Photography for Beginners: Cameras
Last week I sent you a collection of previously-published e-letters about where to sell your images. I mentioned that where you sell your images affects the kind of camera you buy and how you develop your pictures.
So today let’s talk about your camera…
We actually have a free camera buying guide on our website so I’ll include a link to it below. I tried to go back through our archives and pull up articles about “my” camera buying decisions and how I made the jump from point-and-shoot to SLR but now that those articles are out-of-date, they’re not going to do you much good.
So let me just give you a quick rundown of what you need to know (basically a condensed version of our camera buying guide) and then I’ll send you to two articles in our archives about other things you should think about.
How to Buy a Camera
First, let’s talk about the difference between a point-and-shoot camera, an SLR and a DSLR…
For the most part, point-and-shoots are compact, lightweight, and easy to travel with. And, if you’re just starting out, the camera you most likely already own, or the camera you’ll probably buy first, will fall into this category.
SLRs – In addition to having lenses that are removable and interchangeable, SLRs usually offer many more options for controlling the camera, including the ability to change your aperture and shutter speed settings as well as shoot in “full manual.” (A DSLR camera is nothing more than a “digital” SLR camera.)
The biggest (and probably most important) difference that distinguishes a digital point-and-shoot from a digital SLR lies in the quality of the pictures each is capable of making.
While point-and-shoot cameras have their own advantages (they’re compact, easy to travel with, usually cheaper, and they auto-adjust almost everything to help you get the best picture possible), they cannot compete with SLRs in terms of image quality.
That is because digital SLRs have much larger image sensors. This larger sensor size produces a much higher quality image and, therefore, the pictures you produce with an SLR will be saleable in many more markets than those taken with a point-and-shoot.
In addition. The DSLR will do several things much faster, allowing you to capture the image at the “decisive moment.” For one, they are much faster at auto-focus than point-and-shoots. They also likely have 3 to 15 times more auto-focus points on the sensor. Moreover, the inner computer chips react much faster. It’s possible to capture a fast-moving soccer or basketball match accurately — a feat out of reach for the point-and-shoot camera. It will also process the shots and store them to the card faster. This allows you to keep shooting image after image in fast succession.
Also, top-of-the-line pro cameras have weather seals to let you shoot in difficult conditions, including snow and modest rain. The build quality makes them a more rugged piece of equipment for hard use.
How to Choose the Camera That’s Best for You
Most professional photographers own a compact point-and-shoot camera they can easily slip into their bag or carry in their pocket.
Some will tell you they never leave home without it. All agree that a lower quality picture taken with a point-and-shoot is better than no picture at all. And sometimes, it’s just not prudent to carry around bigger equipment.
This is the first level of equipment you should have in your kit. At times, it’ll be the only equipment you carry.
When you’re buying a compact point-and-shoot, try to get one that has at least five megapixels. (We’ll talk more about megapixels in a minute.)
Nikon, Canon, Panasonic and Olympus make great point-and-shoot cameras. They’re usually at the top of the line. Sony has great point-and-shoots, too, but all their equipment is proprietary — it doesn’t mix well with equipment and accessories of other brands.
If all you have in your camera bag is a digital point-and-shoot camera, here are the markets you can consider when it comes time to sell your images…
- Online stock agencies (though you’ll have a lot more images turned down for image quality and size than you will with an SLR and you’ll make far less money because your images can not be enlarged to meet the requirements of many photo buyers)…
- Supporting photos to go with a travel article on the web…
- Most newspapers…
- Fine art for pieces 8 x 10 and smaller.
SLR markets have no limits (and by the way, we use SLR and DSLR interchangeably when we talk about cameras in The Right Way to Travel newsletter. Whenever we say SLR we usually mean a digital SLR camera or DSLR).
With an SLR, you can sell to:
- Stock agencies (both print and online)…
- Travel magazines…
- Text books…
- Fine art…
- Web markets…
DSLRs have an image sensor that’s significantly larger than those of point-and-shoot cameras and can produce a much higher-quality image.
Camera makers have led us to believe that a camera with more megapixels is a better camera. But that doesn’t always hold true.
When you pack more pixels on a small image sensor, you tend to lose image quality. So when you see a point-and-shoot camera with a higher megapixel count than a DSLR, it doesn’t mean that the quality is going to be better. The pixels on a DSLR sensor are themselves bigger, yielding a better image.
Choosing the Right Brand
Most professional photographers will tell you that their preferences in camera brands are largely dependent on how the camera feels and handles, not just on how many pixels or special features it has.
The major players in digital SLR photography today are Canon, Nikon, Panasonic and Olympus, with Canon and Nikon in the lead.
