Buy the Right Camera

Cameras come in all shapes and sizes, and even though one may look similar to another, that doesn’t they mean they’re the same or geared towards the same type of photographer. The trick is to get the camera that’s right for you.

CT River Ferry Park
CT River Ferry Park

Nancy and I were in a box store this past weekend and walked through the camera department to see what they had. While there, a man on a cell phone went to the DSLR section and asked the person on the other end if they remembered what camera he was supposed to get. I immediately knew there was some uncertainty because they weren’t sure if it was a Canon or a Nikon, and he commented that they all looked the same. I’m not sure if he ended up getting anything, but he mentioned something about a $1000 one because it had a big lens.

Now, a $1000 camera is probably not a bad camera, but it might not be the right one for that person. The trick to getting the right camera is to ask yourself a few questions.

  • What type of photos will be taking?
  • Will you be shooting in inside or outside?
  • Will you be shooting in bright light or dark areas?
  • Will you be shooting still subjects like landscapes or fast moving subjects like race cars?
  • Do you plan to print your pictures or just view the on a computer? If you print them, how big do you plan to print?
East Haddam Swing Bridge
East Haddam Swing Bridge

If you’re shooting mostly landscapes, an iPhone or other cell phone camera might be all you need. The photo on the right of the bridge in the fog was taken with an Android phone. I was driving around and only had my phone with me and saw the fog covered bridge and had to take a picture. At the time I wished I had an actual camera with me, but after seeing the results, I don’t think it would have come out any better with a camera. I’ve looked at some amazing photos and am shocked when I learn that they were taken with a cell phone.

Wildflowers - Mount Washington, NH
Wildflowers – Mount Washington, NH

However, for the waterfall photo at the top of this post, a DSLR or mirrorless type camera was really needed because I had to shoot at a small aperture to slow down the shutter and produce the soft, silky image of the water I was going for. A point and shoot or cell phone don’t have that ability and wouldn’t have produced the same result. It doesn’t mean the DSLR is better. It just means that it was better for that type of photo.

Here are a few general points to consider. If you mostly shoot outside or in bright areas, a good quality cell phone or point and shoot may be all you need. If possible, go with a camera that allows you to shoot in RAW. This will give a lot more flexibility if you choose to post process your photos in a program like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.

Merimere Reservoir, Meriden, CT
Merimere Reservoir, Meriden, CT

If you want to take it up a notch, a mid-priced DSLR such as the Canon 60D is a great way to go. Cameras like this can be purchased for a fair price and will work great for most people in most situations. Because the lenses are removable, they can be used for ultra wide angle shots to super telephotos. They’ll work better in low light situations or with fast action such as kids playing soccer or baseball. Overall, they are a good general purpose type camera and can easily take photos like the waterfall above.

If you want to take it further and will frequently be shooting in low light or subjects with lots of action,  you may want to consider one of the pro or semi-pro type cameras like the Canon 5D Mark III. They’re rugged, generally more weather resistant than a less expensive camera and they’re big and heavy.

However, it’s a full frame camera with excellent high ISO capabilities and is perfect for shooting in low light. It also features an advanced focusing system that makes focusing on moving subjects faster and easier. When adding high quality glass such as the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 L II, you’ve got the perfect combination for shooting photos in almost any type of situation.

Hartford Skyline
Hartford Skyline

What is the best camera to buy? That all depends on what you’re going to use it for. Before buying anything, I suggest asking yourself the questions above and talking to other photographers and maybe even renting a few to try out before making a purchase. That way you’ll get to experience them first hand. Also, I suggest going to a camera store and talking to the sales person. If the store is reputable, they’ll help you find the ideal camera. They’ll want you to be happy because they want you to come back and recommend them to their friends, and of course, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me about different gear.

Other than the waterfall up top and the bridge in the fog, I’ve included some random photos from my gallery in this write up. They were taken with a variety of cameras, some point and shoot and some higher end. Can you tell which was which? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Switching to Canon

Hi all. After doing a lot of research, reading reviews and talking to folks, I purchased the Canon 5D Mark III and the 24-70 f/2.8 L II. Over the years I have used cameras from a lot of manufacturers, and the Canon is by far the best.

The photo above was one of the first pictures I took with the camera. I don’t really know much about the camera yet, so I took a quick picture of Nancy and bounced the flash off the wall to give it a better look than pointing the flash straight at her. I could have filled the shadow side a bit if I’d used a reflector, but I’m pretty happy with the results for not really knowing how to work the camera.

Those who’ve been following my blog know that I’d been using Olympus OM-D since December and may be wondering why I switched. Well, the Olympus is a great system and has a lot going for it. It’s light. The body is small, and the lenses are super sharp. Even with all that, I still wasn’t totally happy.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been shooting for a long time and think traditionally, but I really like bodies that have a lot of buttons on them. I’m not opposed to menus, but if I want to change something like white balance quickly, I prefer to push a button rather than go into a menu. The OM-D has buttons, but they were a little small and hard for me to push.

This may seem silly, but I prefer the 3:2 format of a traditional DSLR over the 4:3 format of a lot of cameras. The Olympus can be setup to shoot in 3:2 format, but it’s a cropped picture and not a native format. I prefer it to be native.

The biggest reason thing was the way Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop handled the Olympus RAW files. There are documented reports showing how the Olympus Viewer 2 software handles RAW files better than Adobe, so what I was doing was using Viewer 2 to convert my RAW files to TIFF then working on those in Lightroom. I could have edited the RAWs directly in Lightroom, but I wanted the best quality possible, and that meant using Viewer. For me, that extra step added too much time to my workflow.


Max with Flash Direct on Camera
Max with Flash Direct on Camera

The photo on the left of my dog Max was one of the first I took using the 600EX-RT. I don’t normally like to shoot straight on with a flash, but I didn’t have a good surface to bounce light off of. Plus, Max constantly moves around, so I snapped the photo while I had the opportunity.

So, after talking things over with Nancy, we decided to sell the OM-D gear and go back to a more traditional DSLR. At this point I had no system and was free to go with any brand camera I wanted. I looked at the Nikon D800 & the D800E but read that some had focusing and oil issues, and didn’t want to a chance with that. Plus, I liked a lot of the features the Canon offered.

Some of the things that were important to me was back button focus. This is huge and something I really like. If you have a Canon and haven’t used it, give it a try. Most Canons EOS cameras can do it. I also wanted high ISO capabilities, and the 5D is awesome in this regard. Other important factors I thought about was lens selection, manufacturer support and availability of third party accessories. Canon is great for all of these.

I started simple with just the body, one lens and one flash so I can see how the camera works and decide what gear I should get next, and while I haven’t figured everything out, I absolutely love the gear so far.

If you’re thinking of getting a camera or have any questions about the 5D Mark III or any other Canon gear, drop me a line. I’d love to share what I know.