This is one question that I get asked a lot. Previously, my first approach to tackling this question would be to ask the following questions:
What are you planning to photograph?
When do you plan to use it?
How much are you willing to fork out?
These days, I feel compelled to approach the question in a very different manner. In an age where phones are doing a great job taking all types of photos ranging from portraits to landscapes AND giving you the ability to upload them instantaneously to a variety of social media channels, it has become more important to analyse how we use cameras. More importantly, with a plethora of mobile editing apps such as Adobe Photoshop Express, Pixlr and Snapseed that give your the ability to edit and even create composite images from the palm of your hand it becomes more apparent on understanding the ever important question which was not asked before:
What is your purpose in getting a new camera?
If your answer is to take better travel snaps to share with friends and family and upload to social media, the answer is to learn to take better images with your phone as a start. I don’t mean to discourage you from buying a gleaming new camera. But of all the people (more than 20) who have asked me about buying new cameras and comparing modes, ISO capabilities, lens choices and a whole lot of hullabaloo, I can only think of 2 people whose cameras have not been buried deep inside a dust cabinet never to see the light of day again. Quite unfortunate considering they were built for the purpose of seeing light after all!
One reason why this happens is that cameras can get overwhelming very quickly. Want to take a great landscape? Get a tripod. Want some buttery bokeh? Get a fast lens? Going on a long trip? Don’t forget extra batteries, a charger and spare memory cards. Need to protect all this gear? Get a good backpack. Living in a humid region (hello Darwin)? Get a dry cabinet. All this said and done, most people start to realised what a mammoth task it is to actually pack camera equipment for a holiday and soon after, cameras get left behind much like Macaulay Culkin. To be fair to him, it was an accident… in a movie… The same can’t be said about forgotten cameras.
Another reason, and this is a big one, is that most people fail to understand the process of getting a photo from your camera to social media (if that’s your objective) . First you need to transfer the photos from your memory card to your laptop/PC/Mac. Then you need to use an editing software like Lightroom or Photoshop or CaptureOne or iPhoto to edit the images. Then you need to think about storage (hello 6tb hard disk) and file management for the 2000+ files you captured during your trip. Oh and you need to review each and every one of the 2000+ files you took to pick out the good ones. Its pretty much at this stage where most people wave the white flag. These files sit in the digital graveyard, rotting for years hoping for a hard disk failure to put their digital souls to rest.
It all sounds very dire. But rather than spend anywhere upwards of a 1000 dollars to get a new camera, it is important to first understand the process involving image capture. Cameras have yet to integrate software adaptions similar to phones. I can only think of a few cameras that have an Instagram or Facebook app in camera. So if you are planning to get a new camera, take time to go through the thought process of gear management and file management.
Once you understand this, by all means go ahead and get that new camera staring at you from the shiny glass shelf with its cycloptic puppy eye.
Do you have a camera that you regret purchasing? Did you buy a camera that made you fall in love with photography so much? I would like to hear your thoughts either ways.