Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Buying a camera

I have never been much of a photographer, though I admire the skill. Mum and dad had a nice Konica 35mm which I liberated from taking family holiday snaps; and then took pics of woodland and lakes and the sea when I was on holiday! I'd be aged about 16-18. Then, in my mid 20s I was shown how to develop and print in black and white to produce laboratory images. Gel documentation, autoradiography and the like; though I did a few rolls of B&W snapshots to see how that worked (with a borrowed camera).

That is about my total knowledge of photography and that was 30 years ago. OK my ex would sometimes give me this plastic thing, tell me which button to press and say "just point and shoot", but that's a different story.

It's a new digital age and I want to buy a camera. I'm obviously looking around myself and I have some ideas, but I'm asking everyone and I value the opinions of folks with more experience.

Firstly, I've set a budget of £350-400. Secondly, you may ask, why do I want a camera anyway?

One big reason is that near where I live there is a lot of history and I hope to make some interesting blog posts. I can easily find evidence of Robin Hood*, the Industrial Revolution, the Bront√ęs and a lot more**, within a mile or two of home.

Insects and wild flowers are also a fascination (gardens are too). I would also like to be able to photograph the Moon. Not with astronomical precision but to capture mood. Tripod? Got one!

So I want a camera with a decent zoom to pick out say, architectural detail or blow up the Moon, but with the ability to get up close when needed. Am I expecting too much? Should I save up for separate lenses? Have you a camera that you love and trust.

What would you recommend?
* the legend anyway.
** I even know where there's a public air raid shelter from WWII.


Anonymous said...

The first question is what image quality you want. My Panasonic TZ7 is a lovely camera, pocketable, with a 12 times zoom, and quality is good enough for a web page or an A4 print. Its disadvantage is that in low light, like most small cameras, it suffers from image noise.
If you want the best image quality, even in low light, you should be thinking of a DSLR. There's little to choose between the cheaper models from Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Olympus. I have a Samsung GX10 (same as a Pentax K10D)which I'm very pleased with, except that with 2 lenses it's quite bulky and heavy to carry. However your budget probably won't stretch to a long zoom lens - that will have to wait. You can always attach the DSLR to a telescope!

Andy Holroyd said...

Thanks Anon

Yeah low light noise, I know it well. In the 90's I did some fluorescence microscopy with a CCD camera, in a darkroom with a double door 'air lock' and everything painted black. No light but a dim glow from the laser illuminating the sample stage, and the camera cooled with liquid nitrogen. We still got noise! We had to do very long exposures though.

Regarding cameras, I think I'm coming to a similar idea as you. Buy the best SLR body I can with a standard lens, learn and save up for expansion.

Ah, a telescope. I'd love one but even though I live on the edge of open fields and farmland, it's just a pocket surrounded by towns and cities. The light pollution is [sigh] devastating.

NobblySan said...

Hi Andy,

I use an old Canon Rebel (first generation DSLR) that I bought second hand. I chose Canaon simply for the fact that I had an old 35mm SLR of thers with two shit hot lenses,a dn wanted something that I could transfer the lenses to.

I'm not a keen or particularly good photographer, and find that this does just about everything that I want it to.

There is something to be said for splitting your budget between a serious DSLR and a £100 compact thing that you can just shove in your pocket and use for everyday stuff.