Jim Mathis
11035 W 96th Place
Overland Park, KS 66214
913 269-6709

jim@MathisPhoto.net

 

What kind of camera should I buy?

That is perhaps the most frequently asked question I hear. My usual response is to buy the one you like. By that I mean get one that feels right in your hands and looks like something you will want to carry around.

Second, buy the best camera you can afford or spend the most money you feel comfortable spending on a camera. You really do get what you pay for.

Beyond that the main consideration, in my opinion, is the viewfinder. The viewfinder is what you will spend your time looking at or through while you are making those beautiful photographs. There are three general types of viewfinders. The best is a single-lens-reflex which means that you are looking through the actual lens that the sensor is looking through. In the digital world the term is DSLR for digital single lens reflex.

DSLR cameras are generally the most expensive, but are far and away the most pleasure to use. You almost always see exactly what you are going to get, the original WYSIWYG design. Most have interchangeable lenses for greater versatility. Even if you never change lenses the bigger and brighter viewfinder of a DSLR is worth it. The downside, besides expense, is size. DSLR cameras are bigger and heavier than the other types of digital cameras. Carrying around a DSLR of any brand will mark you as someone who is serious about their photography.

The next type of camera/viewfinder is the electronic viewfinder camera or EVF. This type of camera has a LCD screen that is viewed through a magnifier. These cameras are almost as good as a DSLR and are generally smaller and less expensive. The advantage of the EVF camera is that menu items and other information can be read right off the screen in the viewfinder. Most EVF cameras also give an instant preview right after the photo is made so you can see what you got without taking your eye off the viewfinder. Most EVF camera do not offer interchangeable lenses but do have wide range zoom lenses as standard, so this may not be a serious issue. Most video cameras are of this type.

The last type of camera is the one that has no viewfinder at all, but only a LCD screen on the back. These have many limitations. The fact that they are hard to see in all but ideal lighting conditions is only one. The secret of sharp photos is to hold the camera steady. Holding the camera steady at arm’s length with no support against your face is almost impossible with this type of camera. I know from experience that an LCD screen is impossible to see in bright snow with sunglasses on, making the camera useless in these or many other conditions. Some companies, such as Hoodman, now are making accessory hoods that fasten to the LCD screen to make them useful in more varied light conditions.

Many, if not most, point and shoot cameras, and many more expensive cameras, are eliminating the eye-level viewfinder completely relying only on a LCD screen. This is a big mistake. When purchasing your new digital camera, make sure you can hold the camera up to your eye and see the image clearly through the viewfinder. A good sharp and easy to use viewfinder is the first step in selecting a camera and making great photographs.

 

 


to return to Jim Mathis School of Photography

To Jim's Blog