Camera Buying Guide

Zone

Moderator
Great thread and well done snerkler :thumbsup:
 

snerkler

Member
Hi there, I wonder if anyone can help me and sorry if I posted this on the wrong thread. I'm hoping to buy my first CSC (having researched the various options, DSLR and Bridge are not for me). I've only ever had a standard compact before and the most knowledge I have of SLRs or compacts is from a brief course I went on (and promptly forgot). I want the camera as I'm going on a round the world trip in a few months and want to take some good quality photographs. I'll mostly be taking photos of landscapes, natural environments such as flowers, and perhaps people. I've no idea which to go for but want something small and not to heavy as I'm backpacking, and my budget is around £400. Something not too complicated but that can be added to or has more complex options when I learn more. I was considering the Olympus Pen EPL-5 - any reviews or other suggestions? Thanks :)
Sorry, only just seen this. I assume it's too late, but the Pen would be great for this.
 

shotokan101

Banned
Nice overview. What do you think of the new mirrorless sensors which are coming down the pipe?

do you mean the sensors with on-board AF sensors ? - if so it's "the next big thing" for mirrorless compacts as AF is the main area they lag in...
 

snerkler

Member
do you mean the sensors with on-board AF sensors ? - if so it's "the next big thing" for mirrorless compacts as AF is the main area they lag in...
Agreed, should be very interesting times. If mirrorless can match tracking AF and low light AF of high end DSLRs they will be very compelling indeed.

My issue I have with the mirrorless systems is for me the whole point is to be kept compact, this is why I'm biased towards the m4/3 systems. 'Nex' systems, and the Fuji X-T1 are borderline imo, but when you start to get to the A7 they're still bulky due to the lenses, and feel unbalanced. Therefore DSLRs still make more sense to me.

The sensors I'm more excited about is Sony's Active pixel colour sampling sensors which are said to offer 21 stops dynamic range, that's getting pretty close to the human eye, and is about 6 stops better than the best current DSLR. I believe they have already made some 4mp versions so knowing Sony it won't be too long before we start to see them in DSLRs. Hopefully they will still be supplying Nikon when they do so I can take advantage of them ;)
 

jarraman

Well-known Member
Thank you for posting this thread. Its extremely helpful, what with Xmas approaching. Any suggestions for a compact around the £200/300 mark for a beginner.
 

snerkler

Member
Thank you for posting this thread. Its extremely helpful, what with Xmas approaching. Any suggestions for a compact around the £200/300 mark for a beginner.
TBH if you're looking for a consumer compact camera (rather than a compact system camera with interchangeable lenses) they are all much of a muchness in terms of image quality so just have a look at a few and see which have menu systems and features (such as large zoom, panoramic features etc) that suit you best.

There are more 'enthusiast' orientated compact cameras that have larger sensors (so better image quality) and more manual controls (although can still be used in full Auto) but they tend to have shorter zooms and are more expensive. If you wanted a compact camera like this with the better image quality then I believe the RX100 and RX100 mark II would fall within budget if you are happy to buy second hand.
 

kenshingintoki

Distinguished Member
I want to take photos and do a few "gym edits".. so music over gym footage in an artistic fashion, holiday videos in an artistic fashion and nice photos.

I've researched and found that the panasonic G7 seems to meet my needs and as a plus has a 4k capability + doesnt have the bulk which dslr's have.

I can get it for £500 with a lens. Is there any better deal I should be doing?

I know a lot of people suggest getting a cheap body, expensive lens but since I want to do decent video, I think the body is needed?

My friend who has a fullframe said that APSC/fullframe aren't very portable, quite heavy etc. so might not be worth it for a first camera purchase.
 

markie g

Distinguished Member
I want to take photos and do a few "gym edits".. so music over gym footage in an artistic fashion, holiday videos in an artistic fashion and nice photos.

I've researched and found that the panasonic G7 seems to meet my needs and as a plus has a 4k capability + doesnt have the bulk which dslr's have.

I can get it for £500 with a lens. Is there any better deal I should be doing?

I know a lot of people suggest getting a cheap body, expensive lens but since I want to do decent video, I think the body is needed?

My friend who has a fullframe said that APSC/fullframe aren't very portable, quite heavy etc. so might not be worth it for a first camera purchase.
I have the G7 and i do love it, you can see a video i did here in 1080p also some picture image quality - Bridlington + Video

Few things to note if you are doing video. There is no stabilization in the body, so you will need a steady hand or stabilize in post if you are going to be doing alot of hand holding footage.

