Camera Buying Guide
if you're starting out in photography, here is a camera buying guide that will help you decide which camera, lens, or film to buy.
With a dizzying array of cameras on the market today, it can be difficult to make a choice as to which one to buy. The right camera for you will be one that fits your budget and your purposes. If you’re taking shots strictly for friends and family, a point-and-click camera will probably be good enough for your needs. These cameras have fixed aperture and shutter speeds. Some have a few additional features, like autofocus or a zoom lens. These cameras are the easiest to operate, and with a little practice, they can be used in many different settings.
If you’re thinking of getting into photography or photojournalism as a hobby or career, your best bet is to start at a second-hand camera shop. There, you’ll be able to find inexpensive used manual cameras that will force you to learn the basics of photography before you waste money on more expensive equipment. These older cameras require the user to master f-stop, shutter speed, light and focusing. Yet picture quality doesn’t suffer, and can even surpass that of newer, fancier cameras.
Eventually you may want to invest in a more intricate camera. Don’t be fooled by flashy features or all-star ad campaigns. When deciding whether to upgrade, consider each feature one-by-one. Do you really need that rapid-fire film advance? (Probably not, unless you plan on shooting a lot of sporting events.) What about automatic focus? (Easier to use, but nothing beats mastering the manual technique.)
You may also want a camera that can be adapted with various lenses. Photographic lenses vary in quality and size. Remember: you get what you pay for. A 50mm lens produces pictures with a 47-degree angle of view, about the same angle as what the human eye picks up. But lenses can vary, all the way from an 8mm “fish eye” lens, which picks up an 180-degree panoramic view, to a 1,000mm telephoto lens, which gives a very narrow field of view but can pick up objects far away. Again, ask yourself how much you really need a particular lens before purchasing a new one.
Once you have your equipment, you’ll soon start to learn photographic basics.
Here’s a list to get you started:
-Aperture, or f-stop, is another term for the size of the lens opening. Like the human eye, camera lenses can be adjusted to let in more or less light under certain conditions. The lower the f-number, the wider the lens opening, and the more light the camera receives. A higher f-number means a smaller lens opening and less light. Because of the peculiarities of physics, a lower f-number results in a field of view that is closer to the camera, while high f-numbers allow the user to focus on objects further away. At its core, photography is a balance between light, distance, and focus.
-Shutter speed refers to the amount of time the film is allowed to be exposed to light. A longer shutter speed will need less light, but requires stationary or slow-moving subjects. Conversely, a shorter shutter speed can capture fast-moving objects, but more light, either from a larger aperture or an external light source, is necessary for the subject to appear on film.
-Film speed refers the ability of the film to respond to light, and is measured in an ISO number. The lower the number, the less responsive the film. An ISO25 or ISO100 roll is best used in brightly-lit conditions while photographing stationary objects. At the other end, ISO500 or ISO1000 film is to be used for high-speed or low-light conditions. In general, these higher ISO speeds are only needed by professional photographers, and an ISO from 100 to 400 is good enough for most everyday pictures. Also note that the higher the ISO, the higher the price, and that most film can now be put through airport metal detectors — with the exception of the very high-end ISO speeds.
-External devices: these include flashes and light meters that may or may not come with the camera. Flash photography adds a whole new element to the process and requires a whole new set of calculations and judgments.
Remember that flashes are only good for a few yards, and will not illuminate far-off subjects. Light meters are helpful for advanced photographers, but amateurs can probably get by with the light meter that comes with your camera, even if it is a simple display that tells you when to turn your flash on or off.
Remember to read the instruction booklet that comes with your camera purchase, and invest in a well-regarded photography guide. With a little practice, you can take pictures like the pros.