Wednesday, July 13, 2016

If I had a nickle...

... for every time someone asked me, "What camera should I buy?", I would be having a more lucrative retirement.


As a professional photographer for over 30 years, I was asked that question all the time.  It used to be easy... back in the film days... "Well, I use Hasselblads.  I have a Nikon system, but I rarely use 35mm.  I think all the current cameras are pretty decent, but you know it is the person running the camera that determines how good the image will be, right?"

It wasn't a hobby, the cameras were my tools.

Then came digital.  And the question changed to: "Should I buy a digital camera or stay with film?"

We were early adopters of the digital technology.  It was outrageously expensive to get professional quality equipment, so that made the questions easier to answer.  An example: a 1 gig memory card was $400... "How much film do you use?"  Our first pro digital cameras were more expensive than a Hasselblad and a couple lenses.

About the time we retired, prices were getting more affordable.  Small digital cameras were crappy, but for about $2k you could get a DSLR, then add a couple lenses.  And, they had auto-focus and auto-exposure.

The DSLR technology trickled down... you could get an entry level DSLR for around $500, and it could produce images that had been in the realm of the pro stuff from just a few years earlier.  Digital point & shoot (pocket cameras) equipment was adequate and affordable.

Then... cell phone cameras got better.  In fact, the cell phone camera is enough camera for a majority of people these days.  That kicked "the bottom" out of the digital camera market.

Is a cell phone camera enough?  For me, rarely.  No zoom - pretty much a wide angle, fixed focus lens is all you get with a phone.  It doesn't matter how many megs the file is if you have to crop the heck out of it to see the subject.  I see people taking photos with their phones all the time on the whale watch boats... that whale that is 200 yards away is going to be a dot.  Expand the view so you can see it better, and you have a mushy dot.

You really need a camera that has a focusing lens and some degree of zoom (or interchangeable lenses).

Which brings me back to the original question: "What camera should I buy?"

I have a couple DSLRs, but don't often care to tote around that bulk.  I like pocket cameras.  The down side: small sensors and they wear out.  In the last 10 years, I seem to get a couple years out of a camera before it just craps out... won't focus, the lens doesn't operate smoothly.  The plastic stuff just doesn't hold up like a metal body and a titanium shutter in a professional camera.

My latest pocket camera (a "super zoom" Canon) is about dead - more shots are out of focus than are in.  The lens cover blades are bent and kinked.  The mechanism that holds the memory card in place, doesn't.  I am not easy on these little cameras - they get tossed in a pack, carried in a pocket, turned on and off a bunch of times each day.  In the cold, and the heat.  Put in a plastic bag and carried on a kayak.  Dangled from the wrist strap on the scoots... yeah, and probably banged around some.  Sometimes I am surprised they last as long as they do.

It is time.  I have spent a lot of my free time on these days off doing my "every two years research."  Seems that everyone is looking to be YouTube expert... you have to wade through a lot of stuff to get to the real info, even on the manufacturer sites.  I am looking for small, a decent size sensor (1" or 4/3), and a decent zoom lens.  I have been buying Canon pocket cameras, but this last one was pretty mediocre, so I am looking at the Panasonic Lumix line with Leica lenses.  A longer zoom means a smaller sensor... a bigger sensor means less zoom capability.  A Catch-22 situation with small cameras.

I shoulda been saving those nickels.  ;-)


Michael Bayles said...

I have an micro four thirds Olympus OMD E5II with a Oly Pro 12-40MM Zoom (24-80 full frame equivalent) I am not a pro but am a long time enthusiast who migrated from Canon DSLR. Camera / Lens is "weathered sealed" and I like it a lot. Camera has many many ways to customize it. It's really a computer but it sure does look like a camera.
Michael aka BoodaLu

Captain Jim and the Blonde said...

Hey Michael. I have been looking at all the 4/3 cameras, as well. I would like more zoom than 24-80. The Lumix ZS100 has 25-250. A 1" sensor, though, not 4/3. Like boats, cameras are a collection of compromises, too. Size/lens capability/speed/aperture/features/price. Seems that all the major manufacturers have varying options. Decisions, decisions.

Hudson River Boater said...

That's all Japanese to me and my Wife is half Japanese-- I still enjoy reading your Blog Cap'n..

Captain Jim and the Blonde said...

Thanks, HRB. Like boating, photography has its own technology and jargon. I keep looking for that camera folks talk about: the one that "takes good pictures." ;-)