Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What makes a good camera

Only a few days ago I was thinking about what kind of camera I would like to get next. I thought it would be a terrific idea to get a really good point-and-shoot. That will do nicely when I go on a holiday. It will save me from carrying a lot of gear. Oh yes, it must have an articulated LCD for me to get those type of shots that you don't normally get looking through a viewfinder. But it must have a really good sensor; at least an APS-C or a Four-Thirds sensor, because I am a firm believer that a good sensor makes a good camera.

Tonight at the camera club my appetite for a good sensor is further increased. Ron Cork showed pictures taken on his Europe trip. The pictures taken in low light at high ISO strongly convinced me that the crucial factor in today's camera lies in the sensor. Technology has blurred the gap between cameras on things like shutter lag, image stabilization, and ease of use. Lens technology is nothing new and you'll always get what you pay for. Gimmicks like face recognition, water proofing, and ultra-zoom are just that: gimmicks.

The distinguishing feature lies in the sensor. I believe even the sensors used in the best DLSR's today are still evolving. In the D700, it has reached a point where you can take most pictures in low light condition without using a tripod (there you go: less gear to carry on your holiday. Just make sure you have a very fast lens, though). I mean good pictures and not grainy ones you get when you bump up the ISO in a cheap camera. I believe there will come a time when one can shoot in any lighting condition without using a tripod or a fast lens. It is unlikely that such a super sensor will be cheap or available soon, I think it is better to get a fast lens as my next acquisition, instead of chasing after a dream camera. It is like buying a computer. You only buy the fastest processor to suit your needs at that time. As I am still learning how to shoot well, I think I could live with my humble D90 for some time yet. I could do with a fast lens though, and I think I'll forget about getting a point-and-shoot camera now, no matter how good the successor to Panasonic LX3 or Canon G11 comes long. Someday I'll go after the best-in-class sensor. Just not now.

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