First of all, lets clear up a very common misconception with digital cameras: more megapixels does not mean better camera. Great. Now that this is out of the way, we can now focus on what kind of camera a prospective photographer should be looking at. It’s important to note that an expensive camera is not always the camera for the job. An expensive camera does not make someone a great photographer. As Chase Jarvis, a professional photographer for Nike, Apple, Honda, Lady Gaga, and many other big celebrities and companies once said, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”
The first step in looking for a camera is defining its purpose. If you are looking just to take snapshots and pictures of your dog, cat, kids, or greek-life, consider the kind of camera known as a “point-and-shoot.” This camera is an all-in-one unit and is generally fairly small, around the size of the face of a credit card. The PowerShot and Coolpix cameras made by Canon and Nikon, respectively are two of the top cameras in the point-and-shoot category. These cameras are perfect for family events, outings with friends, and will do you more justice than your camera-phone.
Already own a point-and-shoot but would like to get more out of your pictures? A DSLR might be the answer. Digital Single-Lens Reflex or, DSLR cameras are differentiated by their larger bodies and their detachable, interchangeable, lenses. DSLR cameras are more expensive than their point-and-shoot brethren. But for an amateur can easily find an entry-level DSLR with a fresh off the shelf value of $800 for only $300 on sites such as craigslist..
Noteworthy cameras include the Canon Rebel XSi, XTi, and T1i. Entry-level Nikon DSLRs include the D3100, D3200, and D90. The differences between these models are infinitesimal based on brand, as they all contain the same image sensor, and only vary in their less important features. Some newer entry-level cameras include the Canon T4i, and Nikon D5200. These cameras are great because while they are on the lower end of the price spectrum, they still take brilliant pictures with practice. Another perk with some of the newer DSLR cameras, is that they are equipped with the power to take 1080p, HD video. Some of the newer Canon and Nikon cameras now feature auto-focusing during recording. Older models require the user to focus as they record. As you become more familiar with this camera, learning how to bend the light of the world to your will, your pictures will grow in complexity and brilliance.
Master of the DSLR? Even “prosumer” models of DSLR, such as a Canon 60D or Nikon D7000? Then the next big step is full-frame. By the time you work your way up and though the world of photography as an entry-level DSLR user, you should know by now what the term “full-frame” means. For those readers that are not as proficient and eventually want to work their way up to this level, “full-frame” refers to a 35mm camera sensor. Much like the old film cameras where the size of the film was 35mm, high-end cameras use the same size image sensor to capture as much light as possible into an image. Your entry-level sensors are usually about 28mm across; you will hear these cameras often referred to as “crop sensor” cameras. These are the big boys, some of the most expensive cameras you are likely to buy will be “full-frame”. This is where you should really know what you are taking pictures of and where you want your photography to go. For people that are looking at only doing studio, controlled lighting situations, stick with your “prosumer” DSLR. You’ll be splitting hairs comparing those images of a full-frame camera against your crop-sensor. If you are the type that takes mainly portraits and maybe landscape pictures, look into older full-frame DSLR models such as the Canon 5D original. For the adventurous photographer that likes capture life in it’s full complexity of motion, you may have to fork out a little more cash. Full-frame cameras that contain decent auto-focus systems that are compatible with “fast-glass” or autofocus lenses, generally cost more. We are now talking about $1500 and up. For starters, we have the Canon 5D Mark II. This was the pinnacle of full-frame, budget-conscious photographers years back and is still a very popular upgrade from the realm of crop-sensor cameras. Recently, Canon released another brilliant mid-ranged full-frame DSLR known as the 6D. This camera runs about $2000 new. If you have a little more change in your pocket and want even more out of your camera, then the 5D Mark III is for you. This camera features a 51-point autofocus system compared to the 12-point autofocus system found in the previously mentioned 6D. Photographers with bottomless pockets will want the Canon 1D series cameras. With built-in battery grips and continuous-shoot speeds up to 10 frames per second, the world is yours to capture.
When in the market for any kind of camera, the buyer needs to know what they want and equate that to a tier of cameras ranging from point-and-shoot to DSLR, high range DSLR and Full-Frame cameras. Knowing requirements will help define the price range, and those factors combined will narrow the field to only a few cameras. The most important thing to remember however is this; a camera does not take a good photograph, a photographer does. The most expensive camera in the world can take an awful picture, but even a point-and shoot can capture something that will speak to the hearts of millions.
By Ellison Gregg