Guide to decide what type of camera is the one that best suits your needs, budget and type of photography or video.
Camera: the more expensive the better?
Bad news first: the perfect camera doesn’t exist .
A camera is a tool. The best camera in the world is the one that offers you just what you need . Simpler, impossible, right?
Of course, the question is in knowing exactly what I need.
On the one hand, it must be borne in mind that the quality of a photograph or video has to do with the content, the story it tells and how it tells it . In other words, the artistic part is very much, but very much, more important than the technical part .
Image quality (the technical part influenced by the camera and optics) is a plus, it is the icing on the cake.
For an amateur user it is also very important to be comfortable with the camera . Make it really a pleasure to go out with the camera to take photography or video.
For a professional it is something different. In your case, it is about investing in a tool that allows you to do your job in any situation, often under pressure or in adverse circumstances.
Logically, as we go up the range, the cameras offer more facilities or, let’s say, more margin when working in more critical situations , for example in less favorable light conditions or in adverse atmospheric conditions (rain, dust, etc. )
In conclusion: a camera is not better the more expensive it is.
A camera is better if it is better adapted to what each one needs .
When choosing a camera (photographic or video equipment in general) it will be necessary to take into account the real needs:
- What real use are we going to give the camera
- Which are the models that best suit our style or way of working (size, weight, ergonomics, ease of use …)
- Which are the cameras that fall within our budget or those that offer similar characteristics with better value for money.
As in many other decisions in life, we will have to find a balance, a compromise between characteristics that we really need and others that we can do without .
We are going to see a series of typical cases that can help us decide which camera is best suited for each situation:
Photo camera vs high-end mobile?
One of the truths of photography is that the best camera is just the one you carry with you when you need it .
The image quality offered by mobiles has been improving to such an extent that in some situations it is comparable to that offered by mid-range cameras.
What is the limitation of mobile cameras? The size of the sensor and the size of the optics .
In photography and video the most important resource is light. When the lighting conditions of the scene are suitable, all cameras take good photos.
As the light conditions are not so favorable, the size of the sensor and the diameter of the lens become more important, since the quality of the image is closely related to the amount of light that reaches the sensor per unit of time . You can take a look here to find out how a digital camera sensor works .
One of the advantages of mobiles is that they have a great capacity to process images and apply different techniques to offer a very attractive final result.
In the case of cameras, a subsequent editing is usually necessary in a photographic retouching or digital development program, to obtain the final appearance that we are looking for.
For a user who simply wants to take a photo and get the best out of the camera, automatically and without complications, the mobile is possibly the best option.
Between a mid-range mobile and a low-end compact camera, today the mobile is a better choice.
But starting with compact mid-range that allow manual control, the advantage offered by the optics (aperture control, focal length, zoom…) offers more possibilities.
If we go to high-end compacts, the qualitative leap is important, and if we go to cameras with interchangeable lenses: reflex or mirrorless, we again make a qualitative leap in terms of image quality in certain circumstances, in addition to the possibility of choosing lenses specific for each type of photography.
My compact is too small for me, I’m looking for something else
For example, we have a basic compact, called ‘ point and shoot ‘, which does everything automatically, the focus is slow and bad in low light, the indoor photos are regular both with flash and without him etc. I want something more, that allows me to take better photos and learn at least the basics of photography.
Both SLRs and EVILs are the natural leap . Or if you want a camera as small as possible: a high-end compact .
The advantage of interchangeable lens cameras is that you can choose the lens that best suits each situation: street photography, portraiture, landscapes, wild animals, sports …
The decision between SLR or EVIL is a personal matter. Today they all have similar benefits. Just choose the model with which you feel most comfortable.
As we’ve said, if you don’t want to switch to a camera bigger than your current little compact, you can make the leap to an advanced upper mid-range compact. They are cameras that have a larger sensor, at least 1 inch, and an optics specially designed for each model. The performance of these cameras is impressive:
I’m looking for a camera to learn photography
The most important thing in photography and in the creation of video projects is the content and how to show that content to tell a certain story, a message or capture a moment.
Understanding and knowing how to manage light is another very important aspect, the other pillar of photography.
