High Definition Photography
By Photographer Dan Harris
Historic San Marco Home Studio
1124 Riviera St. Jacksonville, Florida 32207 (904) 398-7668
What Digital Camera should I buy?
We are asked this question most every day, but more often at weddings, bar-mitzvahs, corporate events or while photographing family portraits. Usually at events we can only offer a short and quick answer so we wanted to offer a more detailed answer here in hopes that it will help you with your photography decisions.
We understand that it is physically impossible for us to provide all your family and children photography, so we want you to be able to take the best pictures possible when we're not there! We also hope you will call us for the important times ~when quality matters. Also call us when you get that 'once-in-a-lifetime' shot and we can assist you in making it the best it can be, for future generations, with our Heirloom PhotoArt ® prints.
First we wanted to mention that a lot of advice you will get on the Internet or at workshops is 'sponsored', many camera companies pay for reviews and recommendations. We are not currently sponsored by anyone so the advice we dispense today is our own personal opinion and is only influenced by our own experiences and education, not by paid sponsorships. (if that changes, I'll let you know)
Second we are making the assumption that you want to get the best quality of images possible and make these recommendations without regard to budget, cost or equipment size --that will be the difficult decisions you will have to make and with each choice there will be compromises.
Just like computers, digital cameras are changing rapidly, so our first suggestion is: don't buy outdated technology! Do some research and learn when the model you are considering was introduced. Too often the chain stores are selling 3-year old technology at a sale price, but the new model is twice as good for only 20% more.
Information overload is a big problem today! We are going to give you some easy to follow decision-making steps that will help you weed through the hype and help you make a good decision, if you have any problems or get stuck, just drop us an e-mail and we will give you some more specific suggestions to get you back on track.
There are a lot of over-priced classes out there, being taught by self-proclaimed experts, they promise a lot but don't always deliver, so be careful about where you get your info and at what cost. Local community colleges have reasonably priced classes from well-qualified instructors and camera stores have great classes, designed to sell you more stuff, so if you can put up with some advertising, you may get some good, low-priced instruction.
The two biggest quality factors with any camera are the lens and the digital sensor (or film) everything else is just 'bells and whistles' that add convenience and features. Don't buy into the hype, more pixels (or bells and whistles) is not always better. In the end the decisions the camera operator makes will have the most influence on the appeal of the pictures taken, as an exception to the rule a poor-quality camera may be able to make cool 'art' but in the majority of all cases you will find the best equipment will always perform better. The camera is built upon scientific principles, many are designed with specific needs or requirements in mind. Don't fight the science, a slow camera is never going to do well with fast action... even in the hands of the best operator!
Initially I would start with the end in mind. What will be the main use of this camera for the majority of the time? Daylight, Nighttime, Indoors, Outdoors, Scenic, Travel, Kids, Family or Fast Action? There is a false assumption that one camera can do everything, that dream is scientifically impossible... although many of today's consumer cameras are attempting to fill that requirement they end up doing some things better than others, so by determining what you will use your camera for 75% of the time you can buy the best one for that need and you will be very happy. Sometimes the best camera for the job is the one you have with you at the time.
Let's take for example nighttime or low-light photography. Two cameras exactly the same but one is 8 megapixels and the other is 12 megapixels your first instinct may be to buy the one that has more pixels. The problem is a digital sensor that has greater pixel density (more pixels in less space -- pixels per cm) will have a tendency to create lots of digital noise and therefore give you poorer quality images at the higher ISO settings.
Too often the clerk at the electronics store attempts to dispense useful advice but is only feeding into many common misunderstandings. (what can you expect from minimum waged sales clerks?) I would do lots of online research at: dpreview.com and for more scientific comparisons at dxomark.com. Then I would purchase from a retailer who will allow you to return and trade-in the camera if you find the actual operation not to your liking.
The reality of today's printing requirements: a 4 mega-pixel file can nicely print up to 11x14". Do you really need 18 mega-pixels? Some professional cameras have better quality features and better quality digital sensors with the higher mega-pixel cameras, the same is not always true of consumer cameras. What of the new-fangled options? Will you really use them? Some features sound cool, like 'smile technology', but in practical use they are just gimicks. Super-zooms may be cool, but without vibration reduction you won't be able to hold the camera still at full zoom so now that option becomes useless. If you are shooting fast action and the camera has a slow response time, you may always miss the shot even if the lens and sensor are of superior quality.
So which camera should you buy? ...that depends. Determine your goals, do some research, select a few camera choices and then drop us an e-mail and we will give you more specific advice. In the meantime enjoy your photos and all the photography opportunities available today and remember: don't let your best images die in the digital graveyard, let us help you bring them to life!