Travel and wildlife photographer George Turner breaks down the different styles of cameras out there and explains how you can pick the right camera for your needs.
Hunting for a new camera can seem quite daunting, especially with so many options available in the market. Now, with so many people having camera phones, it’s more important than ever to know why investing in a ‘proper’ camera is worth every penny.
Compact cameras are the most affordable point of entry. These are the traditional “point and shoot” which do all the leg work for you. Lenses are non-removable, meaning your ability to zoom (and retain quality) are limited. Still, these are a sizeable upgrade on any phone camera and worth it if you’d like to print travelling snaps.
Then we have bridge cameras, also known as “superzooms”. You’ll have seen these marketed by the big camera brands, zooming right into the moon. The reality is that you won’t need this feature but it’s very useful for any once-in-a-lifetime safari-type trips. Again though, lenses are not interchangeable. If you’re looking to try out different types of photography – for example portraiture, macro – your options will be limited.
Now, DSLRs. This is where it starts to get complicated, so hold onto your hats. Standing for Digital Single Lens Reflex, these are – without a shadow of a doubt – the best-quality camera you’ll find anywhere. As a rule of thumb, DSLRs have the highest-quality components, the widest range of interchangeable lenses and of course naturally, the highest price attached.
The big brands – Nikon and Canon, for example – tend to divide their DSLRs into three basic categories. First, the entry level. Typical examples would be the Nikon D3400 or the Canon EOS 6D, which are user friendly with intuitive displays. While a large percentage of users would shoot on auto-mode, they also offer an opportunity to experiment with manual mode. That is, try out long exposures (slow shutter speed), shoot in low light (adjustable ISO), and so on. They’ll also come with a kit lens which an ‘all-rounder’, useful for landscape, portrait, and domesticated wildlife… such as your cat!
Next up, the middle-of-range-cameras, such as the Nikon D7200 or the Canon EOS 80D. These are the older brothers and sisters of the entry-level, with bigger sensors (higher quality), better operation for using on manual mode and of course, a higher price point. If you’re wanting to take your photography more seriously, or looking to upgrade from entry-level, these are absolute winners for you.
Then we have the full frame cameras. These are generally thought of as semi-pro or pro DSLRs. The biggest sensors and most megapixels (for the most part) make for some fantastic cameras. Moreover, their ability and performance in low-light (ISO) set full-frames apart. This means that when photographing deer at dusk, you won’t have the same grain (or, noise) as a crop-frame and certainly not a compact camera.
Finally, mirrorless. For the most part, these have the capability of a middle-range DSLR packed into the body/size of a compact camera. If you’re conscious about lugging around bulky camera bodies but don’t want to sacrifice on quality, these should be your go to. Leading the charge is Sony, closely followed behind by Fujifilm and Olympus. As of yet, these are yet to reach the heights of high-end full-frames but regardless, they do an amazing job.
When making your choice, consider your current level and how far you’d like to take your photography. If you’re seeing longevity in it, go for an entry-level DSLR. These will carry you a decent distance without as high of a cost risk that middle-range and full-frame bring. If you’re quite contented with decent quality hiking snaps, compact/bridge might be your choice. Now you just need to figure out how to become a better adventure photographer!
George Turner is a 20-something wildlife and landscape photographer. When not out in the woodlands of his home county in Dorset, he can be found anywhere between the savannahs of Kenya and wetlands of Zambia. See www.georgetheexplorer.com or follow him on Instagram via @GeorgeTheExplorer (landscape) and @GeorgeBTurner (wildlife). He uses a Nikon D810 with a variety of lenses.