I need help buying a camera

Started Aug 20, 2014 | Questions
kt0426 New Member • Posts: 1
I need help buying a camera

I need help buying a camera! I am looking for a relatively small (easily portable) digital camera that will take really good/clear/crisp photos (without me having to change lenses or do anything particularly fancy!) Also, I would like it to take good photos in low light and when the subject (children) is moving. I pretty much just want to push the button and have a great photo! I'm not sure if a camera like that even exists, but if it does and you guys have any suggestions, please let me know!

Thank you.

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John Deerfield Veteran Member • Posts: 3,215
Re: I need help buying a camera

kt0426 wrote:

I need help buying a camera! I am looking for a relatively small (easily portable) digital camera that will take really good/clear/crisp photos (without me having to change lenses or do anything particularly fancy!) Also, I would like it to take good photos in low light and when the subject (children) is moving. I pretty much just want to push the button and have a great photo! I'm not sure if a camera like that even exists, but if it does and you guys have any suggestions, please let me know!

Thank you.

Such a camera does not exist. Here's why: your current assumption is that the camera somehow renders an image, that it creates a picture. This thinking is incomplete. The result of what a camera does is an image, but what a camera does is record light, record an exposure. There is something called the EV table (you can Google it). ALL cameras use this EV table to calculate an exposure. The exposure (the resulting image) depends entirely on the light being used. As example, EV1 is EV1 regardless of the camera. There is NOT any camera on the planet that treats EV1 (low light) has something like EV5 (much more light).

It might help to think in terms of an audio tape recorder. The audio recorder is in no way responsible for the sound being recorded. No amount of money I spend is going to make me sound like Walter Cronkite or Frank Sinatra. The recorder simply records the sound. The better the sound, the better the recording. A camera records light. When you press the shutter button, the camera records the light, records the exposure. If the light is bad, the resulting image will be bad… just like some of those "singers" auditioning for American Idol! Even if the light is good, this is not an automatic pass to a good image, but it is a far better start.

That all said, DSLR's continue to remain very popular because you can change lenses to suit a certain purpose. Some lenses collect more light than others, as one example. The more light the lens allows into the camera, the better and faster the camera can focus and take a picture.

So, you might already have the best camera you can hope for if you don't want to take the time to learn photography: your cell phone camera. Are there better cameras? For certain. But only if you want to take the time to learn how to use them properly.

Alphoid Veteran Member • Posts: 5,333
Re: I need help buying a camera

Your best bet is probably a Sony RX100III.

It's about the same for image quality as a dSLR with kit lens. Focuses a little bit slower, but by no means slowly.

You won't get "push a button and take a great photo" with any camera. Photos are more about the photographer than the camera. If you have harsh lighting, for example, everyone will look a decade older. If you frame your photo poorly, a camera can't fix that. If you use the on-camera flash, you'll get that horrendous on-camera flash look. Etc. Properly framed and with good lighting (not just a lot -- coming from the right directions), any camera will take great photos.

But the RX100III will do just about as well as possible, at least given you want something small.

Alphoid Veteran Member • Posts: 5,333
Re: I need help buying a camera
1

John Deerfield wrote:
So, you might already have the best camera you can hope for if you don't want to take the time to learn photography: your cell phone camera. Are there better cameras? For certain. But only if you want to take the time to learn how to use them properly.

Horse droppings.

Neophyte with a cell phone will take almost all horrible pictures. With something like an RX100, many of the pictures will come out okay. A few will be spectacular, mostly by luck.

An expert with a cell phone will take great pictures in good conditions, and bad pictures in mediocre conditions. An expert with something like an RX100 will take great pictures under both good and bad conditions.

The relative improvement is about the same. Skill counts for more than the camera, but the camera does count quite a bit too, at least comparing e.g. a cell phone to an RX100, a dSLR, or a mirrorless.

tedolf
tedolf Forum Pro • Posts: 26,762
Doens't everyone.....
3

kt0426 wrote:

I need help buying a camera! I am looking for a relatively small (easily portable) digital camera that will take really good/clear/crisp photos (without me having to change lenses or do anything particularly fancy!) Also, I would like it to take good photos in low light and when the subject (children) is moving. I pretty much just want to push the button and have a great photo!

If only it were that simple we would all own that camera.

