"Which Camera Should I Buy?" [UPDATE]

[This is an update to a previous post from 5 years ago. A lot has happened since then.]I’ve owned and used regularly a lot of different cameras., from point & shoot to medium format beasts I’ve carted them all over the world, sometimes regretting it. Based on my 6 months+ with the iPhone 14 Pro Max, I can now say with conviction that for every single person who has asked me, and likely for 95% of everyone else, just wait for this year’s iPhone 15 Pro and buy it. Unless you have a very specialized use case ( wildlife on safari, for example), this will be all the camera you will ever need and you will never resent hauling it around as a tourist or at family gatherings. True, you won’t look like a pro, and it won’t prove to anyone how much money you can spend, but you’ll have more fun and probably get better shots. But before you give up on that fancy camera system that scares your wallet, ask yourself a couple of questions: Do I have a specific use case—e.g., photographing wildlife, long exposure high resolution landscapes or cityscapes, etc.—that might justify, merit, or even require something fancier than an iPhone? Is there something about the creative process itself that I find emotionally or intellectually attractive and compelling, to the point where my choice of tool will enhance my enjoyment of the process?If you can answer “yes” to either or both of these questions, then you might want to invest in something more elaborate than an iPhone. But before you buy, consider renting. Go on over to LensRentals and check out the amazing variety of cameras and lenses they will be happy to rent to you. I love these folks; their selection is excellent, and their service is superb. They’re also very smart. Don’t be afraid to get on the phone with them and ask for advice. But don’t make the mistake of having your super-safari kit shipped to you two days before you head off to Africa. Always allow yourself enough time to get to know the system. Go online and read/watch stuff that tells you how to set up the menu system. Take lots of photos and really look them over in Lightroom or CaptureOne. Find out what you don’t know and do something about it.But if your answer to these questions is “probably not,” consider the many advantages to carrying a fantastic camera that you will already have with you anyway.————————[Previous Post From 2018]I get asked this question a lot. And I realized today that I have been giving enough of the same answer that maybe I should post the information and point people toward it. Maybe it will be helpful to people who haven't asked.First, a few caveats:First, just about everyone has heard or read the aphorism "the best camera is the one you have with you." It may be hoary, but it is absolutely true. If you care about making images, and it bugs you that they always get dumbed down on Facebook and Instagram, then you should consider carefully what you think you will carry with you. An iPhone X takes nice pictures, with reasonably deep resolution. You can buy accessory lens kits from Moment that are actually high quality, and you could take pics all over the world, upscale them, and 99% of the world would be unable to discern they were taken with a phone camera. I love taking pictures with my iPhone, and because it is always with me, some of my otherwise-never-would-have-gotten-pics were taken with my iPhone. If you already have a good-to-excellent phone camera, ask yourself: "Why do i want more?"There are lots of informative photo gear sites out there. DPReview is a very comprehensive one. Check it out.Digital cameras are consumer technology devices. That means they are subject to the same :"what-you-just-bought-is-already-obsolete" cycle as televisions, phones, computers, and even cars. If it's important to you to have the latest and greatest, cameras will drive you crazy. For the most part, I don't use my cameras to shoot video. If that's your interest, check DPReview. FWIW, I shoot medium format with Phase One cameras and lenses, and Cambo technical cameras, and Rodenstock and Schneider lenses. I've tried Alpa, but prefer Cambo, especially for field landscape work, and because of their ease of use. When I shoot with the Cambo cameras, I use the Phase One backs. For full frame 35mm form, I use Nikon bodies (810 and 850) and a variety of Zeiss, Sigma, and Nikon lenses. Candidly though, ever since I took up medium format photography, I have hardly used my Nikons. I also shoot with the two Sony cameras discussed below, and use my iPhone X all the time.Your pictures are about you. There are pros using and getting paid for images taken with 10 to 50 year old cameras. They are being paid for their skill, not their equipment. Contrary to what some people say, I actually think better equipment can help you become a better photographer. But in reality, that's only because you really want to become one.Having said all that, here are my recommendations as of March 15, 2018:If what you want is a pocketable point & shoot (P&S), my recommendation is a Sony RX-100 V. It's not cheap at just under $1000, but It is small, solid and well-made, and it will take excellent pictures for years. Fits easily in a pocket or purse. Here is a pic I posted recently I took with it in Maui.If you wants something a little more substantial, that handles, looks and behaves like a “real” camera, but doesn’t require lens changing, I highly recommend the DSC-RX10 IV. It ain’t cheap (about $1700), but it will literally do just about anything a full DSLR kit will do. I have one arriving this week. I am going to try it out as a “speed kit,” to carry when I want good pics but don’t want to carry a full rig, when light weight is paramount, etc. I plan to try it when I go to the slot canyons in Arizona next month, and if I decide to keep it, will probably take it to Bora Bora and almost certainly to Africa. If you are interested in a DSLR rig, I would recommend (again) a Sony mirrorless system. Check this excellent article overview of various options starting at under $500: [As of 2023, all of the big three are making superb high end and middle-level cameras.]If there is a downside to the Sony cameras, I would say it is their menu system [2023 Note: much better now than then]. It’s the weakness of all the Japanese cameras, but Sony has made a low art of it. Takes some time to explore and understand the menus. The upside is that this shortcoming has spawned a third party book industry, and some of them are very good.
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