Thoughts on upgrading to a better 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 or to trade in the their well used 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. The only way to get quality-wedding photographs was really only by photographers using larger film in their 120mm medium format 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 and iPhone users is, if sports and fast action, wildlife or quality print enlargements are the goal, then, yes absolutely get a DSLR.    DSLR cameras don’t have shutter lag so sports photography is easy and action demands a camera (and quality lenses) that can adjust shutter speed and aperture. Wildlife photographers prefer a selection of telephoto lenses that can be changed at will, and obviously the best images are produced with sensors that are considerably larger than digicams and iPhones.

Digicams & iPhones are convenient for candid shots. Most of us have ’em in our pocket anyway. However, for photographers that are aware of the huge limitation of those tiny sensors and cheap little lenses the next 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 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 year’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, discontinued and there are 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.

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 online and check out the many photography forums to find out what others with that same interest are using, and attend some classes.

So what are my thoughts on upgrading to a better camera? If it’s affordable, don’t hesitate, do it. Using a new camera is always fun, educational, and I believe the process of learning how to control and effectively use the unfamiliar technology a new camera offers is like a shot in the arm that gets the excitement going and ultimately helps one become a better photographer.

Will New Cameras Make Better Photographers?   

A new camera?

Will a different camera and more megapixels make a difference?

I received an email the other day from a photographer who is trying to earn some money at photography. She had been submitting prints to companies that purchase stock photography, but has not had any luck. Discouraged, she wondered if her problem might be that her camera wasn’t making high enough quality images, and thought purchasing a new camera with more megapixels might be the answer.

I began by saying that she should keep on submitting photography and suggested she take a look at her style and preferences in photography and to determine if there is a niche market that fits her subjects.

I suppose any excuse is a good enough to get a new camera. I am OK with that, however, I am not sure that “more megapixels” is the answer.

As long as I have been in photography photographers have blamed their failures on their cameras. It used to be that photographers wanting to become professional, would discard their 35mm and buy a medium format camera because they believed it was necessary to take professional pictures. Then they would decide their pictures still weren’t good enough, so they would sell their Mamiya to buy a Hasselblad, thinking that would really allow them to take professional pictures.

That attitude and rational about cameras hasn’t changed, only now instead of medium format cameras the answer is a bigger sensor with more pixels, and, of course, the belief that one camera company might be better than the other.

Will different camera models and more megapixels make a difference to the image quality? Well, maybe. Perhaps it could depend upon what an image buyer wants and how large the final image file needs to be. Research into that means pages of confusing charts and hours of reading other photographer’s opinions.

I believe we need to be comfortable with our cameras and learn how to make them perform the best. I taught photography for many years and I was always amazed at how much money students spent on camera equipment in order to achieve an A grade, when all they needed to do was learn better techniques.

I am not saying that one shouldn’t get the newest and best photographic equipment available. My advice is to make the choice the depending on the kind of photography one likes to do. However, the camera isn’t going to make a person become a better photographer.

As I write this I am beginning to wonder about that last statement. If a photographer purchases a new camera, they get really excited and go out and shoot, and shoot. More shooting equals more practice and when all is said and done more practice is what actually makes for a better photographer.

With that rationale we could say if a person bought a new camera every six or eight months (that seems about how fast new models are appearing) then that means a person would be improving at least twice a year. Gosh, in two years a person would be four times better than when he/she started!

Hmm… with that reasoning I should tell that photographer to go ahead and buy herself a new camera with as many pixels as she can afford.

Nevertheless, if after her hours of research she can’t make a decision on which new camera to spend her money my advice will be to study the work of successful photographers in her subject area, and spend lots of time experimenting and practicing with the camera she has.