Selecting a D-SLR System

Making the jump to a D-SLR opens up the world of photography in new and exciting ways.

Canon D-SLR Camera System (Source: cnet.com.au)

A D-SLR offers many advantages over a point-and-shoot compact camera in terms of speed, flexibility, durability, programmable features, and a variety of functions not available in the smaller compact cameras.

If you decide to go D-SLR, an important decision is the choice of manufacturer—Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Fujifilm, Leica, Samsung, or Sigma.

You are not buying JUST a camera body, but you’re committing to a PHOTO SYSTEM beyond the camera body itself.

All the major camera manufacturers have excellent cameras and lenses, but they are NOT compatible with other manufacturers’ systems.

The question of system expandability and support comes up if you intend to get serious about photography and need—and can afford—a variety of lenses and/or a high performance camera body.

For most serious photographers the investment in lenses will come to dwarf the cost of the camera body.

Ensure that you invest in a system that gives you the flexibility to expand to your future vision.

Nikon D-SLR Camera System (Source: mir.com.my)

Since each camera manufacturer has its own lens mount design, it’s important to choose a system whose manufacturer makes the lenses that you will need for all photo situations both today and into the future.

If you already own any SLR lenses, that may influence your decision on which brand of D-LSR to buy.

If you are considering using third party lenses such as those made by Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina, ensure that the lenses that interest you in are available for the camera system you are considering. Just about all such third party lenses are available in mounts for both Nikon and Canon D-LSRs.

Canon and Nikon are the two leading brands of D-SLR cameras and are continually in a pitched battle to build a better camera and superior lenses.

The market leader in North America is Canon with close to 50 percent of the D-SLR market.  The number two spot is occupied by Nikon, which is also an excellent choice.

Both Canon and Nikon offer an extensive array of lenses for all its D-SLRs with more than 60 currently available.

If you intend to eventually pursue photography as a profession, both Nikon and Canon have active professional user groups, which are supported by the manufacturers, while Pentax, Sony, and Olympus have a much smaller professional support network.

Sony has long been a top manufacturer of compact digital cameras and launched its first D-SLR after purchasing Konica Minolta’s photography division in 2006. The company has developed into a major force in the interchangeable-lens digital camera arena. Sony provides a good lineup of lenses for its D-SLRs, including several excellent Carl Zeiss optics.

Once you get beyond Nikon. Canon, and to a lesser extent Sony, it becomes difficult to find an adequate assortment of lenses. Since they have a small market share they are unable to invest sufficient money to produce a large range of lenses.

The only other system I’d consider is Olympus, due to its innovative Four-Thirds system. Olympus introduced the Four Thirds System back in 2003 with a built-in sensor-dust remover. While most film-camera manufactures adapted their 35mm SLR bodies to digital use, Olympus started from scratch, designing its D-SLRs around the 17.3×13.0mm Four Thirds System image sensor.

Sony D-SLR Camera System: (Source: goo.gl/mVoZe))

Four Thirds System cameras can use all Four Thirds System lenses, regardless of manufacturer.

Electronics giant Samsung has been making compact digital cameras for quite some time and partnered with Pentax to produce a line of D-SLRs. But today, Samsung’s main thrust is its NX line of APS-C sensor, mirrorless interchangeable-lens models, featuring 14.6-megapixel Samsung-created CMOS sensors.

In conclusion, no one D-SLR system will be right for everybody; each system has its strengths and weaknesses. You just need to figure out which system will best meet your needs as a photographer.

One last word: Buying a D-SLR is only the first step in what can become a lifelong relationship with a specific camera system, so it’s important to look at the “bigger picture” when making your choice.

Please Note: This is the eighth in a series of stories on Digital Photography and RVing

Worth Pondering…

The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to SEE.

—Ernest Haas

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Mirrorless: New Kid on the Block

The two most popular types of digital cameras are D-SLRs and compact point-and-shoots.