That is, to understand the artistic part, the camera and the equipment have little influence.
Therefore, to learn photography, any camera is valid in principle: mobile, compact, SLR, EVIL …
But some cameras will give you more facility and a greater range of options:
- For me, the basic thing is that the camera has manual controls , that allows us to make decisions about how we want to take the photo.
- Then I would really appreciate that the camera includes a viewfinder (optical or electronic it does not matter). Unlike the rear screen, the viewfinder isolates us from the environment, allows us to better frame and helps us educate our ‘photographic’ vision.
- If the camera is with interchangeable lenses (SLR or EVIL) it will give us more play in the long run, more options to develop our creativity. I would recommend a camera of this type.
To learn photography it is essential to practice, practice and practice… If you don’t enjoy photographing it will be a very tough task and you may get discouraged.
So the first rule would be to enjoy yourself with your camera . Choose a camera and equipment that you are comfortable with and want to go out and take photos.
I just want to take photos without worrying about parameters or anything technical
Perhaps the most advisable thing in this case would be a mobile with a good camera , normally from mid-range mobiles you can get quite good results.
The advantage of the mobile is that it has a great processing capacity and can offer very attractive images without the need for the user to know photographic concepts.
The disadvantage would be, for example, that when the lighting conditions are not very good, the image quality will suffer. Also the optical part can limit at times.
Another option would be a high-mid-range compact camera . All cameras have the option of working in automatic mode, in that sense any user, without any knowledge of photography, can obtain very good quality images and would have a qualitative advantage over mobiles: larger sensor, better optics and more. flexibility (zoom).
Fixed lens (compact / bridge) or interchangeable lens camera?
This is another interesting question that is often asked.
The advantage or the basic idea of an interchangeable lens camera is that for each type of scene or situation we can use the most suitable objective for it , the one with which we can obtain the best results or a certain effect according to its optical characteristics.
If you are not going to invest in lenses or you are always going to carry an ‘off-road’ lens (wide focal range) in your SLR / EVIL camera, you are going to miss the potential of the camera since these types of lenses are not particularly sharp or have a grand opening, etc.
Perhaps a compact mid / high range can cover those situations with an acceptable quality, with a much smaller equipment since all the optics are integrated, and also that optics are specifically designed and optimized for that model.
Among the bridges (compact superzoom with a format similar to a small reflex in terms of size) we really like the Panasonic Lumix FZ300
It is a very complete camera, with a very large focal range (equivalent to 25-600mm in terms of angle of view), a very good constant f / 2.8 aperture throughout the entire focal range, and overall optical quality. exceptional for its range. Having a small sensor it will suffer a bit in low light conditions, but it is a very interesting all-terrain camera for almost any type of photography.
If we jump to the high-end compact cameras, there are real wonders, with sensors that are already much larger (usually 1-inch sensors) and high-quality optics.
They are a very interesting option if we want a very light equipment that offers very good image quality.
I’m looking for a camera to take on my travels
A very typical case: someone who buys a SLR to photograph on his travels: monuments, museums … He goes with his two new lenses (one for ‘near’ and the other for ‘far’). Now change lens for group photo, now change lens to take that tower, now a photo of the son, now change to take that stork up high, now this building that needs a wide angle …
The next day he leaves with a single lens, and the next day he leaves the reflex camera at the hotel because he is tired of carrying it, and takes the photos with his mobile.
Well, maybe it’s a bit of an exaggerated story, but it can be perfectly based on real events.
Does this mean that there is no point in buying a SLR or that we do not take it on a trip? NO . It is simply an example of real situations in which for some users the SLR is not going to be the ideal tool, although the quality of the photos of the SLR is much better than those of a mobile.
In the example that we have discussed, the user has renounced that quality in favor of comfort, and so happy. Because if we are not professionals, what it is about is to enjoy photography, not to be slaves of a machine .
So what type of camera would be best suited for travel?
If we want to always carry the camera with us and carry the minimum:
- A mid-range pocket-sized compact may be an option.
There are very good compacts that offer more than decent image quality, that allow manual control of the parameters, that have a zoom that gives us some flexibility to frame what we are interested in. What do we give up? These small sensor cameras are not going to give us the best image quality, for example inside buildings, when there is not much light in the scene, at night … it may also be difficult for you to focus in some difficult situations.
