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Ilocano Shutterman's Guide in Buying Your First Digital Camera (and Why Megapixels Don't Matter)

August 18, 2018

17th day of August 2018. 

If you're a Photography newbie who wants to up your game by taking higher quality photos using cameras (not only to look professional), aside from using your phone (after all, it's not the gear that makes you take great photos), I'm the furthest from expert, but well this is my guide for you. 

 

*I'm segueing in some monochromes I previously shot in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte for an unpublished blog post of mine, to fill spaces.

 

Digital cameras today come in different forms, but not everyone is literate and it's not easy to understand them either. You might get dumbfounded when you're in a camera store and the salesperson starts throwing in specifics like max. shutter speeds, megapixels, sensor sizes, ISOs, FPS, etc. at you. There's a very high tendency for one to pretend to know about these and the painful part is - nodding to everything he's saying and then ending up buying it. Ouch!

 

At least you're familiar with megapixels, right? Well, a camera's megapixel is mistakenly the basis of one when buying his first camera. Many hobbyists like me will agree on this, so let me break it to you: higher MPs don't make you a better photographer.

 

My current camera gear.

 

MEGAPIXELS SIMPLIFIED

Breaking it down,  "megapixel" is a three-word portmanteau:

"Mega" - million

"Pix" - picture/pics*

"El" - elements*

 

*a pixel is the smallest unit in a camera's sensor that can be controlled to produce an image. Each pixel is composed of a combination of three or four colors that glow together. These colors might either be RGB (Red, Green, Blue) - for cameras, or CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) - for printers, and are presented with different intensities when exposed to light. Your camera's pixels are not sensitive to color, but to light only. Combinations of different intensities of red, green and blue will yield other colors. 

 

Source: peoplepowerpress.org

 

 

Let me make it simple: just imagine a single X on grandma's cross stitch pillow as one pixel. Hundreds of which will create an image e.g. angels, right? Shoutout to my grandmother, Dr. Maria Domingo-Manuel who celebrated her 86th birthday yesterday! (She loves cross-stitching).

 

Taken on one of her visits at the clinic, where she always asked me to clean her teeth, even though she already came for another one last week.

Shot with Canon M6 + 7artisans 35mm f/1.2 lens. ISO100, 1/160 sec., f/1.2.

 

Moving on, every single image you take with, for example, a 24-megapixel camera yields 24 x 1,000,000 = 24 million pixels in the image, and so on. Enlarging/magnifying/cropping it at a certain range will reveal pixellations. Here's a simple illustration to make you understand the difference better:

 

Both pictures taken with Canon EF 50mm lens, with same camera settings and specifications.

 

More megapixels give you more detail - sure, but this really depends. Are you gonna zoom in the image everytime? Are you always going to print a large copy of the image? Are you always gonna crop the image (hence cropping megapixels, too)? Having just 10-12 MP in your camera is already enough for shooting everyday pictures, unless you're working professionally e.g. in the commercial industry where you'll be taking photos that are to be printed in larger sizes i.e. billboards (explains the high-MP cameras).  

 

Sensor size, though, is the real deal in producing better quality images. But since you're just buying your first camera, let's temporarily get the sensor size separated from this blog post so as to not complicate things.

 

Custom authentic leather passport cover by Leather Camera Strap Philippines.

Shot with Canon M6 + 7artisans 35mm f/1.2 lens. ISO160, 1/260 sec., f/1.2.

 

NOW, LET'S DECIDE ON WHAT CAMERA YOU SHOULD BUY

A salesperson knows of every detail of a camera he's selling, but it's always better to know the exact camera to buy. After all, cameras don't come cheap and you're spending hard-earned money on it.

 

1. Purpose

Having to decide what to use your camera for is the easiest question to answer, but this will not single-handedly get you to your desired camera. If you want to become a photography hobbyist, there are many fields to concentrate in (mine are portraiture, landscapes, night, street and food). But if you're just gonna use it for family pictures and only on simple occasions, a compact camera is enough - otherwise you're just buying one to look professional.

 

The view from my apartment window at night.

Shot with Canon M6 + Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0L IS USM. 55mm, ISO640, 30 sec., f/22.

 

Do you want to vlog? Point-and-shoot cameras are way lighter compared to DSLRs.
If the point-and-shoot camera is the choice, there are various brands to choose from: Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc., but I'm not familiar with the specifics because I'm a user of the more complicated ones. Mirrorless cameras, however, will give you DSLR features with the heftiness of P-and-S. Nonetheless, choose the right one by checking through its accessibility features like WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity (who doesn't want to transfer pics straight to the phone?); and the flip-screen and microphone features if you're planning to use it to vlog. Best P-and-S for vlogging? Canon G7x Mark II (not paid to endorse).

