Thursday, September 26, 2013

Which camera should I buy? Canon T5i, 60D or Nikon D7100? Or a point and shoot camera?

Most camera buying guides are either too generic or too techie. They miss to address one critical thing for most entry level digital SLR camera buyers. These days most SLR camera bodies are very capable. You can buy a Nikon, Canon, Sony or Pentax and there will be very little difference in picture quality. Many times we get disappointed with our camera but it may not be camera's fault. It may be the light. Or the settings on the camera. Low light level can create issue to even capable cameras. In good light, a $100 camera may give you a shot that is clearly better than a shot taken in low light with a $10000 camera!!
After using several models of cameras, I am indifferent to camera bodies these days. We end up spending too much time in deciding whether to buy Nikon D7100 or Canon T4i but in my opinion, it is the lens that gives an edge to your photos.

Buy the right lens with your digital SLR:

Ask yourself of the primary use of your camera. If you are going to use it to take day to day photos of family members, people and many times indoor or inside photos, you can improve quality of your photos with a fast prime lens. For portraits and for photos of people and pets, you can get nice bokeh / background blur with a fast prime lens that is generally difficult to achieve with a kit lens on the same camera body. Fortunately, you can get some prime lenses at a great price. Canon and Nikon offer  35mm or 50mm lenses with F1.8 or F2 for under $200. These lenses will also let you take nice indoor or low light photos.

Please remember that these lenses do not zoom in or zoom out. They are fixed focal length lenses so please be aware of this limitation. However zoom is not an issue in most cases as modern cameras take up to 24MP photos so if you are taking a landscape photo with a fixed 50mm lens, take photo in full resolution and crop it out. Please note that our 1080p HD TV needs only a 2MP photo to show in full HD. If you are posting online or on Facebook, it will not make difference to your viewer if photo is 4MP or 40MP!!! Most computer monitors also do not have more than 4 million pixels.
Now if you are talking about selling your photos and getting paid, you really need a high resolution photo but then  you are a professional and you should not be reading such articles or advice ;) Here I am trying to help people with their consumer grade DSLR purchase.

If you are going to take photos outdoor and landscape, your kit lens should serve you just fine. You can use your kit lens everywhere and if you are able to buy one more lens, buy a 50-200mm or 50-300mm lens and a good tripod. Ideally for landscape it helps to buy a wide angle lens too but that is a bit expensive for any brand and here we talk about amateur photography, we would skip expensive wide angle lenses.

Avoid 18-200mm or 18-135mm lens:
Many consumers want to buy DSLR but they hate to change lenses so they prefer to buy a lens like 18-200mm or 18-135mm which work as a wide angle as well as a zoom lens. If convenience is your prime objective and the quality of photos come later, you will be happy with such a lens. However these lenses are expensive and also they are not that fast. Normally these lenses will not work as good as a prime 35mm or 50mm lens for portraits or indoor photos.

Seriously consider Micro Four Thirds or Mirrorless Cameras: 
In my humble opinion, in this time when airlines charge fees for every bag we checkout or even carry in, no point in carrying a camera big with you! That big bulky SLR body needs to be left to professionals. New M43 or Mirror-less cameras are tiny and equally capable. Many of them have the same sized APS-C sensor that is found in bulky cameras. As there is no mirror in the body, the size of the body is tiny. Take a look at Canon EOS-M camera body! Most of my friends don't take this camera seriously until they see the photos taken with it. Mirrorless cameras have another advantage. They are easy to use in live preview/LCD mode!!
Also, it is easy to carry around! Plus most such cameras excel in video shooting. They auto-focus!
Please note that these cameras, as they have no mirror, are slow in focusing and also not that accurate at time in focusing. This is particularly an issue in low light or in darkness. I get annoyed with them at times but the size and form factor benefit is so outstanding, I live with this shortcoming. 

I started with kit lens and was find in the beginning. Then added a zoom lens and it worked fine too. Then I got on prime lenses and now most of the time, on my cameras, I have prime lenses. I rarely use 18-55mm kit lens or 55-300mm zoom lens these days. On my Pentax K-01 and Pentax K30, I have Pentax 50mm FA F1.4 lens and on Canon EOS-M, I have 22mm F2 STM kit lens or 50mm M42 Super Takumar F1.4 lens.

Two best camera kits in my opinion these days are Pentax K-01 with 40mm F2.8 XS lens and Canon EOS-M with 22mm kit lens! For less than $500, both of these are wonderful camera kits particularly for indoors and for portraits. If you try to buy this Pentax lens separately, it will cost $250!! No kit lens retails for more than $100 in my experience. Most of the kit lenses are not that great.
Canon EOS-M comes with a kit lens 22mm F2.0 STM lens. This is nice tiny camera which is as good as big bulky Canon consumer grade digital SLRs. It suffers with slow AF but the touch screen, AF during video, and the size that is so convenient to carry around, it is one of my favorite cameras I like to go out with these days.