I recently was asked by a friend of mine for recommendations on camera gear (a frequent request I get from those who know me). In the spirit of scalability, I decided I would post this information here (hope you don’t mind LD). Most of this advice will be limited to SLR buyers (DSLRs in today’s world).
The first step when planning a DSLR purchase is to be realistic with your needs and long term plans:
- What type of photography will you be shooting? If you like to shoot action photography (from the kid’s soccer/football/basketball game to motor sports), you will want a camera with a better burst mode, faster shutter speed, and possibly image stabilization. If you like to shoot landscapes/cityscapes, you might not care about the burst mode or as high of shutter speed, rather better low light capabilities. Think about what you will be shooting and the conditions…
- What type of photographer do you plan on being now and in the future (or have you been in the past)? If you have a old Nikon or Canon film camera, the majority of your lenses could be used on your new camera. Eventually (usually sooner than you think), you will have a larger investment in lenses than in your camera body or bodies. If your interested in a better way to capture the kids growing up or family events, then an entry level camera might be more cost effective. If you have aspirations of doing some more formal stuff (weddings, fine art, stock) then you might want to consider springing for the pro-sumer grade of cameras (which have better capabilities but also a larger price tag).
- Don’t underestimate what “feels” right. A friend of mine borrowed my Canon D10 for a while to get a feel of it. While he felt comfortable with the controls (give yourself some grace for the learning curve here), it physically wasn’t a good size camera for him. His hands are smaller than mine and the D10 felt too big. He felt much more conformable with the Digital Rebel line of Canon cameras (one step down from the D10 family) which has a smaller size. On the flip side, I know some people who just didn’t feel comfortable with the layout of the controls on a Canon, but liked the layout of the Nikon (and visa versa). This tends to come down to personal taste and perhaps previous experience (not to mention that learning curve…sometimes one menu system just makes more sense to one person than to another).
If your unsure of what options there are for each of the above points, you might get some insight from taking the online market research survey I am conducting as part of a project I’m working on. This survey has the goal of understanding the needs and focus areas of photographers today, especially with regards to the Internet. The survey is available at www.focalpower.com and is completely anonymous if you so choose.
Unfortunately, the Internet has also supplied us with plenty of information sites about photography. One of the better sites for in depth information about camera bodies (they don’t focus on lenses or accessories that much) is DPReview.com. Depending on your desire for detail, you might get overwhelmed. (I still haven’t figured out if the people who run this site are ex-camera engineer or not…you start to wonder when you look at the details in their reviews!). DPReview has much more detail than either the Canon or Nikon websites.
Other great places for information is from other photographers. Ask them what they prefer, what their opinions are. But be careful here, you will soon find out that this tends to be akin to a religious or political discussion. That being said, there are some great photography community websites like photo.net’s forums and photoSIG’s forums. I have also found numerous other forums on different photographers websites, but they don’t have as large a member base as these two.
While there are a glut of photography magazines out there (with most of them featuring camera reviews), the two that I exclusively read at this point is Photography Monthly and Practical Photography (both published out of the UK). First off, these magazines are more information than advertising (can’t say that about most of the ones out of the US). Secondly, they have really solid reviews of gear as well as photographic advice. Luckily both seemed to have expanded their websites lately PM has a Camera Product Review section, while PP has a Buying Cameras section. Expect to pay a little more for these magazines (about $10 each) and to find last month’s edition available this month. I feel that it is a small price to pay for a good magazine for reading on airplanes. You can typically find these at Borders and Barnes and Nobel.
Soap Box Time: I just wish the editors of these magazines would put an online appendix of articles on their websites…eventually I remember reading something in a past magazine and need to re-read the article for details, but I then spend an hour or two digging through my old issues trying to find the specific issue and article (very frustrating in today’s information age!).
Now that I’ve shared my favorite sources of information, what are yours? I’m curious to hear from others what they find as useful sources of information.