The Excitement Of A New Camera   

camera-on-display

I could tell that the camera a customer had just purchased was going to inspire him in new and exciting ways. He held the camera up to his eye and talked fast about what he was going to photograph on his next day off. As I watched and listened to his excitement with that used DSLR I contemplated how photographers like to make additions and changes to their equipment inventories. There are different needs for different types of photography, and personal growth within the medium changes the kinds and types of cameras and accessories needed.

I really like to be around other photographers. I recall when I first started seriously making pictures in the early 1970s that my friends and I did lots of backpacking in the rolling hills of southern California, but my fellow backpacker’s adventure goals were different than mine. While they would begin the journey with the goal of reaching a particular the location, I was more interested in what I could photograph along the way. Much of the time I lingered behind somewhere on the trail and wandered into camp near dark, and in the mornings while they were enjoying breakfast over the campfire I was off in the search for some intriguing photo.

I doubt that artists using mediums other than photography get as excited about equipment as photographers do. Photography has been a succession of inventions and technological advancements. The first practitioners like Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 using surfaces like pewter for one-of-a-kind positive photographs and Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre and his announcement of the Daguerreotype in 1896 were making continual advancements in photography similar to what is occurring today. Those advancements were exciting for would be photographers of that time much as advancing technology excites those of us serious about photography today.

Keeping up with the changing technology of photography has always been a struggle, and also expensive, as photographers change camera equipment completely or upgrade their systems to get the maximum benefit and enjoyment in the medium. I know there are those that will say, ”Just learn to use the camera you have. It’s the photographer, not the camera.”

That is certainly right, however, the thrill of learning to operate and use a new camera is, (can I use the word?) cathartic.

I can remember in 1972 being just as excited with my new Pentax Spotmatic II as that customer was with the camera he just purchased. It came with a 50mm lens that I quickly discarded for a versatile 70-210mm Vivitar zoom. Gosh, I felt fortunate to be getting such an advanced camera and lens. In 1970s it was all about the increasing availability of quality lenses and cameras with built-in light meters.

There are many used DSLR cameras that would work just fine for the kind of photography this person would be doing. In the used camera market it always comes down to condition and price, and of course, the brand that suits the buyer. He looked until he found one at a bargain that met his criteria.

Now that he has his new camera, I suggested he join the local photographers Facebook page and I look forward to the pictures he posts, and of course, watching his growth in as a photographer.

The photographer asked, “Is it time to upgrade my camera?”

                                                         

In the previous era of film cameras many serious photographers would come to a point when they would consider whether to upgrade from an automated point and shoot type camera to a 35mm interchangeable lens SLR (single lens reflex), or trade in the 35mm SLR for a medium format 120mm camera, and maybe even to take the climb to a 4X5 view camera.

For film-based cameras it was all about the size of the film and bigger was better.  I recall feeling bad for those people that had friends photograph their wedding with a 35mm camera at a time when quality wedding photography was really only produced by photographers wielding medium format 120mm film cameras.  If one wanted a colourful, sharp, grain free enlargement then 120mm or larger was a must.

What do I now say to a photographer that is considering a more serious approach to photography?

I will always begin with the question, “what are your interests and what subjects do you like to photograph?”   My short answer for digicam users is if sports, fast action, wildlife or enlargements bigger than 8×10 are the goal, then, yes, get a DSLR. DSLR cameras don’t have shutter lag when the release is pushed so sports photography is easy. Fast action demands a camera that can adjust shutter speed and aperture. Wild life photographers prefer a selection of super telephoto lenses that can be changed at will, and printing quality 11×14 or bigger enlargements are best produced with sensors that are considerably larger than what digicams provide.

Digicams are perfect for intimate, candid shots of family and friends. The compact size lets one put them in a pocket and go, and if used correctly and within their limits they will produce excellent images.   However, if photographers feel they have reached their camera’s limits then it is time to move on. So the question is what is the best choice for a first time DSLR?

For this discussion I will put DSLR cameras in two simple categories, amateur and professional.  The difference between amateur and pro cameras has surely become hazy. If I were to offer a short comment I would say the most obvious difference is durability.  Pro cameras feel sturdy, are heavy and sealed against the elements. When dropped, they bounce and usually don’t break, and even with hard use will last a long time.  The amateur camera generally has lighter weight and smaller size.  When the first DSLRs came onto the scene there was definitely a difference in the quality of the images between entry level and professional level cameras, but that is not as distinct now. The technology for sensors and in-camera processing has rocketed.  The latest entry-level model may well have the same sensor as the previous summer’s expensive pro model as the technology is transferred over.  The main difference is in the weight, substance, durability, and controls.

The new models are always being introduced, with that many previously great camera models will be reduced in price, or discontinued, and very soon there will be some great opportunities to purchase at reduced prices.  As always there will be a flurry of megapixel chasers that change their camera with every new model upgrade, making used cameras available. There are those people who will not buy a used digital camera and that is OK, however for those who are interested how does one know what is a reasonable price?  The easiest way is to go online and check out the sale prices at the big photography retailers for their new and used equipment. Know your prices before buying that camera from a good friend or family member and remember the money that you save can be put towards equipment like lenses and a good flash or tripod.

Whatever the camera availability, my advice to those photographers asking the “upgrading” question is to consider what kind of photography they want to do. Talk to other photographers about the cameras that are interesting, go on line and check out the many photography forums to find out what others with that same interest are using, and attend some classes. 

Using a new camera is always fun and I believe learning how to control the technology a new camera offers is like a shot in the arm that gets the excitement going and helps ultimately to make better photographers. 

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