Part of the "Basic Digital Series"
|Harvest Arch, Weston, Vermont Canon 5D Mark II|
Random Thoughts on Digital Single Lens Reflex, Mirrorless and "Why Choose"
In last week's blog I discussed some of the important factors to
|My Canon G11|
|Canon 5D Mark II 400mm Lens|
Digital SLR Cameras offer a level of quality and control beyond most compact cameras. In the days of film SLRs were contrasted to more compact "Range-Finder' cameras, with a major difference being that, with the SLR, images were framed directly through the lens rather through a eyepiece set off to the side. Today even the most inexpensive compacts provides a view through the lens on the LCD screen. Now the major advantages of a digital SLR include better controls, interchangeable lens, and larger sensors with better image quality, especially in low light.
All modern cameras have automatic settings that employ remarkably sophisticated algorithms that can interpret brightness and color to create serviceable images in many situations. For
|Canon 5D Mark III Controls|
For serious photographers it is generally all about the glass. Camera bodies come and go every few years; the pace of advancement in
digital photography is amazing, but your lens' can be a life-long investment. Compact cameras have zoom lens' that can cover a wide range of focal length, but high quality interchangeable lens' are intricate optical works of art that provide a level of sharpness far beyond what can be achieved with the best fixed zoom lens. Many of the cheaper DSLRs have smaller, "Crop" sensors and are sold in a kits that usually will include a lens that is designed to work only with these smaller sensors. The Canon Rebel Cameras are equipped with a sensor which is about 62% of the size of a "Full Frame" (35mm size) sensor which is found on their higher end DSLRs. The Rebels are packaged with "S" lens' which are designed to work well with the crop sensors but will be useless if you decide to move up to a full frame camera. In the long run it may make sense to buy a full frame lens for your crop sensor camera, but remember, the crop sensor cameras multiple the effective focal length of regular lens'. Canon's Rebels have a "crop factor" of 1.6 which means that a regular 24-105mm zoom will
|Smaller Sensor Extend Focal Length|
Here is the situation where size does matter. Larger sensors provide more room for each pixel, capturing more light with less noise. The difference is especially visible with hight ISOs in low light situations, but technology is rapidly improving the quality that can be obtained from smaller sensors. In the end, decision about Megapixels and sensor size should be based on what you plan to do with your images. The number of mega pixels can improve your ability to enlarge an image but if your goal is to display your pictures on the web or perhaps make 4x6 or 8x10 prints, you don't need 20 megapixels crammed on your sensor. Increasingly it is understood that the important thing is the quality and not the quantity of pixels, and this is where larger sensor generally excel. Finally the physics of large sensors means shallower depth of field. This can be a challenge in macro photography but provides the nice soft background Bokeh that portrait photographers prefer.
The Cool Factor:
Ok, lets admit it, a massive, microwave sized camera looks cool and "professional". You don't want to show up at your next wedding shoot with a pocket sized compact, but do you always want to lug that behemoth around with you? And that brings us to the major disadvantage, other than cost, of DSLRs.
|10Lbs 4Oz of Lens' - Without the Camera|
Big cameras are also hard to hide when you are trying to catch candid shots such as with street or even family photography. People get very self-conscious when they find themselves staring down the barrel of a massive "professional" camera.
Finally it is unfortunately true that in some sketchy locations a big, obviously expense camera can be an invitation to theft or worse. We had a fantastic time at the street festival in Quito, Ecuador. The people were wonderful, but there was no way I was going to carry around my Canon 5D Mark II. My little, unobtrusive G11 worked just fine and it was WAY easier to hold up over my head.
|Quito Street Festival|
Why Choose ? :
It should be obvious that the selection of a camera involves a long series of decisions all of which open some possibilities while closing others, but why choose. There are couple of options that provide hybrid solutions.
The Mirrorless Revolution:
All compact cameras are mirrorless that is, they don't use a mirror to see through the lens. What appears on the LCD screen is the actual image seen by the sensor. Many newer DSLRs have the same capability in "Live View" mode. In recent years a new class
|Olympus "Micro Four Thirds System|
|Sony Full Frame Mirrorless|
Why Choose? Get Both.
|Canon SX50 HS 'Carry Around"|
1 Lbs 8 oz
|Nellie with Canon SX50|
Once again, I apologize for my rambling and incomplete discussion of this difficult question. These articles have been two of my most challenging to write, primarily due to how much of this expansive and evolving topic I had to leave out. My goal was to briefly introduce a few points that you will want to consider as you approach a decision about a new camera. Purchasing a camera should involve careful research, into both the equipment options, and, more importantly, your goals for your photography. The great news is that modern cameras are amazingly capable pieces of technology, and whether you pick a compact, DSLR or Mirrorless, you will be getting a magic-making machine which will be limited, not by its buttons and dials, but by the expanse of your own imagination.
Part 1 of What Camera Should I Buy?