Choosing a camera for Christmas for you or as a present.
Here are some factors and pros and cons to consider when choosing a camera apart from the price:
- what you want to do with it and with the photos afterwards
- whether you want it for video
- how heavy/ light big/ small you want the camera to be
- whether you want one lens or to be able to change it, and what kind of lens/zoom you will need
- what conditions you want to shoot in: low-light, fast movements, wild weather, under water…
If you are considering buying a camera I guess it’s because your phone isn’t good enough- which most aren’t- for what you want. So the first thing would be to make sure you can change the settings on the new camera, that you can have aperture and speed controls as well as the possibility to go fully manual. Shooting in manual is the best way to learn about photography.
The first choice you have is whether you want a camera with a built-in lens or zoom, or one where you can change it. Compact cameras are lighter, smaller, easier to take around. They are usually of lesser quality and have a longer lag between when you press the button and when the photo is taken. Also some compact are similar if not worse than phones so don’t waste your money.
Bridge cameras are in between compact cameras and dSLRs so can be a good option, some have amazing zooms like one of the NIkon Coolpix or the Lumix cameras. But they still have a lag I find unbearable when taking photos of people since they usually move.
If you buy a camera where to change the lens you have a choice between Digital SLRs and mirrorless cameras.
Changing the lens is a pain so be sure it’s something you want to do and think of which lenses you want and why.
Mirrorless cameras are getting as good as dSLRs, but only if you pay the price, cheap ones aren’t there yet. They are smaller, lighter, easier to carry, but a cheaper dSLR will be of better quality. I started with the cheapest Canon dSLR and upgraded when I went professional. the battery of a dSLR will last longer too.
The bigger the sensor the better the photo quality and the bigger you can print the photo. Sensors come in several sizes from full frame to very small.
Cameras can be very good for videos nowadays, both mirrorless cameras and Digital SLRs. The experience of shooting video is a nicer one on a mirrorless camera since it’s lighter, smaller and good image stabilisation.
A camera will only be as good as its lens. Kit lenses are not good lenses. Choose your lens/es carefully. If you have a small budget, get a cheaper camera and one good lens. a Canon 50mm 1.8 is a good starting point. I’m not promoting canon over Nikon, it’s just what I know best.
For low light you need a big ISO range and fast lenses so f2.8 or more ( ie a smaller number since it’s in fraction so f2. f1.8 are wider than f4)
For speed you need as above and also image stabilisation.
Make sure you can get an external flash, don’t use a built in one as they don’t give good results.
- for landscapes and architecture go wide: 16 to 30 mm – the wider it is the more it deforms perspective. not flattering for people!
- for portraits: 30 to 200 mm – for one person 100 and more is slimming and throws the background out of focus.
- for animals 300 mm and more- but with a tripod only.
- for flowers and details, you need a macro lens- and a tripod
If you’re struggling with questions, don’t know how to decide or want to learn more about photography, I’m happy to answer your email and also give lessons where we look at various aspect of photography depending on your aims. You can also give gift vouchers for lessons if you know someone who’d like to get better in photography. Thank you and Merry Christmas!