Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Choosing a Camera - Part 1

When you taking product photos of your crafts or art, you want to have a good camera, but very often the question comes up - "what camera should I buy?". What to buy is most easily answered with another question. What do you intend to use the camera for? When plunking down a hundred dollars or more, most of us want to buy a camera that will take good photos of a variety of things. Serious photographers often have more than one camera - each for a different application. Most of us have one. For the most practical camera in 2009 we are going focus only on digital cameras. Film is great but not very practical.

Before purchasing a camera you really want to think about what you might be using it for - in addition to taking photos for your online shop or sales catalog. Do you travel and take photos of the sites that you visit? Do you have children and want to take photos of all of those "special moments"? Do you take family snapshots? Would you like to start to get serious about photography as a hobby and an expression of art? Do you just want to take photos of your crafts? Or any or all of the above in combination?

How complicated a camera can you handle? Will a camera with a lot of dials and settings intimidate you? Would you just like to pick up the camera, turn it on, point it at the subject and push the button? More questions! But you need to answer each one even before you start looking. Oh yes, one more question - how much do you want to spend?

There are basically three basic categories of cameras available right now - Point and Shoot, DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex), and a new breed that has popped up in the last few years - a cross between the two. Point and Shoot cameras are fully automatic - yet they do offer you some setting that you can control when you are taking a photo. DSLR camera's have automatic features but you will need to turn the lens tube to zoom in and out to get the photo that you want and while most have auto-focus, you will want to use the lens to focus the lens yourself - again by turning it - which is one of the most prominent features of this type of camera. With a DSLR you will also be able to take the lens off easily and replace it with a lens of a different focal length giving you more options for wide angles, telephoto distances, macro photos, etc. The lens on DSLR's also allow you to place filters over the front of the lens. Filters change the light and create various effects on your photo. Most of the DSLR's, if not all, require an external flash to be attached to the camera for all flash photography. DSLR's are for the really serious interest in photography and while these are exceptional cameras, they are not for everyone. The third category of camera I have been calling a DSLR hybrid. These cameras look like small DSLR cameras. What you see through the eye piece and on the display screen is exactly what is coming through the camera's lens. Some of these add the abilitity to attach an external flash but also come with their own built in flash. Most models also allow you to add lens attachments - similar to the DSLR - including filters and various attachments that change the lens focal distance - again wide angle, macro, and telephoto. The main lens is not removed, but these attachments are screwed on to the lens on the camera. These hybrids also allow you to change the various auto settings on the camera very much as you can on a DSLR. You also have the ability to manual focus - though instead of moving the lens, you will do this electronically with a variable motion button.

Let's talk about cost. Frankly, they are all over the place. Point and Shoot camera's start at less than $50 and can go up to $300. DSLR cameras will start at about $450 and go into the thousands. Many DSLR cameras are sold without a lens - you buy the lens of your choice (generally always made by the same company that makes the camera). Many are packaged with one or two lens - of course, at a higher price. It does pay to look for those packages if you want a DSLR camera. The, so-called, Hybrids sell between $300 and $400 but are often discounted less.

When shopping for any camera you ABSOLUTELY want to look at, touch, and play with the camera. Do not buy a camera from a website - unless you have already gone to a brick and mortar store and played with it. When you go to a store, you can pick up the camera and feel it in your hands. Often the stores will have them plugged in so that you can try them turned on - try the focus, try the zoom, try the macro mode, see the settings, look at the menus, etc. You can't do this on a website and no matter what you read and learn about a camera you want it in your hands before your buy it.

I will continue this article in Part 2 talking about various brands, etc. Before that, I recommend that you read this article (if you have not already done so) to learn what you want in your camera if you are taking shop photos.

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