- A high-end compact if we want to improve image quality when lighting conditions are not so good.
If, for example, we want to have a lot of flexibility, to take photos from wide angle to photos of very distant objects:
- A good option is the compact (bridge) super zoom .
These cameras do not fit in a pocket, they have a size and weight comparable to SLRs or even higher in some models, but they have the advantage that they give us a huge zoom range, with normally quite good optics. What do we give up ?: They are not light or fit in the pocket and we will have similar limitations to those of pocket compacts in terms of image quality in low light situations.
If we want more image quality than a compact or super zoom can give us:
- The EVIL cameras / mirrorless can be a good choice, a whole system like Micro 4/3 Olympus and Panasonic , which offers the best value – size – weight, including cameras and lenses. We can carry the camera and a couple of lenses in a very small bag or backpack.
And you don’t have to throw the SLR in the trash:
- For this type of leisure / tourism trips, if we carry a SLR, it may be more than enough to go out with the kit lens (18-55mm) to be lighter and more comfortable. We are going to have a small zoom range, but it will perfectly solve 95% of situations. Or we can take an off-road lens: we sacrifice some sharpness and aperture but we move with a very small team and we have more margin when it comes to framing. Recommended travel lenses for Canon SLRs . Recommended travel lenses for Nikon SLRs .
I’m looking for a camera to always carry with me
This is a very similar case to travel. It is about always carrying the camera with us to photograph at any time: we see a scene that interests us, we stop, take out our camera and shoot …
Taking a SLR out of the house requires at least a little planning, going out with the backpack or the case, what lenses we want to carry, etc.
The options would be similar to those we have seen for a travel camera, but in this case prioritizing size. The idea is that the camera can even be carried in the pocket of a jacket or in the bag or backpack that we usually carry to work or with what we move during our day to day.
- A small mirrorless camera with a compact lens .
It is probably the best option in terms of image quality and performance.
- A high-end compact camera .
These cameras offer incredible performance as they mount a fairly large sensor, usually 1-inch or larger sensors. As well as an optics designed specifically for the camera.
- A compact mid-range camera .
If your budget is tighter, these types of cameras give very good image quality when the light conditions are not excessively bad.
- A high-end mid-range mobile . The cameras of current mobiles, especially in the upper mid-range, also have very good performance.
I want to do nature photography: animals, birds
Landscape photography is not the same as animal photography. Here we are talking about photographing animals in the wild and we need cameras that give us a lot of scope.
Especially in the case of birds it is very difficult to approach a short distance unless we use hides.
If we have money: the best option is without a doubt the SLR (or an EVIL, here the type of camera is a bit indifferent) with a telephoto lens that reaches at least a 300mm equivalent focal length .
This combo will give us a lot of image quality and we will have a greater margin in light situations that are not perfect due to the size of the sensor of these cameras.
What are the disadvantages of this option ?: Size, weight and cost of the complete equipment, especially telephoto lenses.
Regarding weight and size, it does not matter whether it is SLR or EVIL because the weight that we are going to carry will be determined by the lens and the tripod (and the other things that we carry in the backpack when we go out to the field).
It is true that in some models or mirrorless camera systems the telephoto lenses may be less bulky than for SLRs, but I think that in this case the weight is not going to be a determining factor.
If we don’t want to carry so much weight and we don’t want to use such bulky lenses: for a much lower price we can get a compact super zoom .
Some models offer us ranges that equal or exceed the reach of large telephoto lenses. And in a much smaller size.
These bridge cameras offer you much more mobility and flexibility. Yes, we did sacrifice a bit of image quality, especially in some less favorable lighting conditions. But it is a very good option, there are many bird lovers who use super zoom compact cameras, with very good results.
I want to do sports photography: cars, motorcycles, soccer …
In general, for sports photography, medium and long focal lengths are going to be used since normally we are going to focus on scenes that are relatively far away.
We’re also going to need to shoot at fairly high shutter speeds: firstly to freeze the movement of the subjects that are part of the scene, and secondly to minimize jitter if we shoot freehand.