I'm not sure if a camera like that even exists,

It does not, and that is why you have to decide what compromises you are willing to make; there are lots of trade offs: Image Quality v. camera size; cost v. versatility; print size v. format size.

but if it does and you guys have any suggestions, please let me know!

Thank you.

I think the place to start is where you did start-what kind of pictures?  There are lots and lots of cameras that can take the kind of photo's you suggest.  So to narrow it down further I would focus on portability.  How much are you willing to carry?   If it is "not much" then a large sensor all in one camera like the Sony RX100 III might be right.  If it is "I don't care" then an entry level DLSR or compact system camera with a wide range zoom lens might work.  Then there is cost.  If it is "not more than $400.00 USD" then a prosumer 1/1.7" sensor camera (Olympus ZX-2) might be right.

Tedolph

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Ido S
Ido S Veteran Member • Posts: 4,955
The camera you're looking for is...

...called 'knowledge' and 'experience'. There's no camera that does what you want, at least not in a "dummy-safe" mode.

And due to physics, you can only make low light-capable cameras so small. They are getting remarkably small (Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III), but they won't really give you great results for freezing action in low light.

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John Deerfield Veteran Member • Posts: 3,215
Re: I need help buying a camera
1

Alphoid wrote:

John Deerfield wrote:
So, you might already have the best camera you can hope for if you don't want to take the time to learn photography: your cell phone camera. Are there better cameras? For certain. But only if you want to take the time to learn how to use them properly.

Horse droppings.

Neophyte with a cell phone will take almost all horrible pictures.

Why?

With something like an RX100, many of the pictures will come out okay. A few will be spectacular, mostly by luck.

And those that came out by luck wouldn't not have been "lucky" with a cell phone?

An expert with a cell phone will take great pictures in good conditions, and bad pictures in mediocre conditions. An expert with something like an RX100 will take great pictures under both good and bad conditions.

I'm afraid we have a difference of opinion. As far as I am concerned, there isn't a camera that "will take great pictures" in bad conditions. The camera is simply unable to alter the conditions under which an exposure is recorded.

The relative improvement is about the same. Skill counts for more than the camera, but the camera does count quite a bit too, at least comparing e.g. a cell phone to an RX100, a dSLR, or a mirrorless.

Only provided one wants to invest the time and gain the knowledge. I have had countless people in my classes that but a P&S to get better images than their cell phones. Only they don't. So they buy more expensive P&S cameras. And that doesn't work. So they break down and buy a DSLR. And that does them no good. And finally they take a class. A tool is only better provided you know how to use it. The only way to throw money at this problem is to hire someone else to take the pictures.

BarnET Veteran Member • Posts: 3,579
Re: I need help buying a camera
1

kt0426 wrote:

I need help buying a camera! I am looking for a relatively small (easily portable) digital camera that will take really good/clear/crisp photos (without me having to change lenses or do anything particularly fancy!) Also, I would like it to take good photos in low light and when the subject (children) is moving.

I am sorry but that ain't possible.

The solution i have for this is Panasonic GX7 with 45mm F1.8 with an YN remote and an off camera flash synced at 1/320th of a second. Aimed at the roof of the room.

But that is doing fancy and the AF will let me down from time to time.

I pretty much just want to push the button and have a great photo! I'm not sure if a camera like that even exists, but if it does and you guys have any suggestions, please let me know!

Nope it does not. but the RX100 series from sony mentioned by others is the best no nonsense compact. Just don't expect it to be an mythical beast.

Thank you.

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tedolf
tedolf Forum Pro • Posts: 26,762
Of course, John is.....
1

John Deerfield wrote:

Alphoid wrote:

John Deerfield wrote:
So, you might already have the best camera you can hope for if you don't want to take the time to learn photography: your cell phone camera. Are there better cameras? For certain. But only if you want to take the time to learn how to use them properly.

Horse droppings.

Neophyte with a cell phone will take almost all horrible pictures.

Why?

With something like an RX100, many of the pictures will come out okay. A few will be spectacular, mostly by luck.

And those that came out by luck wouldn't not have been "lucky" with a cell phone?

An expert with a cell phone will take great pictures in good conditions, and bad pictures in mediocre conditions. An expert with something like an RX100 will take great pictures under both good and bad conditions.

I'm afraid we have a difference of opinion. As far as I am concerned, there isn't a camera that "will take great pictures" in bad conditions. The camera is simply unable to alter the conditions under which an exposure is recorded.

