The Light Chaser: Choosing a camera.

January 31, 2015

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The Light Chaser. A blog by Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Digital photography has come a long way in the past 15 years. There has never been more variety of ways to capture an image — and most of those ways are pretty good.

I often am asked what type of camera I would recommend. My first questions are, ‘How much do you want to spend and what type of photography are you mainly interested in?’

Regarding cost, the major camera manufacturers are selling some really decent SLR (single lens reflex) cameras for around $500 to $800. An SLR camera is basically a camera with interchangeable lenses; there’s a little more to it than that, but that’s another blog.

You basically get what you pay for. The reason some camera bodies and lenses are less expensive than others typically has to do with quality and name recognition.

Most of the SLR cameras under $1,500 are primarily made out of plastic while the higher end bodies are made out of a magnesium alloy.

The alloy bodies hold up to the weather much better. These higher end cameras typically offer controls and features which are more consistent with SLR film cameras. Controls like shutter speed, aperture and ISO (light control) are easier to find and adjust.

The higher end cameras tend to also feature higher resolution, which is measured in megapixels.

MPL Valentine 2-15A quick lesson in resolution: A pixel (an acronym for picture element) is the smallest piece of information in a digital image. It’s like the atom of photography. Mega is a unit prefix in the metric system denoting a factor of one million. Therefore a megapixel contains 1 million pixels (just like a megabyte contains 1 million bytes, again another topic).

Most modern cameras are 10 megapixels or higher. With this type of resolution, you should easily be able to print at least a decent 14-inch print. The higher the resolution, the better quality your enlargements should be (naturally, focus and exposure play a major part in achieving this as well).

I also often get asked what brand of camera do I recommend. I tend to answer this question rather vaguely. The two camera brands used most often by professionals are Nikon and Canon. Debating which of these two are best is like getting into a debate at a Nascar event about whether Chevy or Ford is better. I think it’s a personal preference, of which mine is Nikon.

I chose Nikon based on my comfort level with their products. But, it’s really a personal choice. Other brands that are currently making good cameras are Fuji, Sony and Pentax.

This week’s quote: “I’ve got a Nikon camera and I love to take photographs. So momma don’t take my Kodachrome away from me.” – Paul Simon. 

Next week, we will talk about exposure.

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