Tag Archives: Point-and-shoot

How to buy a new camera…

Buying a new digital camera

Buying a new digital camera

Buying is a big decision.

Photographers should be wary of the simple answer. Buying a camera is a deeply personal matter and a big investment. You live with the consequences for a long time. Look carefully at considerations that really matter to you and your performance as a photographer. Impulsive buys may spoil your photography. If you’re comfortable with your buy you will be more likely to get to know it, use it and have fun with it.

1. Work out what you need

Impulsive buying means something will not match your need, then you won’t get the use you want. The points below will help refine your thoughts. Write down your ideas to ease your research later.

Budget: Fix a budget – it may define the type of camera you can buy. So write down what you want to spend before starting. Change your mind later, but start with an idea to guide initial research.

Usage: What type of photography will you do? There are broadly two types of photographer…
The ‘point-and-shooter’:

  • Interested in recording fun, family, events and memories.
  • Love things they do when they have a camera around.
  • Take pictures as reminders. (Holidays, family, fun, action, friendship).
  • The camera is an accessory to the activity.
  • The camera is easy to use, probably in auto mode.
  • Simple controls – lighter, lifestyle-type design.
  • Less interested in the art of photography, more the style of life.

The ‘photographer’:

  • Take pride in every shot.
  • Indulges other passions through photography.
  • Wants more equipment.
  • Interested in “functions” and “controls” – technical cameras/DSLRs.
  • Camera is an essential part of the activity. (Landscapes, macro, action, nature, still-life, fine art…).
  • Loves photography for its art, technology, skills and techniques.
  • Documents passions and communicates interests through photography.
  • Take pride in camera control.
  • Enjoys the technical aspects of the capture as much as the images.

Each has an associated type of camera. A heavy DSLR is not well suited to the carefree life of the point-and-shooter. A compact, colourful, wrist-strap camera is not suited to landscape shots and large prints. Preferences and lifestyle should be shorted out early on. Are you are a point-and-shooter or a committed photographer (DSLR style)?

Conditions: Indoors/outdoors, weather, underwater, holiday, abroad, air travel? The situations in which you use the camera affects what you buy. Consider protection, travel, camera size and special equipment needs.

Experience: Skill level affects purchase – your aspirations for your future photography will too. If you’re just starting out, buying a camera with a bewildering range of functions is daunting. Take simple steps. Entry level DSLRs provide for years of growth into your hobby and produce great images. This allows you to develop skills without confusion.

Features/flexibility: Spending more on a camera means more features and flexibility. However, while this gives more control it increases cost for relatively little increase in picture quality for starters. Don’t waste your money. Focus on what you need, not “feature bloat”.

Physique/fitness: When buying you don’t get a feel for using a camera. Little, disabled, or not very fit people may find big cameras unusable. Fit, but not shooting daily? You might struggle to hold up a big camera for long periods. Buy a camera you can hold steady and use all day (if necessary). I know people who bought great cameras and had to sell them again to buy another great, but lighter, camera. Also ensure you can grip it properly and comfortably. Can you reach all the buttons easily?

Size of prints: More megapixels is NOT a better camera today. Good quality cameras have sensors to produce great images. High megapixels are only necessary for high resolution pictures – mostly for large prints. You pay a lot of money for top-megapixel cameras. Only buy them if you frequently do big prints in high definition. Don’t worry about megapixels in the market mid-range.

Lenses: To a committed photographer lenses are key. Buying the right lenses is more important than a camera body. Lens investment pays you back for a lifetime, or many camera bodies. Spend less on the body than you intended and save money for better quality lenses (not more lenses). Consider retaining at least half your budget for lenses.