If you are going to do majority of video i't might be worth looking for a body with stabilization but this obviously depends on the look and feel you are trying to achieve.
 

snerkler

Member
I have the G7 and i do love it, you can see a video i did here in 1080p also some picture image quality - Bridlington + Video

Few things to note if you are doing video. There is no stabilization in the body, so you will need a steady hand or stabilize in post if you are going to be doing alot of hand holding footage.

If you are going to do majority of video i't might be worth looking for a body with stabilization but this obviously depends on the look and feel you are trying to achieve.
Does lens IS not help with video?
 

markie g

Distinguished Member
Does lens IS not help with video?
A bit, but i always found them still a bit shakey, but that could be me :p

Although i doubt you would get IS on a small focal length Panasonic lens i.e 20mm, 25mm and if you did they would be expensive.
 

snerkler

Member
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snerkler

Member
Thinking about it Olympus bodies give you the choice of whether to use IBIS or lens OIS if you have a Panny lens attached so I can only assume all OIS lenses' IS work.
 

AMc

Distinguished Member
Thinking about it Olympus bodies give you the choice of whether to use IBIS or lens OIS if you have a Panny lens attached so I can only assume all OIS lenses' IS work.
Fair enough - either one or the other makes sense.
IIRC the Olympus f4 300mm (perhaps some others) on the latest bodies will let you use both together. All academic with a Panasonic body :)
Anyway I think this has drifted well off topic for this thread ;)
 

topgazza

Distinguished Member
So, buyers remorse at selling my X-T1 but I wanted to try something else as I wasn't using it. I have a TZ and a Sony RX100 Mk1 and was looking at TZ100, LZ100, LZ15, Canon G7 X II and Sony RX100 Mk3 as a stop gap larger sensor camera. Then I realised my RX100 is tucked away in the draw and actually does the same as the others.

One thing that occurred is that not many of the current 1" and above compacts with fixed lenses are that new. I thought there would be a LZ100 II for instance. So I might as well get the RX100 out and use that as I was always impressed by the IQ and I loved the small size. Basically I need some simple basic things

1. Good IQ (natch)
2. EVF, if possible but not essential if tilting screen
3. Manual controls
4. Reasonable zoom 24-100 range or all points between

Not bothered about

1. WiFi although if it had it then fine
2. Video, I use it sometimes but its not my main driver
3. Touch Screen although I'd take it if there

Sort of an in between travel and compact system camera in capabilities 1" sensor minimum. But the new Sony's don't really add much more for me than the Mk1 and are getting to be silly pricing new. The G7 X II seem to have lots going for it but I think this is a market segment that is not well defined at the moment and is a bit of a mish mash of cameras. It should be a major section like travel compacts but the fixed lens area seems a bit complex to me.... with the only clear leader the RX range. So I might as well just stick to the RX for now ?
 

snerkler

Member
So, buyers remorse at selling my X-T1 but I wanted to try something else as I wasn't using it. I have a TZ and a Sony RX100 Mk1 and was looking at TZ100, LZ100, LZ15, Canon G7 X II and Sony RX100 Mk3 as a stop gap larger sensor camera. Then I realised my RX100 is tucked away in the draw and actually does the same as the others.

One thing that occurred is that not many of the current 1" and above compacts with fixed lenses are that new. I thought there would be a LZ100 II for instance. So I might as well get the RX100 out and use that as I was always impressed by the IQ and I loved the small size. Basically I need some simple basic things

1. Good IQ (natch)
2. EVF, if possible but not essential if tilting screen
3. Manual controls
4. Reasonable zoom 24-100 range or all points between

Not bothered about

1. WiFi although if it had it then fine
2. Video, I use it sometimes but its not my main driver
3. Touch Screen although I'd take it if there

Sort of an in between travel and compact system camera in capabilities 1" sensor minimum. But the new Sony's don't really add much more for me than the Mk1 and are getting to be silly pricing new. The G7 X II seem to have lots going for it but I think this is a market segment that is not well defined at the moment and is a bit of a mish mash of cameras. It should be a major section like travel compacts but the fixed lens area seems a bit complex to me.... with the only clear leader the RX range. So I might as well just stick to the RX for now ?
I went around the houses with a light travel camera. Started with Olly EM10 and 14-42mm pancake, upgraded to the Em5-II and 12-40mm f2.8, decided that it was too much money invested in a camera that only gets used a handful of times/year so sold it and bought the Sony RX100-3, didn't like it so tried the Canon G7x, preferred this but am too picky with IQ so tried the XT1, really liked the camera but didn't like the watercolour/painterly rendering of landscapes so now got the EM1 and 12-40mm f2.8 :facepalm:

Basically what I'm trying to show is that there isn't a perfect camera, let alone a perfect travel/lightweight camera. In the end I figured that IQ and handling was a priority, both of which the 1" sensor cameras don't offer me. Also, I found it more of a hassle sticking one of the large (for a pocket) RX100-3/G7x in a pocket, constantly having to take it out etc rather than just having my Olly on a sling strap and always ready to go. For me having the Olly on the sling strap is more comfortable than having a relatively heavy bulky compact in my pocket.
 

topgazza

Distinguished Member
Thanks Jim... I had seen that.

