Because so many people asked during the Christmas season, here’s some practical thoughts on buying photo equipment…or just understanding more about what you already have, and using it.
A few of you will remember the days when I worked at the old Click Camera store on North Main Street in Dayton – and later managed, for 16 seasons, the BK Photo and Gallery store in downtown Troy.
In fact, I cut my teeth on cameras and photography back in my minor league umpiring days, shooting free-lance sports in the off-season with people like Malcom Emmons and drooling around some of the Sports Illustrated photogs then working. I was determined to shoot covers for Sport, Sporting News, Streets and Smith and other publications of the day, but the competition was simply stupid high…and no one, and I mean NO ONE, made any money doing it. I knew some well-known names that came to Dayton and Cincinnati in those days to shoot cover assignments without enough money to afford both a hotel room and rental car…so they slept in the rental car.
Because I enjoyed eating and having a roof over my head, I went to work at Click Camera in 1982, my first year out of baseball, stayed there for several years before leaving for Troy and a life-long association with Nikon – some of their key people in the field, and just about all of their equipment. I worked in photo retail for about 24 years before leaving in 2005 to pretty much pursue what I’m doing now. No regrets.
But to this day some people who knew me then – and more aptly, people who recognize that photo content makes up about 50% of the average Press Pros page – ask opinions about cameras and lenses. What would you buy, and what’s my current equipment worth if I wanted to sell it or trade? And so it was during the recent holiday season. So let me respond briefly BRIEFLY.
First of all, if you want to buy a new digital camera they’re good, they’re dependable, and they’re easier to use than you might expect. I was intimidated by digital technology for years because as a retailer I feared that the early prototypes would quickly become obsolete, and worthless…as the industry would no doubt advance quickly. I was right. If you bought a digital camera in 2005, one of the sub-5 million pixel models, it’s terribly out-of-date now and absolutely worthless as a trade-in. And to this day that reality has turned a lot of people off to the photography hobby.
However, if you’ve bought enough camera since about 2008 (12 mega-pixels or better), those cameras are still very serviceable, and for average picture taking will do you just fine…if you keep the batteries charged and exercised. The camera’s not the issue. It’s the power source you have to worry about, along with updates in computer software.
If you’re buying a new camera, and are serious about it, I tell people this. Buy enough camera the first time. Electronics of all kinds are built to be obsolete within two years, just like the phone you own. And they do that so you’re tempted to buy a new one if and when you need repair. So buy a quality piece in the first place and plan on using it for as long as you can.
Currently, the traditional DSLRs (digital single lens reflex, pictured at top of the page) models are being joined by new, mirrorless cameras (adjacent photo)…because Nikon and Canon need something new to sell. And unlike my initial attitude about digital, I think the mirrorless cameras, though too expensive, are quite good and have their advantages. They’re smaller and lighter, BUT…they’re not necessarily better than the model you might already own. And, they lack some of the features of traditional SLRs. But if you starting out fresh, they’re nice, especially for travel.
Let me add this. If you do believe in updating with advancing technology, give it some time before you jump into mirrorless cameras. Quality will improve rapidly, and so, too, will the prices come down…just like digital did in 2010. At Press Pros we’ve already been contacted about shooting mirrorless, but as I advise others, the SLR models we currently use will be relevant yet for a long, long time – probably a decade. And that’s an eternity in electronics terms.
Finally, you and I both know that the phone you own will take a great picture, so there may be no need at all for you to buy a camera. Remember, the images we make are not the images you would make – two completely different things. And phone cameras are getting better by the day, as well – just like digital cameras.
So in conclusion…if you would like to buy in order to become a hobbyist or shoot your kids playing sports, buy it well, and buy it ONCE.
Second, if you want the newer mirrorless technology, step back, breathe a bit, and give the market time to come to you. That is, unless you have more money than you have sense, or patience.
And last, never hesitate to ask. The retailer that once lived within me is always patient to answer your questions.