What's Right for You: Purchasing Tips
Purchasing a camera is a big decision, and it's not always easy to get clear, straight -forward information about all of the different choices in front of you. This page is to help simplify the process by briefly describing the options with their pro's and con's.
And once you have found the right camera, there is the next matter of how to get the most out of it. Our new cameras have almost limitless potential. But at the same time, they are becoming more sophisticated and complicated all the time. Often camera owners (of all levels of experience) are interested in obtaining instruction to get started or to take their photography to the next step, but are unsure which class best fits their needs. Below is a quick guide to help you see what is a good match for you.
While digital cameras may seem a bit intimidating at first, with a little instruction, they are a true delight.
Which Camera is Right for You?
DSLR (digital single lens reflex)
Advantages: For those who are excited about making the most of digital photography, the DSLR gives the biggest bang for the buck. Their lifespan is 3 or 4 times longer than the typical point-and-shoot camera. These are sturdy cameras that don't break down easily. DSLR's give the very important option of allowing the photographer to view directly through the lens, rather than using a LCD. The advantages in framing and seeing true depth-of- field are huge. Another important advantage is the ability to change lenses -to go, for instance, from birds (telephoto) to insects (macro) to the grand landscape (wide angle). These features more than make up for the bulk and even the expense of the DSLR.
Ease of Use: While learning to take advantage of the manual controls takes some time and instruction, the automatic mode makes it possible to use the camera right out of the box.
Limitations: The main limitations for DSLR's is their bulk and weight. The price may also be a factor for some.
Price: A typical starter model, with plenty of options to keep you going for a long time, costs between $500 and $800 for body and one lens. Depending on your needs you may buy additional lenses separately.
Advantages: These little cameras make marvelous traveling companions. They are just right for snapping children and babies, parties and nature scenes - perfect for saving all those wonderful memories. And many are small enough to fit in your pocket . These compact wonders provide the color and resolution you need for so many of your photography needs. Some controls let you adjust color temperature and exposure.
Limitations: Point-and-shoots also have their limitations. Their sensors, which capture the light from the lens, are much smaller and less sensitive to light than a typical DSLR. The result is that you cannot blow up your pictures as much without significant loss of sharpness. You cannot view through the lens, making framing and focus less reliable. In addition, most point-and-shoots do not allow control of depth-of-field (the exception are medium sized point-and-shoots with telephoto lenses.)
Point-and-shoots sometimes have frustrating shutter lag, which means there's a slight delay between the time you push the button and the picture is captured.
Ease of Use: These cameras are quite easy use. Many owners want to take their photography to more artistic directions, and these cameras are great for photography lessons that deal with composition, lighting and stop action.
Price: Very affordable - $100 to $300.
Non Optical DSLR Hybrids
Advantages: These cameras are small and compact given their prodigious zoom capabilities (often with as much magnification as binoculars) They often look like smaller DSLR's . They might suit a photographer interested in sports or birding.
Limitations: While sometimes confused with DSLR's, these hybrids do not have interchangeable lenses. They have view finders, however the viewing is via a LCD, meaning it is not optically through the lens, making both focusing and dept-of-field more challenging.
Ease of Use: Easy to use, but can be frustrating because they have so much zoom they are hard to keep still, especially in low light.
Price: $300 to $500
Hybrid Open Source Cameras
Advantages: These cameras are compact and offer interchangeable lenses and high resolution. Their sensors are larger than other point-and-shoot cameras, but are smaller than a typical DSLR. Street photographers enjoy their fast capture and maneuverability. The manufacturers have provided an electronic eye piece instead of an optical view finder, thus removing the need for the reflex mirror housing .They trade size for overall flexibility. The result is a small high-quality camera that can accept lenses from different manufacterers (via adapters). With many fixed lenses they give you excellent control of depth-of-field.
Limitations: The sensors are still not as large as on most DSLR's which means lower overall image quality (still good though!) In low light the smaller sensor will make your pictures noisier (grainier). Some people will find the compact size is worth the trade off with optical viewing. Some people, however, prefer a sharper image than the electronic eyepiece can provide.
Ease of Use: Easy. Because it allows such a great choice of lenses, it is a good option for those interested in exploring various aspects of photography.
Price: $500 to $800
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Which Class is Right for You?
DSLR ONLY: If you have just obtained a DSLR (or dusted off one that's been sitting on the shelf for a while) the Fundamentals Series is for you.
Fundamentals 1: Camera Operations is for students who are just starting out, or want a good review of the basic camera functions.
Fundamentals 2: Applications is for students who have some comfort with the camera and want to start applying their skills to expand their photographic range.
Fundamentals 3: Lighting Across the Genres is considered an intermediate course and goes deeply into lighting to make your pictures really stand out.
POINT AND SHOOT/HYBRID. These cameras are so varied, it is not practical to learn basic camera operations in a group. Private lessons make sense for those who want to become comfortable using their cameras and learn to take great pictures.
ALL CAMERAS: For students looking for interesting ideas to take their picture-taking in creative new directions, classes and workshops that cover special topics are appropriate. Examples are Abstraction, Night Photography, Landscape, Photojournalism, and Babies & Children. These classes are good for DSLR, point-and-shoot and hybrids.
ALL CAMERAS For photographers of all levels who love to get out and take pictures of new places, the Photo Field Trips are a great option. The instructor is available to give tips and guidance as needed.