I agree Snerks with searching for something for a particular use. I like my X-T1 a lot and was happy with the IQ in general. Loved the colours and the consistency of the shots and the beautiful handling. But I just wasn't using it and rather someone else got some use out of it until I'm ready to get out and about again. Funny enough I like the handing of the RX...I know what its for and wanted a good IQ small camera and for me its probably the best. Tried a G7 X II this morning and liked it but in some ways its too similar to the Rx100. I like the 1" and the 4/3 sensors for everyday use rather than more serious picture taking. I also really liked the Panny LX100 as well. But again I realised I'm back to where I was starting this out years ago.

I have my TZ for the comp and family and also the RX100 Mk1 which is fine for that step up quality and walkabout camera. But no "main" camera. Then I wonder if I need one at the moment and if I do would something like the LX100 do and I only shoot JPEG most of the time. I love macro but even the RX takes good cropable shots. I miss my Sony A77 which was a great camera for me but not the collection of lenses and bits and pieces that made going out a decision process as to what to take. I guess I need to get involved again in photography but right now my mindset is a bit "meh" so a camera is a functional device rather than a hobby..... at the moment. But that will change I know..... and then what main camera will be a bigger issue...but a fun one. Probably go Fuji again.

In the meantime I have got used to having 3 cameras...why ?...... and maybe I should just use what I've got but if an LX100 came up for sale I might have a look. But I may as well wait until my mojo comes back and get back to APS-C and above.....

Thinking of the guide here, which is excellent, as you say there is no perfect camera. Although it always seems to be the last one I sold... :facepalm:

Any guide is hard as some of the cameras do a bit of one thing and others do something else. Its chosing the one that does the things you enjoy and use the most. We know that for everything practical a DSLR is still the way to go but the smaller cameras have come a long, long way and there are plenty of hybrid/crossover designs out there. I think its harder once you get experience of compact system or DSLR and a range of specialist pictures like macro or wildlife to choose an all round camera and be satisfied. Almost need a section for this covering compact system or micro 4/3 bodies with a single zoom lens as a new classification of camera. The small walkabout single lens system... thinking Oly or Sony A6000 type cameras. Mmmmm now theres something I should look at maybe ? :rolleyes::rolleyes:
 
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shotokan101

Banned
Came across this ;)

camera_infographic_web-770x995.jpg
 

IWC Dopplel

Distinguished Member
Great guide
 

binkobonko

Active Member
Nice recommendation on the “Understanding Exposure” book btw. Bought a copy last night, and just read a sample on my ‘phone. Really like the way he explains things. And while internet links are great and everything, nothing really beats a good book you can pick up and hold.
 

LucasT

Novice Member
Lately I've been answering many posts on which cameras people should buy, explaining the differences between them, and listing the pros and cons of each. I therefore thought it would be a good idea to make a thread about this so that anyone who wants to buy a camera could read it and get a basic understanding.

If people wanted to read it, notify me of any errors or wrong info (I don't profess to be the guru of all things camera related), or add any vital info that's missing, and then hopefully make it into a sticky?

Key

DOF
- Depth of Field; area of the image in focus
IQ- Image Quality
FF- Full frame; referring to the size of the sensor (part of the camera that captures the image). FF sensors are equivalent in size to the old 35mm film
APS-C - APS-C sized sensor, smaller than FF but still with excellent publishable IQ.

Smaller sensors have what is called a crop factor, please read here for more info.

For the purpose of this article I am not going to discuss medium and large format cameras as these are still a niche market. When I compare IQ across the cameras they are not compared to medium or large format.


Camera Buying Guide

Before we get started I think it’s important to remember a few things. Getting good pictures is primarily about the person behind the camera knowing what to do, don’t expect that buying expensive equipment automatically gets good pictures.