The Olympus E-PL3 (also known as the Olympus PEN Lite) is a new 12 megapixel compact system camera with a stylish metal body featuring the world’s fastest auto-focus system, a high resolution, and tiltable 3 inch LCD screen. (Source: dpreview.com)

D-SLRs produce excellent image quality and are very quick, and interchangeable lenses make them highly versatile. Their main disadvantages are that they’re relatively bulky, complex, and costly. Overall, D-SLRs give you performance that a point-and-shoot can’t come close to achieving.

Compact point-and-shoot cameras don’t have the performance of a D-SLR, but they’re convenient and simple to use, and most will fit in a pocket. Their main drawback is that they contain tiny image sensors whose image quality can’t match that of the D-SLRs.

The eternal question, “What camera should I buy?” became even more complicated with the emergence of a new breed of cameras promising to fill a gap in the market—the mirrorless, interchangeable-lens camera.

Sometimes referred to as EVIL (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens, although not all have electronic viewfinders), the mirrorless models have become popular over the last couple of years.

Frustrated by the sluggishness and photo quality of your point-and-shoot but not thrilled about toting something the size of a D-SLR? These cameras were designed with you in mind.

These cameras take the large sensor and interchangeable lenses that help D-SLRs produce such good images.

Beginners and advanced photographers should feel at home with the range of exposure modes offered by the Sony NEX-F3. A wide variety of automatic modes complement the manual and semi-manual exposure modes, so this camera should appeal to a wide range of shooters. (Source: dpreview.com)

These interchangeable-lens cameras aren’t classified as D-SLRs because they don’t have a mirror. And because there’s no reflex, the cameras are much smaller than conventional D-SLRs.

Mirrorless cameras first appeared with the launch of the Micro Four Thirds system from Panasonic (G1) and Olympus (E-P1) in 2008.

The first generation cameras from these manufacturers reflect two distinct body styles that are still prevalent today; a rangefinder and the mini D-SLR look-alike. The rangefinder-style bodies omit a built-in electronic viewfinder and instead depend on the rear screen for image composition, much like compact point-and-shoot cameras.

Since the Micro Four Thirds launch, the Samsung NX (2010), Sony NEX (2010), Pentax Q (2011), Nikon 1(2011), and Fujifilm X-Pro1 (2012) systems have been introduced.

One of the last holdouts among the world’s leading camera manufacturers, Canon is rumored to be launching its new mirrorless system later this month.

Mirrorless cameras cover a lot of ground. For instance, there are compact models designed for people dissatisfied with the image quality and performance of point-and-shoot models. And there are models for advanced shooters who desire the speed and photo quality of a D-SLR without the bulk. And there are numerous models along the continuum between the two.

Since mirrorless camera systems are relatively new, they don’t have as extensive lens lineup as D-SLRs. But all the basic ones are there.

However, when considering the lens availability, it’s worth being honest with yourself about how many lenses you’re planning to buy—if you’re only going to buy one or two additional lenses, then it doesn’t really matter how extensive a ‘system’ is, so long as it includes the lenses you want.

In a recent review of the best mirrorless cameras for less than $1,000, CNET concluded with the following assessment:

  • Best overall step-up from a point-and-shoot: Olympus E-PL3 and Sony Alpha NEX-F3
  • Least expensive model with sufficient performance and photo-quality boost from a point-and-shoot to make it a worthwhile upgrade: Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF3
  • Best photo quality: Pentax K-01 and Samsung NX200
  • Most suited for shooting video: Sony Alpha NEX-5N and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2
The Lumix DMC-GF3 is Panasonic’s smallest and lightest compact system camera to date. (Source: dpreview.com)

There is no single right answer to the “perfect camera” question.

You will need to figure it out yourself by looking at what you plan to shoot (landscapes, birds and animals, sports, family outings) and how you do it.

What’s important is that you understand your own shooting style and preferences and apply that to the appropriate features for YOUR PERFECT CAMERA.

