Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Camera Buying Guide
For whatever reason, friends and acquaintances have started coming to me when they're in the mood for a new camera. I'm not sure that this is such a great idea since I haven't purchased a camera myself in over a year and a half and am slightly out of touch with the current market, but enough people are asking that I figured I'd publicize my two cents.
A caveat: generally speaking, I support Canon unreservedly and wholeheartedly. There's really no rhyme or reason to this -- though I find that a majority of pro photographers have an equally strong sense of brand loyalty to one of the other (also, frequently, without any particular logic) -- but now that I've invested in a Canon body and a small army of Canon lenses, there's no going back. As a result, when someone comes to me looking to start buying a camera system from scratch I'm more likely to suggest Canon equipment over its Nikon counterparts.
When it comes to bodies, I think the market is divided into four distinct tiers:
Point-and-Shoot: Unfortunately, this is probably the category about which I'm least informed and most frequently queried. My last PaS was a first-generation Canon PowerShot S70 from 2003, and while it was a remarkably durable and reliable little machine (I still carry it around when I want a camera handy but can't deal with a full SLR), I'm pretty sure it's grossly out of date. For a while, I referred people to PC World's buying guide, but I have to make a few qualifications. If you're just looking for a compact and reliable PaS and don't particularly care about manual control, then by all means buy a Fuji or Kodak. Otherwise, stick with the big camera names; you'll become more familiar with how the camera system works for when you upgrade. I'm personally a big fan of the 12.1 MP titanium Canon PowerShot SD950 IS, but there are scores of cameras available for every price range.
Amateur DSLR: Entry-level DSLRs are getting better and better. I shot with a Canon Rebel for about a year and was largely unimpressed, but the updated Rebel XTi is a solid camera. That being said, I think this is the one case in which I would actually recommend Nikon over Canon if someone is looking for a truly basic DSLR. The Nikon D40X is less expensive and slightly lower-end, but certainly more than adequate for anyone looking to get into photography without spending too much. And the added benefit of starting with Nikon is that lenses tend to be much cheaper -- which makes a huge difference when you've started to eye those telephoto, wide, and portrait lenses.
Semi-Pro DSLR: Right now, I'm shooting at the lower end of semi-pro cameras, largely because Canon and Nikon have come out with so many upgrades over the past year and a half. That being said, my trusty 30D has served me well, and is now easily available for about half of what I paid for it. I've played with a friend's 40D and found it to be a wonderful upgrade, and then there's the almost-pro 5D -- which, while a very nice camera (and has the added benefit of taking Canon's EF lenses) is probably due for an upgrade sometime very soon.
Pro DSLR: If you're actually in the market for a pro camera and you're coming to me for advice, you're severely misguided. I can tell you what I want, but otherwise you're going to have to check back in the spring of 2009 after I've graduated from college and (fingers crossed) have a job with the Associated Press.