Many beginning photographers wonder how to choose a camera. To begin with, no matter how expensive equipment you use, the final quality of the picture depends on the skill of the user. It is important to be able to work with lighting, to see shadows, to take advantage of the device you are using. There is a persistent belief that some models, costing from 5 thousand dollars are equipped with advanced technologies with which you can take perfect photos. This is a misconception!
Professional photographers take unique pictures, not because they have a cool focus, but because they have experience.
We will try to understand the main features of this type of equipment so that you don’t overpay for unnecessary options. As you have already realized, this guide is designed for novice users! Additionally we recommend to read our rating of cameras, but before we look at the main characteristics of gadgets.
Currently, there are two types of cameras: DSLRs and digital cameras. Consider the pros and cons of the different models:
- Mirror camera – light passes through a system of lenses, is reflected by a translucent mirror and through the pentaprism hits the screen. The focus sensors help bring the subject into sharpness. Principle of operation: when we press the button, the mirror rises and the light hits the sensor. That is, the very click you can hear when you press the button is the movement of the mirror. If you plan to choose a DSLR, keep in mind that such models cost significantly more. At the same time to use the full potential of such devices you need to have some knowledge and experience. Otherwise you can limit yourself to the mirrorless analog.
- Digital camera – the light passes directly through the lens system and hits the matrix. Accordingly, there is no mirror, pentaprism, phase focus sensors. For obvious reasons, such products break down less often, because there are no moving parts. In addition, they are silent and cost less.
Which camera should I choose: SLR or digital?
Regarding their advantages and disadvantages a lot has been said and written. Undoubtedly, the first option provides more opportunities to create a high-quality picture, but for this you need experience. The main advantage is that the user can adjust the sharpness of the picture himself, without relying on the data on the LCD screen. As for the choice of camera by novice photographers, we will not give recommendations. You have to decide for yourself, based on your own interests and the following facts:
- almost all DSLR models have faster focusing speeds with the exception of a few mirrorless Sony cameras;
- DSLRs have a viewfinder that allows you to see an image without lag;
- digital counterparts are more compact in size.
Choosing a camera sensor
In terms of objective assessment, the quality of pictures depends not so much on the type of camera, but rather on the ability to use it and the matrix. It is the most important part of any camera, on which the light falls and after processing by the processor is recorded on the memory card in the form of a photograph. The sensor is characterized by the number of megapixels and size.
In the past, when cameras worked on film, the 35 millimeter frame standard was popular. During the transition to the matrix, at first, developers tried to comply with the specified characteristic, and produced full-frame full-frame matrices. However, because of the possibility of defects, the production of such products did not pay off. Therefore many started to make cropped analogues, so-called, cropped matrixes. The value of the cropped factor indicates how much the frame is cropped in relation to the full frame.
When choosing a digital camera or DSLR analog, it is important to consider the larger the size of the sensor, the more 1 pixel can catch rays of light. Accordingly, the smaller the pixel size, the darker and worse the photo will be, even in the presence of artificial light.
Number of megapixels of the camera
As for the number, for the choice of camera is optimal – it is 16-18 megapixels, so you can cut the excess, although enough 9 megapixels. Unfortunately, this is the parameter that newcomers often evaluate the quality of the camera. Let’s try to figure out how many megapixels a camera needs in practice. Currently, the most common monitor format is Full HD – 1920 (width) by 1080 (height) pixels.
By multiplying these numbers we get just over 2 megapixels. If we are talking about the “future format” 4K, it requires 8,000,000 pixels, i.e. 8 megapixels. For printing on an A4 sheet, the recommended density is 300 dpi, which is 300 pixels per inch. Considering that such a sheet is 11.75 inches high and 8.75 inches wide, it turns out that 9 megapixels is enough. For social media, because of the very strong compression of the photo at all is enough 1 megapixel. It follows that there is no point in chasing a large number of megapixels, pixel size is more important.
