Art Of: Choosing The Right Camera
These days there aren’t many creative professionals that could honestly say “I don’t need a camera for my business”. The truth is, if you make anything for a living, whether it’s food, clothing, crafts, paper goods, package designs, etc. you need to be able to document and display your work so that people will see it and buy it.
So why can’t we just use our phones? They have cameras right?
Yes, it’s true. Camera phones are pretty handy, when you’re at a party and forgot your camera. They make do. But have you ever noticed the difference in quality? That’s because the sensor in a camera phone is itty bitty compared to the sensor in what i call “real cameras”. Because of this you get smaller photos with less detail. They also have zero control. Yes there are some app’s that help you expose properly, but the range in which the camera can expose is pretty limiting. This type of camera is great for personal photos but not for professional quality product shots. If you’re a creative professional, please do yourself a favor and invest in a good camera and stop using your camera phone. Everyone can tell.
So what do you do? You go out and invest in a real camera for your business, take professional quality photos, and write it off in your taxes like everyone else. Are you completely lost and have no idea what you need? Here’s the basic breakdown of types of cameras out right now.
What is important to note is that you don’t always have to have the biggest and most expensive camera to take good photos. One of the main factors in price is the amount of control you have, and the size of the sensor as well as some other things that really aren’t as important for beginners. The key is not only finding the right fit for your comfort level and then considering something that you can possibly grow with.
Digital Point-and-Shoots (basic digital cameras) are a great start for anyone who is absolutely NOT technology savvy. They usually have simple menus and always have an A for automatic. This means the camera evaluates the light at hand and makes guesses on what is important in the photo. This works some of the time, but if you’ve ever taken photos in the snow, or even just indoors with less lighting, you will know that sometimes the camera gets it wrong. Finding a camera with a program setting (usually marked “P”) is a great thing to have because it allows you to select a “mode” for different environment or scenarios, like a sunset or action shot. Each mode has specific settings in place that will help it expose properly in each scenario.
Price range: $100 – $400
So maybe you already have a point-and-shoot and realize that you’d like some more control over your settings or zooming capabilities. Most digital point-and-shoots don’t have a lot of zoom (and the ones that claim to, usually disguise this as digital zoom instead of optical zoom.) In between point-and-shoots and Digital SLRs falls an almost new range of cameras known as “mirrorless” cameras. Mirrorless cameras, or mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras (MILC), are cameras that don’t have a mirror that bounces the image into the camera’s sensor and the image goes straight into the sensor. The benefit of using a mirrorless camera is that you still have a ton of manual controls over the exposure, but they are generally easier to use than DSLRs. They also feature interchangeable lenses, so you can purchase a zoom lens for your bird photography and a closeup macro lens to get the detail on that delicate flower. MILCs fall in the perfect range for someone looking to move into serious photography or videography but aren’t quite ready for a DSLR. They also wont break your budget, you can get a solid MILC for roughly $750.
Price range: $400 – $1000
Digital SLRs (DSLR) are those big monster cameras that you see professionals using for weddings, professional sports games, and traditional portrait studios. They often look huge and scary, but here’s the thing: they aren’t just for professionals anymore. There are so many DSLR’s now, that you can find one for just about any level. Why are they so great? Well in a word, they give you more control over how you take the photo. A lot of that comes with knowing about photography terms like exposure, aperture, F-stop, ISO and so on. If all of those go over your head, then that is definitely ok. Most of these cameras still have that auto setting. You can start on Automatic and then as you learn more, start experimenting with the manual settings. These kinds of cameras also have interchangeable lenses. So what’s the difference between the Mirrorless and the DSLRS? Mainly it’s the sensor size which dictates the fine quality of the photo as well as the selection of lenses available. Mirrorless cameras are a relatively new category, and thus don’t have as many options as Digital SLRS. Most amateur photographers dont’ even need more than 2 or 3 lenses, so don’t let that be a factor. The big difference is how serious you are about being a better photographer. Digital SLRS are hands down the quality tool of the industry because they give you the most control and flexibility. If you see yourself wanting to learn and take better photos as you go, then beginner dslrs are perfect to bridge that gap.
Price Range for Beginner Dslr: $600 – $3000
Don’t just buy the cheapest thing you can find online and call it a day. Go to a camera store (NOT some outlet store like best buy or target that happens to have a camera department. Most of those people have no clue about what they are selling) and talk to someone knowledgeable about cameras. Tell them your level and they will help you find a camera that fits you.
Special thanks to my guy, Jeremy Widen, for helping me write this post. Jeremy is the most camera savy guy I know and we love talking about cameras. Please help support Jeremy’s thesis film, The Jog, by donating $10 to his kickstarter.