Other equipment and accessories: New cameras require other items affecting your budget. Consider…

  • Lenses (Wide angle, Zoom, macro etc)
  • Camera/equipment bag
  • Tripod
  • Spare batteries (two)
  • Light modifiers (diffusers), filters, reflectors
  • Specialist equipment for specific interests
  • Memory cards (at least two – eg. 2×16 Gb not 1×32 Gb – cheaper and more secure)
  • Off-camera flash (pop-up flash is rarely useful)
  • Remote trigger to fire the flash/camera

There may be other things too.

Compatibility: Is your existing equipment compatible? Buying a camera could mean buying those extras again, straining your budget. Consider the camera brand you want to buy. That may affect the other equipment you buy later. Lenses are a particular consideration. Top brands make good lenses, but other brands may not. That could be important for your buying strategy.

Picture quality: Quality digital cameras produce great picture quality. However, large, high resolution images (especially for printing) may need larger digital-sensor size (cropped or full frame?) and type of lens and lens quality. Buy up-market lenses as far as you can. For a point-and-shoot camera consider the quality of zoom. ‘Optical zoom’ is best, the lens does the enlarging. The quality will be better with a good optical zoom. With a large digital zoom component expect lower quality prints. Digital zooms crop the picture in-camera to make the picture appear bigger. You will see more detail, but the picture may be a lower definition/resolution.

More after this…

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2. Research

Now look at what is available. examine a range of reviews on different websites. Check out what’s popular around the web and get a “best fit” camera to your specification from above. Talk to experienced photographers. Join a club. Leave questions on Internet forums. Ask in shops.

Be prepared for this stage to take quite a long time. You may be committing to a brand for a quite a few years, or your career. Take it slowly so you can understand all implications. Keep notes and be prepared to check definitions and learn about features.

3. Try it out

Once you have identified your dream machine, see if you can try one out. Beg, borrow or hire. You will be unlikely to try everything but spend a weekend or week with it to really get a feel for it. That will help you to feel confident about your ideas or start new research. Ensure you are on the right track.

4. The purchase

From a shop: Local camera shops often have deals and committed staff. They will have knowledge and experience too. Remember they are on commission and a different focus to you. So go to a shop with a really good knowledge from the above before you buy.

Online: There are some great deals but also a lot of scam artists. Consider…

  • Who you are buying from.
  • Does the site cover losses?
  • Is delivery and packaging good?
  • Delivery times?
  • Are there proper cancellation and returns procedures?
  • Transit/purchase insurance (the company or your credit card)
  • Is the online store reputable and well known?
  • Do not click from email ads to the site – insecure.
  • Check with friends to see which online stores they used.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A reputable company will have protections built into the purchase and made clear on the site.

When you are ready consider negotiations. Lots of websites will do deals. Shops will too. Make sure you get the right deal, but don’t compromise security or safety.

5. After purchasing

Check your purchase properly – has everything arrived? Retain all paperwork and orders for future reference, returns and insurance. Test to see that it works properly. Get signed receipts and correct paper work for returns, delivery shortages or damage.

Satisfied you have the correct equipment and it works? Put it through its paces in a logical way. In Getting started with a new lens I show how to work through testing and getting to know new lenses. Many of the principles apply to the purchase of a camera and help you get to know your camera properly.

Other ideas?

Please share your other ideas, tips or experiences on buying a camera with us below in the comments…

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Focus On Imaging NEC Birmingham 3 – 6 March 2013

Focus On Imaging 2013

Focus On Imaging 2013  External link - opens new tab/page
National Exhibition Centre Birmingham 3 – 6 March 2013

A broad range of new equipment.

It appeared from busy aisles at this years Focus On Imaging Exhibition External link - opens new tab/page that photographic business is actively fighting off the economic depression, possibly even in rude health. With around one hundred and sixty exhibitors there was plenty to see. There was a whole range of new developments as well as the old favourites.

A Key aspect of the show this year was the new ranges of cameras. Leading manufacturers were actively promoting mirrorless cameras. The gradual shift away from the point-and-shoot market also seemed to continue. The camera market appears to be changing. Heavy duty technologies from the top-of-the-range DSLRs are being used in the lower end cameras. The market seems to be shifting in favour of high resolution processing right through the full range.