 

One Monday breakfast coffee and crackers.

Shot with Canon M6 + Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. ISO400, 1/125 sec., f/1.8.

 

2. Budget

By now, you should've already settled for a purpose.

You don't want to spend more than what you can afford, right? This is the hard part, that's why as early as now you should already know how much your budget is. It's hard to let go of existing gear just to have new ones (tried to sell my M6 a few weeks ago, but felt regret so I retracted offers) and it's even harder to get in debt because of it. Prepare for it for a few months, set aside and earn. It never hurts to do your research and canvas before buying.

 

3. Kind: DSLR or Mirrorless?

If you want to go rogue in the photography game, choose interchangeable lens cameras. This is actually one of the most important questions to ask yourself. DSLRs can be heavy, but for me they are still at the top of the chain. Although the newer mirrorless cameras possess features equal to DSLRs, the photographer 'feel' still is very evident with the DSLR (that's why I can't let go of my 600D). Mirrorless cameras are actually the best innovations since the compacts. Still stuck in between? Here's a simple guide from Tom's Guide.

 

The Ilocos Norte Provincial Capitol.

Shot with Canon M6 + 7artisans 35mm f/1.2 lens. ISO100, 1/4000 sec., f/1.2.

 

4. Brand

I've been a Canon user ever since, so I may sound biased in this.

Choosing your brand has always been the dilemma for first-time buyers, this is more of a subjective matter. Every brand stands on their own pedestal, they each have their edges over others. Don't depend on what one blog says (like this blog) re: Brand Wars. But for me:

 

Canon - great for photo and video, wide range of lenses, versatile

Nikon - great image quality, historical credentials (remember film and Coolpix?)

Fujifilm - breath-taking image quality, superb color

Sony - I'm speechless about the overall video quality (most esp. 4k)

Panasonic - 4k60fps video (great for slow-mos), and Casey Neistat uses one for vlogging (GH5)

 

Again, the opinion is mine as based through years of observation and experience.

If you came here to know what I think the best is, that is a question that can never be answered. It really depends on your personal preferences, and the first three things on this list.

 

5. Read Reviews

In addition, reading reviews and researching about a desired camera is the next step. Don't impulsively buy one - know its pros and cons first then compare one model from another (for me, I use cameradecision.com). As I said, it won't hurt you.

 

The Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag

Shot with Canon M6 + 7artisans 35mm f/1.2 lens. ISO100, 1/4000 sec., f/1.2.

 

6. Buy Where?

Here in the Philippines, cameras are more expensive compared when bought from other countries e.g. Japan. Malls will give you great installment deals, but will come out a lot more expensive when computed in total. As much as possible, pay straight or in cash for discounts. Visit physical stores and have a look at the camera yourself. There are also trusted online stores where you can safely buy from. Cheaper grey units, on the other hand, are also available to some sellers you can find online (who sometimes also have physical stores). Downside is that they can either have warranties - but only for days or weeks in the store, or even none. 

 

Secondhand cameras? No problem, as long as you're sure of what you're buying. Background check the seller and verify if the item's legit or not. ALWAYS ask for shutter counts/clicks (DSLRs are known to 'expire' when a certain shutter count is reached, mirrorless cameras don't have shutters so they can last longer). The best mode of transaction is to meet up with the owner to check the item yourself because it's very risky to buy secondhand items online and have it delivered through mail.

 

The Tobacco Monopoly Monument.

Shot with Canon M6 + 7artisans 35mm f/1.2 lens. ISO100, 1/4000 sec., f/1.2.

 

Wrapping it up:

1. Purpose

2. Budget

3. DSLR/Mirrorless?

4. Brand

5. Read Reviews

6. Buy Where?

 

I think that's all I can squeeze out of my brain re: buying your first digital camera. I hope this blog will help you in getting a camera that's a definite bang for your hard-earned buck. Feel free to read it over and over again.

 

Here's an unpublished monochrome gallery of the afternoon scene around Aurora Park, Laoag City: 

 

All the photos in this gallery were shot with Canon M6 + 7artisans 35mm f/1.2 lens.

Individual shot specifications on respective images.

 

If you liked what you read today, kindly send me topics you want to be discussed. I'm open for suggestions and opinions. 

 

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If you want to show support to these awesome children of Catalino Acosta Memorial Elementary School in Ilocos Norte, Philippines, feel free to pledge a little every month and become one of my Patrons here: Wayne Manuel Patreon. (some of my old song Spotify playlists are gonna be linked to you after donating). Thanks for your good heart!

 

 

 

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