Bottom line: Let your personal needs guide your buying decisions.

Please Note: This is the seventh in a series of stories on Digital Photography and RVing

Worth Pondering…

Your equipment DOES NOT affect the quality of your image. The less time and effort you spend worrying about your equipment the more time and effort you can spend creating great images. The right equipment just makes it easier, faster, or more convenient for you to get the results you need.

—Ken Rockwell, Your Camera Does Not Matter, 2005

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Choosing a Digital Camera: Additional Considerations

Digital cameras come in a wide range of sizes, capabilities, and prices.

Granite Dells at Watson Lake near Prescott, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From pocket models about the size of a deck of cards to pro bodies, there’s something just right for everyone and for every pocketbook.

Choose a Camera That Feels Right

Select a camera that feels comfortable in your hands. If a digital camera is too big or small for you to hold comfortably, or if the controls are not laid out in a way that makes sense to you, chances are that you won’t enjoy shooting as much as you should.

While most D-SLRs are similar in size and build, the styling of the handgrip, position of controls, and other ergonomic features can differ drastically. The camera you choose should be one that you are most comfortable using.

Will I want to upgrade in the future?

The chances are that as you progress and learn this hobby, you will want to upgrade later. You may want to consider a camera that will meet you requirements now AND into the near future.

Do I want a point-and-shoot compact or D-SLR?

Cameras are constructed in one of two ways:

  • Point and shoot compact— the body and the lens are embodied in a single device
  • SLR—the body and lenses are separate
The X10 is Fujifilm’s attempt to entice advanced shooters willing to pay a premium for higher image quality and specs in a very small, if not pocketable package. (Source: dpreview.com)

The letters S-L-R stand for “single lens reflex”, which refers to the camera construction.

SLR means that the same lens is used for viewing and taking photos. A mirror in the body directs the light from the lens up into a prism for viewing and flips up out of the way just before an exposure is made.

D-SLRs accept a wide range of interchangeable lens, while compact point-and-shoot cameras have built-in lenses. The inability to change the lens that’s built into the camera limits your shooting options.

For D-SLRs, you can buy an infinite set of lenses, for which there are infinite purposes.

Point-and-shoot compacts are perfect if what you want is ease of use in a pocket-sized camera. You’ll have fewer features and a limited zoom lens range, but image quality is surprisingly good and constantly getting better.

While convenient and aggressively priced, compact point-and-shoot cameras can’t match the quality, speed, and versatility of D-SLR cameras. D-SLRs are equipped with larger and higher-quality sensors than point-and-shoot models resulting in higher quality images; there’s virtually no shutter lag; and DSLRs offer more creative control and accessories such as lenses, flashes, and filters.

The downside is they’re bulkier and pricier.

For the casual fun shooter, a point-and-shoot compact camera is often more than adequate. They’re light, easy, and do a fine job.

An advantage of compact point-and-shoot digital cameras is their portability—for hiking, cycling, kayaking, whatever. Many are pocket-sized and do not require a lot of extras.

I started with a compact point-and-shoot camera. Later I decided that I wanted to get serious about photography.

D-SLR cameras are the standard tool for serious amateur and pro photographers.

If you are leaving the house to socialize and want a camera to keep in your pocket just in case an interesting photo presents itself, the point-and-shoot camera is ideal.

If you’re heading out with a specific photography project in mind, you will prefer having a D-SLR.

