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I'm about to go to a family trip to Thailand, and I have a point & shoot camera (Canon PowerShot a2400) , and a budget for the photography.

I have 2 options that within my budget:

  1. Sign up for photography course and use the PowerShot on my trip.

  2. Buy a basic DSLR camera, with no professional experience. (I took a lot of photos, but I have no idea how to take advantage of the shots like iso etc.)

From your experience - what you suggest I do?

My main goal (right now) is to get the most out of this family trip photos.

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    What is your goal? To learn photography or to document your trip? – mattdm Apr 23 '17 at 23:38
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    I don't get the close votes. It's a great question, IMO. Gear vs. skill is at the very core of many questions and misconceptions about photography. – ths Apr 24 '17 at 9:37
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    @DvirNaim So... that doesn't really answer the question. – mattdm Apr 24 '17 at 14:56
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    The fact that the user who asked the question can't even adequately answer that type of photos they wish to take goes a long way towards answering the question for that particular user. – Michael C Apr 24 '17 at 15:55
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    In any case, let me follow up: which of these is more important? If you had to chose, would you rather come back with snapshots that record your trip but no new knowledge, or come back having learned something but all of your photos are terrible? – mattdm Apr 24 '17 at 16:36
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They say that it's not the camera that makes the pictures, but the photographer.

Improving your (poor) skills will give you a much better return-on-investment, ie. much more satisfaction with the photographic results of your trip, than a better camera.

Once you know a bit about composition etc., you'll notice the limits imposed on you by your current hardware and may wish to upgrade. Then you'll benefit from the enhanced capabilities of a DSLR. (see also: @michael-clark 's answer to When should I upgrade my camera body? about how to choose equipment)

But a good photographer with a poor camera is better than a bad photographer with top gear. (see also: "Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera Challenge" on youtube)

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    And also, with better understanding of photography, you'll be able to spend your money on future upgrades more wisely, and be able to make better informed decisions about the features you want etc – laurencemadill Apr 24 '17 at 12:37
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Take the course. You can only get the most out of any tool if you know how to use it. That is especially true of a tool as complex as a camera used to do a task that is considered an art.

You wouldn't upgrade from a family sedan with an automatic transmission to a high end exotic sports car with a non-synchronized manual transmission without getting someone to teach you how to shift it would you? (can you say "double clutch?") But even if you can work your way through the gearbox (or properly set exposure with a particular camera), that is only the beginning of learning how to see the quickest line through a series of curves or how to out brake your opponent at the end of a long straightaway (or how to properly compose a photograph so that it communicates what you wish to communicate).

Learning how to operate a particular camera is easy. Learning how to see things photographically isn't easy, but that is what will improve your photography and is what a well taught introductory photography course should help you learn to do.

Even if you choose to never upgrade your camera learning the basics of photography will improve the results you get with the camera you already have. For more about when you need to upgrade your camera, please see: When should I upgrade my camera body?

There's a saying that has been around photography for a long, long time: Gear doesn't matter.

This is true, but it is only a part a larger truth.

The fuller truth is: Gear doesn't matter... until it does.

So what does that mean? It means that until the gear in some way limits the photographer from doing something that the photographer already envisions and has the technical knowledge, skills, and ability to pull off then the gear is not the limiting factor - the photographer is.

In the end it depends on your current skill level and the quality of the course. But based on your own admission in the question, you have "poor experience." Until you can explain what about your current camera is limiting you from taking specific photos that you can envision and that you want to take, the area that needs improvement the most is your skill level and experience, not your camera.

