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Choosing and Using the Right Camera Equipment
by James Shadle


Nikon, Canon, Minolta, Pentax, Sony and Olympus are just a few of the camera brands widely available today. Each of these companies has multiple models from which to choose.

With so many brands and models to choose from, with so much information and misinformation available, just how do I know what camera to buy? Should I go digital or stick with film? What kind of accessories and lenses will I need?

While you are contemplating a new camera purchase, it is a good idea to remember that each camera company has a marketing department, and it is their job to convince you, the consumer, of your dire need for the latest and greatest that they have to offer. I have found recommendations from friends and family are not always that helpful either. Of course, the brand they use is the best (no one wants to admit to a purchasing error)! Well then, what about the pros? Should I consider what they are using? Many pros have "deals" with manufactures, so the financial benefits rather then equipment benefits may motivate them in their brand preferences.

As you begin the search for your new camera, temper your excitement about who has the "latest and greatest". Frequently camera manufactures leap frog each other technologically. The most important aspect of making the correct decision is figuring out what you want to do photographically and getting the right tool to accomplish your goals.

Once you have a good idea of what you want to accomplish with your photography, and you have a camera in mind, go try it out! The camera may have the specifications you want, but does it feel right in your hand? Are the ergonomics right for you?

Here are some questions you should ponder as you begin the camera selection process.

1. What do I wish to accomplish with my photography?

Personal Satisfaction
Relaxation/Stress Relief
Teaching (About your subject)
Love of Nature
To Share Photos With Friends
Show Off
Personal Challenge
Professional Aspirations

2. What style of photography do I want to concentrate on?

Natural History
Animal Behavior
Wild Animal Portraits
General Nature

3. What do I want the final product to be?

Transparency / Slide
Print From Negative
Print from Digital File
Large Prints / 11X14 and Larger

4. What are some budgetary concerns?

Initial System Cost
Accessory Cost
Annual Frame Count (High or Low Volume Shooter)

5. Film or Digital?

Once you have answered for yourself the aforementioned questions, the search has just begun for your perfect camera. To at least point you in the right direction, the following chart takes into consideration your motivation, style, budget and equipment speed.

Before considering the equipment chart, I would like to suggest that if you plan to shoot frequently (High Annual Frame Count) and do not need a transparency / slide as your final product, a digital system is your best value. If you are shooting infrequently, the initial cost of a film system is still much lower, although the gap between Digital and Film Cameras is getting narrower. If you need a transparency / slide as your final product or you are an infrequent shooter, IMO, a film camera will be your best value.

Do your homework. Figure out what you want to accomplish with your photography. Find out what cameras are available that will most closely match your budget with the features and specifications you need. Narrow your search down to 2-4 cameras, head out to your local camera store and try them out.

The camera you choose will almost never be what separates poor and average photographs from above average and great photographs. You are!

My camera recommendation is to just use whatever camera you decide on. Take lots of pictures, practice makes perfect. If you do that, you will be happy with the camera you choose.

James Shadle is an accomplished photographer, a Florida Freshwater Master Naturalist, and a Florida native. James is a member of the North American Nature Photography Association and the American Birding Association. His work has been published in Popular Photography, Visions, Duncraft Birding Catalog, National Wildlife Federation EnviroAction, and Shutterbug Magazine. In addition to being recognized for winning many nature photography contests, James has also become a part of the Tamron Road Show team of photographers and speakers who travel throughout the country presenting workshops. You can learn more about James and his work by visiting his website.

Click here to download a printable version of Choosing and Using the Right Camera Equipment.

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