05 May 2021

Why the Camera You Already Have May Be Better Than You Think: Updated Repost

Anonymous Model, Copyright 2014 Terrell Neasley

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."

I'm a Sony shooter. I started out years ago with Canon. And when Canon no longer suited my needs, I sold about $25K in Canon gear...all of it...and switched to Nikon. Three years after that, (#switchhappens) I made the plunge again into the Sony line of camera systems and will likely be here a while. I welcome the moniker, "gear-head", but I can objectively say I made all my changes based on need. When Canon's next line of cameras came out and it didn't give me what I needed, I had no qualms about dropping that line and investing in another. Nikon's switch had more to do with dropping the DSLR line because I was sold on mirrorless systems, namely Sony, but originally Fujifilm (XE-2, remember...).

Anonymous Model, Copyright 2014 Terrell Neasley

But here's the deal. Not everyone wants to drop camera lines like that, especially if you have a huge investment in the lenses. Or, getting another camera simply isn't in the budget at the moment. It's sorta like a used car that you've put so much effort, money, and time into that you gotta get the most you can out of the car you have. I think it might help a few of you to know that the camera you have right now, is probably better than you think. You may not have the same photo demands or feature needs as I do and if you don't require all that then here are a few things you can look into.

If you have purchased a camera in the last 10 years, even a DSLR, then chances are, it's actually a really good system for general purpose use. I've met PLENTY of people complaining that they can't get a good picture from their camera, when in fact, all they need is a little bit of knowledge on how the camera works. Take a look at Auto Focus. I think this is likely the most frequent issue I encounter. Blurry images account for the chief complaints, but incorrect AF is only one probable cause.

Anonymous Model, Copyright 2014 Terrell Neasley

With the Auto Focus situation, its usually a case where the camera is set to full auto. So in this setting, it's automatic everything. The problem here is that sometimes the camera will automatically focus lock on the object closest to the camera or to a subject that is moving. The camera operator has an image with SOME things in focus, but not the thing or subject that they wanted to take a picture of. In this case, taking the camera out of Full Auto mode should be the first step. If anything put the camera in Program or "P" mode. Then take out your manual (download it from the net if need be) and look up how to use center-point AF. This allows you to point at whatever you want to focus on and the camera locks on that one thing. If you're brave enough, check out Manual Focus. Camera manufacturers my call each thing something different. Canon is AF-Single and AI Servo/AI Servo-Continuous. Nikon is AF-S, or AF-C. Then they may go into autofocus zones or groupings in some way.

The other blurring I mentioned is when the subject is blurred or the entire picture is blurred because a slow shutter speed setting than AF. There are two things that might determine this. First could be the shutter speed itself. If the camera perceives that it doesn't have enough light, it will extend the amount of time the shutter is open and expose the sensor to light for a little longer period of time. Well, unless everything is absolutely still, there will be blurring. A single second is actually a LONG time when we're talking photography. Its nigh impossible to hold your camera still that long and not get blur just from camera shake, much less have your subject be still enough. Try shooting a baby with a one-second shutter speed.

Art Model Que, Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

If this is the case and you are in Program mode, look to your ISO speed and raise it till your shutter speed automatically moves at least 1/60th of a second on shutter speed. You'll usually have this issue when it begins to get dark and you're still trying to shoot pics of the kids outdoors. Sometimes, if you're in full auto, the flash will pop up and blast everything with light and that doesn't look good in most cases. Raise that ISO to 800 or maybe even 1600 and try again. Go higher if need be. But there is a catch! The higher the ISO, the more grainy or noisy the image looks.

I had to make my first camera upgrade from the Canon 40D (2007) to the full frame 5D Mark II (2008) for this reason. I required better low-light performance. The 5D Mark II had a bigger sensor which means bigger light-gathering pixels. It also had the ability to handle higher ISO much better resulting in high-ISO images, but with less noise in the image. Today, I work in much darker situations that still require speed and I can reach ISOs of over 100,000 and still look clean in my Sony systems.

Art Model Que, Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

Sometimes, a better lens can be your limitation. If you still rock with the kit lens your camera came with, its likely not going to be the best quality and is likely not fast glass. If you're Canon, try the Nifty Fifty, the 50mm f/1.8 lens for a little over $100. And for zoom lenses, I absolutely love Tamron's line-up whether you are Canon or Nikon. Tamron makes a 17-50mm f/2.8 (for crop sensor cameras) or a 28-75mm f/2.8 (for full frame or crop sensor cameras) of which both are excellent pieces of fast glass. Those lenses have wide maximum apertures that help let in more light. If you have newer cameras, I'd even suggest the all in one Tamron 16-300mm lens (not made for full frame cameras). Just make sure you get the Tamron lens specific for your camera, either Canon or Nikon.

In any case, learning a little bit more about your camera outside of the full auto mode can work to your favor and get you better shots. When your demands surpass the camera's capabilities, THEN look to a better system. Getting a camera with numerous Phase-Detect Auto focus points because you often shoot moving subjects is a reason to upgrade. Having a system with superior low-light performance because you do a lot of low-light work is a reason to upgrade. Or maybe convenience features like built-in WIFI for the ability to control the camera or download your images from your camera straight to your smart phone, swivel the LCD screen around for selfies, have a touch-screen LCD, you have a 4K TV and want to shoot 4K video, or you want to be able to continuously autofocus while doing video. It could be that you like your friend's ability to autofocus using Face-detect/Smile-detect/Eye-detect. Or you love shooting manual focus and heard how cool the Sony system can use Focus Peak to assist with manual focus. These are all reasons to upgrade. If your camera is simply not taking good pics, then chances are you could benefit from reading the manual, because cameras these days are actually bad ass.

Art Model Que, Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

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