Following is a quick list of the pros and cons of both types of camera:

D-SLRs

Pros:

  • Better image quality
  • Better lens quality (when you buy the good stuff)
  • Better speed and performance
  • Faster operation and larger controls
  • Interchangeable lenses
  • More accessory items available

Cons

  • Gets expensive in a hurry
  • Larger, heavier, and bulkier
  • Can seem complicated at first

Compact point-and-shoot

Pros

  • Small, light, and compact
  • Convenient
  • Less expensive
  • Easier for the whole family to use

Cons

  • Slower response times
  • Generally poorer image quality
  • Fewer accessory options
  • Shutter delay
Sigma’s D-SLRs have always been unique. Besides having a reputaion for simplicity, the Sigma D-SLRs exclusively use the Foveon X3 image sensor. (Source: dpreview.com)

Your final choice will be based on your budget as well as your requirements and needs. Despite the performance advantages of a D-SLR compared to a compact camera, there’s one overriding question you need to answer honestly: “What am I willing to carry?”

The right camera is the one you take with you. If you can’t see yourself carrying a D-SLR—and maybe an extra lens or two—then you’re better off with a camera you’ll find more comfortable.

Worth Pondering…

The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to SEE.

—Ernest Haas

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Choosing a Digital Camera: Ask Yourself These Questions

To assist you in buying a digital camera that does what YOU want it to do, ask yourself a series of questions.

What kind of photography do I plan to do?

This Roseate Spoonbill was captured at South Padre Island Nature and Birding Center, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The number one variable is anticipated use. What type of photography interests you?

Will you be photographing landscapes, birds and animals, close-ups of flowers and butterflies, people, or sports? This will determine the focal length of the lens you need and whether you need a wide angle lens, zoom lens, or macro lens.

This will rule in and out many cameras and narrow the field.

Landscape photography requires lighter and less complicated equipment, but it demands skills, lenses, and filters that will capture fine details and resolve contrast issues.

The Sony A57 is a new interchangeable lens camera that uses Sony’s unique Translucent Mirror Technology to offer high-speed shooting and a smaller body size. (Source: dpreview.com)
The Sony A57 is a new interchangeable lens camera that uses Sony’s unique Translucent Mirror Technology to offer high-speed shooting and a smaller body size. (Source: dpreview.com)

Wildlife photography requires a camera body with the ability to capture quick sequences and long lenses.

Close-up photography requires macro lenses and flash.

And the photographer who wants to do everything (that’s me) can expect to carry a very heavy bag and a second mortgage.

There are trade-offs. Even if you can afford it, can you physically handle a heavy, professional camera, and the long, bulky lenses and the tripod they require?

If fast action, distant birds, or special effects aren’t a consideration, almost any compact point and shoot will help with your vacation, family get-togethers, and casual shooting.

If essentially the opposite is the case meaning sports, nature and wildlife, night shooting, and more are your fancy, the obvious answer is a D-SLR.

What matters most to me in a camera?

  • Size?
  • Weight?
  • Number of features?
  • Number of automatic shooting modes?
  • Zoom range?
  • Battery life?
  • Lens aperture (faster is better)?
  • ISO range?
  • Ease of use?
  • Size of dials and buttons?
  • Overall design?
  • Size of sensor?
  • Number of megapixels?
  • Image quality?
  • Type of viewfinder?
  • Video capability?
  • Frame rate (shooting speed)?
  • Interchangeable lens?
  • Color?

How much money do I plan to spend?

Prices vary from under $200 for a point-and-shoot compact digital to over $8,000 for a professional D-SLR. Work out where you fit in and remember to include accessories—memory cards, spare battery, carrying bags and cases, filters, lens, tripod with ball head, sensor cleaning supplies (cleaning fluid, cleaning tissue, microfiber cleaning cloth, brush, and blower), and knee pads.

How easy is the camera to use?

The D7000 is a fantastic step up camera for those who have outgrown entry level digital SLRs or for those who want to upgrade from older mid-range models. (Source: dpreview.com)

Digital cameras come with a whole range of dials, buttons, switches, and shooting modes. Some are much easier to operate than others.

Before you buy any camera, handle it and see if you can get your finger on most of the controls and read the menus (even if you’re not sure what they mean yet). And see how bright the LCD viewing screen is when you’re standing by a window.

