FAQ Fridays: Looking for a new camera… need help.

This week’s question is something we get asked a lot. The answer is something I think everyone looking for a new camera would be interested in knowing.

Question:

I am looking to get a SLR camera or just a really cool camera in a small body, but don’t know where to start. Not too fancy and expensive, it’s just a for fun camera and um must look nice LOL. I want to take photos that can focus on 1 object while the others are blurry out – what type of lense is that?

Answer:

I’ll try to answer without getting too technical. In plain english, when looking for a new camera you have three things to choose from: Size, cost, and features. Now the reality is… you can only pick two of those. Huh? If you want a small size with lots of features then it will cost you a lot. If you want a small size and low cost, you will have to sacrifice features. Get it? ;p

Now to other related points of the question:

  • To focus on the object and blur out the background, you need a camera that can accept (or has attached) a lens with a large aperture (low f-stop number). Basically, the lower the f-stop number the more blurr you can get in the background. Good lenses go from f/1.4 to f/4 for a decent blur. Typical point and shoots are around f/4 and above; that is one of the reasons why you always see everything in focus. Another reason is that most point and shoots have very wide angle lenses. Generally, the wider your focal length is the tougher it will be to get that nice de-focused background. If you get a DSLR a good lens to get is the 35mm f/1.8 ($200).
  • Most DSLRs are big cameras. Mainly because they inherited the internal mechanics of old film cameras and also to better balance different sized lenses. But the most important thing of DSLRs is that they have large camera sensors. Basically, the larger your camera sensor, the more detail, color and light you can capture. Take a look at this wikipedia image below showing relative camera sensor sizes. Most consumer DSLRs have the “cropped-framed” APS-C sensors. The “pro-grade” cameras will have “full-frame” and larger sensor sizes. Nikon and Canon top of the line cameras currently have “full-frame” sized sensors. Please note how tiny point and shoot sensors (bottom left squares) are compared to DSLRs; that is the main reason for the difference in quality of photos.

  • It is tough to find all the “pro” features in a small camera. The smaller nice cameras that offer you manual f/stop control are more expensive as well. Generally though, most point and shoots will not be able to give you the nice defocused blurry background. But if you want a very good PnS camera, it is the higher grade Canon G12. Many pro photographers even use these higher end PnS cameras do take their macro detail shots.
  • Small cameras that CAN give you the blurry background are high end very expensive ones. I have my eye out for this very retro looking one: Fuji X100 ~$1200. This camera is special because it packs the same big APS-C sensor into a small camera.

So in the end, it comes down to what is more important for you when you are looking for a new camera. Size? Cost? or Features? Now choose two. =)

My personal recommendations?

  1. Because of the sensor size, the quality of photos from most point and shoot cameras will be the same. I don’t expect very high quality from point and shoot cameras. What I do get in return however are: small size and spur of the moment captured pics when I otherwise would not have carried a big DSLR. So what point and shoot would I get? Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS10. Why? The size and picture quality is the same as others, so the next important thing is durability. This camera is kid proof: water, freeze, drop proof and it’s good lookin too.
  2. Starter family DSLR? Get a Nikon 3100. Good quality + video.
  3. Hobby DSLR and would like to make money off photoshoots? Get the Nikon D7000. Pro features in a smaller sized DSLR.

Take a look at our gear page for specific lens recommendations.

And don’t forget, if you do plan on getting a new DSLR + lens, Nikon has extended their rebates until March 26th, 2011. Yay.


What is FAQ Fridays?
FAQ Fridays is an ongoing weekly feature on this site where WE answer questions submitted by you. We hope this new segment will help with many of your photography challenges. As always, you can ask questions in the comments section if it relates to that certain post.

Here is a list of: all previous FAQ Fridays posts

If you have specific questions that do not relate directly… then feel free to submit your questions by using the FAQ Fridays Submission Form page.

Alternatively, you can email your questions to: faq -at- prettygeeky.com (note: email broken up to prevent spam bots).