“Loving the pictures. I am looking to buy a new camera as mine has bitten the bullet. Would you recommend a Bridge or DSLR? It’s all quite confusing.”
I’ll probably be updating this post as I come across new information, but when it comes to photography if you ask a photographer whether their camera takes a good photo, you might get the reply ‘I taught it everything it knows’. After all there’s a lot more to creating an image than just taking it. Whenever I provide any training in photography and respond to questions I am reminded more and more just how much is less about the camera and more about the photographer, their knowledge of the camera and their skills. Having said that as with any workman and their tools there is a difference between good tools and poor quality ones, and it’s not just the camera, lens quality is also important. I first saw this when I compared the image from Canon’s own ‘stock’ lens that came with the camera to it’s equivalent in the Canon L series; there was a distinct difference. My experimentations then of differences also showed that the camera being used affected final image quality.
The range of cameras is vast and constantly changing ranging from point and shoot, through to bridge cameras, micro 2/3rds with interchangeable lenses onto to full frame DSLRs and then beyond to medium format camera systems such as the Phase One. With many of the current micro 2/3rds and bridge camera’s seriously giving the DSLRs aimed at professionals a run for their money and in some aspects surpassing them. So what’s the differences between these categories and does it matter?
When I started as a professional the only real contenders were Canon or Nikon and their full frame cameras. I went for the Canon 5D Mark II which was just being released. I’m very happy with this model and it’s the main stay to my business. However, it has its drawbacks which at the time you don’t realise until you use it a LOT. Such as being a little noisier than I would like, the programme dial has the potential to turn while the camera is resting against you, and with the glass wear (lenses) it’s not exactly what you would call ‘light’ :-) After carrying it around for the day (particularly if carrying other lenses) you’ll soon know about it. The next version, the Canon 5D Mark III addressed quite a few issues, being quieter (but not silent) and there’s a lock to stop the programme dial turning. It’s a small thing, but for me it certainly would save the odd moment when you grab the camera from it’s ready to shoot position in a pre-set mode, then wonder why the images are not what you expected only to discover the camera has switched modes.
So what else to look for and consider:
If you are looking for a camera and at least serious about your photography I would certainly for one that allows you to be ‘creative’ and choose various settings, such as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc.
One of the advantages of cameras that allow you to have control over one setting is that you can still leave the camera to be semi-automatic. It sounds a bit like a cheat, but if you are a lifestyle photographer and not in controlled studio conditions, there are enough occassions where you simply do not have the time to set every parameter, or you’d miss the shot. Having said that I often go to full manual to override the camera trying to compensate too much for something.
Weight and Size
The advantage of Micro 2/3 systems are that the cameras are a lot lighter and smaller. So much more portable. As much as I like my Canon 5D Mark II, it’s heavy to lug around, particularly if I’m only on a family day out.
When I bought the Canon 5D Mark II, I did it partly based on it’s then (and now) good performance in low light as I knew I’d be shooting the odd wedding or finding myself doing portraiture in low light conditions and needing a camera capable of taking good shots in these conditions without using any additional flash which might disturb the ambience. The problem you end up with is that in order for people not to appear blurry, either from camera shake or their own movement you need a relatively fast shutter speed. Even with the lens wide open (i.e. aperture open as much as possible) this normally meant having a high ISO, the problem is that high ISO is also associated with graininess of the final image. So the knack is finding a trade-off between an ISO without too much noise and shutter speed.
This where relatively recent cameras (too when I started photography!) like the Sony A7S have made their mark by offering insane high ISO performances and a range of 50-409,600 ISO. By comparision the Canon 5D Mark II is only 50 – 25,600. This also meant the Sony A7S stood out for having much less static than the equivalent upper ISO range of the Canon 5D Mark II. The Sony A7S however, did have a disadvantage in only offering a 12 MP sensor compared to the 21 MP of the Canon.
So where does that leave us? Effectively work out what budget you have. Don’t forget the accessories you will or might need to buy for it. And think what you are most likely to be using the camera for. Then do your research. There’s quite a bit to think about.