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photo:dig_buying

choosing a digital camera

brief summary

  • the following is to give you are good idea in a very brief time of what type of camera you need to be looking at depending upon your needs
  • if you don't really care about learning photography, making high quality images, using telephoto lenses, external flashes, or blurring out the back ground to make your subject look better - just use your smartphone
  • if you want to learn photography and want to improve your image quality without carrying big heavy, expensive lenses around, then buy a relatively discrete, compact, light, quiet Micro Four Thirds camera with a few nice lenses
  • how many pixels do you need?
    • to trick your eye into thinking the pixels in an image are smooth continuous, you just need a pixel density in the output image of 3438/viewing distance in inches. This equates to 72ppi for an A1 poster at 4' and 300ppi for a small print viewed at 1', both of which would be satisfied with a base photo of 8 megapixels - so unless you are severely cropping an image or your viewers will be scrutinising detail in a poster close up, even in 2018, you will probably NOT need more than 16mp. This is why Apple make those roadside billboard advertisments showing off the capability of their iPhone.
  • if you really must have the shallowest depth of field (DOF) and money is no object, and big, heavy, expensive lenses don't worry you, and you are not traveling to places where theft is a constant worry, then get a full frame camera.

Micro Four Thirds cameras are perfect for a whole range of photography needs including travel, photojournalism, photoblogging, street photography, portraiture, fashion, astrophotography, macrophotography, social events. The latest ones will easily link by WiFi to your smartphone which can even control the camera, and the Olympus E-M5 and E-M1 are almost waterproof!

The future of most cameras is mirrorless camera systems - either full frame or Micro Four Thirds, and these will focus much faster with lenses optimised for CDAF technology - very few if any of the current Nikon or Canon lenses are optimised for mirrorless cameras - you may wish to take this into account before spending big money. DSLRs as a technology are near the end of their use by date.

professional, very large prints of stationary subjects

professional wedding photography

sports/action photography

tough, waterproof, droppable, compact cameras

  • these are take anywhere cameras which will cop a lot of abuse and give adequate image quality for 8“x10” prints or the web use
  • they can fit easily into a pocket or hand bag, and can cope even with sand and salt water at the beach
  • see Olympus TOUGH cameras

niche cameras

everything else including travel, photojournalism, photoblogging, street photography, portraiture, fashion, astrophotography, macrophotography, social events

  • it is hard to look past the offerings of the Micro Four Thirds system with its compact, quiet cameras and fantastic range of quality lenses with fast AF
  • the BEST camera is the one you have with you, so if you have little need for the above features, then get the smallest camera and lenses that will give a high image quality capable of printing great prints at 20“x30” if you need to - and that is Micro Four Thirds system
    • these cameras can do things that no dSLR can do, and at a much smaller package with smaller, more affordable lenses and Olympus have built-in image stabiliser
    • do not buy a camera in 2017 without at least checking these out
    • even if Sony, Fuji, Samsung, Canon or Nikon come up with a new APS-C or DX mirrorless or dSLR with better image quality next week, given that the E-M10's image quality is good enough for 90% of enthusiasts wanting a compact camera, the E-M10 or its successors in the same Olympus series, will still be the camera of choice for many because the lenses are smaller, the AF is fast enough even in low light, and it has the built-in image stabiliser
    • if you can't afford this, or you need an even smaller camera, you can get a cheaper Micro Four Thirds system camera such as the Panasonic GX850 / GX800 camera or Olympus E-P5 PEN (EP5/EP-5) and build up your lens collection
    • if you really need better subject tracking or HD video quality then go for a Panasonic GH5 4K video stills camera

what do I look for in a camera?

basic qualities

  • sensor image quality - all current digital cameras with a sensor size of Micro Four Thirds system or larger will give adequate image quality for MOST people (larger sensors will do better for low light and ultra shallow depth of field (DOF) photography)
  • fast and accurate AF
    • as a baseline, this MUST be reliably possible for most slow moving or stationary subjects with closest Eye being able to be automatically selected with AF points spread across at least 60% of the frame
    • in addition, it would be preferable that the camera can focus track moving subjects
    • even better if it has AI to detect the subject YOU want - only the latest mirrorless cameras will have this
  • build quality and weathersealing
    • for a camera you want to take to the coast or out in dusty or rainy weather then this is critical (Olympus make the most weathersealed cameras in general), however, you may just need a budget cheap camera for travel (eg. Olympus OM-D E-M10 mark III camera) which you don't want to spend much money on in case it is stolen
  • good range of high quality, relatively affordable dedicated lenses
    • no point having a camera if you can't buy the lenses, or the lenses are not dedicated for that system so you can't use the full range of AF capabilities
  • hand holdable movie mode with excellent image stabilisation
    • most of us only occasionally do videos, but when we do we are probably not going to have a big heavy gimbal stabilisation kit or a tripod
    • sensor based image stabiliser (IBIS) is a critical basic requirement (not Canon's “digital Dual IS”)
    • fortunately most new mirrorless cameras (except Canon) have this - Olympus is the best at present
  • not too expensive
    • cameras lose value rapidly so unless you have a specific requirement to justify the cost, go for a more affordable camera system that will do the job you need

cameras I would avoid

  • cropped sensor dSLRs such as Canon or Nikon
    • for a start, dSLRs are going out of fashion very quickly and will be replaced by mirrorless so if you are buying into a new system, mirrorless makes the best sense for most people
    • whilst the image quality from these sensors is adequate for most people, the problem is that neither Canon or Nikon have invested in these camera systems as they generally only make inferior quality dedicated lenses which in my mind has really crippled these cameras
    • none of these cameras have eye AF in normal still mode
    • none of these cameras have sensor based IS
    • most of them have an extremely poor user experience with tiny tunnel like cheap optical viewfinders from the dark ages
    • most have severely crippled functionality and often very poor plasticky build quality
  • full frame dSLRs unless you can buy them cheap second hand
    • these are great cameras in general with great lenses but they are now legacy old technology and will be replaced by mirrorless

cameras I would recommend in 2019

cameras that we will have to wait and see on

    • until Canon get serious and introduce a proper 5 axis IBIS and stop crippling their cameras especially in video functionality, then I would be holding off
    • if you already only a lot of Canon EF lenses, then you may want to jump in anyway
photo/dig_buying.txt · Last modified: 2019/11/10 01:05 by gary1