How to choose the right camera?
How to choose the right camera might be a challenging question, especially if you are thinking about how to choose your first camera. This post is not to discuss what is the very best camera on earth. This post is about a simple approach I used myself on how to choose the right camera, depending on what you are looking for.
What do you want the camera for?
Yes, it might seem obvious, but it is not a random question. I started taking pictures with my phone’s camera and they were great. However, at some point, I realized that more and more frequently I started to bump into one severe limitation of my phone’s camera – getting great pictures with low light. The bottleneck appeared to be the size of the sensor of my phone’s camera – the smaller the size of the sensor, the less data it can collect about what you are trying to shoot. To make a long story short – either you keep your camera very still for a while and hope that nothing on the photo will move until you finish taking the photo, or you go for a camera with a larger sensor that would collect the same amount of data in a shorter period of time.
What about the Megapixels?
You might say “oh! but my phone/camera has a zillion Megapixels, thus, it will take the best photos ever!”. False. The amount of data you will be getting in the sensor of your camera will be the same because the megapixels is the number of little cells on the surface of your camera’s sensor that are able to capture data individually. That is, taking sensor A and sensor B of exactly the same size, if sensor A has 24 Megapixels and sensor B has 12 Megapixels, this means that the pixels in sensor A are 2 times smaller than in sensor B.
What’s the takeaway from this? If you want the sensor of your camera to capture more data when you are taking a photo, your first priority should be going for the largest sensor size you can afford (and you need), and then start thinking about the pixels.
I’m confused, let’s be less nerdy!
Ok, in a nutshell – companies need to sell phones, cameras, etc. Increasing the number of pixels in cameras allows companies to pitch you their devices as “Look! We doubled the number of pixels of the camera! So now we expect you to think that the camera is 2 times better than what you previously had, so it’s a good excuse for you to upgrade your gear!”
Please, don’t be fooled. As an educated customer, your first reaction should be “Oh, really?… Let’s use some common sense.” If at the moment when a new product is announced you go to YouTube, you’ll find many people reviewing the new camera and telling you that you basically have to buy it because it’s the greatest breakthrough in terms of technology of humankind. These are the same guys that will include affiliated links in their profiles directing you to online stores that will pay them a commission if you buy the product following their referral. Interestingly, if you go through other product reviews they did you’ll quickly realize that we should be proud of the times we are living – every minor improvement appears to be also “the greatest breakthrough of humankind”. I hope you get the idea…
Final thoughts on how to choose the right camera
Once it is clear that the bigger the camera sensor you can afford, the better, and you think now everything is clear in that sense, don’t forget about the main trade-off that you’ll need to consider: image quality vs the size of the “brick” you’ll be carrying with you while hunting for photos. Some of the best pictures I took were with my mobile phone camera – because we always carry our phones with us and it allows us to capture moments that otherwise, we would have missed. Now, how large can be the camera that you would be ready to be carrying with you as it was a “mobile phone”? And there you have the key question to answer. You will miss that magic shoot in both situations – when you carry with you a camera that can’t still do the job, or when you are not carrying with you that professional camera that you left at home, because you could not carry it with you all the times.
Get the camera with the largest sensor size you can afford AND that you’ll be ready to carry with you, taking into consideration how much space and weight it will take together with its lense mounted. For that, also think about the extra mile you are willing to go for the possibility to capture “something” that you currently can’t with your camera.
PS: At the end of the day, your camera will be just a technological device that will capture whatever you point it at. You might be wondering what is actually the real difference between sensors’ size to again, engage your common sense and make an educated decision about your camera. Next is one of the most valuable videos I found when doing my research about the world of photography to understand it.