What Sort of Camera?

My Opinion.

There are thousands of websites that tell you what camera to buy but because there’s a lot of unnecessary information out there, I thought I’d add to it and give you my opinion from my experience.

Firstly let me say no one is paying me to say anything – though if you would like to change that you can – just use the contact link and send the money!!! I might also say, not everyone will agree, but thats the story of my life – besides I have three kids so I am used to people not agreeing with me.

My History

Now I have owned a camera for a very long time. I’ve owned both digital and film cameras including several Single Lens Reflex cameras.  Even as a kid I owned a small camera – of course the cost of film in those days, meant I took very few photos. Over the years, I have owned a Kodak Instamatic or two, a few disposable cameras, a Polaroid camera, two Konica SLR’s, a Pentax SLR, a Fujifilm digital camera, a Panasonic digital, a Canon digital and three Sony digitals. I seem to remember having an Apple Quicktake camera for a while as well. So as you can see, brand loyalty is not big in my family. But every generation of cameras was certainly an improvement on the last – except for the Polaroid – it was just faster.

My Current Camera

My current camera is a Sony HX400v. This camera is in the point and shoot category – so you can’t change the lens unless it breaks like mine did. Then you have to change the lens or the camera. You can Google that camera and find the specifications, if you are interested, but it produces pictures of around 20 Megapixels, has good image stabilisation and a great 60 times optical zoom. That means you can zoom in beyond the cameras ability to correct for camera shake, so you have to be very careful when using it on full zoom. The reason it has such a long zoom and still a compact size is the relatively small image sensor. The trade off is, it can be noisy in dark scenes without using a flash, and requires more light to get great pictures.  It also has a GPS chip built in, so it remembers where you took the photos (mostly). So the truth is, it cost less than $500, takes better pictures than any camera I have owned to date, and is reasonably easy to carry.

Steve Jobs is reported to have said “the best camera to have, is the one you have with you”. His point was, portability is very important. I would love to own a digital SLR, but if I did, to get the equivalent of the camera I have now, I would have to carry the camera and at least three lenses. Because the image sensor is three times the size of the one in my camera, each lens must have more glass to let in the equivalent amount of light. So each lens would weights more than my whole camera.  And everywhere I went, I would be lugging a weighty and sizeable bag with me.  What I would get, besides a second mortgage, is better pictures in dark areas, lenses with less distortion, faster operation and a sore shoulder!

What About An iPhone?

Now, I have also owned several iPhones over the last 10 years and each generation has seen improvements in the image quality BUT they the only zoom is digital. The slight exception is, if buy the top model, they can switch to a closer lens but any zoom is still only digital. Digital zoom means every time the picture doubles in size, the number of pixels used decreases to a quarter of what it was. So if you start out with a 12 Megapixel picture and then digitally zoom in until the image is twice the size, you now have a 3 Megapixel image.

If you don’t understand any of the previous paragraph, you simply need to know a pixel is the smallest piece of an image. So a 12 megapixel image has 12 million image pieces stuck together. A  3 megapixel image has only 3 million pieces and if the image is the same size as the 12 Megapixel one – every pixel of the 3 megapixel image, covers 4 pixels in a 12 megapixel image.  If this still doesn’t make sense, just believe me, the more megapixels – the sharper the image can be.

You can buy a clip on zoom lens for the iPhone and I imagine it would be easier to carry than an extra camera but I’ve never tried one so if you have ventured into this territory, write me a blog about it and we’ll publish it.

GPS Recording.

Digital cameras also record lots of information with each picture. They record the time, date, exposure time, lens f stop, camera type and lots of other stuff.  My cameras also records the GPS data (thats what the v on the end of the morel number tells you.)  Having used a camera with GPS built in, I would have a hard time going back to one without.

The GPS function records exactly where the photo was taken so when the photos are transferred to my computer, I get to see where I was at that time on that day. In addition as a retired bloke, I get to travel a fair bit and when I land in another time zone, the time recorded for each picture taken there, is corrected automatically. But I need to say, my current camera is the second camera I have had with GPS. The first one was very slow locking onto the satellites so I 

had to switch it on a long time before taking pictures, to get the GPS to function correctly. My current camera is better but can still take time – especially if you are travelling quickly – like in a plane. I recently flew from Alice Springs to Adelaide and used the camera out the window quite a bit. The first half of the pictures I took do not have and GPS recorded but the last ones do. It is interestingto be able look at the GPS locations on the pictures then pinpoint the position on a map so see where the flight went. I now have pictures of Algebuckina & Oodnadatta and on the left is Island Lagoon in South Australia – I would never have known that if I didn’t have GPS camera.


So what am I recommending? I think a camera with a long zoom – maybe at least 30 times and around 15 – 20 Megapixels, but as small in size as possible. That probably leaves out SLR’s unless you really like the best picture quality and like changing lenses. I also think a viewfinder is a good option because holding the camera to your face gives you a steadier hold than using it at arms length.

If you travel a lot, having wifi built in is also a good option because you can easily transfer your pictures to an iPad and view them on a large screen. This is especially good, because its easy to lose a camera – through negligence or theft and if you copy the pictures from the camera each night, at least you will have most of your pictures still available. You can get an SD card reader for the iPad but wifi is just easier!

I would also buy one with GPS built in. That probably means some Nikon or some Sony cameras. Some Canon cameras get the GPS from your phone but that flattens the phone battery as well. I’m happy with my Sony camera, but the first one had lens problems just after the warranty expired (of course) but there really wasn’t too much competition, so I purchased the same model camera again. This time I took out an extended warranty. This camera model has been out for a few years now so maybe they will bring out another one or maybe they have lost interest. Happy snapping.



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