Choosing a camera lens
One of the main parameters is the focal length. If you don’t know how to choose a lens for your camera, you need to keep in mind that this part is a system of lenses. Light passing through them refracts and converges in one place. The distance from the lens to the focus point is called the focal length. In practice, the longer it is, the closer the object seems. The smaller it is, the wider the angle of view and more space is put into the frame. For obvious reasons, small lenses with small focal lengths are used to take pictures of architecture, various landscapes and crowds of people. Long-focal-length cameras are relevant for taking pictures from a long distance, for example, of birds or wild animals. When choosing a camera for beginners users need to consider that there are two types of lenses:
- With fixed focal length – the best option for beginners, because such models are easier to use;
- With variable focal length – for more advanced users.
As a rule, in most cases, 3-5 focal lengths are enough to take pictures of different objects or one lens with a longer range, which costs much more.
Aperture and aperture ratio
The second most important characteristic in choosing a camera lens is the aperture. It is a mechanism which can be compared to a person’s pupil. When we are in a dark room, the pupil is open and when we are looking at the sun, it shrinks to let in less light. So you can use the iris to control the lightness of a photo. This characteristic is denoted by the Latin letter f. It indicates the ratio of the focal length to the opening diameter. The minimum value which can be set is called aperture value. Accordingly, models with aperture f.2 are worse than f.14. It is worth adding that this parameter is responsible for adjusting sharpness. For example, if we open the aperture to maximum, we get a beautiful background.
Optimal shutter speed
This parameter is also responsible for the brightness of the scene. It is not necessary to chase the maximum values, as even in modern budget models the figures will be enough. It is more important to decide what you want to achieve.
Shutter speed is the time for which light exposes the photosensitive area of the matrix. Every camera has a shutter which, when pressed, opens the shutter curtain for a fraction of a second and lets the light in. The shorter the shutter closure time, the sharper the photo will be. Long shutter speeds blur objects and result in brighter photos. If you want to choose the right camera, you need to decide what you will use it for. When shooting sports, photographers use very fast shutter speeds. Such models have a stop time effect. Long shutter speeds are used to take pictures of landscapes. They can be used to take pictures of waterfalls, clouds. When using such models, it is important to create conditions for the stillness of the camera. Therefore, professionals often use a tripod.
When choosing a quality camera, you should pay attention to the camera’s sensitivity to light. This parameter is referred to as ISO.
The matrix sensitivity is the artificial amplification of the signal measured in ISO units. Modern cameras may be equipped with noise reduction, so sales consultants convince you not to worry about too high values of the specified characteristic. But in practice it is difficult to suppress high ISO values. At the same time, you should not chase too low values. In most cases, this indicates a marketing ploy by the manufacturer. As already mentioned, modern models have a normal shutter speed and sensitivity. The main thing is to use the device correctly, and select the frame.
Tips for choosing a camera for beginners
What else should a beginner look for when choosing a camera? First, do not get bogged down with bracketing parameters, the type of exposure metering, panoramas, GPS. According to experts, any camera from $400 has the necessary set of features to get good photos. It is better to pay attention to the following options:
- Stabilizer – a useful feature that allows novice photographers to take sharper pictures when you’re holding the device in your shaky hands. The part can be installed in the camera or the lens. Placement is not a priority;
- The viewfinder is a huge perk of the camera, for beginners and professional photographers alike. It’s about the extra fulcrum that occurs when you lean the gadget against your face. Therefore, you will not be afraid of sunlight, because of which the scene is not visible on the screen.
- The pivoting screen adds to the convenience of the camera. For example, if you want to take a picture of an object located low, but do not want to lie down on the ground.
In terms of functionality, when choosing a good camera, you may find it useful:
- Touchscreen – especially handy when shooting video. It allows you to smoothly set the parameters without wobbling the device without excessive clicking noises;
- Wi-FI – now used in more expensive DSLR cameras. You can use it to shoot yourself, transfer photos, or upload to cloud storage.
Thus, it is important to focus on large matrices with 9MP or more. An interchangeable lens is better. Its most important parameters are aperture and aperture. The quality of the photo does not depend on the type of camera. It all depends on your skills. Good luck.