This video will probably make you fall in love with your lenses all over again :).
Buying electronic stuffs is not an easy task these days. We, consumers, are spoilt for choice with so many brands and offerings with overlapping features and price points. Rather I should say that consumers gets confused by the multitude of options. I guess that’s what these companies want to do – confuse the buyer so that he ends up buying something which is costlier than what he intended do buy initially. So to avoid falling in this trap and make a selection which meets your expectations and budget, I think it requires a lot of homework. The same goes for buying a digital camera.
So far, I have been a point & shoot photographer. I started with a Canon Powershot A410 about 5 years back. It is was a basic PnS with a decent quality. Later, about one-n-half years back I shifted to Nokia N79. Yes, a Nokia phone in lieu of a camera :). Nokia has lately released phones with amazing cameras. This phone had a 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens. As I carry it always with me, I have taken some really nice and candid shots with it. This phone had completely replaced the need of a PnS for me. In fact, I have recently done a 4 day trip of Prague and had taken a few hundred photos using N79.
Lately I had been thinking of upgrading my camera so that I can develop some better photography skills. This is when I started to explore what should I upgrade to. I first checked out the superzooms or prosumers cameras. These cameras are positioned between the basic PnS and the DSLRs, and has its own tradeoffs. It is suitable for people who want something better than a PnS but are not very keen to pursue photography as a serious hobby. These prosumers are one time investment which gives a better sensor, higher optical zoom, faster continuous shooting and more manual control options as compared to PnS. Price wise these cameras overlap the higher end of PnS and the entry level DSLRs. This overlap makes the decision difficult. This makes it important to first clearly work out the requirements and the purpose of the camera.
If compactness is the high priority then a high end PnS is recommended. However if you don’t mind the size and you want more flexibility and quality than a PnS, or want to try your hands at manual controls but you don’t want to spend further on the equipment and do not want to be overwhelmed by size and lenses of DSLR, then a prosumer would be suitable for you. But if you are an enthusiastic photographer, getting serious about it, planning to pursue it for long and wish to upgrade your equipment as you improve on your skills, then a DSLR is recommended.
As for me, I found myself to be in the third category. Although I have been a PnS photographer, I want to start pursuing photography as a serious hobby. I also plan to invest in my equipment over the time as and when needed. Based on feedbacks from users of DSLRs and/or prosumers, I realized that in case of prosumer although I would be spending equivalent to an entry-level DSLR and carrying a camera which is not compact, I would be compromising on quality, spending money on camera which cannot be extended and might soon outgrow the camera and find it limiting. This made me decide to drop the prosumers and concentrate on DSLRs. However, if these concerns do not matter to you then prosumer can still be the right camera for you. Read here for a good comparison between prosumers and DSLRs.
Once I ruled out the prosumers for myself and decided for a DSLR, I faced the dilemma between normal DSLRs and the Micro Fourth Thirds (MFTs). MFTs are a new technology promoted by Panasonic and Olympus with an intention to provide the best of both worlds – compactness of prosumers and quality of DSLRs. These cameras have a significantly smaller body because they replace Optical View Finder with either a Live View only or with an Electronic View Finder. This eliminates the mirror mechanism in the body and thus allows them to save space. Besides, they have up to 30% smaller sensors as compared to DSLRs. These cameras also need different lenses which are especially made for MFTs. The DSLR lenses can be used with an adapter but you will lose on Auto-Focus.
Deciding between DSLRs and MFTs was slightly difficult because I couldn’t find people who have used it. So the decision was entirely based on online information and speculations. To give you the conclusion of this dilemma, I decided against MFTs. Why? For a couple of reasons! Firstly, they were not from Canon or Nikon. In consumer electronics and automobiles, I have realized and believe in buying stuff which I see around. Almost everyone I knew, saw or talked to, used, preferred or recommended either Canon or Nikon. Moreover I didn’t find anyone who used MFT camera.
Secondly, MFT is a promising but new technology. It is still not as matured as DSLR and it still has a long way to go before it can fill up the gap between prosumers and DSLRs. Given that buying a DSLR is a significant and long term expenditure, I preferred not to be the scape-goat for it.
Thirdly, in this category of cameras, the lenses are more important and costlier than the camera bodies themselves. Serious DSLR photographers invest more in lenses than camera body. Besides, you buy lenses once and upgrade bodies when needed. The availability of lenses for MFTs is currently limited, which means not only the choice is limited but also the price would be higher. The normal DSLR lenses can be used, but as pointed out earlier, you will need an additional adapter and they won’t Auto-Focus. Again as I found that most of the community of DSLR users is either Canon or Nikon, if I buy a MFT then I would be limited on lenses – DSLR lenses cannot be used across the brands and I wouldn’t find them on E-bay.
Lastly, a smaller sensor makes MFTs more susceptible to higher noise in low light shooting and price wise these are costlier than the most basic entry DSLRs. I didn’t find it convincing to pay more for something which at the moment is clearly inferior and have practical limitations.
I didn’t realise that so far I had been just on the tip of iceberg. The world of DSLRs is extensive and can become quite overwhelming for a newbie like me. I’m glad I had friends, friends of friends and colleagues around me who helped me and were ever ready to share their experiences with me and were patient enough to answer my stupidest queries – thanks to Rahul, Chaithanya, Joris, Pritee, Rajat, Dipanjan, Vikas, Aditya, Bimal, Pradipta, Sai Prashanth, Sandeep, Jay, Hari, Wim, Guru, Waqas, Andy, Tom…
I’ll write about the final selection of the DSLR in a separate post. So watch out for it :)…