Which camera is really the best?
There are certain questions that will incite a holy war during a conversation, these include which videogame console is the best?, which truck is better, Ford or Chevy?, which actor played the best Doctor Who?, and what is the best camera? Today, we will answer the most burning of these questions and the answer is David Tennant.
Seriously though… David Tennant was the best Doctor. What about those cameras though? Is it Nikon? Canon? Sony? Pentax? Olympus? Without looking like I am dodging the question, the answer is simple, it depends. I shoot Canon and almost always have, my first film camera was a Minolta Maxxum 3000. I loved that camera and took some of my favorite photos with it. I was also in college and processing black and white film, so each photo felt like a creation unto itself. I bought a few lenses for it and stayed with it until I upgraded to a Canon A-1 film camera. Since then, I have owned a few other brands like the first Olympus point and shoot digital, and my first DSLR which was a Sony Cybershot.
Through it all, I kept gravitating back to Canon, but learned one very important lesson along the way: all cameras are just tools to take pictures with. The megapixel wars are long over, and the winner of the day was… everyone. See, cameras today are (with a few exceptions) generally equal in functionality. Years ago, one camera could tout itself as the master of low light shooting or the largest number of megapixels, but the camera could only wear it’s crown for a short time until it was unseated and had to hold its head in shame as the next contender took its place. The same is true for lenses. Years ago, the white L series Canon lenses were the best, hands down above all else for bokeh or aperture or whatever. The difference in quality was mostly noticed in larger or fine art prints. Today, most would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a shot taken with my super-cool f2.8 white canon lens and my still pretty cool f4 not-white, grey lens. Also, shot in similar circumstances, most people have a tough time discerning the difference between an image taken with a super expensive and a super cheap camera. This is illustrated in Peter McKinnon’s video where he challenges a professional photographer to differentiate between images shot with a $400 and a $4000 camera.
So, what is the point here then? Camera’s have become less about features and more about ergonomic comfort and familiarity. I said earlier that I shoot Canon, but that is not because I believe the Canon line is vastly superior to other manufacturers, I am just comfortable with the Canon menu interface and know the button layout like the back of my hand. They tend to not make huge changes from camera body to camera body in any given product sku. Because I have low vision (yes well, actually I am almost completely blind) I know and remember all the functions and don’t have to do a lot of re-learning when a new body comes out. There lies the real point of this article, and that is that camera bodies change with time. Manufacturers will catch up to each other in terms of features and as long as you are buying the best lenses you can afford, when a new body comes out, you don’t have to completely reinvest in another manufacturer’s line to get a new whiz-bang feature. But you may say, Ted, my Sony X-wow does 1.4 stops of low light performance in +- 20,000 lumens at three feet of evaluative banana light… cool! Does your camera take good pictures? Do I need that low aperture in banana light? Some would say yes and jump ship because banana light is the most important thing in the world – but remember this: My big investment is in my lenses and next year when my manufacturer comes out with better banana light sensitivity I just have to buy a new body and I am good to go.
Which camera is best then? The one you can afford. If you are just starting out and you aren’t sure if you need a full-frame or crop sensor camera, or if that extra stop of light sensitivity will help you in your work, then you need to learn more about what you need. Starting with a good camera kit like the Rebel T7i can get you learning about photography, composition and lighting for a reasonable investment. I like this kit from Ritz Camera which has a couple of lenses, memory card trigger filters and all the goodies you need to get started for a serious foray into photography.
The images this that this kit will produce will be good enough to enter photo contests, get nice big prints made from and most importantly give you a good foundation of gear to learn the basics of photography. If you wanted to learn to be a race car driver, you aren’t going to go out and buy a Lamborghini because of its shifting ratio and torque, you are going to buy the car you can afford and learn the basics, until you start to win races, and get a feeling for what you need to take your driving to the next level.
I hope this helps those of you who struggle with the timeless question of which camera is best. Feel free to drop me a DM on Twitter, I love to hear from my readers! If you have a basic-level camera that you love, tell me about it and I can add it to this article.
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