What Camera Should I Buy
I’m often asked what camera is best? A better question is, what camera should I buy? And at the end of the day it probably won’t make any difference to the photos. More on that in a minute…
A few weeks ago I lost my lovely little Fuji XT-1 whilst running my workshop on Lanzarote. As usual everyone was asking me to look at photos and asking questions, which is what I’m there for. As someone passed me their camera I took my Fuji off my wrist strap, put it on the roof of the minibus for a minute, forgot it and drove off. An hour later I went to my bag and … Gutted!
But hey-ho life goes on and obviously I had to buy another camera. But what? As news of my stupidity got out lots of people said it was time for me to upgrade to the Fuji XT-2. I hate getting a new camera. Nine times out of ten controls have been moved or work differently because they’ve been ‘upgraded’. I’m a tech numpty and it’s just soooooo boring learning a new camera. My initial thought was screw it, I’ll just get another XT-1.
But, my buddy Dave Poxon who lives on Lanzarote had kindly lent me his top of the range Olympus OMD EM1 Mk11 and I used it in a couple of videos. As I got used to it I discovered it could focus whilst shooting video. Very useful for me! If you’ve seen many of my vids you’ll have heard me swearing about the XT-1’s inability to do this. So I figured I’d better see if the XT-2 could manage it… So I called my local London Camera Exchange to see if I could have a play with one.
When you’re considering buying a camera or upgrading the one you have, it’s important to think about what you want to do with it. Many people starting out in photography are lead to believe some cameras take better photos than others. This is pure marketing hype and it’s very confusing so let’s get this cleared up.
Basically, a camera records light onto a sensor and creates a file. And regardless of how advanced or expensive it is, that’s all it does. Spending more money will yield technically better quality image files, speed, low light capability and a few other technical things. But they won’t have any impact on how exciting, emotional, well composed or lit your photo is. That’s your job.
So answering the question. “Which camera should I buy?” entails asking yourself questions about what you want to do with both the camera - and the photos.
Here’s a couple of examples:
Wildlife and Sports
Usually need fast shutter speeds to freeze action, and that could mean you’ll need to shoot at higher ISO to achieve them when there’s not much light about. High frame rate burst mode would be useful to capture the decisive moment. A very fast, accurate and controllable autofocus system to ensure the images aren’t soft and as you’ll probably need to crop heavily which entails throwing away lots of pixels, you’ll need plenty of them to begin with.
So for sports and wildlife your shopping list would be…
- High ISO performance, fast frame rate in burst mode
- High frame rate in burst mode
- Fast, accurate and customisable autofocus
- Lots of megapixels
Now you know what kind of camera you need to buy to shoot the subjects you’re excited about.
Involves a lot of walking to get to the best locations. You’ll need a strong sturdy tripod and head with you and maybe some filters and other paraphernalia. If you think the weight of a DSLR and it’s lenses would add too much weight to lug about, that suggests buying a mirrorless camera could be a good way to go.
Will a more expensive camera or upgrade improve your photos?
NO. NEVER. NOT A CHANCE.
It will give you better quality image files, build quality, water resistance, additional functions you may find useful, but that’s all. For exciting, vibrant images you’re dead proud to watermark you name onto as they attract 100s / 1000s of likes and comments, you’re better to have awesome photographer skills than an awesome camera.
1st you need to know how which controls you need and how to be effective with them. And I don’t just mean exposing manually. I mean the ability to do that whilst managing aperture, focal length, shutter speed and ISO to control the creative content such as depth of field, field of view and movement at the same time. Complete my beginner’s course and you’ll be able to do that with ease.
Light, composition, lens choice, depth of field, when to click and capture a decisive moment are not camera functions, they’re photographer functions which have to be thought through and blended together with your camera skills. I created The 7 Building Blocks Of Photography for this very purpose.
As you saw in the video, an upgrade from XT-1 to XT-2 definately won’t yield better photos, but it will give me better usability for my personal criteria…
- Easy access to the controls I want (exposure compensation, shutter speed, aperture and ISO)
- Easy to set single point autofocus points
- A 4-way selector I can use with my eye to the viewfinder
- Simple on / off video and the ability to focus whilst doing it
- High ISO performance
- +/- 5 stops exposure compensation
(It’s as if Fuji watched the vid where I shared both my loves and hates of the XT-1 and then made the XT-2)
So remember, instead of asking everyone else, what camera should I buy, ask yourself what you would like to achieve with it. All cameras record light beautifully so for most, especially if you are a beginner, which camera you use won’t make much (if any) difference.
I guess it could be argued that, if a photographer has better usability fulfillment of their own personal camera criteria, they’ll be better placed to concentrate more on photography instead of their camera and therefore buying the right camera will lead to better photos.
But they’ll need to know what they are doing first.
The Beginners Workshop increased my understanding of some basic concepts eg the compressing effect of zooming in and also making minor changes in your position. I was aware of these in theory beforehand but the workshop really helped cement them. Also I learnt how to take long exposure shots of moving water and am keen to practice this.