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What Kind Of Photographer Are You?

By asking what kind of photographer are you, I mean what kind of photos do you intend to take

This is an important question to answer because it defines the type of digital camera you need to buy. You may also want to consider the near future. Do you see yourself changing what you photograph or how you use photography.

I’ve kind of divided this page into several categories of picture takers:

  • The Casual-convenient Photo Taker
  • The Family Historian
  • The Soccer Mom (you do not have to be a mom to fit in this category)
  • The Dedicated Hobbyist
  • The Pro

Now, you may find that you sort of fit into more than one category. That’s alright. I hope I give you enough information to decide what digital camera will serve you best. If you are split too evenly, you may want to seriously consider more than one camera.

Lets look at the different categories

The Casual-convenient Photo Taker

What I am calling the Casual-convenient Photo Taker is just the average person. You just want to take pictures at a few special events each year and have one to use on vacation. Convenience is the major important factor.

The casual photographer does not want something big

The smaller the better. You are looking for the smaller point-and-shoot digital cameras. The trade off for size is fewer features. The main feature that suffers because of size the the range of the zoom. Other than that you’ll find manufacturers have managed to put plenty of features even in small packages.

Despite the limited range zoom on small digital cameras, you will probably enjoy the advantage of a small camera

You may even be able to fit it in a pocket. With a large memory card, you can enjoy being able to take photos all day on a vacation or all you can take at a party and still be able to hid it away when you just want to have a good time.

The Family Historian

The family historian is an important part of every family. This job may start at the birth of a new child or may be assigned to you by a parent later in life. Your job is to be the one that gets the photos at every family gathering or important event.

You may be a scrap booker

Not only taking the photos but in charge of archiving the family memories and labeling for all to find. Whenever something is going on, you have the camera. In fact, whenever something is going on, you are expected to have the camera.

The family historian may need a camera with a few more features than a casual picture taker

Look for a camera with a fairly good zoom range. If you can find one with the flash a bit farther from the lens, it will help reduce red-eye a bit. The ability to add an accessory flash to the camera is something to consider. The extra power an external flash can add can come in handy. The extra distance from the lens an external flash can add will really help reduce red eye even more.

Cameras in this category are a bit larger

They are typical point-and-shoot digital cameras. The larger zoom range will give you a bit more flexibility. Manufacturers have several special features you may want to look at. Some digital camera manufacturers have included image stability technology that will help you get sharper photos. Canon even has a model with an L lens, meaning it is extra sharp and has special coatings or lens elements they reserve for special, more expensive lenses.

There are some features you should look for in this category

Many cameras in this category may have a slightly larger rear screen than the the compact version could have. This is only an advantage if it does not have an optical viewfinder, but it is something to consider. I already mentioned external flash and zoom range. You may want to check for a remote release so you can get in the photo occasionally with the rest of the family. Some models come with an infrared remote.

Also check on the camera’s processor speed

While not a major importance of this category, you do not want to spend all your family event waiting to take another photo. Digital Cameras that process photos faster (or have a larger cache) will allow you to shoot another photo right after another without waiting long. Canon has starts including their newer processors that were developed for their digital single lens reflexes. They increase the speed at which you can take photos and also save battery power.

The Soccer Mom

You do not have to be a mom to fit this category

This category is separated from the family historian only by the need to photography sports or fast action fairly often. We talked about the convenience of a digital camera with a fast processor or cache for the family historian. For the soccer mom is is nearly a necessity. You will need a digital camera that will allow you to shoot several photos right after each other to cover action photos.

This category marks the extreme limit for any point-and-shoot digital camera

It is very hard to follow action with an electronic viewfinder. They tend to lag and just make it seem difficult to use with sports. Also, the limits of an attached lens come into play. While manufacturers now have point-and-shoot cameras with 12x zooms, at their highest zoom, most do not let enough light in to get the fast shutter speed needed to catch action. In addition, many digital point-and-shoot cameras that have optical viewfinders do not have the high range zooms.

The final problem with digital point-and-shoot cameras is lag

Lag is the amount of time between when you press the shutter button and the photo is actually exposed by the camera. While manufacturers have worked to reduce it, many digital cameras suffer from very noticeable lag. You may find it hard to catch action shots if your digital camera has much lag. Newer digital cameras are a bit better than older digital cameras. Those who bought digital cameras a few years ago often found lag was a real inconvenience. You may find that it is not too bad nowadays.

This category is where I suggest you start to look at a Digital Single Lens Reflex

In fact, the Digital Single Lens Reflexes (DLSR) now available act the most like the film cameras we are used to using. DSLR’s (of any price range) have many advantages over the digital point-and-shoot cameras.

DSLR’s correct many of the digital disadvantages found in digital point-and-shoot cameras

They have little or no lag. They have a larger cache, allowing you to shoot many photos right after each other without waiting for the camera to process. Their optical viewfinders are bright, clear, and are easy to see in daylight. In short, they act like film SLR’s.

