Being a keen photographer myself I am often baffled at the level of technical expertise needed when it comes to camera knowledge. Although confident with taking quality pictures, I do often lack the full understanding of the correct terminology and precision of my camera’s functions. One of the first things I found when I first started out was there was so much information, too much! It was difficult to know where to begin. Cameras are complex pieces of technology and each individual feature can completely change the aesthetics of your photographs so they do need to be understood (at least to some extent) in order to capture the best image possible.
When it comes to buying a camera the first thing to consider is whether you want a manual single-lens reflex camera (SLR) camera, which uses a mirror and prism system to show what image can be captured, as opposed to a viewfinder which simply shows where the image can be captured so often differs in reality. Alternatively, a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) works as an SLR but is not built for film formats, instead recording images on a memory card or internally. Alternatively you can also now opt for a Compact System Camera which were only launched in 2008. The main distinguishing difference between a CSC and an SLR is the lack of mirror (hence the term ‘mirror-less cameras’) which means the models are often smaller and they are also always in Live view, so you instantly see the settings you have applied.
Generally speaking, a digital camera is easier to use in the sense that you instantly have your images to hand without needing to develop them. This is especially useful when learning photography as being able to review images is essential to your development. While the CSCs can be scoffed at by photography snobs as they lack the manual (‘proper’) approach with phase-detection AF sensors, they can produce good images, although they can also be found to compromise on clarity.
Camera Brands Are Important, But Not Too Important
Many people have a personal preference simply because they prefer the way one brand of camera has something laid out. Much like some people prefer BMWs or Mercedes cars, not because one is actually proven to be better (in most cases) but because it is simply a matter of taste.
Which brand of camera to buy is often daunting when faced with the wealth of information and opinion on each individual product. In basic terms, the two biggest camera manufacturers Nikon and Canon can be seen as leaders in the market due to the vast array of lens ranges and varying models that can be suited to so many different types of photography. While Pentax is not quite as large in terms of quantity of products, it is still fully established and widely respected in the camera market. This means that if you buy a camera from these manufacturers you are guaranteed to find a wide range of compatible lenses and accessories which is always useful. Canon digital cameras regularly top the ‘best digital camera’ review lists, whether this is because they are so easy to use or is due to their wealth of shooting options, you will often find at least one model in each category shortlist.
Leading camera brands such as Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony or Fujifilm will often have new models released regularly. This means that there are often good deals on the latest models, as well as excellent bargains to be found on the recent though not necessarily latest releases which may help aid in the ‘which camera’ decision.
Regardless of reviews, however, it will not be until you have become familiar with a camera that you can form you own opinion on what features and layouts you prefer in a model. Although my personal preference is Canon and therefore this would be my recommendation, this is not to say that yours will be. For this reason it if often a good idea to rent one to get a feel for it for a few days, or at least trial one model from different brands and see which one you naturally lean towards. Doing this can be a lot cheaper than spending the full amount for a camera not suited to how you work and then simply not using it.