6

I am not very experienced in photography and wouldn't call myself a really passionate hobby photograph either, but I keep getting disappointed by my cheap phone camera when I want to take nice photos (nice = good enough for a desktop background or picture on my wall to really be proud of) especially on city trips, spectacular sunsets, or interesting light plays in the dark, and occasionally macro shots of plants or similar things in sunlight.

I am therefore looking for a camera that is good to capture large sceneries in town or nature, also at night, and provides enough possibilities for individual settings especially concerning light and colour nuances.

It should be something that guarantees me to be content with on the long-term (I once had a ~140$ compact camera that I was not particularly happy with because it had difficulty in catching bad light conditions, although I do like to try out different settings) and I am willing to spend up to 600$ for something that is really good, but am rather thinking of something around 200-400$ because I'm probably just not experienced enough to benefit from all the advanced features of a very professional camera.

I am not primarily asking for opinions on the one or the other model (although of course you are welcome to make suggestions if you know one that would be appropriate for me), because I am not even completely sure on what kind of camera would be best for me—I was thinking of a compact system camera (are there even good ones in my price range?), but am yet unsure what exactly to look for.

I would especially like to know what kind of camera would be best suited for me and what features are important for my needs, i.e., photographs of cities, landscapes, and night scenes with a fondness for interesting light and colour play. I have a basic understanding of what megapixel, zoom factor, and focal length are, but I would appreciate hints on what technical properties to pay attention to in my search.

I was made aware of this related question which is helpful in getting a hint of what type of camera to choose in the first place which is part of my concern, but doesn't sufficienctly address my primary question in what features to pay attention to for the more specific interests I described, which is why I don't consider this question an exact duplicate.

Since this is my first post, I am thankful for any improvement suggestions in case my question doesn't match the community's quality standards.

  • 1
  • It's better if you ask a single question in a question. See also: What should I look out for when buying a second-hand DSLR body?. – inkista Jul 24 '16 at 18:14
  • 2
    @inkista Thanks, but I think the question your linked is a bit too broad for what I want to know (it asks for what type of camera to choose in the first place which is also a concern for me, but doesn't sufficienctly address my primary question in what features to pay attention to for the more specific interests I described), although some of the points in the answers are helfpul as a first hint. – lemontree Jul 24 '16 at 18:23
  • As for the single queston in a queston point, I can remove the last two paragraphs and see whether there's a need to open another question or if there's one with good answers already. – lemontree Jul 24 '16 at 18:24
  • 4
    With the exception of portrait and macro, you mentioned all the classical uses of a camera, it's hard to find a specific feature. So your real concern is probably : How can I take better pictures ? and What are the differences between dSLR, mirrorless and compact ?.. – Olivier Jul 24 '16 at 18:34
3

...looking for a camera that is good to capture large sceneries in town or nature, ...

For most people, this translate to having a wide or possibly an ultrawide lens. If the camera has a fixed lens (i.e., one attached to the camera that you can't remove and replace with a different lens), then the specification you'll want to look at is the lens's focal length. If the lens zooms (i.e., can change focal length), then you're most concerned with the lowest number in the focal length range.

Most folks would consider 24mm equivalency (i.e., something that yields the same field of view as a 24mm lens would on a 35mm (or 135 format) film camera) decent for landscape and cityscape shooting. (See the Nikon lens simulator to get a sense of what different focal length equivalencies can mean. FX is 135 format (1x crop), DX is APS-C (1.5x crop), and CX is 1"-format (2.7x crop).

With an interchangeable lens camera, you can go much wider if you like by purchasing a lens that does so, but most of the interchangeable lens cameras may be outside your budget for the simple reason that you have to buy not only the camera, but also the lenses.

... also at night, ...

Here, you're probably going to be happier with a camera that has a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 or wider (smaller f-number), and a larger sensor (say, 1"-format or larger; see the Wikipedia entry on sensor size). Both of these factors make for better low-light photography, particularly if you are handholding.