  • I'm going to Thailand. Do you thing I can get more from that trip if I'll take a course and use the powershot, rather than buy a DSLR camera? – Dvir Naim Apr 24 '17 at 4:19
  • What does the first sentence in the answer say? In the end it depends on your current skill level and the quality of the course. But based on your own admission in the question, you have "poor experience." Learning how to operate a particular camera is easy. Learning how to see things photographically is what will improve your photography and that is what a course should help you to do. – Michael C Apr 24 '17 at 4:39
  • Sounds very logical...1. Do you think that after the course (if it will good one) I'll be able to get a good shots out of my a2400? 2. This shots will better from DSLR camera with newbie+ level? – Dvir Naim Apr 24 '17 at 5:54
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    Any decent photography course is gonna require you to have a camera that has full manual mode so you can gain an understanding of how a camera works and the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Beg or borrow a old used camera from a friend or relative and take the course. The knowledge you gain will help with your P&S until you can afford a camera. – Alaska Man Apr 24 '17 at 20:02
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    @DvirNaim The course will just be a start. It'll give you the basic knowledge you need to start learning photography. You'll need lots of practice before you get good. – Janardan S Apr 25 '17 at 16:09
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Here's the other side of the argument. This assumes you've got a little bit of time before you go.

Buy the SLR and immediately get some practice on local versions of the type of things you want to shoot - ducks and trees in the local park, your own house, your friends etc. Consult the manual and quote possibly a tutorial for beginners. Aim to spend an hour or two a day for several days.

When you buy the camera, and also in advance, look for introductory courses of a few hours. Round here there are occasional opportunities from the conservation groups (for wildlife photography) and the photography club in the city have beginners' activities including training. Camera shops also arrange sessions so ask there. These are much cheaper than a full course. I mean you could get something out of a session costing a similar amount to the difference in price in that camera shopping around.

Don't forget to buy (and therefore budget on) a decent bag to protect the camera including as hand luggage on the flight.

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I agree, kind of...While I agree that the photographer is more important then the equipment, I would rather shoot with my DSLR any day over a point and click or cell phone,

  1. The DSLR opens so many possibilities with detachable lenses.
  2. You can push limits that you never could with your point and shoots.
  3. Your DSLR will let you shoot good quality pictures for years after the initial investment.
  4. There are many great free or cheap resources on the internet to learn how to shoot with your new DSLR, and learn composition.
  5. For the most part with your DSLR you can shoot in auto mode and get great shots if you learn composition (this is more important then the equipment or the settings).
  6. You will find that you will use your DSLR more then you ever thought you would have for many other things more then vacations.

You can always take a class later to delve into particular topics later....

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    Detachable lenses are only an advantage if 1) the user understands when to use which lens for which purpose, and 2) the user owns more than one lens. This question sounds like the OP intends to by a body, kit lens, and very little else. – Michael C Apr 24 '17 at 15:53
  • I said it was an advantage, maybe not to his specific situation at this specific time....but maybe as he grows and learns, and decides to invest more money into his hobby. Besides it isn't unreasonable to assume that you can find a body with more then one lens....I purchased a Nikon D3400 over the holiday that came with a 17-50mm and a 70-300 mm kit lens for about $500, more then reasonable for a body and two lenses... – TheXed Apr 25 '17 at 17:34
  • From the OP's comment to the question above: "...And about my goal.. mm.. I love to take photos but I'm pretty sure it will be small hobby from the side." – Michael C Apr 25 '17 at 17:36
  • A small hobby on the side is going to grow, and having somewhat decent equipment is going to help that hobby grow, and someday push the limits of that equipment...my guess is he is already pushing the limits of his point and shoot if he is already looking at photography as a hobby...he just doesn't know it yet... – TheXed Apr 25 '17 at 17:46
  • One the other hand, the best camera in the world in the hands of someone who has no idea how to use it is just as limited as a basic DSLR. – Michael C Apr 25 '17 at 17:59
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I was in your shoes a couple of years ago, however my situation was for a road trip across the USA, not Thailand, but the same principle applies and here is what I think you should do:

100% buy the DLSR. You will be happy that you did.

