Although I make my living through photography, I’m not the sort of person who purchases the latest and supposedly greatest camera bodies just to have the latest gear. Don’t get me wrong, I love gear and totally obsess over all the new features. Still, there have to be some very compelling reasons to pry my wallet out of my pocket to purchase a new camera. In fact, before this last fall, I’d gone four years, yes, four whole years, without adding a new camera body to my collection.
It doesn’t really matter what camera manufacturer you’ve hitched your wagon to. They’ve all got some great new features that provide compelling reasons to upgrade. Here are some of the features that finally pried my wallet open…
High ISO Performance – This is an area that has seen almost exponential growth in performance the last couple of years. When I first purchased a digital SLR camera in 2000, I never even dreamed of setting my ISO level above 400. And even at ISO 400, the pictures exhibited a painful degree of noise (grain in film speak). However, with my new camera, I can easily push the ISO to 1600 or even 3200 and still produce photographs that look great on the screen or as a print and are fully saleable.
Megapixel Count – This is the number that the camera manufacturers marketing divisions love to flaunt. Even though it doesn’t determine the quality of the images, it’s a number the average person can wrap their minds around. I’ve always made a distinction between the number of pixels and the quality of those pixels. In the last little while, most of the camera manufacturers are finally producing cameras with high quality, high megapixel counts (10+ megapixels for this discussion). This is a great benefit when you are just too far away to fill your viewfinder with your subject and you need to crop the image later in your photo editing software. It doesn’t hurt when you want to make ginormous prints either.
Live View Mode – I have to admit that I used to take a guilty pleasure in watching the point-n-shoot crowd holding their cameras a couple of feet in front of their faces while they watched the camera’s LCD and tried to compose a shot and many point-n-shoot cameras don’t even have a viewfinder any more. Now that Live View is available on digital SLR cameras, I’ve found a great use for it; macro photography fine focussing. Instead of having my eye jammed up against the viewfinder while I’m focussing, I use my LCD screen and zoom in on the critical areas of the subject to make sure that I’m making the best possible images. Doing macro photography without Live View now seems kind of passé.
Video Mode – I know some people feel this is gimmicky and something they’ll never use. I’ve been excited about this feature and was eager to get a digital SLR camera featuring video recording so that I could expand my skill set to include videography. Now, whenever I’m photographing, I look for opportunities to shoot video footage. I’m still learning the hardware, software and videography techniques, but I’m starting to make progress and have produced work that I think looks pretty good. There is a video about Mountain Bluebirds fledging at my photography blog if you’re interested in seeing a sample video of mine.
Finally, after four long years, the combination of High ISO performance, increased quality Megapixels, Live View mode along with video recording finally convinced me to pry my wallet open and make the leap to the next generation of digital SLRs. If you’ve been squirreling away your pennies and waiting for a compelling reason, now is a really good time to visit your local camera dealer and test our the latest bodies.