How to choose a camera?
The most important moment in the life of a photographer, lived in a mix of anxiety and trepidation, is certainly that of buying a new camera.
It is not just the mere act of buying, so sterile and empty, terribly aseptic, but of something that brings with it expectations and hopes, so deliberately turned towards the rows of cameras that look at us from the shelves through the glass eye of their goal. A subject so complex that we decided to make a whole starter kit on which camera to buy.
When I bought my first camera, I remember spending weeks reading reviews, asking for information in forums, analyzing raw files, but everything related to specific models. Strangely, in my wandering in the boundless universe of the internet, I had not been able to find an article that, with a few clear words, guided me to choose a camera, not so much analyzing individual models, but throwing general bases able to guide me in a conscious choice.
Years later, when I decided to retire my trusty reflex entry level and replace it with a full frame model, this situation had not changed much. Of course, I had the clearest ideas and I knew how to move with more precision, but little was the specific reviews, the characteristics and the examined performances of certain models helped me.
I was simply looking for a wider overview. Any advice that, regardless of the model and the brand, shows me what to take into account in my choice, which features to give more weight and which to leave out. Faithful to what has been said, in this article you will not find indications on models and brands, but only guidelines that can lead you to a careful choice.
Do not be amazed at this, as the electronics have become the master of the chaotic world in which we live, the camera is nothing but a container impenetrable to light and that, fleeing its technological coolness, still remains the best friend of the photographer .
Choose a camera: amateur band
This paragraph is for those who are about to buy their first camera. I know that you are anxious and eager to make your purchase, so let's go straight to the point.
The compact world consists essentially of two types: the "tip and snaps" and the models with advanced controls.
If you are not interested in creative photography, but only look for tools with which to capture some souvenir photos, the type of "tip and shoot" is the one for you. Prefer those models with clear and simple commands, menus with an intuitive interface and omitted cameras with megapixel wedges, they are just larks. The reason for this last statement lies in the nature of the sensor: the greater the number of megapixels, the more likely you will have files with a high digital noise, unavoidable consequence of the striminal measurements of the sensor that these machines are equipped with.
If you are looking for a machine that is small in size, practical and easy to carry with you, but still allows a certain creative flexibility, the models of compact top range of the various manufacturers usually offer a good amount of manual controls. We talk about things like exposure control, manual focus, ISO selection, lens aperture and so on. Also make sure that these models have the option for RAW files: raw files, but which allow a great control and recovery capacity in the post production phase.
Another element to take into account is the nature of the lens that these machines have provided: my advice is to sacrifice a too wide focal length (which usually implies a poor quality of the glasses it is made of) and to prefer focal lengths with wide openings (ƒ / 1.8, 2.0), which therefore allow for pleasing blurred and ability to photograph in low light conditions. Of course, you will probably feel a little more sacrificed for what concerns the comfort of use, but you will gain in the quality of the files produced. Pay attention also to the quality of the shots in high ISO conditions, even here the rule is that the greater the megapixel, the greater the digital noise will probably be if it is not supported by a photographic sensor of good quality.
Also note the presence of the sled for the external flash: very often those supplied are inadequate under certain conditions, if you are also interested in the creative side, adding an external flash is definitely something that is not worth giving up.
Reflex and mirrorless entry level
In this case it is a premise: you are not just buying a camera, but you are becoming part of a family made up of a series of objectives. This is to tell you that the choice of models equipped with an adequate and variegated optical park is particularly important. There's nothing worse than buying a SLR or a camera with interchangeable lenses, and then having to replace it immediately due to the presence of shrunken optical parks, devoid of objectives that may be behind your creative streak. Always inherent to this, it is also important to take a look at the world of used items that revolves around the chosen brand. The advantage is twofold: first you will have the opportunity to buy lower-cost targets (and if like me you are students, it is something that should not be underestimated), secondly you will have the opportunity to quickly sell those goals that you decide to replace, perhaps buying someone more valuable and professional. I would like to insist on this point: try not to look only to the imminent purchase, but have a future vision, in this way you avoid brand changes that usually do not bring benefits to the consumer, but only waste of money.
Once the optic park has been chosen, you will have already reduced the number of options. In the field of entry level cameras usually equate to the level of features, performance and quality. You could take a look at the existing focusing system, usually more AF points are present, the faster the autofocus speed and accuracy.
That said, the best advice I can give you is the following: go to one of the many electronic megastores in the country and pick up the camera that you consider interesting. Believe me, at this point it's just a matter of feeling. Feel like you're holding it, if you feel like it, look at whether the menus are to your liking, if they're intuitive and quick to reach. In short, if holding your hears, congratulations! You have made the best purchase possible.
Choose a camera: prosumer and professional band
If you are about to replace your entry level SLR with a prosumer or professional model, probably all the available choices will already be partially limited. In fact, it is hardly advisable to move to another manufacturer, giving up the optic park that you have built so much effort piece by piece. For heaven's sake, mind you, not that it is an aberrant idea, but think well and weigh with great information the pros and cons that this choice involves.
The best advice, ignoring the parenthesis above, is to look at what the manufacturer of your entry level offers. If it is true that the transition to a prosumer or a professional usually carries with it an already tested baggage of knowledge, the trend of recent years is to offer more high-end models, different from each other only for a few technical characteristics. In reality, the goal of manufacturers is not wrong: try to offer SLRs with specific functions for certain photographic styles. Too bad for the consumer that goes to turn into a mixture of models and acronyms difficult to detangle.
Month after month the progress of technology in the field of photography offers increasingly performing models, full of new features and interesting features, but faithful to the introduction of this article, we leave unnecessary technicalities and draw some general guidelines, those that regardless of new models it is worth keeping in mind.
Let's start with this question, the main one for me: what did your entry-level SLR teach you?
It is not a foregone question. When I decided to make the transition to a professional model, I remember that my choice was largely dictated by the limits found in the daily use of my amateur SLR. Think about it too.
But not only, think of the optical park that you have built, the photographic genres that you prefer, make a sum of all this and judge which machine best lends itself to your uses. Some manufacturers, in fact, build specific lenses for SLR APS-C with the result that sometimes the objectives designed for the small format can not be used with full-frame SLR or, if possible, at the price of less definition and factors of various crops. Keep this in mind, otherwise, in addition to the money spent on your new professional SLR, you will also need to add money to replace the incompatible lenses you have.
In general, other things to take into account are the width of the viewfinder, the materials used, the presence or absence of the tropicalization and the system of AF points that the SLR adopts. There is not a perfect professional SLR that embodies all this, but models that adapt better (or worse) to certain photographic environments. It is up to you to understand, on the basis of the photographic genre you prefer, which elements are expendable or not.
In my experience, being a lover of landscape photography, or a professional reflex like a full frame model, with tropicalization, a large viewfinder and sacrificing, however, a more advanced automatic focusing system. Obviously, if you are interested in nature or sports photography, it will make more sense to focus on professional APS-C SLR cameras (to take advantage of the sensor multiplication factor), AF systems rich in focusing points and regulated by fast and precise algorithms.
There is no better choice than the one that best suits your needs: it is useless to focus on functions that you will rarely use and for which you will pay a high price for your presence. Of course, if you are interested in cameras, rather than in photography, the subject changes, but it is a celodurismo that you do not intend to deal with.
Concluding, whether you are interested in entry level models or whether you are thinking of a professional, do not be dazzled by marketing given with a wealth of details from the manufacturers, but always think of the final purpose that a SLR as imbued with technology can embody: that of photographing.