The economic climate is obviously still impacting. A predominant theme on retail stands was deals and offers. There was plenty on offer too. In previous years many of the accessories available in the UK seemed to be expensive compared to current prices. Today imported goods appear to be impacting the market. Exhibitors were showing equipment which appeared robust and very competitively priced. The shift in the camera market also appears to be creating deals. There were very good prices offered on cameras in all segments of the market. Many of these deals reflect depressed prices in the market in general but the many of the stands were offering greater reductions than even shop prices.

The show organisers unfortunately failed to publish the event list this year. Show goers were left to pick up what information they could about various talks and demonstrations from stands themselves. It made choosing how to spend our time was a little difficult. However, I managed to see three interesting demonstrations. There was a lot of emphasis on lighting techniques this year. Some very good models and backdrops were shown and lots of people were taking photographs. If you are going to go to the show take your camera for some additional fun.

Aside from impressive stands by Canon and Nikon, Sigma had an impressive spread of lenses available. There were some excellent tripods on show this year on several stands. Despite the reluctance of beginners to buy them, the tripod market is both competitive and innovative. Tripod heads are getting smoother and there are some very interesting new ideas, particularly in the high-engineering end of the market. However, the top tripod head units were weighing in at around £500… not a price to be taken lightly.

Other stands of interest included the extremely active Disabled Photographers’ Society. That society fosters a wonderful camaraderie and energy among its members. The Royal Photographic Society were also at the exhibition showing continuous short events which were well attended. They also are in active recruiting mode.

My overall impression of the exhibition this year was one of great energy. There was a lot of business being transacted and show-goers were being dynamic on all the stands. It was an enjoyable day, and one that will help to keep me informed about products and trends in this business.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

The advantages and disadvantages of live view

• DSLR Camera •

• DSLR camera diagram (side veiw) showing mirror down position •
Click image to view large
• DSLR Camera • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Live view is here to stay.

What are the good and bad aspects of this technology? Should we be using it? What does it offer the DSLR user over the time honoured viewfinder system? In this post we look at the pros and cons.

The DSLR mirror system

If you are not familiar with the inner workings of the DSLR you can read more about it in this post: DSLR; Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera.

The essence of the mirror system is simple. The photographer peers through the viewfinder (see the diagram above) and the eye receives light directly from the main lens. Light reaching the eye has been redirected by the mirror up through the camera to the viewfinder eyepiece. When the photograph is taken the mirror flips up. Then the shutter opens allowing the digital image sensor to be exposed to light entering through the lens. While the mirror is up the photographer is unable to see through.

Live view…

When using live view the mirror is flipped up. You cannot see through the viewfinder. The view detected by the image sensor is instead created electronically on the camera screen on the back of the camera. In the most up to date mirrorless cameras the view is projected electronically into the viewfinder so you can use that instead of the screen-view on the camera.

The screens on the back of the DSLR, bridge cameras and point-and-shoot cameras provide a good, clear image on the screen. The displays offer a pretty good representation of the image seen through the lens. Reviews of the new mirrorless cameras suggest that electronic viewfinders are apparently not as good as those using mirrors. However, the technology is young and significant advances have been made recently. I think eventually electronic viewfinders will provide as good a view as the back screen.

Why do we need a viewfinder?

One of the problems of a back-screen is holding the camera steady. When you have a big lens on a camera the sheer unbalanced weight-in-hand makes it difficult to steady the camera with two hands held out in front of you. For a professional, or the keen amateur, the extra softness this induces is intolerable.

This is less important with light point-and-shoot cameras which can be held steady with one hand. Mirrorless cameras are smaller and lighter than DSLR counterparts. Bigger lenses still make them relatively heavy. Pressing a camera-lens combo to your eye while also held in both hands gives a third point of stabilisation to your camera – a steady position. So, a practical consideration for more substantial combinations of large camera and lens.

