Gear – Basic Options
If you're just looking for something basic and portable to just take a quick photograph, then this section is for you. If you are looking to take a little more creative control of your photography we would recommend you click on our Beginner to Intermediate Options.
There is no rule which says you have to have "this or that" to enjoy photography. You can use your mobile 'phone, spend £50 on a "point and shoot" camera, or spend £10,000 on a "big lens" and a complex camera body, and both options will shoot photographs. The trick is to get what is right for YOU. Below we explore 3 options (mobile/cell 'phones, compacts, and bridge cameras) which will all take great pictures, but fall short of a "fully loaded" DSLR. If you know what you are doing you can take a better picture on a mobile/cell 'phone than someone else could take with a posh DSLR camera. You'll find tips throughout this website to help you do exactly that.
That said if you're at all serious about developing your photography we would recommend that at a minimum you buy a bridge camera. You may also like to explore out advice on beginner to intermediate DSLR's.
Mobile / Cell 'Phone
Today's smart 'phones open up a huge world of photography for us. It's going to be the very most basic option for taking photographs, but on the premise that the best camera is the one your mobile/cell 'phone is very handy.
When you use the camera on your 'phone, if you know what you are doing you can actually get some very good shots. That said, with a mobile 'phone / cell 'phone you are making a compromise for convenience over quality. You are going to be limited as to how much artistic control you can take over the shot, and due to the quality of the lens and the sensor your shot will be inferior to that taken by an DSLR). If you want to take your 'phone photography further there are places such as Stockimo where you can upload your mobile 'phone / cell 'phone images to sell. (Stockimo is the iphone arm of Alamy, but there are other places which will take mobile photographs).
- Lightweight and portable
- Many people will be carrying one by default
- Some stock libraries now accept photographs from mobile/cell 'phones
- With some models you can buy little add on lenses for effects like fish eye and zoom.
- Not much room for artistic control - you are really pointing and shooting with an extremely limited fixed lens.
- Your sensor and lens will be inferior by far inferior to even that of a compact camera - producing a much poorer quality image.
- Your only real zoom will be a digital zoom - which can drastically affect the quality of your image.
- Digital noise is likely to be a huge problem in low light.
- Your creativity is being limited by your equipment.
There are a vast range of compact cameras on the market. Some enable you to just "point and shoot" with little or no artistic control over your shot, others allow you total control over your aperture and shutter speed - even offering you a fully manual mode for the more advanced user. This means that (in theory) you can freeze action such as a fast moving animal, or a splash of water. You can also take wonderful portraits with that superb bokeh effect (where the background is blurred but the subject is in perfect focus).
When choosing a compact camera you should look closely at the specifications to see how much artistic control you have over your shots. Ask: Can you manually select your aperture or shutter speed (aperture priority mode / shutter propriety mode); does it have a fully manual mode; what is the optical zoom of the camera lens. (Artistically the optical zoom can improve your bokeh, as well as the obvious).
Compact cameras range from the most basic model to the "super zooms". For example Bart's sidekick C S Wimsey owns a super-zoom in addition to DSLRs. It features a 20x optical zoom (approximately 720mm lens), so allows a respectable magnification without digitally zooming in (losing quality and definition through that digital zoom). It means you can have a camera with you if you don't want to carry around heavy kit. It is a massive compromise to using DSLR kit by way of quality, but it is far preferable to having no camera at all.
The difference in quality between images from compact cameras and images from a DSLR kit is noticeable when you zoom in. Compact cameras generally don't perform as well in low light as a DSLR - but you can't really expect them to with such a small sensor and lens. They are prone to far more "digital noise" in low light. That said there are some amazing little compacts on the market now. The convenience and versatility of some models cannot be over-looked.
Here are a couple shots C S Wimsey took from her super-zoom in the first week of owning her super-zoom. Although the quality isn't there to blow these images up particularly large, you can obtain some very respectable and creative results. And heck - not everyone wants to blow their photographs up to the size of a large wildebeest...
These type of cameras "bridge the gap" between "point and shoot" cameras and DSLR cameras. They tend to look a little bit like a small DSLR. Often they won't have an optical view-finder, or the ability to change lenses.
Again there is generally a compromise on quality compared to a DSLR, but not so much so as with a compact camera. You should always check the specifications to see how much creative control you will have over the camera - shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode, manual mode etc. With these cameras you have a larger amount to carry than a compact, but it is still fairly compact. It should give you very decent results, but you don't have all the versatility of a DSLR - interchangeable lenses can get very addictive!
- Fairly lightweight and portable.
- Generally bigger lenses and sensors than compact cameras so an increase in quality.
- Generally pretty versatile allowing you more creative control over your images.
- Sensor and lens quality can limit the quality of the image.
- You have a fixed lens - albeit likely a zoom with a variable range.
- If you want to take your photography beyond the limitations of the lens you may have to buy a whole new set-up.
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