Here's why:

Although you may not be able to afford extra lenses yet, DLSR's offer a wider range of possibilities with interchangeable lenses and better control over your camera to really accomplish exactly what you are looking to achieve from each shot, especially with the control of depth of field, considered one of the most instantly "stand out" features that make certain pictures look professional and give them great character, giving most of the focus to the subject (although DOF is rarely used in landscape photography which you will probably be doing a lot of in Thailand). The A2400 does not offer as much control over the camera and your photos simply won't be of as good quality as the would with a DSLR.

"But wait a minute, you can't say that, the A2400 photos may be of better quality because keeping the A2400 means that they can take the course and therefore learn about composition and other concepts that they wouldn't if they bought the DSLR.."

I know there will be a lot of people that say "education is more important" and that "a bad workman blames his tools" and so on.

I totally agree that education is important.

So - WHY pay to go on a course with your compact? Well to learn I guess? Right? That is what we want, someone teaching us, someone walking us through the steps, diagrams and graphs, examples and tips.

This information is invaluable. If only there was some way of getting this information for free right? Good quality information with diagrams, tips, guides, walkthroughs, comparisons all the learning that you could possibly want, in a visual format all in one place, available anywhere at any time that could be watched over and over in case we miss anything - for free.

Hmm, if only..

YouTube - Use YouTube to learn. Youtube is the largest content sharing website in the world and offers an amazing selection of top quality videos about photography. Half the world (not actually) is using YouTube to learn new skills all the time, I just recently learnt how to develop colour film at my house on YouTube. There are so many channels on YouTube dedicated to teaching photography.

Think about it this way. If you do take the course, you will turn up with your A2400 and a lot of the stuff they will go through will likely be to do with controlling your camera on manual: aperture, shutter speed and ISO, which you will not be able to do with your camera anyway.

You are much better off buying the DSLR and learning to use it. Self-teach, go out and take some shots and, with the help of YouTube, you will improve.

That's what I, and I'm sure many others did, and what I suggest you do.

  • Well said. I thought just like this. and then @ths came up with the "Pro Photographer, Cheap Camera Challenge" and made me wonder about it. I sure I'll not be a pro after the course, but the idea that maybe I'll can make more with my a2400 with knowledge rather then just DSLR. There is also a consideration of comfort - in the end, it's a family vacation - my wife, my little daughter and myself - on the other hand - it's a great opportunity for good family documentation...complicated... – Dvir Naim Apr 25 '17 at 20:21
  • Yea, its a tough one. Both options have their pros and cons. There are lots of good answers here for you to consider. I'm sure you'll be happy with whichever option you choose to go for :) – Bow J Apr 26 '17 at 8:26
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I agree with the others who told you to bring your A2400 camera. A couple more points:

  • it is a bad idea to start on a trip of a lifetime / important photo shoot with new and thus unfamiliar equipment.
  • you are likely to try some adventure - in my case, years back, it was jungle trekking, elephant riding and bamboo rafting. In such situations you will feel better with perhaps not exactly disposable, but not brand new camera (I did!).
  • if you plan to backpack over Thailand you will appreciate the smaller weight and smaller form factor of the A2400 compared to a DSLR.
  • You're absolutely right. actually - we travel with a little child so the adventures will be pretty "gentle"... In addition - just because it's a lifetime trip, I was thinking that it will be a waste not to document it properlly.. – Dvir Naim Apr 24 '17 at 21:02
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    All right, things are different with a kid (some of the things I witnessed on Patpong were not exactly family friendly) but I agree. Have a nice trip! – Jindra Lacko Apr 24 '17 at 21:06
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The PowerShot will do the trick – you don’t need to take lessons. Just set the PowerShot on automatic and point and shoot. This camera will work just fine. Best if you read the camera manual twice.

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    I'm not sure why this got downvotes. It's a perfectly fine answer for a very reasonable interpretation of the question. – mattdm Apr 24 '17 at 14:58
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    This answer is very short and I don't think telling the OP to forget education and set it on automatic is good advice. – Janardan S Apr 25 '17 at 16:16

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