You’ll find numerous shooting modes from which to select—automatic, landscape, portrait mode, macro, sports, sunset/sunrise, beach, fireworks, etc. These modes will optimize settings under different conditions. These creative modes, however, do not guarantee creative pictures.

Please Note: This is the fifth in a series of stories on Digital Photography and RVing

Worth Pondering…

Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times…I just shoot at what interests me at that moment.

—Elliott Erwitt

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Buying Guide: Choosing a Digital Camera

Digital cameras come in a wide range of sizes, capabilities, and prices.

Landscape photography requires quality equipment and demands skills, lenses, and filters that will capture fine details and resolve contrast issues. Photo above is Joshua Tree National Park, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From pocket models about the size of a deck of cards to pro bodies, there’s something just right for everyone and for every pocketbook.

The Big Question: How do you choose the best camera for YOU?

The first mistake people make is asking this question to camera store sales people.

The second mistake is asking professional photographers.

You wouldn’t ask sales staff at an RV dealer which RV to buy; you should no more ask sales staff at a camera retail store.

The reason people do this is perfectly understandable: one assumes that a professional knows the information so well, that they can just tell them what to get, and the work is done.

Oh, if it were only that easy.

The Sony Alpha NEX-5N is the fourth model in Sony’s NEX line of APS-C format mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras. It delivers D-SLR performance and image quality in a point-and-shoot package. (Source: dpreview.com)

When I got started with digital photography, I did the same thing: I asked the pros.

I got the stock answer, “It depends on what you want to shoot.”

That got me nowhere fast. I just wanted to go out and shoot. But, instead, I was just given a huge run-around of more questions that left me even more confused.

Q. What kind of photos do you want to take?

A. I don’t know. Good ones, I guess.

Like buying an RV, choosing a digital camera is a highly personal matter.

I can’t tell you what to buy; I can’t even tell you whether to buy a compact point-and-shoot or D-SLR; but, I can assist you in making YOUR decision.

The right camera for YOU depends on your particular needs.

Questions to Ask BEFORE Buying your Digital Camera

To assist you in buying a digital camera that does what YOU want it to do, ask yourself a series of questions.

What Kind of Photographer Am I?

  • Are you new to digital photography?
  • What is your purpose in buying a camera?
  • Is it for prints of family occasions?
  • Is it to keep RV memories alive?
  • Or is it a dream of having your photos published in a table-top book or in magazines?
  • Is it for professional work?

They’re all good reasons for buying a camera.

If you are a beginner do not buy the most expensive automated equipment even if you can afford it.

There are two types of people who buy new cameras: the ones that just want to shoot casually, and those who are serious and eventually want to progress either as a hobby or professionally.

Do you regard photography as something you take seriously, or are you only interested in getting a good, easy-to-use camera for everyday subjects like family, events, and RV travels?

Pentax goes its own way with a mirrorless camera that accepts standard K-mount lenses. That means access to a huge back catalog of quality optics without an adapter. Unfortunately, it also necessitates a body that’s barely any smaller than a standard SLR. (Source: dpreview.com)

If you’re going to be serious about it—that is, you’re going to be one of those people on a hike that annoys everyone else who has to wait for you to take yet another picture of that tree—you should start with a D-SLR that you can grow into as your photography evolves.

Beginners/casual users likely want digital cameras with numerous automatic controls—many compact point-and-shoot cameras would be suitable.

A serious amateur who aspires to progress in the hobby likely would want access to manual controls, and should consider an entry level or a mid-range (semi-professional) D-SLR.

Please Note: This is the fourth in a series of stories on Digital Photography and RVing

Worth Pondering…

Photography for me is an exciting and personal way of reacting to and commenting on one’s environment and I feel that it is perhaps a great pity that more people don’t consider it as a medium of self-expression instead of selling themselves to the commercial world of journalism and advertising.

