Choosing a Digital Camera

By | July 14, 2013

I have used the iphone camera too for almost everything since I had one. Cracking camera. But my wife wants one that makes that continual paparazzi shutter sound so she has about 200 of everything to choose from. Also, while the iphone camera is good; it has its limitations.

With the iphone camera, the pictures are pretty good, but the night shots are poor. Better than some digital cameras; but not that good. I find I have to switch off the flash and use it without flash to try and get a better picture. Anyone else have that problem?

Additionally,  although its reasonably fast, its not as fast as you need sometimes in taking multiple shots.

That is where the difficulty starts. How is a layman to choose a digital camera?

DSLR, SLR and now ILC’s. What is better and where do you start?

The best camera is that which you carry with you.

Wandering around with an SLR is a pain in the arse. An SLR is a cumbersome waste of time as long as you only ever use the kit zoom lens supplied with the camera. (that’s what most people do!)

The signal difference between most SLRs and convenient cameras (compacts and crossovers) is the size of the sensor, in general, the bigger the sensor the better the ultimate quality of the image and SLRs almost always have larger sensors than compacts.

If you want a camera that you might actually carry around with you, that is easy to use and will give excellent results ditch the idea of the SLR and look to a camera such as the Fujifilm x-20. 

You will be able to take extremely high quality pics with this camera, it has a sensor that is large for its class and the design of the sensor gives an effective increase in image quality and thus effective sensor size. While it ain’t the smallest or lightest high quality compact it knocks spots off an SLR in that respect. I was looking at its older brother the FX100s but frankly could not afford it – the x20 is probably better for most users, including myself and is a lot less costly.

If you get something very flash, you will run the risk of looking like a Japanese tourist when you go out with all those big, daft lenses you will have to trail about with.

Those lenses, in addition to being cumbersome to carry around, have their limitations. Here is what one user said:

I bought one a few years ago.  I put it on my camera to take some photos of my daughter in a school musical.  I think I was about 40 meters from the stage.  I was able to zoom in on my daughter nicely.  I knew the big zoom lenses needed real stability, so I tried to create the most stable rest I could given the setting.  Unfortunately, when I printed out the photos they were very slightly blurry.  I have a tripod but it’s usually not practical to bring it along with me.

Get a camera that you or your wife will carry and not leave at home.

Unfortunately, many cameras suffer from a speed problem. We take a picture and have to wait 3 or 4 seconds for the camera to “process” the picture (automatic scene recognition, colour balancing, red eye detection and removal, etc.)  It’s so bad on some Fuji’s that it makes them next to unusable.

If you want a camera that does the whole Shutter clickey thing – beware. Here is what a Fuji user said about that:

I’m snapping away at the church, proceedings, and people.  And EVERY time I press the button to take a picture – what do I hear? CLICK, CLICK, CLICK!In the case of our Fuji (and my HTC EVO V smart phone), the “clicking” sound ISN’T because of the D/SLR mechanism like the old fashioned 35mm cameras – it’s an electronically generated “sound” that’s played through the camera’s speaker! Even the “cheap” point and shoot cameras these days have that whole “click” sound played through the devices speaker.

My thought is – unless your a “professional” photographer (which I bet 99% of US are NOT), getting one of the $1,000 D/SLR cameras ISN’T going to make your pictures any better!  And in the end, isn’t taking pictures all about the picture itself?

Another knowledgeable friend of mine had this to say when asked about cameras:

Canon & Nikon both make decent (premium) compact cameras as well (Panasonic, Fuji has nice ones as well). Not full blown DSLR ones, but in between compact and DSLR.

We have a Canon G12 and are very pleased with the picture quality (beats most compact cameras hands down still). We love the rotatable display as well.

Canon has since then released the G15 which has newer features but lacks the rotatable screen. Nikon P7700 seems to be a good one too.

Opinions are like ears – everyone has them. A good place to start I think is to decide what you actually want the camera for.

3D, extra lenses etc., will simply lead to the purchase of a second camera, the one that actually gets used.

If you want male jewellery – then own up to it and do it right.

If you want to take excellent pictures without much thought or knowledge with a camera that is small enough to not be a nuisance and large enough to do the job right then consider the Fuji x-20. No extra lenses, excellent image quality, very fast piccy clickey and a very good price.

Why buy a camera that uses additional lenses when you don’t need them?

Why buy a compact camera with interchangeable lenses when you have legs?

Why buy a camera with a lens set that means you need a tripod to use it for most of its range?

Why buy a camera with gimmicks that add nothing to your enjoyment of images and only works in a limited set of usage scenarios?

Here’s what you need in order to enjoy great pics, pics that you actually take

  • A sensor that is larger than most sensors fitted to cameras in its class
  •  A zoom lens that can be handheld throughout its range. The best image stabilisers will give you about 4 stops (steps of shutter speed) of advantage. In 35 mm terms you need to be shooting at a shutter speed that is the reciprocal of the lens focal length to be reasonably certain of getting a decent (but probably not perfect) shot. The kit lens with the Nikon5100 is almost certainly soft until you stop down a couple of stops so at telephoto you will be working at an effective maximum aperture of f11 at a 35mm equivalent of 80mm with this camera sensor. You’re going to need the stabiliser to be able to get decent shots in anything other than pretty bright daylight….
  • A body that can fit in a pocket or purse.
  • No need for any extra add-on bits to make it work

For comparison the Fuji x20 I suggested has a longer telephoto lens than the Nikon as standard and the aperture is, at full telephoto f2.8, two stops brighter meaning that you can shoot always with higher shutter speeds reducing camera shake and the need to use anti shake corrections.

Bottom line, chances are that in real life you will get better quality images from something like the X20 than from an SLR, the camera will be easier to use and because it is compact (but not the smallest camera out there) there is a chance you might actually use it.

As ever, your comments and thoughts are welcome using the comments box below. 

2 thoughts on “Choosing a Digital Camera

  1. Ade

    FWIW, I’d generally agree with what has been said above with some qualification; good quality DSLR or mirror-less camera (like the Sony Nex) with large sensors and good quality lenses will, almost without exception, produce a better image than a point ‘n shoot if used properly.

    If you are taking casual snaps, I’d agree, a point ‘n shoot or even an iPhone is the way to go. If, however, you a planning on going somewhere special and want to take more exceptional photos of the experience, I’d go with something better.

    Yes, it’s bigger, although it doesn’t have to be that much bigger these days but hey, there’s nothing wrong with looking like a Japanese tourist on occasion.

  2. Lee

    My 2 cents on this…

    Unless you are completely anal about image quality you are better off with a good quality point and shoot (I have used Nikon cameras for over 20 years so it is my brand of choice).

    I worked for Eastman Kodak for many years and while growing up my father taught me a love of photography. So I have a nice semi-pro Nikon DSLR and lenses, but most of the time I am taking photos with my point and shoot. I bring both on vacations and use them both about the same.

    When in my local area or taking day trips on my motorcycle I bring the smaller camera. So if you only want to buy one camera, then get a good quality point and shoot.


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