Whether you have a smartphone, a DSLR or a film camera, many of us have stepped behind the lens to capture the world around us. But if you’re just starting out, the world of photography can be overwhelming. So, to help you through your photographic journey, VNC Photography is proud to present Photo Tip Tuesday! Every Tuesday, we’ll give you tips to help you improve your selfies, create breathtaking landscapes and capture memories with family & friends.
But before we can get into making great images, we’ll start with the basics: types of cameras and which one to buy. Can’t walk before you crawl, right?
Know Your Camera
Before you start learning about photography, you should first decide which camera best suits you for what you’ll be shooting. Below are the 4 main types of cameras popular in the consumer market today:
DSLR: DSLR stands for “Digital Single Lens Reflex”. In simple language, a DSLR is a digital camera that uses a mirror mechanism to either reflect light from a camera lens to an optical viewfinder (which is an eyepiece on the back of the camera that one looks through to see what they are taking a picture of) or let light fully pass onto the image sensor (which captures the image) by moving the mirror out of the way. Although single lens reflex cameras have been available in various shapes and forms since the 19th century with film as the recording medium, the first commercial digital SLR with an image sensor appeared in 1991. Compared to point-and-shoot and phone cameras, DSLR cameras typically use interchangeable lenses.
Mirrorless cameras: While a DSLR camera uses a mirror mechanism to either reflect light into an optical viewfinder or pass it through directly to the camera sensor, a mirrorless camera completely lacks such mirror mechanism (hence the name), which means that the light passing through the lens always ends up on the imaging sensor. Since light is no longer reflected on an optical viewfinder, mirrorless cameras typically rely on electronic viewfinders and LCDs that basically project what the imaging sensor sees. Because of the lack of a mirror mechanism and an optical viewfinder, mirrorless cameras can be made simpler, lighter and less bulky when compared to DSLR cameras. Mirrorless cameras have many advantages over DSLR cameras. Aside from the potentially lighter weight and bulk of the camera itself, the use of an electronic viewfinder can bring many benefits to photographers. Since everything is duplicated directly from the image sensor, camera settings such as white balance, saturation and contrast can be seen through the viewfinder directly and additional information overlays can be placed within the viewfinder, allowing photographers to see exactly what they are about to take a picture of. When combined with fast contrast-detection, one can take advantage of being able to zoom in on a subject to verify focus, use face detection and other powerful features to ensure that focus is achieved precisely with every shot. When shooting in daylight conditions, one can utilize the electronic viewfinder to review images, instead of relying on the back LCD of the camera. Before you go out & purchase the latest mirrorless camera, know that they have their list of disadvantages. First, the electronic viewfinder can only be active when the camera is turned on and power is provided to the image sensor, which can significantly affect the battery life of a camera. Second, electronic viewfinders can have noticeable lag, blackouts and high contrast, which can make it difficult for some photographers to get used to. When it comes to autofocus, mirrorless cameras do not do as well when shooting fast action, especially in low-light situations.
Point-and-shoot cameras: Point and shoot cameras have a long list of features and capabilities – including GPS, face-detection, smile detection and many other new technologies – that can increase the photographic process. One of the best things about point-and-shoot cameras is their size; you can simply slip them into your pocket or purse & carry them anywhere. They’re also quite lightweight and have a fixed lens, so you never have to think about changing lenses. Point-and-shoot cameras can also have a large depth of field which means they typically cannot separate the foreground from background, bringing everything in focus and making the entire scene look sharp. This could be both good and bad, especially if you’re going for bokeh (which we’ll discuss in another post). Also, if your main deciding factor is price, a point-and-shoot camera is always going to be cheaper to purchase and maintain than a DSLR.
Smartphone cameras: There are several advantages to using a smartphone over a point-and-shoot, mirrorless or DSLR, and the first is convenience. With your mobile phone always being in your pocket, it’s hard to beat the convenience. The majority of modern smartphones can easily connect to the internet, whether you have a phone contract that includes data or you use a wi-fi hotspot. Once connected, you can share photographs from your phone within seconds via MMS, email or by posting them to social media. Sharing from a digital camera is slightly trickier, as you have to invest in an Eye-Fi card that can upload photographs online or carry a cable or card reader around with you and have access to a computer. One alternative is to invest in a camera with wi-fi – so called Smart Cameras made by manufacturers such as Canon, Panasonic and Samsung – that enable you to upload images to photo storing websites or social media and connect to a dedicated smartphone app to access extra features. Features vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but share options aren’t as comprehensive as those offered by a smartphone, which can include WhatsApp, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, email and cloud storage solutions. Over the last few years, the trend has been for bigger smartphones with 5-6 inch screens (sometimes double the size of the 2-3 inch screens found on compact cameras). These screens often – in the case of high-end smartphones – have a higher resolution as well. This makes it easier to compose pictures and see fine detail. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of smartphone apps dedicated to photography that let you tweak exposure (Fotor), add filters (Instagram), remove color (Lightroom) and even create slow motion movies (SloPro). This makes it easier than ever to get your creative juices flowing and experiment with your photographs, within your phone… and many of them are free! The convenience of camera phones also makes it easier to edit and share photographs on-the-go, instead of waiting until you get home.
Buying a Camera
If you currently do not own a camera and want to buy one, the best advice I can give to a beginner or hobbyist is that at this point in your photography journey, brand doesn’t matter. Yes, there are some benefits that one brand may have over another in terms of video quality, amount of lenses available and sensor size, but for a beginner or hobbyist, it’s an even playing field. If you are determined to obtain your brand loyalty early, stay tuned for our upcoming article on Nikon vs Canon vs Sony. We’ll also give you tips on where to rent gear so you can try it before you buy it and what buying “gray market” gear actually means. (Fun fact: I shoot Nikon & Canon with Sigma lenses!)
Next week, we’ll focus more on brands and photography basics.
If you have any questions about camera bodies, brands or photography, drop me a line and I’d be happy to guide you through the process. Until next time, see you behind the lens!