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What to take or what not to take, that is the question!

(Part 1)

As there’s a lot to talk about on this subject, and limited space, I’ll do this in two parts. We have gone through a lot in my various photography articles, but I haven’t gone into too much detail of the actual equipment itself. I touched on it in my first article, discussing phone cameras vs. actual cameras but that’s all. What I left you with in that first article was this…

Photography is not just about the tools. Of course, it helps to understand light, apertures, shutter speeds and exposure, but you still need to ‘see’ the image and compose it correctly. Composition is in your mind. After you take the shot, it’s what you do with it afterwards that creates the final image. There are three main things you need for a good photograph.  See the image, take the image, and then finally, process the image. The camera influences only one of these three.

This is true, but the camera is still the main ‘tool’ we use to capture that image, so it’s only fair that we look more at the equipment. After all, there’s a huge choice out there, differing vastly in price, specification and ability. It can get quite confusing and overwhelming for anyone.

Before digital cameras, the difference was more about film/negative size, with a bigger negative giving better detail and allowing a bigger print to be made. Film sizes ranged from 16mm in little ‘spy’ cameras to the most common 35mm format, to medium format, (e.g. 6x6cm, 6x7cm, 6x9cm), all the way up to huge, large format, field and studio cameras (5”x4”, up to 20”x24”). These days, with digital cameras, its more about pixels and resolution, however, there are still options in terms of sensor size (similar in fact to film negative size), with ‘full frame’ and ‘cropped’ sensors (more on this later), and then we have DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras, compact cameras, bridge cameras, mirrorless cameras and of course there’s your phone cameras too. So what do you choose if you want to get into photography? What I’m not going to get into, is camera branding. There are a multitude of good brands out there including Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, Leica, Panasonic, etc., I can tell you what I use, but branding will come down to personal choice, usability and budget, as they all do much the same thing.

There are a few things to consider. Firstly, your budget is probably the most important. Don’t spend more than you can afford, and don’t be afraid to look at used equipment if you cannot afford what you think you need. Secondly, think about what you want to photograph as this will define the correct tool for the job, and then thirdly, what do you want to do with what you photograph. This will determine the quality level you need for your camera and range of lenses. For instance, do you want to sell your work; do you want to make large prints; do you just want to put something on social media? You don’t need a sledge hammer to tap in a nail, in other words. One other thing to consider, certainly if, like me, you are a bit older and less inclined to carry a lot, is the size and weight of your equipment. Some cameras and lenses can be very heavy and bulky to carry around and travel with. So, we will look at some options and their pros and cons to try and help you make your decision.

As for your budget, well, only you know that. I’ll reiterate though, only spend what you can afford, and don’t be influenced by peer pressure, ‘what the other guys are using’, or otherwise, into spending excessively. Do consider second hand as some lenses in particular can be very expensive! Like thousands of pounds! My own DSLR (Digital SLR) is 12 years old now and has been superceded many times with new models, but it still does a job so I haven’t changed it. So again, you can get very capable, perhaps once high end cameras, at quite reasonable prices now, if you look at the used camera market.

 I’m out of space for now, so in part 2, we will look at details of the equipment options you have.

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