Monday, December 13, 2010

What Camera Should I Buy?

I get this question a lot and I feel your pain.  There are so many cameras on the market now that it's almost impossible to know which one is right for you. In this post I'm not going to compare cameras, I'm just going to recommend what I think are the best on the market right now.  I would recommend that if you have a camera in mind for yourself, then you can easily compare the models on a shopping website and see which is right for you.

Please bear in mind the following:-
-       These recommendations are based on my opinions but they are educated opinions which I have researched on your behalf. 
-       I don’t have any affiliation with any organization or company so you can rest assured that this is completely independent advice. 
-       In the true spirit of this simple blog, I won’t go into too much technical detail about the individual products, but I will point out what’s important.  You can research the products further yourself if you’re interested in the models I recommend.

The first question you need to ask yourself is “what am I going to use the camera for?”  Cameras are not cheap so you want to spend the right amount of money and get the most out of your equipment (yeah I know how that sounds!).
If you are a family man, have a hectic life and like to travel a lot, carry lots of gear for the kids etc, then buying a large camera with several optional lenses is not really for you.  A compact camera is a much better fit and, to be honest, todays compact cameras are really great.  On the other hand if you really want to get into photography and want to improve on your skills as a photographer then a DSLR is the only way to go.  There are lots of options for both of these solutions but I’m going to keep this simple and just give you recommendations of what, in my opinion, are the best on the market right now.

Compact Camera
Todays compacts are much more sophisticated than merely just pointing and shooting.  They do pack some punch in resolution, features and low light photography.  What’s great about the newer models coming out today is the option of interchangeable lenses.  Remember the lens is the most important part of the camera.  A good quality lens can make all the difference.  So without further comment, our winner in this category is:-

Sony Nex-3 or Nex-5

-     This small camera (and it really is small believe me) allows you Manual operations, i.e. you can set the F Stop, Shutter Speed and ISO independently.  It also allows you Shutter and Aperture priority functions too.  “we’ll discuss Shutter and Aperture Priority in another post”
-     The size of the sensor chip (CCD Chip) that captures your images is huge,  given that this is a compact camera.  It is the equivelant size of an entry level DSLR.  This means that your images will be of a higher resolution and quality.
-     You have the ability to change lenses.  Not only can you use the lenses that Sony provides for the NEX but you can also use lenses from other makes of cameras such as Nikon, Canon etc.  All you have to do is buy the adaptor that will allow you to connect your choice of cameras lenses to the NEX.
-     Takes HD movies
-     The screen at the back tilts so you can take photos at low and high angles.
-     The only important difference between the Nex-3 and the Nex-5 is the resolution of the HD movie that you can record.  The Nex-3 shoots at 720 and the Nex-5 shoots at 1080.

Entry Level and Professional DSLR’s
This area is a little more difficult to recommend so I’m going to recommend 2 of each.  The reason for this is the fierce competition between Nikon and Canon.  Both makes of cameras are equally good and both companies have a wide selection of lenses to go with their cameras.  If you are looking for something very specific , before choosing one or the other, please look into their specifications more carefully.

Entry Level DSLR’s
Entry Level DSLR’s have only one main difference with Professional DSLR’s.  A smaller CCD Chip.  These smaller ccd chips are also referred to as DX cameras for Nikon and EF-S on Canon.  For these cameras you would also need to purchase very specific lenses which are designed to fit the camera’s chip size.  Not to be too confusing, but if you were to use a 50mm lens on one of these cameras, your actual output would be around 75mm.  So you’re not getting 100% the result you’re looking for.  This is not to be confused with not getting the result you see through the lens.  

I recommend the following Entry Level cameras:-

Nikon D7000 

This is the latest from Nikon and has all the bells and whistles you need to get started in semi pro photography.  I would argue that I have seen some very professional work come out of these cameras so it’s a little misleading to call the work semi pro.  This camera also shoots movies in full 1080 resolution. If this is the market you’ve budgeted for then you will not be disappointed with this camera.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i

This is the latest Rebel from Canon and just like the Nikon, it has all the bells and whistles.  If you’ve heard good things about Canon and want to lean towards this company then this is your best option for an entry level camera.

Professional DSLR’s
 So I’ve already explained that the entry level cameras have a smaller sensor than the professional cameras, but what does that mean.  Professional DSLR’s are also called Full Frame cameras.  The sensor is the same size as a 35mm film camera and uses full frame lenses.  On a full frame camera a 50mm lens gives you a 50mm output, you get a 1:1 ratio on what you see, so there’s no confusing maths involved!

Nikon D3x

This is a heavy weight in camera technology and one that I own myself.  It has a ton of features, none of which I use!  I keep my photography simple but I require the best equipment to do it.  The build quality is unsurpassed by any other camera and the results from my thorough use of the camera are astounding.  I highly recommend this camera to any budding professional and let’s not forget the impressive range of lenses available for the Nikon.  This is considered a professional DSLR and therefore there is no video functionality here.  This camera only takes photos!

Canon 5D MkII

In the Canon camp we have the 5D MkII.  This is Canons most popular professional camera.  Once again it is a full frame camera and once again, the image quality and features are without dispute.  The big difference between this and the Nikon D3x is that the Canon can actually record HD Movies.  The quality of movies produced on the Canon 5D MkII are so good that some amateur film makers are filming entire movies with it.  If you combine the ability to shoot a movie, full frame sensor and powerful lenses, I’m sure you can see the advantages already!  If you are thinking of doing event photography and there’s a possibility of recording video at the event, then this baby is for you!

Now that we’ve done cameras we move on to the biggest factor in photography hardware, the Lenses.  We will discuss this in the next post!


  1. Hey Iki

    Hope you're doing well, and I'm sure you're missing the lovely weather we've been having back here in London...

    Enjoying your blog so far, your comments on the compact Sony camera caught my eye - we've got a wee baby on the way, so it's a very good excuse to try my hand at a little photography :-)

    Anyway, I'm going to read a bit more and maybe check some prices...

    Graham MacD

  2. Hi Graham,

    First of all Congratulations on the imminent arrival of the little one, my best wishes to you both.

    As for Cameras, I think the Sony NEX is perfect for you. You'll be able to take photos like a dslr, capture HD videos of your new family and all in a tiny package. I still feel it's a little pricey, but there's nothing else on the market that comes even close.

    Good luck and when the baby arrives please send me a photo :o)