Bowery Mural

Help! I'd like a new camera

Monday, 26 May 2014

BandW boy (Dan Rubin), shot and edited in VSCOcam on iPhone 4S, by me. Glasgow Photowalk, Jan 2014.

I need your help?!

Ever since I went to the Glasgow Photowalk workshop back in January, I've been trying to decide which camera to buy that will become my new companion. Most people at the workshop had some sort of DSLR camera and if i'm honest i always wanted one of those but was never sure quite why. I suppose I thought it took better pictures. Reality is that it's not the equipment you use it's the picture you take. Sure, I mean if you're a pro or even a semi-pro then I'm sure a DSLR is very useful. But for me, a hobbyist with a keen interest, I just wasn't sure what I was after. By the way, I like the way the subject in the photo above is not dead centre.

A few weeks ago I went to Jessop's. I was annoyed because about 1 minute after entering the shop and before I had the chance of a proper look, a sales guy was all too keen and eager at asking if I needed any help. I mean that is fine and all but wait a few minutes at least so I can catch my breath, tut. However, after a few minutes having a look myself at what was on offer I asked a girl for some more information. I told her i wasn't sure i wanted a DSLR. What I did want was something that was good in all light conditions, especially night time. I wanted something small, perhaps with interchangeable lenses. What I really wanted to say was that all I wanted was something that could take good portraits and those fancy schmancy torchlight word pictures in the dark! But you can't say that in a photography shop without looking like a twat. I had an idea of the kind of thing I was after. Someone had mentioned the Fuji X100S to me. Small, but not too small though. No interchangeable lens. But oh man, it looks great. The price is a little steep mind.

The sales assistant didn't once suggest it to me. Instead she showed me a DSLR (!) and a Sony compact model. Great in low light, she said. I had a play with both and took a few pictures. The Sony did feel better in my hand. I has small hands. However, she really pushed the DSLR and was banging on about all these bells and whistles it had and that I should take this as my first one. I let her go on. I probably shouldn't have. She priced everything up and recommended their photography workshops, the insurance, a scabby bag, a spare battery and a memory card. £699. I didn't have the heart to tell her i was just in to see it and i'd probably buy it off the internet for much cheaper. I mean the memory card alone was double the price in the shop. Why would I buy it there.

I left there none the wiser and not hopeful that I was getting what i wanted so i wandered to John Lewis to see if their choice was any better. After 20 minutes of hanging about waiting on the one guy from the photography section finishing with a fussy and demanding customer, I told him what i wanted. That i didn't want anything too big, probably not a DSLR, and guess what he showed me? Almost the same DSLR and the same Sony camera. Would you even believe it? I mean would you...

a selection from John Lewis

I uhmed and aahed again and was really hoping that he would have good solid trustworthy advice for exactly what I wanted. I left there after another few goes with the cameras.

Ignoring my camera-buying urge for a few weeks I managed to get my hands on a smallish DSLR to try out for a week or so. I liked it. I liked the pictures I took with it but there was something not quite right. I didn't now what it was until I decided to take it along with me on a trip to Glasgow, and then I realised. There was nothing missing. There was too much of it. It was too big. Even this small model was still too big for what I really wanted.

I LOVE my iPhone because it suits the type of photographs I want to take. Random, ad-hoc, on the move photos. Photos that just appear in front of you. I'm not a professional photographer. I don't feel I need nor do I want to be carrying a bulky DSLR around with me. I do however want the ability to take great photos. To be able to whip my camera out of my bag and take a picture. I don't want to have to carry an extra camera bag about with me, or extra lenses. Do I really need a zoom lens? No. My feet are my zoom. I am inspired by pictures on the Instagram or VSCOcam apps and those are photos that are mostly taken by phones (I hope!). That's the kind of thing i'm after. Mobile photography that isn't on a phone but a bit more advanced than my normal point and shoot - a 'compact system camera'? That's all.

I'd be really grateful if you could help me. Reading lots of reviews online about different compact system cameras and they range in price from £400 - £1000. I like this review of a Fuji X100S...

It's all about the picture, not about bogus sales features. The X100S has no BS HDR modes, yet its Voodoo sensor and electronics let it render insane dynamic ranges naturally and instantly, and its built-in flash is always perfect — and never needing to pop up or wait to recycle or any of the other hogwash that other camera makers spray out to get between us and a good picture. All the other baloney helps sell cameras to non-pro photographers, while the X100S is as perfect as any digital camera this side of the iPhone 5 has ever gotten.

I think that says a lot. I want it to be about the picture, not the size of my zoom or how many lenses I have. Talking of lenses. Whilst i was at the workshop for the Glasgow Photowalk I was surprised and glad that Dan recommended that you use one lens to take pictures for the first few months, to get to know your camera and how it works. Dump the standard lenses it comes with he said (or something along those lines) at least for a while. Then the 'nifty 50' was mentioned. It's apparently really great as this post mentions and a photography enthusiast colleague told me. Low cost, lightweight, great for travelling, killer bokeh, what's not to love. And look what she says on zoom lenses - great for sports or weddings but you can always just walk that two feet to get a new composition with your prime lens.

Not bad for an iPhone. Shot and edited in VSCOcam on iPhone 4S.

Having said all of that I'm still at a loss as to what to buy. These aren't cheap models by any means but i want something of quality, relatively new to the market as I don't want to find out that 3 months down the line they're bringing out a 'newer' version with more features. Although I gather that new cameras are always coming out. I want to take low light pictures, night time, inside, outside, portraits, fun torchlight word pics, manual setting, not fussed about a zoom lens, wifi connectivity might be an advantage but it's not a deal breaker. Buying a camera is a personal thing. It has to feel good in your hands too. You have to want to take it out and shoot because otherwise you're not going to take those pictures and capture those moments with all of your heart. I keep going back to this but i really do love my iPhone for this but now I'm ready to up my game and get a grown up camera.



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