The relative improvement is about the same. Skill counts for more than the camera, but the camera does count quite a bit too, at least comparing e.g. a cell phone to an RX100, a dSLR, or a mirrorless.

Only provided one wants to invest the time and gain the knowledge. I have had countless people in my classes that but a P&S to get better images than their cell phones. Only they don't. So they buy more expensive P&S cameras. And that doesn't work. So they break down and buy a DSLR. And that does them no good. And finally they take a class. A tool is only better provided you know how to use it. The only way to throw money at this problem is to hire someone else to take the pictures.

completely correct, as far as he goes. The good news for the OP is that it doesn't take much learning to vastly improve your photo's, which then makes the additional control capabilities (focal length, shutter speed, ISO, aperture) valuable.

To the OP: learning the basic rules of composition can be done on the internet (Rule of Thirds, False Attachments, Leading lines; Negative Space, Perspective, Background Control, Depth Compression/Expansion, etc.) are not complex in the abstract. It is difficult to consider them in every photo you take as a matter of second nature but that will come with practice if you make yourself practice! No technology is going to do this for you.

Once you understand these things then, and only then do the features and capabilities of the more advanced (than cell phone) cameras become useful.

You don't have to become a professional to get good photo's, but it is not going to happen by accident or by just getting a better camera.

I guess what I am saying to echo John's comments is that there is no point in buying a fancy camera if you are not willing to make to the commitment to also learning some basics about photography-you may as well stick with your cell phone.

TEdolph

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Alphoid Veteran Member • Posts: 5,333
Re: I need help buying a camera
1

John Deerfield wrote:

With something like an RX100, many of the pictures will come out okay. A few will be spectacular, mostly by luck.

And those that came out by luck wouldn't not have been "lucky" with a cell phone?

Many would not. There is a set of things that need to happen for a great picture:

  • Good framing
  • Lighting coming from the right directions and of a sensible color spectrum
  • Enough light
  • Properly chosen camera settings

The threshold for 'enough light' is about 10 times less light for the RX100 than for the cell phone.

For 'light coming from the right directions', the RX100 will still do much better, since it has greater dynamic range, and tolerates harsh light better as a result.

It will take reasonable shots under a much wider range of conditions.

I'm afraid we have a difference of opinion. As far as I am concerned, there isn't a camera that "will take great pictures" in bad conditions. The camera is simply unable to alter the conditions under which an exposure is recorded.

Every camera has a range of conditions under which photos will come out badly, and under which photos will come out well. The range is much greater for an RX100 than for a cell phone. Experts will steer cameras into this zone. Amateurs will sometimes end up there by fluke. With an RX100, since the zone is much greater, they'll end up there more often (in both cases).

I have had countless people in my classes that but a P&S to get better images than their cell phones. Only they don't. So they buy more expensive P&S cameras. And that doesn't work.

True. However, most point-and-shoot cameras are of the same level of image quality as nice cell phones. The key thing they add is zoom. Sometimes a lot of it. They don't help image quality at all. They have a marginally bigger sensor, marginally smaller aperture, marginally worse optics, and in the end, it's a wash.

So they break down and buy a DSLR. And that does them no good.

Which brings in a whole range of new issues. dSLRs don't see what they're shooting. They do well in a much wider range of conditions than a cell phone or point-and-shoot, but they'll pick idiotic settings. You can't point-and-shoot them. The automatic modes don't work -- the camera can't see what it's shooting. They can't focus anywhere on the image, so a lot of shots come out blurry if the subject doesn't end up on a focus point. I didn't recommend a dSLR for good reason.

And finally they take a class.

Which, of course, does a lot more good than a better camera. But that doesn't mean a better camera doesn't help.

A tool is only better provided you know how to use it. The only way to throw money at this problem is to hire someone else to take the pictures.

Nope. Better tools help either way. Both in photography, and in most other domains. Try woodworking with cheap tools vs. nice tools. Knowing carpentry will help a lot more than nicer tools, but nicer tools help everyone work more safely, more precisely, have wood splinter less, and get better results.

I recommended the RX100 for a reason. It has the same image quality as a dSLR with kit lens. However, it still has point-and-shoot functionality -- it works well in automatic modes. A mirrorless would do that as well, but at a higher price point (at least if you want a modern focus system) and a larger size. A dSLT would be a sensible choice too, but would be much larger.

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