Cameras: Snap, Snap, Spend!

My friend Roberta from Italy (possibly the only person who reads this blog) has recently set me homework to recommend to her the camera I think she should buy… this is my homework being handed in…

Being a snap-happy semi-professional, I have been paid to take shots ;), I’m no expert but my recommendations are based on such:

I use a Canon 10D (which was replaced by the 20D which seems to have been quickly replaced by the 30D). My choice, if I had the money, is the Canon 1D or a variation of. Given that I’ll probably never have THAT kind of money, I’m looking for my next camera to be the Canon 5D or it’s replacement.

At work we use the Nikon D100 and we have a great kit, couple of master/slave flashes, some cool filters and a couple of different lenses. But I’m not really a fan of the Nikon. I find the menu clunky and harder to navigate. An issue that I’m sure comes down to being familiar with Canon’s menu system.

Any of the cameras above are still well over the AUD$1,000 mark, but if you love the craft, you pay for that love, you also have the convenience of being able to expand, with new lenses, filters, flash components, file formats etc.

But if you’re after something smaller, any of the major compacts are fine. Importantant things to note;

  1. Check your zoom, you’re after Optical Zoom the bigger the better, but avoid cameras who sell themselves on “Digital Zoom”. Digital Zoom is fake zoom, the camera makes up information that it doesn’t really have. It’s like opening a JPG file in Photoshop and trying to increase its size. You just end up with a blury mess if you push it too far. Optical Zoom ensures your CCD or CMOS sensor is getting the information it needs.
  2. Mega-MegaPixels – if you’re buying a compact you’re probably not out to take over the world with your photos, you’re after something that you can take out to parties, use to spruce up your website or post your photos to Flickr, you’ll also probably want to occasionally make a print of an image. For all of this you’ll never need more than 5-megapixles. I once listened to a podcast where a guy says he made a billboard out of a shot he took with his 3.2MP camera. I didn’t see the billboard, so I don’t know the extent of the photo use, but the way he was talking it WAS the billboard.
  3. Power source. Another often overlooked point. If you’re going to travel a lot, you might want a camera that uses standard batteries like AAs, that way you can pick up your power where ever you go. Bear in mind however that as a power source these generally don’t last very long. You’ll need to keep buying them, so maybe rechargable AAs are a good idea, though these tend to last even less than standard batteries. If however you’re not going to travel a lot, I’d suggest a camera that uses something like lithium-ion rechargable batteries, and get at least one spare set. You can charge them up before you head out and they tend to last longer. If you can find one, there are sometimes cameras that offer you best of both worlds, you can have the rechargable batteries that come with the camera, but you can also substitute standard batteries too.
  4. Memory – forget internal memory, it is generally too small to be of use and is not expandable. If you get a card with your camera, you’ll probably also need another. Get a nice big one, they are so cheap that the moment even a 1GB card is not out of the question (provided your camera can write to it). Everyone’s excited about the tiny little sanDisk micro cards, but while it IS amazing that they can fit all that data on such a tiny little thingy I’d like to know how many people have lost them! They are too small, they’d disappear in the folds of your camera bag and leave you searching for them for hours.
  5. Case – Get a good one, weatherproof if you can, cause some of the best photos come when the weather is not always the best. Some good padding will save your camera when you accidently drop it, or accidently fall over while bushwalking and scrape your knee (oh wait that’s just me).

Other than that, it’s really up to personal choice. I’m a canon boy all the way, and I have also used a Fuji FinePix and the Nikon D100, so it’s not like I haven’t tried anything else.

Once you have your cameras, get a flickr account and let me know your user name. I’m there at or you can buy some of my photos at View My Portfolio

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