However, if your night photography is of an unmoving subject, and you can use a tripod, neither factor is necessarily required. Instead, the specification for fixed lens cameras to look at here, would be the maximum shutter speed allowed. The longer the better for night photography, and many compact cameras may max out around 15 seconds or less. Interchangeable lens cameras often have a "bulb" mode, which means the only limit on how long the shutter can be open is the life of the battery in the camera.

... and provides enough possibilities for individual settings especially concerning light and colour nuances.

This generally means having full control over the exposure settings of the camera. This generally translate to having the so-called "PSAM modes":

  • P, Programmable Auto, an automatic exposure mode that still lets you adjust some settings, such as ISO and white balance, manually.

  • S, Shutter Priority, where you can set an explicit shutter speed to use, and the camera automatically chooses the aperture (and possibly the ISO).

  • A, Aperture Priority, where you set an explicit aperture setting, and the camera automatically chooses the shutter speed (and possibly the ISO).

  • M, Manual, where you choose and set iso, aperture, and shutter speed explicitly.

Color, however, may be a matter of white balance, or post-production settings and adjustments, more than a matter of in-camera settings, if you shoot RAW.

It should be something that guarantees me to be content with on the long-term...

The problem with this thinking is that cameras are digital these days. How long are you happy with any digital device? How often do you upgrade your phones or your computers? A digital camera body can be like that--it can seem outdated, or you can decide you want newer features relatively quickly. These are not like film-era cameras that could last you decades.

I am willing to spend up to 600$ for something that is really good, but am rather thinking of something around 200-400$...

This is your single largest limitation. A good basic interchangeable lens camera setup, if you purchase new, is liable to cost more in the US$1500-$2000 range. You can start low, or you can purchase used, but that, to me, is the ballpark figure for a good basic setup of a body, two or three lenses, and accessories like cards, batteries, a bag, and maybe a tripod or flash. Not to mention post-processing software.

With your budget, I'd actually say a fixed-lens camera, preferably one with a larger sensor, if you can find it used, might be your best bet. A previous-generation Sony RX100 or a Canon Powershot G1X or something.

  • I'd emphasise the wide angle aspect of this answer if you chose a single lens camera. That will limit the choice, but also give you some specs to compare around. – a25bedc5-3d09-41b8-82fb-ea6c353d75ae Jul 25 '16 at 9:37
2

There are really two specifications to be concerned with in your situation:

  • The most important is a large sensor since that determines performance in low-light. So get the largest sensor you can afford. There are now plenty of 1" CMOS sensors which deliver a really good compromise between traditional compact and a DSLR. You could probably go one step further with a low-end Micro Four-Thirds mirrorless which will also add flexibility.
  • Manual controls is what you need in order to be creative and experiment, specially to capture play of light as you say. The good news is that all current cameras with 1" CMOS sensors and current mirrorless can do it. They just vary in speed and control efficiency but that will have little impact to what you are asking. Dual control-dials would be nice but that raises the price some more.

One third thing which really makes a difference for photography is a viewfinder. It would be optical for a DSLR but many cameras have really good EVFs now. Although the smaller ones tend to have smaller EVFs which are harder to see.

There are a few options that should fall within your budget. One for example is the Panasonic GM5 which comes to $499 with a lens even and has a small built-in EVF. One of the Sony RX100 family could do too.

  • This helped, thanks! I'll take a closer look at what you mentioned. – lemontree Aug 9 '16 at 18:37
-1

You need a camera that has lots of automation. I suggest the Panasonic DMC-ZS40 – I keep one in my pocket. If lost or stolen or broken, I would replace with exactly the same make and mode. Has GPS so you can look at your pictures and know city, country, state and nearby landmark. Has super zoom that covers wide-angle thru super-duper telephoto. File is large enough to make reasonable enlargement and look good on 50 inch TV. Has mode dial for most any situation you might encounter. On sale at Costco as this model is discontinued. Replacement is ZS-50 with slight improvements but no GPS. Best of all – has classic LCD rear screen plus electronic eye-level viewfinder that works in bright sunlight. Most compact digitals fall short on this score. Believe me an eye-level viewfinder is a must in my viewpoint. Camera can be set to full or partial manual for advanced uses.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.