After technique, and of course light, arguably the two most important factors in getting the best images are the lens and the sensor (the part of the camera that captures the image, ie does the job that film used to). Generally the better the lens the better the image quality (IQ), and the bigger the sensor the better the IQ. Also the larger the sensor the better the low light performance in terms of the image looking less noisy/grainy, and the more control of depth of field (DOF) you will have (the amount of the image that is in focus). See this link for more info on sensors, including a diagram showing the relative difference in sizes. In recent years the gap between the IQ of the different sized sensors has been bridged and in certain situations it can be difficult to see the difference in IQ between a FF sensor and crop sensor for example.

You will see a lot of camera specifications having a ‘second’ 35mm specification listed. This refers to the old 35mm film cameras and this ‘second’ listing refers to how the camera would ‘behave’ if it were the old traditional 35mm film cameras. When making comparisons between cameras it is probably best to compare the 35mm equivalent listing as this is standard across all cameras. The most common 'equivalent' specifications are focal length (how much 'zoom' the lens has) and aperture, expressed as f-number. The larger the aperture, the more light is let into the camera and so the better it will perform at low light. Aperture will also affect DOF, but I'm not going to discuss this here. Just to confuse matters large apertures have small f-numbers, therefore a f2 lens will have a larger aperture than a f8 lens.

When buying cameras there can be a lot of brand ‘snobbery’ and personal preferences, therefore when buying a camera it is important to look with an open mind and decide what functions of the camera are more important to you. Layout of the controls and buttons vary dramatically from camera to camera, as do menu systems, screens, and also something that is often overlooked but very important, ergonomics. For these reasons it is always best to go to a store to try the camera before you buy.

How many Megapixels do you need? Don't be fooled by thinking the more MP you have the better the IQ will be as this is not necessarily the case. MP count is a bit of a contentious issue, but forcing too many MP onto a sensor can be detrimental to IQ and can introduce noise (used to be called grain in the film days). High MP count can be useful if you want to print very big, and/or you intend to crop the image heavily.

Right then, onto the cameras. This is not exclusive, but I’m going to cover the most common.



Compact Cameras

Most often we think of consumer compacts here. These are generally cheap, small, portable cameras that can offer quite large optical zooms. Generally they have the smallest sensors and so image quality is going to be at the low end, as is low light performance. That being said, in the right conditions they can still provide very good images indeed. Typically consumer level compacts have a sensor size of 1/2.3", but some offer slightly bigger sensors such as 1/1.7" and so will give marginally better IQ and low light performance.

Mobile phones can fit into the category of consumer compacts too, although zooms tend to be limited. Consumer compact cameras offer full automatic control, but only tend to offer limited manual control. Another thing to consider is that the majority of compact cameras do not have viewfinders, having an LCD screen only.

Recently compact cameras have been released that are aimed at the high-end amateur market sporting much bigger sensors (some have a full frame (FF) sensor which is approximately the same size as a 35mm film) and full manual control. These will produce much better image quality and low light performance. However, they tend to cost significantly more money, and zoom is limited. A very good compromise between size, cost and image quality is the 1" type compact cameras such as the Sony RX100 range and Canon G7x range.



Bridge Cameras

Bridge cameras are essentially consumer compact cameras in a different form, looking and feeling more like a DSLR camera. As they generally share the same sensors as compacts (1/2.3”), image quality and low light performance tends to be similarly at the low end of the spectrum. Other than the form of the camera, the other main differences between bridge cameras and compact cameras is that they can offer bigger zooms, allow full manual control and have viewfinders.

Recently bridge cameras have been released with larger sensors, such as the Sony RX10 which has the same 1” sensor as the RX100 mentioned above. However, once again they tend to be considerably more expensive.



Compact System Cameras (CSC’s), commonly referred to as Mirrorless Cameras.

These are cameras that fit somewhere between DSLR’s and compacts. They have interchangeable lenses like DSLR’s and some are much less bulky having a body not much bigger than a compact camera, whilst some have a body that looks like a smaller DSLR. They tend to have large sensors and so image quality can be very good indeed. CSC’s have varying sensor sizes, including the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) with a 4/3” sensor (Olympus and Panasonic G-series), APS-C sized sensor (Fuji and Sony A6xxx/A5xxx series) and more recently FF sensors offering outstanding IQ and performance. Sony have been leading the way with FF mirrorless but Nikon and Canon released FF mirrorless in 2018 and are set to produce some really good systems. Panasonic have also recently entered the FF mirrorless market but initial response is mixed.