Digital Single Lens Reflexes also have better image quality

DSLR’s usually have a bigger size (physical size, not resolution) image sensor that digital point-and-shoot cameras. This larger sensor means the pixels are not as close to each other as they are in smaller sensors. This helps reduce noise and digital artifacts compared to digital point-and-shoot cameras. Even at the same resolutions, a digital single lens reflex will produce a better photo than a point-and-shoot digital camera.

The Digital Single Lens Reflex does have two disadvantages

Size. DSLR’s tend to be a bit larger. Adding the lens will make it even bigger and heavier. The second disadvantage is cost. Digital Single Lens Reflexes tend to start in the price range at which most point-and-shoot cameras end. At the lower cost end of the spectrum is the Canon Digital Rebel XT. The original Digital Rebel was the first Digital Single Lens Reflex under $1000, a true landmark in digital photography. Nikon also has a competitor to the Digital Rebel Series.

The advantages of a Digital Single Lens Reflex for shooting any type of action will make it worth the extra weight and cost

By using a camera that is far more capable, you will enjoy your photos more. You will find yourself less frustrated.

The Dedicated Hobbyist

The dedicated hobbyist is the backbone of photography

The dedicated hobbyist may have dreams of becoming a professional photographer some day. Or maybe he or she may have some other interest that he or she wants to photograph often and finds that increasing photographic skills allows this other interest to be shared better. If photography is not a first love, it is at least a close second. My grandfather’s love for photography grew out of his love of trains and trying to photograph them.

Many professional photographers were once amateur photographers that just decided they wanted to try and make it professionally

In fact, I have met amateur photographers that new a lot more than some who claim to be professionals. Being an amateur is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, some amateur photographers produce photos that rival the best professionals. The only difference is that an amateur does not need to please anyone else but himself or herself. The professional does not have this option. He must constantly work to please the client.

If you are serious about photography you should look into a Digital Single Lens Reflex

The creativity a DSLR affords cannot be matched. You will find that whatever your photographic vision is, the DSLR is capable of doing it. The range of accessories will provide an endless way for you to test your limits as well as your credit card limits.

There is a bit of a price difference between the DSLR a dedicated hobbyist would most likely afford and what a professional would need

Since professional DSLR’s can cost over $8000 (and that’s without a lens) the amateur will be looking at the lower priced DSLR’s. There are many to choose from. You will find the Canon Digital Rebel and its competitors very capable of producing professional level, quality photos. A bit higher¬† in cost are the next range of DSLR’s like the Canon EOS 30D and it’s Nikon competitors. This level of DSLR is about equal in cost to a professional level film camera. While missing some of the highest performance features of the top level DSLR’s. they are still very popular with professionals.

If you are on a budget look at the high end point-and-shoot digital cameras or low end Digital Single Lens Reflexes

If you do not plan to photograph and sports or action photography (or at least not often) you may be happy with a high end point-and-shoot digital camera. If you plan on doing anything with a moving subject (bird watching) and you are on a budget look at a low end DSLR. An even more economical option would be finding a used Digital Rebel 300D maybe on eBay.

The Professional

If your already a professional you should not need to be reading this

The professional need to find the equipment that will provide the highest quality photos. You may want to consider a system compatible with one you already own. High end Digital Single Lens Reflexes (based on 35mm body size) provide photo quality equal to medium format film. Digital Cameras based on Medium Format cameras (often using a digital back on a film camera) provide quality of large format view cameras.

Expect to pay for it

Top of the line Digital Single Lens Reflexes like the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II (now it is the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III) can cost $8000. Medium format backs are even more with many systems running over $20,000. Not only  that, the professional needs to have a back-up in place the primary equipment fails. Now we are talking real money.

Many professionals use the mid-quality Digital Single Lens Reflexes

Especially for a back-up. The quality photo produced by a Canon EOS 30D is the same as an EOS 1D Mark II. It just will not be as durable or have all the same features. You may want a pro-level camera as your primary and a mid-level camera (like the newer Canon EOS 40D)as a backup.

Of course, there are times when I pays not to look like a professional

Keeping a point-and-shoot digital camera on hand can be handy. Sometimes a professional will draw unwanted attention just by having a pro camera. To avoid this attention, some photographers will resort to using a high end point-and-shoot digital camera. It is also nice to take on vacation.

I hope I’ve covered the different types of photographers well

Next we will look at what brand of camera. A subject that often will bring a heated discussion to a group of professional photographers or a group of dedicated hobbyists (or at least it used to).

What Brand of Digital Camera Should I Buy?

About James Thoenes

James has spent most of his life involved in photography. He is now dedicated to producing portraits that his clients will treasure for the rest of their lives.