Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Best camera for a learner

Regular readers know that I very rarely write about cameras and equipment. However as a photographer I am often asked, “which camera should I buy?” The follow up question from me is how much are you willing to spend and what do you want a camera for...there are hundreds to choose from?

This summer I helped a number of friends find cameras which means I had to do some serious research. So why not share what I found out on my blog.

If you’re serious about learning photography and giving yourself room to take it to the next level then you will want a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera (DSLR). Yes, they are heavier to carry around than a compact but these days the entry level DSLR models are pretty light and portable.

There are numerous small compact cameras that deliver excellent quality, so long as your subject stays quite still. The moment you’re confronted with a relatively fast moving subject (people at a party, sports, street photography, active kids) you need a DSLR. It’s simply the best type of camera to do everything photographic, although admittedly you can’t slip it into your shirt pocket.

Compact cameras do have their uses, and I’ve got one to carry around with me. But as a serious learner photographer you will probably get frustrated with a compact camera’s limitations within a few months. So take a short cut and go straight for the DSLR.

Modern DSLRs deliver amazing quality, more than most people will ever need, and far better than compact cameras. You can literally shoot images that are billboard quality with a 10mp DSLR.

After lots of investigation and getting my hands on some of the popular models, I have to say that the most impressive camera out there at the moment is the Nikon D5000. It’s light, fast, quiet to use and packed with features. I’ve used it and I found it intuitive and easy to navigate. The picture quality is excellent. The camera also features a movie mode but that’s more for fun than serious film making. The swivel screen viewfinder is great for getting shots at different angles, low or high, where it’s virtually impossible to put your eye to the viewfinder. Great fun to play with.

It’s important to remember that when you buy a DSLR you’re also buying into a camera system. Once you’ve got a few lenses and a flash etc, you’ve invested and then switching brands can be a costly business. Most of my life I have used Nikon and my wife and fellow professional photographer, Magda Indigo, continues to use the Nikon system. What can I say? They make excellent cameras.

Sadly Nikon took so long to bring out a full frame camera that I switched to Canon when they brought out the first reasonably priced full frame camera, the Canon 5D. So I went through the expense of changing my whole system. Don’t get me wrong. I love my Canon and the quality is outstanding. But to me the Nikon’s feel better to use and certainly in my hands better than Canon’s offering in the entry level/enthusiast range. Admittedly there’s an amount of subjectivity here.

Nikon now offer the wonderful full frame D700. If money is no object and you want the best of the best (besides the very heavy top pro DSLRs) then that’s the camera to go for, but to start off with the D5000 does everything a learner could want. As a step up from D5000 you may also want to consider the Nikon D90 but then you’re getting into advanced enthusiast territory and you’ll need to see whether the extra features really justify the extra cost.

For more detailed technical information I recommend DP Review’s excellent analysis and for a subjective and heartfelt commentary on the virtues of the Nikon D5000 take a look at Ken Rockwell’s endorsement. When you are buying a camera keep in mind that you can often save some money, I found this deal which may help www.vouchercodes.co.uk/comet.co.uk.

Now next time I’m asked which camera to buy, I can just send the person a link to my blog article.

I hope you find my recommendation helpful. Next time I’ll be writing again about the serious business of taking great pictures. Feel free to delve into my archives as well (tip: use the search box on the right). There’s a wealth of material that will improve your photography.

Till soon...