They reckon that nowadays “Everyone is a photographer” and it is now definitely possible for anyone to produce some decent photography. With very useable cameras built into smartphones (some really are very good) and intelligent auto settings on pretty much any camera you buy, you can point-and-shoot your way to decent photos in most situations, but if you want to get more professional photographs it does pay to have some decent kit (not necessarily top-of-the-range), but more importantly, to have an idea about how to take control of your camera. So let’s have a quick look at different kinds of camera out there, then future posts will go into how to get the best out of your kit.
You can get really good results from Smartphone cameras now, but whilst some of the specifications appear to get close to hobby and enthusiast camera specs (we’ll look at some of these specs later), they don’t quite cut it if you are serious about taking photos that go beyond holiday snaps and selfies. However a decent smartphone is now a really useful addition to any photographer’s kit.
Recently the compact camera has become less popular as a result of the massive improvement in Smartphone cameras. If all you want is something to slip in your pocket, to point and shoot on holiday and at family events, why buy something separate when your phone has everything you need?
A Bridge Camera is a bit bulkier than a compact, so won’t slip in your pocket, usually it will have a pretty decent zoom lens that will allow you to get in close to distant objects, it’ll give you fairly high resolution pictures and you may be able to override some of the camera’s automatic functions. You can get some great results from a Bridge Camera, but it may not give you the total flexibility you need to really get serious.
‘Serious’ photography: DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex)
This is the kind of camera that serious hobby photographers and professionals use. It may look similar to a Bridge Camera, but there are some key differences. It’s bigger and heavier, it gives you the option to take total control of the settings and the lens can be removed and replaced with different ones for different types of shooting (telephoto for getting close to distant objects, wide angle, zooms and so on).
SLR cameras have been around since the 1930s and whilst most of us now shoot digitally instead of with film and modern SLRs have a myriad of hi-tech features, the principle is still the same – essentially you view the scene through the lens itself by virtue of a system based on a mirror inside the camera that lifts when the button is pressed to take the shot and the lenses are interchangeable.
DSLR cameras start off at just little over a couple of hundred pounds, right up to the high end professional models in the thousands. If you are serious about taking your photography to the next level, an ‘entry-level DSLR’ gives you everything you need to get going and learn.
Most DSLRs will come with a ‘kit lens’ (usually a basic zoom lens) and this is perfectly good to get started with and allows you some real flexibility. As you get into using your DSLR you may decide to add another lens or two depending on what type of photography you prefer.
Your camera will come with a rechargeable battery, a mains charger and a strap. There’ll probably be a couple of software CDs too. You’ll need a memory card (eg an SD Card) on which to store your photos.
In recent years, a new kid on the block has emerged, namely the mirrorless camera. Equivalent in price and quality as a DSLR, mirrorless systems are more compact than DSLRs, but still have interchangeable lenses and allow full control over exposure etc. The main difference is that you look through an electronic viewfinder (EVF) at an image taken from the camera’s sensor, unlike the DSLR’s mirror system (as explained above). Hence, Mirrorless.
So there you have it, that’s pretty much the range of camera types that are out there these days. And there are cameras that start at just a few pounds right up to range-topping models that will set you back a few thousand pounds! But you can pick up a fairly decent ‘entry-level’ DSLR for £250 – £400 that will get you started on the right track to getting more professional photographs.