Shake is caused by small vibrations and involuntary camera movements and results in a blurred image or loss of sharpness.
The worst possible scenario is when we want to photograph events that take place indoors: sports halls, closed venues, etc. In those cases we find ourselves with insufficient lighting for the shooting speed we need, and we will be forced to raise ISO to reach a reasonable shutter speed.
On the other hand, for photography of objects that move very fast, we will also need a camera (camera + lens) with a fast and precise focusing system, especially in tracking mode.
As we can see, this type of photography is usually quite demanding. If we want good results in almost any circumstance we would have to go to cameras with a large sensor (to minimize the effect of noise when raising ISO) with long focal lenses (telephoto lenses)
In general, any current mid-range SLR or EVIL camera should cover these situations quite well.
The specific objective will depend on the type of event and where we can position ourselves, but an equivalent focal length of the order of 200-300mm should be sufficient in most cases.
The more aperture the lens has, the better, since it will allow us to increase the shutter speed, but for this focal range, lenses with a good aperture are usually very expensive.
A compact super zoom can also be an option if we are going to use it especially outdoors, in good light.
I need a camera for product photography
In this case we refer to product photography to use the images in online stores, for printed catalogs, advertising brochures, etc.
For this type of photography, lighting is generally much more important than the characteristics of the camera .
But in general it is advisable to use an interchangeable lens camera , it does not matter the brand and model, or if it is reflex or mirrorless. It also has little influence on the performance of the camera in low light conditions, behavior at high ISOs, noise, etc. because it will be used in optimal lighting conditions. The idea is to be able to use specific objectives .
In the case of small products: jewelry, crafts, etc. macro lenses are often used (they allow you to focus from closer to get the subject to fill a good part of the frame).
Medium-long focal length lenses are often used for larger objects, similar to portrait photography.
The technological characteristics of the camera are not so important, since this type of photography is performed in a very controlled environment: good lighting, tripod …
Video camera to improve my YouTube channel or for professional projects
In general, except in very very exceptional cases, still cameras (SLR, EVIL, advanced compact) offer the best relationship between video quality and price.
Above, in terms of quality and performance, there would already be camcorders for professional use, which are basically cameras with large sensors (the electronic part is very similar) and ergonomics and functions designed specifically for video recording. But we would be talking about a fairly large jump in price compared to a step above in performance. That is, they only compensate if they are going to be used in professional projects of a certain magnitude.
I seek image quality above all
In that case, reflex or EVIL , and the decision criteria on the exact type, brand, model, etc. they will be based on other factors: for example if we give priority to size and weight, or if we look for very specific features or functions …
Price is also, of course, an important criterion.
If we go to the highest quality that a Full Frame can give us, we would be talking about high ranges, both SLR and EVIL cameras.
But that would already be more aimed at professional or semi-professional photographers. An amateur user is probably not going to really take advantage of a high-end camera, with the corresponding investment in quality lenses and all the associated equipment …
The issue of image quality would give to talk at length. It is understandable that a professional photographer, who works with large formats: posters, print publications … look for the highest quality, at pixel to pixel level, dynamic range, noise level …
Find out, research, find information about what one camera offers and another .. But do not be obsessed with image quality parameters of the sensor or the lenses. All these parameters, in the usual use of an amateur photographer, are going to have a minimal influence on your photos.
I like fine art photography and I may pursue photography in a professional way in the future
If you like the subject of photography and you are looking for a camera to learn, take a look at this article where we discuss what basic characteristics we would ask of a beginner camera that facilitates learning.
The leap to the professional world is something very personal , it is assumed that you already have advanced knowledge about the artistic part, light management and an approximate idea of the minimum technical characteristics that your camera should have, depending on the type of projects you are going to do.
Starting with a complete professional range team is very expensive, it is a very important economic investment. In general, photographers begin their professional careers with a more modest equipment.
Virtually any current mid-range SLR or mirrorless camera can handle professional projects with a result similar to what would be achieved with higher-end equipment. Logically it depends on the type of project and the circumstances in which it will be developed.
In any case, the priority in these cases I think would be training , rather than choosing the team.