The Monger Travels Gide to Photography continues today with camera types. I know I am boring the shit out of everyone with technical aspects of cameras and I’m just now getting to cameras themselves. This is where you can have a religious schism (look it up) take place and holy wars erupt. Camera nerds love fucking camera brands. You can’t mix a Nikon user with a Canon user and not have one of them whip out their camera dick and try and prove its bigger and been in more pussy than the other. For some reason brand loyalty means logic and reason get tossed out the fucking window. Here is the thing about cameras. They are all pretty much the same shit on the inside. Think of them like a screwdriver. There is zero difference between a Craftsman Screwdriver versus a Stanley Screwdriver. They both do the same thing, screw shit in and they are good at what they do. You may have a brand preference but reality is the outcome is going to be the same, the screw gets put in.
With that out of the way I ‘m going to touch on the various types of camera out there today. If you have a brand preference good for you. I have used Sony Canon, Fuji’s Olympus, and Panasonic. Yes, I am missing a Nikon but that is because I invested in Canon lenses and once you make that investment you aren’t going back unless you switch completely and at an insane loss of money and since I’m a minority that sees cameras for what they are, fucking tools I’m not going to dump my Canon lenses just because the new Nikon sensor renders reds better by 1%. While I’m exaggerating the differences between the two they are preferences and nothing more. A non-lying photographer will tell you the same.
I’m going to hammer this point home to you again, a camera is a tool and nothing more. The brand of the camera does not matter. What does matter is the quality of the camera. Using the screwdriver analogy, you can buy some no name screwdriver and it may work great but there will come a time when it fucks up and breaks. Cameras are the same. You may get away with the $49.99 cheap Chinese camera but eventually it will turn to shit. Do you really want those jizz shots blurred out because you cheaped out on the camera? Big Daddy had a shit camera for his first Asia trip. The shots sucked not because he was a shit photographer, the camera itself was a steaming pile of shit. So remember, you get what you pay for here. Invest a little more so you photographs come out!
There are some things to remember when buying whatever camera you plan on purchasing. The consumer psyche has been molded to know that bigger numbers usually means better when describing something and how it works. We went through this with megapixels and everyone had to have the 7,000 megapixel (mp) uber camera. What photographers started to figure out that just because you have a high megapixel count does not mean you are going to get a quality image out of it. The reality is its the sensor thats powering the camera that produces the images, not the pixel count. Early digital cameras were like 1 to 2 megapixels and digital cameras took stride when they hit 6mp. So having a camera with a shit ton of megapixels isn’t meaningful, its the sensor that is in it versus the pixel count. I have a 10mp camera that can crush most $1000+ cameras because the sensor in it was designed to maximize those 10mp. Remember this lessons, don’t get sucked into the megapixel battle. Look at image quality and what the sensor can do versus the pixel count.
The final lesson in sensors before I start breaking down cameras is the various types that are out there. This can be mind numbingly dull so I’m going to try and put it into English so everyone understands. To keep it simple there are two types of sensors, full frame sensors which capture an image at 35mm which measures out at 35×24 (like film) and then there are crop sensors which average out at 28.1×18.7 that are smaller than 35mm hence the name. There is math involved with how the sensor affects the focal length of a camera and so on. Just assume that unless you spent nearly $2000 or more on your camera you have a crop sensor. Here is the down and dirty on a crop sensor. All sub-$1000 cameras are crop sensors and if they are DSLRs that means the crop is somewhere between 1.5 and 1.7 depending on your manufacturer. So if you are shooting with a 1.5 crop on a 50mm lens to get your true field of view you multiple that 50mm by 1.5 which really means 75mm. Now you can buy lenses designed for crop sensors and they keep the field of view the same but just assume if you are on a crop your field of view shifts but you are still effectively shooting at 50mm for the cameras purpose.
There is also a class of sensors called four-thirds and micro four-thirds sensors (exact same sensor just different mount) which are a 2.o crop and the sensor size is 17.3 x 13mm. These cameras have all the features of a DSLR and can produce equally stunning images. The 2.0 crop makes figuring out field of view extremely easy. If your lens says 25mm you are really shooting a 50mm lens. These sensors have started to take the world by storm recently and manufacturers that don’t use them have adapted a lot of the tech that went into them into their own crop sensors
Moving on to the smaller compact cameras you have a 1/1.7 inch sensor and a 1/2.3 inch sensor. I have used both and the enthusiasts compact which is the more expensive compacts usually have the 1/1.7 sensor and tend to run over $300. The 1/2.3 sensor is usually in the sub $300 camera category and is usually what you get in a cell phone and the cheaper point and shoot cameras. There is nothing wrong with either of these sensors but you need to know what you are doing with your camera and understand the settings that I explained earlier.
Here is the list:
Smart Phone Camera: I’ll be the first to say I bought a iPhone 5S so I could have the camera in it. The Samsung Galaxy S4 also has a stunning camera in it as well. The smart phone camera is eating the compact camera market like no tomorrow. It’s created a culture of selfies and wanna be photographers who think they know what they are doing but lack the technical understanding that is required to produce consistently good images. Yes, I come across as a camera snob and I’m fine with that. There is a time to use your cell phone to take a picture and there is a time not to. I leave it up to you to figure out which is which.
