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Picking the camera that’s right for you

June 4, 2009

Most people already have a camera. I’d dare guess that most are even more or less satisfied with the camera they have. That’s great!

When you’re in the market for a camera however, be it a replacement, an upgrade, a backup or for whatever reason, it pays to really evaluate what kind of camera you want. I am frequently asked some variation of the question “What kind of camera should I get?”

I never give a ‘direct’ answer. Because I can’t. At least not without knowing an awful lot more information. Such as “What do you want the camera for?” There are two separate inquiries implied in that question.

  1. What role do you want this camera to play in your photographic life? Is it to be something you can stuff in your pocket and keep with you at all times? Or an upgrade to overcome deficiencies in your current camera? A backup in case your current camera gives out? A supplement so you can shoot with two cameras without having to switch lenses?
  2. What kind of pictures do you most intend to take with this new camera? Fast-action sports? Beach and underwater shots? Nature shots while hiking? Your lover in the boudoir? The trinkets you hope to sell online?

It’s important to seriously consider these questions. Doing so will eliminate more than 90% of the cameras on the market which may be perfectly fine pieces of equipment but which will not suit your particular needs.

The next important thing is to consider whether you already have accessories or equipment that you might want this new camera to share. That could mean a collection of lenses, a flash unit, spare batteries or even an investment in memory cards. If you do have any such things, your list of available choices will likely be narrowed to the point where you really only have to consider the price you are willing to pay.

Whether or not you have accessories you wish to use with this new camera, the next big thing is to actually try out some cameras that seem to suit your needs. How do they feel in your hands? Just last week I held a different model of DSLR from the same manufacturer who makes the camera I currently use and love. Although they were made by the same company, I truly hated that other camera. It simply didn’t feel right in my hands. It was too small and had no grip for me to hold onto. The guy who owned it seemed to have an equal lack of appreciation for my camera, which he probably thought was big and bulky.

Aside from simple ergonomics, you should turn on the camera and actually take some pictures with it. (I’ve never even heard of a camera store that wouldn’t allow this.) Play with the functions and menu settings. Do they seem intuitive? Try out a few different cameras. Invariably, one will just feel ‘right’ to you.

One final note, buy the camera from the store that helped you out and let you play with the different models. Sure, you might be able to save yourself a whopping $20 by buying online. That, and another $20 might even buy you a tank of gas.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 6, 2009 12:19 am

    I agree completely with your comment on how a camera feels in your hands. I assume you were referring to my Olympus E-410 (sans “pistol” grip). The minute I picked it up I knew it was for me. It just felt right.

    I really enjoyed last week’s class and am looking forward to tomorrow. You’re a great teacher.

    Edward Sidel

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