—Tony Ray-Jones

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Buying a Digital Camera: Remember the Cat and the Fox

Aesop’s fable, “the Fox and the Cat”, the fox boasts to the cat of its clever devices for escaping its enemies.

No matter how technologically advanced a camera is, it still needs a photographer setting its dials, pressing its buttons, and pointing it at something interesting. Photo above is Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“I have a whole bag of tricks,” he boasts, “which contains a hundred ways of escaping my enemies.”

“I have only one,” said the cat. “But I can generally manage with that.”

Just at that moment they heard the cry of a pack of hounds coming towards them, and the cat immediately scampered up a tree and hid herself in the boughs.

“This is my plan,” said the cat. “What are you going to do?”

The fox thought first of one way, then of another, and while he was debating, the hounds came nearer and nearer, and at last the fox in his confusion was caught up by the hounds and soon killed by the huntsmen.

Miss Puss, who had been looking on, said, “Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon.”

Why am I telling you this tale?

The temptation for many photographers is to think like the fox, but you’re better off thinking like the cat.

Fujifilm’s X100 became an instant hit upon its release in 2011, thanks to a 12.3-megapixel APS-C sensor, a high-quality fixed 23mm ƒ/2 lens and a beautiful industrial design. It was followed by the X10, which had a smaller sensor, but also a built-in zoom. Now Fujifilm has introduced the X-Pro1, with a new 16.3-megapixel APS-C sensor and interchangeable lenses. For travel photographers, in particular, this new camera looks like a real winner. (Source: dpreview.com)

You’ll take better photos with a selection of equipment that you thoroughly understand and that’s well suited to your style of photography than with an overflowing bag of tricks that you’ve never quite mastered.

The key to choosing the best camera for YOU is picking the camera with which you’re comfortable and which serves your photo needs.

That’s easier said than done.

With an expanding variety of camera types, from multi-megapixel compact cameras to the most sophisticated pro D-SLRs, plus new options like mirrorless cameras and hybrid still and video models.

The best advice I can give you is to go to a store and shop for cameras in person. Comparing specs and features online is not a substitute for handling equipment, exploring a camera’s menus, and testing its responsiveness. That said it’s good to know the general type of camera that’s right for you beforehand to help narrow the field and focus your comparisons.

Interchangeable-lens cameras

There has been considerable innovation in digital camera technology during the past several years, including the emergence of “mirrorless” interchangeable-lens cameras.

What started with a few Micro Four Thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic has grown into a wide selection of mirrorless models with options from an ever-expanding array of manufacturers.

The mirrorless design competes with the traditional D-SLR by making smaller camera bodies and lenses possible, which for many photographers is highly desirable. It also enables these cameras to do things D-SLRs can’t, like offer full-time Live View and electronic eye-level viewfinders.

If you have smaller hands, you may be more comfortable with the smaller and lighter mirrorless models than with a traditional SLR body.

One drawback of typical mirrorless cameras is that they rely on contrast-detection autofocus, which is inherently slower than the phase-detection systems in D-SLRs.

Compact cameras

Though the expandability of interchangeable-lens systems is an advantage for most photographers, there’s a lot to be said for cameras small enough to slip into your pocket. After all, the “right” camera is the one you actually take with you.

The 16 megapixel Nikon Coolpix P510 is a compact camera in the superzoom class, that sports a 42X optical zoom, covering a currently unmatched focal range of 24-1000mm (equivalent), and a new 16MP CMOS sensor. (Source: dpreview.com)

If you don’t see yourself carrying a D-SLR—and maybe an extra lens or two—you’re better off with a camera you find more comfortable.

There are also “advanced” compacts which, though often larger than your pocket, typically offer a big-range zoom lens and improved performance compared to smaller models. These cameras try to bridge the gap between portability and performance. They’re larger than pocket cameras, though still smaller than most D-SLRs, and eliminate the need to carry multiple lenses.

Remember the cat and the fox.

