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What kind of camera should I buy?

As a photographer, I have been asked by friends, family, and sometimes random people I happen to meet, “what kind of camera should I buy?” I have a stock answer to questions of this sort; “It depends”.

There is no one right response that fits everybody. So then I ask: “what do you want to take pictures of, and why?” Like anything else, you want something that you will enjoy using.

Another frequent question is: “well, which one is the best?” My answer to that is also always the same; “The best camera is the one you are going to use”. If the camera is at home in a drawer, and you are out making some memories without it, then it is not “the best” for you.

There are so many choices available that you can choose the camera that fits what you want to do, and how you want to do it. Virtually everybody has a camera with them all the time. Your cell phone. Even the old flip phones have a camera on them. New phones have some amazing cameras on them. Cell phone images rule the online world. Why? Because they are “good enough”.

I don’t mean that in any disrespectful manner at all. When I say “good enough” I mean that they are really designed and intended for the online experience. The apps available for your phone enable you to manipulate those images, and share them in a multitude of ways, including email, social media, and so on. The drawback to a cell phone camera, any cell phone camera, is the size of the image sensor. They are tiny. They have to be, to fit in the cell phone.

Much like back in the film days the bigger the film size [nowadays sensor] the better quality image you have when you increase the output size. If you want to print an image taken with a cell phone, a standard print of 3.5 x 5, 5 x 7 and maybe even an 8 x 10 will look good. Printing larger with a cell phone image and you will probably see some loss in quality, like blurriness, softness, and other artifacts.

If you are primarily shooting for an online presence than using your cell phone as your camera makes the most sense. It’s convenient, it’s with you all the time, it’s pretty simple to use, and the apps get the image where you want it to go with no fuss or muss.

But they can’t quite do everything, although they are getting much closer. The next step is a “point and shoot”, or compact- type of camera. These are the most common type of camera in general use. They have amazing features, gobs of control functions that let you capture an image the way you want. They usually are small enough to fit into a pocket or purse. These are the cameras we take on vacation, to the birthday party, the graduation party, the wedding, etc. Their sensors are about twice the size of a cell phone, producing much better images, as well as having easier access to the controls. These cameras usually have a zoom lens that you can get some decent close-ups as well as zoom in on distance points. But you can’t change the lens.

The next steps are the DSLR. [Digital Single Lens Reflex]. The reason they are called that is when you look through the viewfinder, you are looking directly out the lens, through a prism built into it. You and the camera are seeing the exact same thing. These cameras have the ability to change out the lenses as well. There are more “moving parts”. There can be a bit of a learning curve, but these camera’s give us the highest quality of images. The sensors on these cameras are 15 to 20 times the size of a cell phone sensor.

In the case of digital cameras, the size of the sensor does matter in the overall quality of the image.

But, back to where we started, “What camera should I buy?” Next time you are in the market for a camera, do some research, figure out why you want that new camera, and what you want to do with it. Then use it. Remember, though, the “best” camera is the one you have with you and know how to use.

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