Good pictures are made by good photographers, not by good cameras. Nevertheless, choosing the right digital camera is essential if you want to get the most bang for your buck and avoid overpaying for fancy features you’re unlikely to use. Here’s a primer on the tiers of cameras so you can figure out which one is the best fit for you!
Nikon and Cannon DSLR cameras are cameras of choice for professional photographers. DLSR cameras are big, bulky, and can be expensive; but, well worth the burden if you are trying to make money from your photos. The sensor is a light-sensitive chip that turns light into a digital file.
DSLR cameras are generally ruggedly built and excel at capturing low-contrast subjects even when used in poor lighting conditions. If quality and clarity of images, as well as a host of settings, are what you are looking for, DSLR cameras are the answer. If, however, you need to take pictures discreetly and do not need all the bells and whistles of a higher end camera, DSLRs may not be the best choice for you. Every time you click the shutter, the mirror closes as it moves up out of the way of the sensor and there is a perceptible slap.
Great if you are…
A professional photographer, serious amateur, or photography enthusiast with a big budget.
Also called MILCs, these mirrorless cameras are probably the fastest growing subset of digital cameras. When you look through the viewfinder of a DSLR, the image you see is being refracted from a mirror. MILCs don’t have a mirror. They have an LCD screen that is used to compose the picture. Their most obvious advantages over DSLRs are their small size, light weight, flexibility, durability and noiselessness. It’s easy to screw on different lenses and they are virtually silent when taking a picture. All major camera manufacturers have a MILC model, with the Olympus OMD-EM5, Fujifilm X-E2, and Sony NEX Series being among the most popular and well received. You should also be aware that these cameras can be difficult to use in bright light as most do not have a viewfinder and you need to rely on the LCD viewfinder.
Great if you are…
A travel photographer, photojournalist, sports journalist, or anyone else who wants to take great pictures on the go and/or in extreme environments.
These are the small digital cameras that, once ubiquitous, are now harder to find because their quality has been nearly matched by smartphone cameras. Still, for their size and cost, casual compacts accomplish a lot. Casual compacts are small and easy to carry and they generally perform better than smartphone cameras. Some casual compacts are built specifically to perform in rugged environments; they are shock and water-resistant and the lens won’t scratch or crack like that on a smartphone. Other casual compacts like the Nikon Coolpix and Fuji X-1005 have giant APS-C sensors, which are the same size as those used in mid-level DSLR cameras. Though they may one day be completely eclipsed by smartphone cameras, today they definitely hold an edge, and the Panasonic Lumix series is especially good.
Great if you are…
A hobbyist looking to get more serious about your craft. The barrier to entry is very small and the difference in quality between most casual compacts and smartphone cameras is huge.
To learn about memory cards, check out our blog: A Beginner’s Guide to Landscape Photography Memory Cards.
If you are looking to improve your craft, do it with Jim and Lori Steinberg of Steinberg Photography! We offer photo tours and workshops for everyone from novice to professional photographers. Check out our homepage to find out more!