Photo Lesson 1: Choosing your camera

I’ve been taking photo’s as long as I can recall, and I’ve accumulated over 22,000 images over that time – and probably taken triple that, with many being lost or discarded over the years.  This series of posts aims to help you get the best out of your holiday photos.

There aren’t many people that come back from their holidays without some photo’s being taken to record the good times for posterity.

And let me say from the outset, these photo’s are IMPORTANT.  because even if you don’t think so now, believe me in twenty or thirty years from now, you will look back at those images with a great deal of nostalgia.

Now, you can take holiday snaps or you can take holiday photos.  And there is not a lot of effort required to move from one to the other.   And with photos, you can take run of the mill photos, using the same time old locations and scenes captured every day by thousands of visitors, or you can put a bit of thought into it and capture something unique and different.

Over the next few posts, I’ll try to give you some tips on how to achieve better holiday photo’s.

axzxIn the ‘old’ days, holiday photos were purchased from street photographers

‘When I was a lad’ (Goodness, I never thought I would hear myself say that!) you had to be rich and have some technical ability to own a camera – film came on rolls and had to be taken to the local chemist to be developed, unless you spent a lot of money and time developing your own – not a cheap hobby.

In the 60’s the introduction of cheap cameras and the “instamatic” range of cartridge films, and the introduction of first highstreet printing like Boots and then mail order processing such as Bonusprint brought black and white photography to the general public – and the holiday snap was born.



Photographic film through the years

By the time I took up photography as a hobby, the film of choice was 35mm, either colour negative for printing, or slide film for turning into transparencies for slide shows.  I loved the latter, because it transported your images from the washed out 3 1/2 x 5 1/2″ prints to wall sized images with beautiful depth of colour – although resolution was still a bit ropey.

Nowadays its a lot different.  Digital photography has all but killed the film market, and images are sized in megapixels instead of millimetres,  and stored on digital solid state cards instead of cellulose film.

Cameras also come in a variety of shapes and forms.   From tiny cameras built into mobile phones to huge professional digital cameras used by professional photographers with more settings and a new science of photographic jargon that the old boys like me struggle to get to grips with.

Mobile phone cameras get better with each new model, more storage space, more editing facilities, and more megapixels giving (allegedly) better resolution pictures.  But one thing that doesn’t change is the lens size.  And from where I stand, that’s an important point.  Then you have speciality cameras like the Go Pro, and some like my little Nikon that you can take underwater.  Moving up we get to the compact, and depending on spend, you can go from very basic to very sophisticated.  More glass up front, some digital wizardry to improve the zoom capabilities (at the expense of available resolution) and superior handholding and operation to a phone – no stabbing at the screen trying to take your shot.

Next up is the bridge camera.   Remember I said size is important?  Lens size that is.   Well, the bridge literally ‘bridges’ the gap between the larger lens of a full DSLR, while retaining more of the simplicity from the compact.

Finally, for us at least (unless you are going professional), we move to the top of the tree Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera, or DSLR for short.    Those of you used to SLR’s will need no explanation, but for those more used to compacts but admiring the SLR or DSLR hanging around your neighbour’s neck while stood by the Trevi fountain, let me explain a little.

Until the advent of the LCD, most compact cameras took the photo through the front lens, while you viewed the image through the viewfinder.  With an LCD back screen, you get an approximate image of what the final image will look like.  Most likely slightly cropped and of lower resolution.   And it can be a swine to view in bright light.  A lot of times people with screens wished they had a little viewfinder to look through.


In a DSLR, you get the best of both worlds – A back LCD screen if you want it, plus a normal optical viewfinder. And the beauty of an SLR or DLSR (the SLR takes old fashioned 35mm film) is that as the name suggests, there is a single main lens which bounces the view off of a mirror through a special prism to the rear viewfinder.  You see exactly what your lens is seeing.   When you push the shutter release button, the mirror jumps out of the way, allowing the light to go straight through the shutter blades and onto the sensor (DSLR) or film (SLR).

Another major point of DSLR’s over their bridge cousins is that they have interchangeable lenses, which allow you to change the type of image – from very wide landscape shots to super zoomed sports shots for example.  And a range of zoom lens to give you various combinations.  We will talk lenses more in another post.

Phew.  All those technical terms explained later.  For now you just need to know that with a superior lens, and vastly more superior electronics giving a wide range of settings for you to choose from, then the DSLR is the icing on the cake for photographers.

So which do you pick?  This is a matter of personal choice based on what you want to do with the final images.

I’m not going to discuss mobile phones, because everyone has one and if that’s all you need, then you won’t be interested in the technicalities of photography – although you may still be interested in my tips on composition.

Speciality cameras like the Go Pro are out of my realm of experience so we won’t be discussing those either.   So I will be focusing on Compacts, Bridges and DSLR’s.

In this day and age, I’m going to assume no-one is using a normal SLR but if you are, then again much of the DSLR information will be applicable.

Now before I get you to choose which camera, we need to discuss some of the finer points of photography, and compare the capabilities of each type of camera.  By the end, hopefully you will make an informed decision that suits you best.

If you would like me to explain something in particular, drop me a line and I’ll do my best to oblige.

To be continued…





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