to be the focal length the human eye sees things in. Take a shot at this length and the photo content wont be that different from what you see.
      70 to 110mm - Great for portraiture depending on what type of lens you are using. Thats for another day though.
      150 to 200mm - Good for outdoor photography when needing to zoom in on the subject.
      300mm - Reasonable zoom length for some wildlife photography and sports photography.
      500mm plus - You'll be talking serious money at this end. No self respecting wildlife photographer would be without a lens in this range.


      • #4
        Will use this post to sum up questions and replies.

        Almost near completion - but if you have any questions just fire away!


        • #5
          Hi Guyz,

          That is really a great posting.

          Thank and keep it up.
          Last edited by Pegasus; 11-22-2008, 06:20 AM. Reason: spam link removed


          • #6

            Wow! great post! I had to compliment you for my first post. I just bought a camera and this gave me some great ideas


            • #7
              Thanks great ideas now i' m going to buy a digital camra.
              Last edited by Pegasus; 12-25-2008, 11:48 AM. Reason: spam sig removed


              • #8
                Great post.


                • #9
                  Nice idea

                  I think the idea is good. Content means what you want to do is clear and useful. thanks for share and nice to know about this.


                  • #10
                    Wow this is genius !!!
                    I love reading this one.
                    Keep it up


                    • #11

                      There are so many lenses with varying specifications available that it can be quite overwhelming to find exactly what it is that you require from a lens, but that is where we step in to help.

                      Last edited by Pegasus; 11-19-2010, 02:18 PM. Reason: sig removed - you can have one after 30 days membership AND 30 posts


                      • #12
                        i'm planning on buying myself one.. now i know what to buy..thanks guys!


                        • #13
                          I was anxious to see a stuff like that. What an incredible stuff you have posted here. I appreciate that. Thanks for sharing this useful and precious stuff. Amazing!


                          • #14
                            Very nice post.I was planning to buy a digital camera next week and your post helped me a lot.
                            Last edited by Pegasus; 06-06-2011, 09:44 AM. Reason: spam sig removed


                            • #15
                              i feel great by looking this post and now after reading this post i will buy this camera definately