How to choose a camera

2017 Update

After over five years using the MFT system I've sold my entire Olympus Micro Four Thirds Kit and now only use the full frame mirrorless Sony A7RII.

This decision came, since writing this article, after using both systems for a year and a half on client commissions.

Curious as to why? Read this:

Full Frame or Micro Four Thirds?

How to choose a camera and not regret it? What’s the best camera? How do I decide which camera to buy?

Is it true what they say? The camera doesn’t matter, it’s the photographer?

The camera does matter to a certain extent, otherwise we’d all be shooting with compacts wouldn't we? But it's true that if you don't see things, the camera won't do it for you.

The OM-D E-M5 Mark II with Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95

The OM-D E-M5 Mark II with Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95

Personally I’m happy now I have found the best camera setup, the one that works for me, one I can commit to and that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg.

When I got into (urban) photography in 2008, I didn’t know much about cameras.

After a few impulse buys I learned the hard way, the expensive way.

Looking at the positives, by buying something that wasn’t necessarily right for me, at least I identified how to make a more informed decision and not repeat the same mistake. In the same way as working for a horrible boss teaches you how to recognize a horrible boss next time you get interviewed for a job and run like the wind.

A lot of people ask me what camera I would recommend. This is unfortunately the equivalent to asking a chef what knife he’d recommend. I need a little more details.

What experience do you have? Have you ever ventured past a compact or are you used to a DSLR?

What are you going to do with it? Sports photography, weddings, landscapes, portraits…?

What result are you looking to achieve? Are you just wanting to take holiday snaps or become a more serious photographer?

What’s your budget? Are you looking to spend £300 or £1000?

Do you seriously want to carry a heavy DSLR everywhere you go? Maybe a smaller Compact System Camera / Mirrorless Camera / Micro Four Thirds would be more convenient?

I always cringe when I see tourists shooting exclusively in automatic mode with a heavy DSLR and a kit lens that has probably never been replaced by another.

There is no point in buying a DSLR if you have no intention to swap lens once in a while or if you plan on staying in Auto mode and not explore it's full creative potential. Some compacts do a great job and offer plenty of manual settings to allow more creativity at a fraction of the price.

With time and experience I have identified the things I personally need a camera to achieve.

A camera should:

-          Be light enough so I can carry it daily without my back suffering

-          Be compact enough so I can fit it in a small bag and not stand-out excessively as I shoot people

-          Have great ergonomics: Pick it up and play with it, see if it feels right in your hands, if the buttons are in awkward places…

-          Have a fast shutter speed of up to 1/8000 as I often use a lens with large aperture of f0.95

-          Be easy to use and intuitive

-          Be WiFi enabled as I want to share my photos on the move as social media is key for me

-          Have great image quality, although frankly all cameras nowadays have good IQ, good enough that I can blow my prints to A1 size.

-          Shoot well in low light, so high ISO performance should deliver without too much noise (or grain)

-          Have a wide range of superb yet affordable lenses available

-          Should be solid and feel like it

For me Olympus cameras tick all these boxes. Great micro four thirds (MFT) cameras for street photography which are perfect for me. 

The excellent Olympus OM-D E-M5, the little brother of the E-M1.

The excellent Olympus OM-D E-M5, the little brother of the E-M1.

I could go on and on but really this is what I need, not necessarily what YOU need.

So ask yourself "How will I use my camera?", makes lists as I did above and search online, start with establishing a budget and see what’s available. Then eliminate the cameras that do not match your requirements.

It takes time, research and actual practice, there’s no secret to it.

Hit me up if you want more advice of course!