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.

Move Around for the Best Shot

Move around for the best shot? What are you talking about, Mark? How can you get a quality picture if you’re moving around? Won’t it be blurry? No, I’m not talking about moving around as in dancing in place while taking the picture. I’m talking about looking around, seeing if there’s a better angle or spot to shoot from. Let me explain. Last autumn, Nancy and I went to nearby Devil’s Hopyard State Park to take some photos of Chapman Falls, a multi-cascade waterfall that drops about 60 feet. With the leaves being in full color and rain the day before, I knew there was a chance for some good photos. What I didn’t count on was the 100 other people there with the same thought.

After eventually finding a place to park, we made our way down the main trail to the foot of the falls and was surprised to the area full of people. With so many people around, I did a couple things to get my pictures faster and to avoid hogging the prime spot for too long, which brings me to a quick rant.

I try to be polite all the time, and when I see someone taking a photo, I wait for them to take their photo. When I see they’re done, I ask them if they’re done because I don’t want to move in if they’re going to take another, but so many people are not this way. They’ll just walk right in front of someone taking a photo, sometimes spending several minutes there, when the photographer only needs a couple seconds to get their shots. It reminds me of a recent experience pro photographers Rick Sammon and Juan Pons had on one of their workshops with some folks exhibiting rude behavior.

Anyway, I didn’t want to hot the prime spot for too long, so I did some things that any photographer can do in situations where there are a lot of people vying for a small spot. I stepped aside and got my camera set up with the settings I wanted to use before moving in to take the photo. With waterfalls, a slow shutter is needed to blur the motion, so a tripod is a must. When a spot opened up, I moved in, set up my tripod, quickly composed the shot and took a picture. I did a couple more with slightly different settings and different angles and moved out. Total time in “the zone,” less than a minute.

Chapman Falls, East Haddam, CT
Chapman Falls, East Haddam, CT

I was able to get the shot at the left, which I like, but I wanted something better, which I couldn’t with so many people around. I figured the pictures I took were the best I’d get and hiked back up top, but when I got to the top, I started looking around and noticed a different trail heading down the opposite sides of the falls. I had to be careful because it was a little precipitous from the recent rains, but I ended up having the entire area to myself except for a girl sunbathing on a nearby rock.

It was great because I was able to set up my tripod and move around wherever I wanted and spend as much time as I needed to make sure I got the shot right. I ended up getting the shot at the top of the blog post, which I like a lot more than shot of the entire falls. Others feel the same way because that photo had a pulse rating of 91.5 versus a 59.7 on 500px.

Sometimes when we take photos, we may get so focused on what we’re seeing that we may forget to look around and see if there’s a different way we can take the photo, but I so glad I did because if I hadn’t seen the side trail and moved over there, I wouldn’t have been able to get this one. There’s always a lot going on when taking photos, but looking and moving is something that can help everyone take better photos I think.