The major advantage to sticking with these brands is that these companies have been at this for a long time. They’re not likely to go out of business (leaving you with a bunch of equipment you can’t sell off, upgrade, or repair). And if you stick with Canon or Nikon, you’ll have the largest selection of accessories from which to choose.
The rest comes down to price. Typically, more expensive cameras buy you more durability and larger sensor sizes. More expensive cameras also tend to take better pictures at night with less “noise” in your shadows and faster ISO speeds.
That said, every camera comes with a learning curve and while professional-grade cameras come with extra features, that’s just more you need to learn. And when something goes wrong and your pictures aren’t turning out right, you’ll have to experiment with more buttons and screens to find the problem.
If you’re starting out, I recommend you purchase an entry-level SLR and use it for a couple of years. When you’re ready to upgrade, you can place your old equipment on consignment at a professional camera store or sell it to a mail-order outlet such as Adorama or KEH Camera.
SLR Models for Beginners
The Canon Rebel XSi is a great starter SLR camera for beginners. It has 12 Megapixels, and you can find it online for about $579 with a standard, normal lens.
The Canon Rebel XS is nice, too, (and typically sells for a little cheaper as it only has 10 megapixels) but you’ll save less than $100 by choosing this model over the XSi and if you’re interested in selling your photos as stock, those extra two megapixels can be enough to move your images up a notch on the online stock photography scale.
The Nikon D3000 and D5000 have a similar story. But the D5000 will cost you an extra $200 to $300 for those extra two megapixels (and an articulated screen) so it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it. The D3000 is an excellent starter camera.
SLRs for the More Advanced Shooter
Everything more expensive than the Canon Rebel XSi and the Nikon D3000 is best purchased by considering the price you’re willing to pay and what that price buys you – faster ISO speeds, more durability, a larger sensor size, and potentially newer technology.
Your best bet is to figure out how much you’re willing to spend and then go into a store to look at your options. Price alone will narrow your search dramatically. And brand will help you narrow them even further.
Again, Nikon and Canon are the biggest players. Both make really great cameras. And both will be easy to resell when you’re ready to upgrade.
And beware of Sony. Sony cameras need special adapters when you want to use anything that’s not made by the Sony brand — studio lights, external flashes, etc. It’s generally not worth the hassle to start down that road.
So which is right for you: Point-and-shoot or SLR?
Truth is, point-and-shoots are great cameras for learning because they don’t typically have all the bells and whistles of an SLR. That means you can master basic photography techniques without getting bogged down in the technical specifics of your camera. (They’re also great on trips where a bulkier camera might be more of a hindrance than a help.)
Besides that, almost all of the techniques in our e-letter archives and our Turn Your Pictures into Cash Program can be practiced on a point-and-shoot. Selective focus (where you select one part of your image to be in focus and blur the other elements in the photo) will be an exception left mostly to SLRs. Other than that, their main drawback is when it comes to selling your work. They don’t produce images of a high enough quality for most publications.
If you’re technically savvy enough to jump straight into an SLR camera, and you want to sell your photos (not just take great pictures for your scrapbook), then you might be better off starting right out of the gate with an SLR.
Below is an article from our archives written just last year about a higher quality point-and-shoot — the Canon G10 which has now been upgraded to the Canon G11. And an entry-level SLR, the Panasonic Lumix G1. The Panasonic G1 is also much a much smaller SLR due to the fact that they’ve replaced the mirror box with an electronic finder, and the sensor is slightly smaller than the cameras made by Nikon and Canon. As a result, you have a smaller body and smaller lenses.
If you’re not quite ready to make the jump to an SLR (because remember, SLR cameras come with a larger learning curve) or you don’t want to carry around a big piece of equipment, perhaps the Canon G11 will fit the bill.
In addition, I’m also including an article from our archives below about the Panasonic Lumix G1 (now available as the Panasonic Lumix GH1 with the ability to take short videos). I said above that Nikon and Canon are good brands to get into. But without getting too much into the technical specifics, I also said Olympus was a good brand and Panasonic and Olympus cameras can share lenses.
Again, I don’t want to get into the technical specifics behind this but Rich Wagner, our lead photo instructor at our live workshops and expeditions, also recommends beginners consider the Panasonic GH1 below…
FROM OUR ARCHIVES …
- This first article is about what I missed most when I shot an entire photography workshop in Paris with a [intlink id=”285″ type=”post”]point-and-shoot (the Canon G10) instead of an SLR[/intlink]
- And here’s one on the camera Rich shot that workshop with, the [intlink id=”287″ type=”post”]Panasonic G1[/intlink]
- Here’s the full camera buying guide on our website
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can fund your travels and make an extra income with photography, travel writing, blogging, and more in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Profit From Your Photos: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]