Apart from form factor, CSC’s differ from DSLR’s in that they don’t have mirrors. Because of this they use a different focusing system than DLSR’s which has tended to be slightly slower, although some of the latest generations are said to match DSLRs, and some say some have surpassed DSLRs. CSC's also have other focussing tricks up their sleeves like eye autofocus where the camera can automatically detect and focus on a person's eye(s) in portraits etc. They also have manual focus aids such as peaking and zoom magnification.

A large number of CSC’s have a viewfinder, and tend to be electronic (EVF) rather than optical (OVF). Both EVF’s and OVF’s have pros and cons and is really down to personal preference. The main advantage of EVF's is that what you see if what you get, ie the image in the viewfinder is exactly the image that you will get. Also, you get focussing aids as just mentioned One issue with the EVF is that there is a lag, meaning that it can be more difficult when panning. With the latest generations of CSC's the lag is minimal to the point you don't really notice it, and for most people it won't be an issue. With an optical viewfinder you are looking through the lens and not seeing the final image, however you are getting a 'real' image (as opposed to looking at a small LCD like EVFs) and as a result there is no lag.


DSLR’s

Primarily there are two types of DSLR cameras, APS-C and Full Frame. APS-C DSLR’s have large sensors (typically in the region of 23.5mm x 15.6mm), whereas Full Frame DSLR’s have Full Frame sensors and, as already mentioned, are the equivalent size of the old 35mm film (approx. 36mm x 24mm). For this reason FF DSLR’s can provide the best image quality and have the best low light performance. Up until recently FF DSLR’s were primarily reserved for ‘pros’ or the very wealthy, but they are now becoming more affordable for the enthusiast to be able to afford them (although still a lot of money). Both APS and FF DSLR’s have their pros and cons.

FF DSLR’s , as already stated, can provide the absolute best in IQ, low light performance, and control of DOF. Also, when you get into the more expensive FF cameras they tend to have more features, have better focusing systems and better quality sensors providing even better IQ. The problems with FF DSLR’s are that they are expensive, bulky, heavy, and have less reach (think zoom) than APS-C DSLR’s and other cameras with smaller sensors. The reason for not having as much reach is that there is no crop factor (see this link for explanation of Crop Factor) so a 300mm lens will give a 300mm reach. Compare this to a 300mm lens on an APS-C Nikon
which gives the effective reach of 450mm due to the 1.5x crop factor of Nikon APS-C (1.5 x 300mm = 450mm)

APS-C DSLR’s have a smaller sensor than FF as already mentioned, but can still produce outstanding IQ and low light performance. To the untrained eye there is little to no discernible difference in IQ between APS-C and FF. They have the advantage over FF in that they are cheaper, less bulky, less heavy, and have a longer reach due to the crop factor as already mentioned. This is advantageous for those who want a long reach but without the weight and expense of very long telephoto lenses. There are APS-C DSLRs available that provide the 'pro level' features and build of the higher end FF DSLRs. The Nikon D500 is arguably the best example of this currently (true as of June 2019).

All DSLR’s have viewfinders, with most being OVF. Sony broke the mould by introducing EVF’s into their DSLR’s, which was made possible by their different mirror technology, at the expense of introducing a bit more noise. These cameras are actually called DSLT's rather than DSLRs but other than the tech behind the mirror they can be considered the same.


Sensor Size Comparison


camera-sensor-size-12
by TDG-77, on Flickr

Useful Links

Learn About Camera Equipment
Digital Photography Review
Welcome to Photozone!
Digital camera reviews, photography techniques, photography gallery and photography forums
KenRockwell.com: Photography, Cameras and Taking Better Pictures
Compare digital cameras - Snapsort



Here's some good links for guides into photography for those wanting to learn the basics.

Understanding ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture - A Beginner's Guide

Understanding ISO - A Beginner's Guide

Understanding Aperture - A Beginner's Guide

Understanding Shutter Speed - A Beginner's Guide

Understanding Metering and Metering Modes



Cambridge in Colour - Photography Tutorials & Learning Community


Understanding Digital Camera Histograms: Tones and Contrast

Understanding Digital Camera Histograms: Luminosity and Color

Understanding Camera Metering and Exposure

Making the Most of Natural Light in Photography




The Basics of Light for Photography - Pinkbike


Ultimate Exposure Computer



Also, this book is good. Goes over a lot of the stuff from the links above, but nice to have as reference. I got it for a tenner off amazon so worth looking to see if it comes up on offer.

Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera: Amazon.co.uk: Bryan Peterson: Books



P.S. Zone, I don't know if you could bump this up so that it follows the first post?






This is all very useful information! Thank you! :)
 

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