Online Photo Class, Part 1

I have received numerous requests for more photo classes. Unfortunately, that is something I currently cannot provide -- there are only 24 hours in a day (although well managed, some people claim there may be 48).

So I decided to have a series of mini lessons online. I am no professor -- this is a very personal style and it may not be yours. I will send out notifications on my mailing list when there is new content, feel free to spread the word and let people sign up.

We’ll start with a basic question, the one I probably get most often: what camera should I buy?

It depends....... what you want and especially what kind of photos you take. But here are a few pointers:

1. Film or Digital?
This may seem moot, but there a few relatively cheap professional film cameras out there, especially if you are interested in Medium Format. One example is the Mamiya RZ67, which can be had for a few $100 with a superb lens. A few years ago, this would have costs thousands.

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RZ67, photo courtesy of piksi and Nikon F100, 35 mm film canera, photo courtesy of Rama

Furthermore, excellent 35mm cameras can be had for much less than their digital equivalents. If film is not for you, then you basically have a few choices

- DSLR (digital single lens reflex), including a new category of interchangeable lens cameras with a back LCD or EFV (electronic view finder), e.g. Panasonic G1 and Olympus E-P1
- Rangefinder (reall, the only one on the market here are the Leica M8 and M8.2, $4000-6000!)
- P&S (Point and Shoot), usually fixed lens or zoom.

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Consumer DSLR, photo courtesy of Sisser


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High end point and shoot, courtesy of Rama



Now, I think most people would do best with a DSLR - it is the most versatile,the lenses are interchangeable. Even a “consumer level” DSLR will give you excellent image quality, and if you do not want to go and spend thousands of dollars, just get a “kit lens” (normally something like a 18-55 mm), and you probably will be pretty happy. Now, a word to the wise: if you want to spend money, it is better to spend the money on a good lens or two, which will last you for years, rather than a DSLR body that will be outdated in 3 or 4 years.

If you do want to lug around a DSLR, consider a high end P&S. I say high end, because it should be able to shoot RAW images (more on that in a later post). RAW is the “digital negative” and records all the information the camera gets, while the usual JPG that every digital camera can produce are compressed images that lose data and will limit the quality of the material you can use for post processing (another post). High end P&S are, e.g., the Canon G10/G11, Panasonic LX3/Leica D-Lux4 (basically the same camera) or the Nikon P6000. The Olympus Pen E-P1 may be an attractive option, but I have not seen one yet, so I cannot really comment.

If you have are camera crazy like me, or you have money to waste and want to draw a lot of stares, get a Leica M8.2....