Don’t forget that the goal is taking great photos, and that your camera equipment, whatever you choose, should make this easier. Ultimately, the best selections are those you’re inspired to master.

Please Note: This is the third in a series of stories on Digital Photography and RVing

Worth Pondering…

…amateurs worry about equipment,
professionals worry about money,
masters worry about light,
I just take pictures.

—Vernon Trent

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How to Select the Right Digital Camera for YOU

Photography is a hobby that millions of people partake in every day.

RVing gives us an opportunity to get closer to and experience the beauty of nature. Photo above is Capitol Reef National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
RVing gives us an opportunity to get closer to and experience the beauty of nature. Photo above is Capitol Reef National Park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More people are taking more photos than ever before, and they’re sharing them online with friends and family in record numbers.

Photo taking is at an all time high, and no wonder—digital cameras are affordable, forgiving, and easy to use.

Photography has been a popular hobby for over a hundred years.

Many get into this because it fascinates them, others just want to take the odd family picnic snapshots, while yet others make it their means of living.

You cannot simply decide to buy a digital camera and buy it, at once. There are numerous things that should be kept in your mind before this crucial decision.

When buying a digital camera which suits your requirements, you need to consider size, ease of use, shape, type of camera, manufacturer, resolution, pixels, image sensor, color, and much more.

Watch out for colorful or “pretty” cameras that do not meet your photography needs.

You’ll likely face many difficulties and probably land up buying a wrong camera if you don’t have the basic understanding of a digital camera and its aspects.

There is such a variety of equipment to choose from it can leave the mind boggling.

With the recent launch of the OM-D E-M5, Olympus harks back to one of its most fondly-remembered camera systems - the Olympus OM range of 35mm SLRs. (Source: olympusamerica.com)
With the recent launch of the OM-D E-M5, Olympus harks back to one of its most fondly-remembered camera systems – the Olympus OM range of 35mm SLRs. (Source: olympusamerica.com)

Very often people go and buy the wrong thing, only to resell it at half the price after a few months.

The newcomer to the world of digital cameras is presented with a bewildering array of options. Cameras today are evolving faster than a Super Bowl defense. Just about every few months a camera manufacturer introduces as new camera body with features and technology not previously available.

Buying a digital camera can be a frustrating experience—it can be intimidating and confusing.

Digital cameras are confusing to a lot of new users.

Since there’s a myriad of new digital cameras available for purchase, it can be confusing trying to decide which one is best for you and it’s not easy to know where to begin.

If you’re buying a digital camera for the first time, you can quickly get lost in the details—there are lots of them.

There’s a considerable amount of information competing for your attention—along with some misinformation.

The good news is that it’s pretty difficult to choose a bad camera these days. There are cameras geared for all skill levels and interests, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

The bad news is there are a lot of features to wade through to ensure you’re getting the camera that best meet your own personal photography needs.

Choosing the right digital cameras is a balancing act. You want a camera that will take quality photos, have your favorite features, yet is still convenient to use. What, exactly, should you look for when camera shopping?

Buying a digital camera usually requires some trade-offs.

I’m not going to discuss all the different features on various digital cameras or tell you which models are best (something that is really quite individual and which changes over time) however there are a few questions and factors to keep in mind when selecting the best digital camera for you.

The right camera comes down to personal preference.

The new top-of-the-line pro Canon, EOS-1D X features a 18.1 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor. (Source: usa.canon.com)
The new top-of-the-line pro Canon, EOS-1D X features a 18.1 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor. (Source: usa.canon.com)

My purpose then, is to provide you with a basic framework to use in deciding which digital camera to buy.

There are a few factors that I encourage you to keep in mind when buying your digital camera.

In the following articles I’ll provide my advice on purchasing a digital camera which comes from my personal experience of buying numerous cameras.

Please Note: This is the second in a series of stories on Digital Photography and RVing

Worth Pondering…

It seems positively unnatural to travel without taking a camera along…The very activity of taking pictures is soothing and assuages general feelings of disorientation that are likely to be exacerbated by travel.

