Call it our ignorance or plain laziness, we hardly make the research to find out more about a camera before actually buying it. We hardly ask someone knowledgeable before making a decision either. The result is that we end up with a camera that we hate after a while, either because it has too many features than we ever need or has too few.
To make it worse, we sometimes are guilty of asking all sorts of wrong questions to the salesman at the store. Hopefully, after having read the following paragraphs, you will not ask these meaningless questions when buying your camera.
1. Would this camera take publication standard images?
Duh! You should rephrase that question like – “would I be able to make publication standard images?” The answer is both Yes and No. Let me clear a myth – the camera does not make great images or for that matter any images. Yes it records all those information and then it is processed into a great image, but it does not know the difference between a great image and some light coming through the lens. It is the six inches behind the camera that knows best and tells the camera what to do.
If you want to make great images stop looking for the best camera, rather pick any camera and start making images. The best images are made not because the photographer has the best equipment in his possession, but because he can identify a moment and is quick enough to capture it. Above all he has excellent knowledge of how to work with available light.
Most professional photographers started humble. They only had beginner level equipment to practice and master the basics of photography with. Only when they had the basics covered did they went for adding better equipment. Better equipment does not guarantee better images. It just makes things easier for you to make the image you envision.
As a beginner, rather than spending a fortune on the best camera and lens, spend money on photography courses, try to work with people whose work you admire, join a photo workshop and if possible, take a vacation to shoot more images.
2. What’s the resolution on this camera?
The most obvious question when you first walk into a camera store. Camera buyers are obsessed with resolution and megapixel. So much so that manufacturers actually make a huge amount of money on this insatiable appetite for more and more megapixel.
As a matter of fact manufacturers also have a role to play in this regard as they launch newer and newer models each pushing the technology boundary a little further.It’s hard to ignore the new 36.3 megapixels DSLR or the 4K shooting EOS 1DC. Megapixel is king. Ask a photographer, however, and he would simply give you a smirk.
Why? Because, unless you actually are thinking of making giant 16’ by 9’ postersfrom your latest vacation images you don’t need that much resolution at all. To make a 300 dpi (publishing industry standard) 4 x 6” print you need roughly 2.16 megapixels (dots and pixels are not the same thing though, thus the rough estimation). For display on your HD TV you only need 1920 x 1080 pixels. That’s just about 2 megapixel as well. For display on a 4K monitor or TV screen you need only just about 9 megapixel (4096 x 2160).
As you can probably guess by now, more megapixels is never a criterion for better imagery. It’s just a boyish sense of self-gratification “I have more megapixels than you”.
3. Do you have any deals going on?
Camera stores always have some sort of deals going on. But are you sure you would want to make your purchase based on some deal? It is hard to ignore that shiny boxed camera with a lens combo and tripod showcased just upon entering the store. Don’t fall for it. You may regret having purchased it after a while. In a bundled offer you are stuck with the choices that the store / company thrusts upon you. If you prefer a certain camera and a certain lens always go for separate deals if there are any. At the end of the day deals should never sway your decision but suitability and usability.
4. Does it have so and so exotic features?
Well it is fine to enquire for features that you would probably be using. But what about the features that you would probably never? Let’s take an example. Your camera comes with an intervalometer. But you never like to shoot outdoors. Does it make sense? No.
An intervalometer is predominantly used for shooting stills for time-lapse sequences. If you are not going to shoot outdoors, then it does not make sense to have. Just as well, if you are never going to shoot videos there is no point in asking if the camera has an on-board phase detection system, or for that matter a high burst rate if you are never going to shoot action photos.
If you enquire for these features the salesman will suggest you upper and higher end models. You may actually end up buying one of those, just to have those features in your camera. It makes sense to ask for exotic features when you are a professional and absolutely need the best that money can buy.
5. Make some research prior to visiting a store and don’t decide at the store
I have nothing against store clerks. There are a number of very learned people manning the counters at camera stores around the globe. However, these are not passionate photographers themselves. They don’t spend anywhere near the same amount of time an enthusiast photographer would making images. So, while they know the technical jargon they cannot be expected to know a lot about photography per se. Plus, they are driven by commissions. They are trained to try and up sell equipment that are high on their list.
Notwithstanding anything that has been discussed above, you can easily get confused when you are presented with more than one choice. Should I take the 135mm or the 18-200mm that the clerk insists? Of course the 18-200mm covers a greater range but I already have an 18-55mm? As soon as you have questions clouding your mind you know you are confused. There could be reasons to justify buying any lens but it all boils down to what your specific requirements are, what your budget is and what your future plans are regarding equipment upgrade. Make a checklist and then compare the choices that are closely matching. Finally, after careful consideration of the performance reviews of each of the finalist do make your buying decision.