Compact Camera: These are your average point and shoot cameras you see at most electronic stores. They are a dying breed as the smart phones have pushed them out of the buying conscience. Why have two devices when you can carry one? To be honest I agree but I’m a photo snob and I know it. I think the compact camera that is $150 or above is going to give you a better result than a smart phone. To try and compete with the smart phone to make sharing images quickly, they have included WiFi into them now and you can easily transfer photos from your camera to your phone for quick upload.
Enthusiast Compact Camera: This is where the lines start to get blurred between DSLR’s and compacts. If I had to recommend a camera to someone that wanted the benefit of DSLR without the headache of lenses. These cameras aren’t cheap but they are less than a DSLR when you factor in lenses. First off, they tend to have the larger 1/1.7″ sensor which gives a superior image versus the usual compact and smart phone. You have adjustable aperture that is controlled by the shooter along with shutter speed and ISO meaning you have the final say in your image and not what the camera programmers assumed is best using an algorithm. They tend to have an impressive built-in lens that is extremely fast and tends to be consistently fast throughout the zoom. For you guys wanting to shoot that jizz on the ass shot in a darker room you can set your camera to f/2.0 and ISO 800 and bump that shutter speed to 1/60 to get it stable. What did I just describe was full manual mode shooting. So you have the power of a DSLR without the additional costs and learning curve of one. The downside is that your sensor is smaller than the typical DSLR. You are going to see this in your image quality if you push the camera to the very edge. Things aren’t going to be as sharp and the focus won’t be as fast. However, for the casual shooter wanting more than a camera phone and compact, this is the camera range for you. The current king of the crop is the Sony RX-100M II with a sensor that will make some DSLR’s drool an an extremely fast 1.8 Zeiss lens that goes from 28-100 and keeps that 1.8 throughout. The price tag new is $750 give or take a few dollars here or there. Remember, you get what you pay for and you are paying for the top of the line.
Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera: Think of these as baby DSLRs. They either use a crop sensor or a four thirds sensor depending on who makes them. What does that mirrorless interchangeable crap mean? Without more mind numbing technical chat, DSLR’s have a mirror in them that goes up and down when you take a picture. The noise your hear when someone takes a picture with one is the mirror flapping as the aperture blades up and close on the camera. Mirrorless cameras don’t have that flappy mirror making that noise. These cameras have all the features of a DSLR and usually a price tag to match along with the extra cost of buying lenses. The big two Canon and Nikon have half ass offerings in this range but the second tier makers have embraced it as their new money maker. The beauty of the mirrorless camera is that its lighter and less bulky because you don’t have to accommodate as many moving parts (I’m really glossing shit over here if you are a camera nerd so don’t nit pick). You get the benefit of selecting your lenses for what you are shooting and you aren’t tied to whatever the the manufacturer preselected in your compact camera.
DSLRs Camera: The gold standard of cameras if you are a photo nerd. Well, the fading gold standard. These are the big honking cameras you see people walking around with. These are the cameras that inherited the earth when film died out and digital took over. They are the photographers weapon of choice for all things photography. You have the benefit of a vast lens selection and the ability to change your camera settings to shoot in any situation. The downside is once you start moving past the kit lens which is what usually comes with your camera and start investing in decent lenses your initial $1000+ investment just because $3000 in a hurry. If you are serious you don’t blink, if you are casual you have a status symbol that looks good but isn’t much better than that $750 Sony and to be honest, if you don’t know what you are doing that $750 Sony will clean most DSLRs clocks if the owner doesn’t know what they are doing.
Fixed Lens DSLR Camera: This has been a relatively new trend in digital but was common back in the film day. There was once a camera that ruled the earth called a rangefinder. This rangefinder had a viewfinder to the left side of the camera, the lens was a fixed focal length and not changeable, but you could adjust your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to accommodate the shooting environment. These are starting to make a comeback with the Fuji X100 starting the trend and others jumping on board. They have all the features of a DSLR including a crop sensor but your lens is fixed at whatever focal length the manufacturer put on it. There are some exceptions to this in regards to the fixed lens. The Leica M class cameras are interchangeable. If you want to spend the same money that could buy you a mid-priced car and I’m not joking then you can get a Leica and they are built like tanks, produce fantastic images and are camera porn for anyone into cameras. Did I mention the price? Seriously, they start at like $7000 for a body only and the lenses tend to be $1000+ at the low end. If you aren’t in that price range then you can look at the Panasonic GX7 which is a range finder body and uses micro four-third lenses. Body will set you back $1000 with lenses ranging from $199 to $1299.
I’ll touch on bridge cameras quickly. These are basically compact cameras that look like DSLR’s. When it was the rage to look like you had the balls to carry a DSLR but not the knowledge or money you got a bridge camera. Look, when I travel I go for portability anymore so I’m not going to fucking hump a DSLR looking compact when I can take a compact and toss it into my backpack and get the same results. If you think you are cool with the bridge camera all yours. The camera snobs will mock you and only the clueless will fawn all over you. If you have stuck with me so far on this photographic odyssey then you know better than to buy one.
Next up on this adventure is camera systems and what it means to basically be brand locked in if you move up from the compact to a interchangeable lens camera. Stick with me people. I know its boring and I’m the writer but I have started to get to the part where most of you ask me questions. This section while boring covers the cameras out there. The next is what happens when you make the leap to the traditional bodies. Remember, if you are bothering to take the picture, make it worth while.