Retaining a viewfinder also ensures the “eye-view” is actually available to the photographer. By this I mean that the camera can be placed where the eye actually is on the body. Then the photographer sees through the camera in the same plane and level as the eye. I find this leads to better composition. We are more used to using eye-level views in our everyday vision. I acknowledge that the free-roaming screen composition may provide a more unusual point of view. However, artistic considerations aside, when composing an image I find close scrutiny of the scene leads to cleaner images and a rigorous composition. OK, this is not for everyone. It is a point to bear in mind for the more discerning photographer.

In my experience doing a back-screen composition is difficult because the eye is distracted from the screen. This leads to limited, incomplete composition, or missed details. I have been guilty of this sort of sloppy composition and have seen it in the images of others. Personally, I think the viewfinder helps me to compose accurately and cleanly allowing proper examination of detail.

What live view can offer…

Despite the shortcomings of back-screen composition and lack of steadiness there are good reasons to use live view.

On a tripod… While using a tripod to compose for landscapes, macros, wide angle and fish-eye shots do a quick check in live view before the shot. I suggest you do your initial composition using a viewfinder on the tripod. Once composed quickly check the live view simultaneously scanning your scene by eye. This enables comparison of the lens-distorted view against the scene as the eye sees it. This cross-checks your composition against your vision for the final outcome of the shot.

Mirror lock-up… When using a tripod use mirror lock-up to help sharpness. This mode sets the camera to flip-up the mirror ahead of the shot. The vibration from the ‘mirror-flip-up’ then passes before the exposure takes place. This reduces vibration enabling a sharper shot. Most DSLRs offer the mode which is found in the menu screens. Live view also performs a mirror lock-up action on many cameras. If you have a “live-view” button, do your composition, perform a live view check and take a mirror lock-up shot in the same sequence.

Access to the viewfinder is restricted… Yes, sometimes I simply cannot get to the viewfinder. When doing macro work, complex close-ups suspended under a tripod and when holding the camera high all create situations when the eye cannot easily get to the viewfinder. In this case the live view mode is a definite advantage and enable otherwise impossible shots.

Depth of field… The viewfinder has its own optical characteristics additional to the main photographic lens. Normally viewfinder lenses are pretty faithful and do not affect the view through the main lens. When using a fast lens, say f1.2 wide open aperture, the depth of field may be distorted by the viewfinder. It’s said live view helps you better see the areas of bokeh. I am sceptical. I have not seen this effect accurately on my Canon 5D MkII to make any difference. I am prepared to accept it works on other cameras. Try it and see.

Horizons, converging verticals and straight lines… Live view offers a set of lines dividing the screen up into thirds (nine segments). This “rule of thirds” grid is helpful in composition. I find it most useful when checking converging verticals when lining the camera up. However, a good electronic display of focus points laid out in your viewfinder is excellent for most compositions. The focus points usually allow for rule of thirds composition and more. So, live view offers an option, but no better than the viewfinder. Other cameras may differ on this, make your own choice.

Live view histogram… Some cameras allow the display of a live view histogram. This enables you to check your colour and light intensity prior to the shot. This saves later examination of lots of frames online. However, I prefer “Chimping”. The post-shot histogram review is the best way to tell if you have a good shot or not. If you do use the live view histogram beware of poor composition. The histogram takes up screen space I prefer to use for composition. So, not to my taste, but the opportunity is there on some cameras.

Live view can be useful

More cameras are providing good live view mode and offering more facilities with it. I think there are some good reasons to use this mode especially with a tripod. It certainly provides some useful functions. There are some severe shortcomings with live view composition and personal stance when using it. The good old viewfinder still wins the day for me. However, a lot depends on your camera. I hope these points have opened your eyes. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

find out more...Photokonnexion tips by email
If you enjoyed this article please sign up for our
daily email service.
                                                 Find out more
#11030#

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.