—Susan Sontag

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Digital Photography and RVing: A Natural Fit

The only thing better than ‘right now’ will someday be the memories of right now!

Digital is not difficult to shoot and good results are achievable, but one must know the basics of photography as the fundamentals remain the same, irrespective of the recording medium. Pictured above is Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Digital is not difficult to shoot and good results are achievable, but one must know the basics of photography as the fundamentals remain the same, irrespective of the recording medium. Pictured above is Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ve probably an RVer because you love to travel, you want to see the natural and manmade wonders of North America, or you just don’t like being tied down to one place.

Whatever the reason, are you keeping a visual record of your RV travels? Do you take photos of your RV memories? If not, why not?

Traveling in an RV allows us to move at a slower pace, which gives us a chance to see things that often times go unnoticed.

RVing gives us an opportunity to get closer to and experience the beauty of nature. In addition to hiking, biking, boating, nature study, and birding; photography is a natural activity to connect with nature.

Getting off the beaten path is always a good idea if you want to discover the real nature of a place and its people.

Why buy a camera? Why take photos?

There’s no better way to remember your RV travels than through photos.

Like other activities, photography means different things to different people.

And like buying a recreational vehicle, costs vary widely, depending on your objectives.

The Canon EOS Rebel T3i is designed for the those seeking professional results with affordability in mind. This D-SLR is in my camera bag. (Source: steves-digicams.com)

The only time it’s too late to get started is when you sell your RV and stay home.

The same primary rule— “Just do it!” so you can re-experience and revisit the wonderful places you’ve been.

It’s a rare day that I leave our motorhome without my camera. I’m afraid that I’ll see something amazing and not be able to capture it. I’ll often ask my wife to stop the toad so I can hop out and photograph something I’ve just seen.

She’s used to it. She’s become a photographer, too.

RV travel photography seems so simple.

It’s hard to believe that the very first Digital Single Lens Reflex (D-SLR) was introduced only 20 years ago, but that’s ancient history in the world of digital cameras.

Priced at an astronomical $26,000 for the basic color model, the Kodak DCS-100 had a jury-rigged, 1.3-megapixel camera back attached to a Nikon F3 film SLR and a shoebox-sized 200 MB hard drive that slung painfully over your shoulder.

By today’s standard, the DCS-100 was a real clunker—but the same can be said of any D-SLR that’s more than five years old, as recent advancements in digital camera technologies have upped the performance ante dramatically in D-SLRs from entry level to professional grade.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the features and performance found in D-SLRs costing under $1,000.

Now, I won’t pretend I’m an expert—or that I know everything there is to know about photography—because I am not, and who does?

However, being self-taught helped me learn some valuable lessons the hard way.

So you’re buying a digital camera…

Need some straight advice on buying a digital camera without the pressure of a salesperson trying to make a sale?

For those of you who are just starting out, or would like to take their photography to the next level, hopefully, this series of articles will help you in one way or another.

The Canon PowerShot G1 X Digital Camera is Ideal for photography enthusiasts looking for the highest image quality in a compact, point-and-shoot design. (Source: usa.canon.com)
The Canon PowerShot G1 X Digital Camera is Ideal for photography enthusiasts looking for the highest image quality in a compact, point-and-shoot design. (Source: usa.canon.com)

We’ll cover compact point-and-shoots and D-SLRs for beginners, and serious and advanced amateurs. We’ll help you to gain the confidence to shop for a digital camera and get exactly what you want.

Topics covered in this series of articles include selecting the right digital camera and the three steps of digital photography—capturing photos, organizing and editing photos, and sharing photos.

Please Note: This is the first in a series of stories on Digital Photography and RVing

Worth Pondering…

Basically, I love photography—and travel. You could say I travel to take photographs and take photographs to travel.

—Rick Sammon

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