Finding the Right Camera for You

Canon or Nikon? DSLR or point-and-shoot or something in between? And what of shutter speed and aperture?

With the continuously evolving range of digital cameras and their ever-expanding list of technical specifications, how should the regular guy who just wants to take fantastic images choose his gear?

For seasoned photojournalist Bayu Ismoyo, the answer is simple: the professional DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera with interchangeable lenses) with the best features in the market.

And for the Agence France-Presse photographer, that camera is the Nikon D3 — the brand’s top of the line, most expensive offering — because of its sensitivity to light.

“I don’t have noise on my pictures even at [ISO] 3200,” the 16-year photography veteran says. “It allows me to get enough light in various places and for various subjects.”

Noise, in photography parlance, means the appearance of tiny dots on dark spaces in images taken without adequate light. While several cameras offer high ISO levels — which allow for greater light sensitivity — not all deliver clean and crisp images at the same level.

The camera also allows him to shoot with natural light, avoiding the sometimes cold, harsh effect of a flash.

“I don’t lose ‘the moment,’ ” he says.

But the average person taking snaps for family photo albums doesn’t need to worry as much about taking perfect photos in the dark. And according to Fahdi Wijaya, a Canon user who specializes in product photography, many people base their decisions on brand perceptions instead of actual capabilities.

There are perceptions that one brand is better for outdoor photography, while another might be better for capturing skin tone.

“But there is no concrete proof of that when you start using the camera, regardless of the brand,” he says.

Different brands do vary in quality, Fahdi says, but the difference in the resulting images is basically negligible.

“It would show the differences in quality only if the pictures were compared head-to-head,” Fahdi says.

Firman J. Maksum, a society photographer who took up photography when he studied in the United States, agrees that when it comes down to it, brands really don’t matter much.

All camera manufacturers, he says, are certified by the same International Organization for Standardization.

“So there won’t be a lot of differences in the specifications from one camera to another, because they ref er to the same standards,” Firman says.

Ultimately, which cameras are recognized as first or second-tier is often just a matter of brand positioning.

The long list of special features available on many different cameras are mostly not worth factoring into your decision, he says. Even professional photographers will leave a good number of the fancy features — which look so alluring on the package — unused.

When it comes down to choosing the right camera, Fahdi says, it really depends on the personal style of the man or woman behind the camera.

He uses a Canon DSLR for his studio because he feels it has the right color characteristics he needs for his work.

“I have invested a lot in Canon lenses because I have been using the brand since the start and I think they are more progressive in their digital camera technology,” he says.

But Firman suggests that amateur photographers consider carefully before investing in a DLSR.

“A DSLR won’t be of much use for the average user,” he says. “Eventually, they’ll just stick to the automatic setting and won’t make the most of the available features.”

“But if they want to have a professional touch without the hassle of using a bulky DSLR, they can use the semi-pro compact ones.”

These mid-level cameras have manual settings that allow you to adjust shutter speed and aperture and have small, fixed lenses.

If an aspiring photographer is really keen on getting a DSLR, Firman says, they should figure out first if they really need interchangeable lenses.

“The problem for Indonesian users is that they are not into reading the manual to familiarize themselves with the camera’s specifications and to learn to use its features,” says Firman, who occasional teaches photography classes.

Learning how to operate the camera from the manual and going through a trial-and-error period can generate creativity, he adds.

The most important thing is to get out and shoot. Only with practice will you develop an eye for composition.

“No matter what camera brand is used, what makes the difference is always the man behind the camera,” Firman says.

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