A camera is a camera and a lens is a lens. Right. Only partially. Different types of cameras and lens are necessary for distinct photography. With the cost of photographic equipment as high as it it, making a mistake on the original equipment purchased can be costly.
Many expert photographers have moved from film photography to digital in the last dozen years, while others still extole the virtues of film. If you are pursuing fine art, film may be a viable option, but for most commercial photography options, digital has become the standard. This is not because digital is superior, but because it is simply easier to send content to the ultimate user of the images.
Digital cameras can be used to move images almost immediately from the camera to a computer and then sent, again, almost immediately anywhere in the world via internet. While stored on the computer there are numerous software programs which can be used to enhance the images including Adobe Photoshop and numerous less comprehensive programs.
Film cameras, while improved significantly in the last half of the 20th century, are largely derivative from the earliest cameras. What film can do in the hands of a photographic artist, is create photographs that many feel are artistically superior to digital. To take advantage of the advantages created by modern technology, some photographic processors now take film and scan it to digital formats making it possible to be be used like digital. However, this is a somewhat time consuming prospect not allowing for the instant availability of digital images.
So, the first decision you need to make is whether your photographic goals can best be achieved with a digital format, or film. Cameras are either film or digital, not both.
Once you have made that decision, you are still not ready to proceed to the next step (i.e., purchasing a lens) until you decide what size format you wish to use. Generally speaking, 35mm cameras (digital and film) are the standard. That does not mean they are the best. In film cameras there are several format sizes and most would argue the larger the format the better the image. When you see pictures of Ansel Adams using the huge ancient cameras for his landscapes, you realize how little film photography has changed. But those old box cameras were limited in use–you wouldn’t have much luck using one at a sporting event, or indoors at a political event.
In addition to traditional cameras, it is now possible to use pocket cameras and even cell phones for photography. It is not unusual for a photograph taken with a cell phone to make the front page of a newspaper. This, however, is largely do to being in the proverbial “right place at the right time” than careful planning. No serious photographer would use a cell phone as a preferred option for taking photographs. Pocket cameras fill the gap between cell phones an more serious cameras, and can in some cases create excellent photographs.
As you keep in mind the possibility of larger formats, pocket cameras, etc., we will at this point focus on the industry standard–the 35mm camera.
The most popular 35mm cameras for professional and semi-professional photography currently are Cannon, Nikon and Leica. Each produce both film and digital cameras. Cannon and Nikon’s digital cameras come in both full format and digital with produces a smaller image. Prices vary widely from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.
Other camera options which are very good include Pentax and Sony.
The right camera for you is one which ergonomically works for you and meets your budget. The Nikon 3x is a full frame digital camera which is built like military hardward and costs thousands of dollars. It takes wonderful pictures in any circumstance, but it would be a waste of money for many photographers to spend this much on a camera when excellent changeable lens cameras are available for a few hundred dollars.
Leica, Cannon and Nikon produce lens for their cameras and they are joined by Tokina, Sigma and Tamron as major lens producers for camera brands like Cannon and Nikon. Some would argue that the lens is far more important for taking good photographs than cameras, and liast for decades. Lenses will be discussed in a future article.