When doing my research on cameras and whether to get a new DSLR or stick with my mirrorless, I also wanted to know what qualified a camera to be a “good” camera. How could I easily compare the thousands of cameras that exist and make sense of all of the stats listed with each?
I originally thought megapixels would be an easy way to tell if the camera would produce high quality images, but it just didn’t add up when I did the research. Cameras with higher megapixels could be less expensive than cameras with larger megapixels. I knew there had to be something I was missing, they couldn’t possibly be selling such wonderful cameras so cheap! After my research stint, I realized why. Megapixels measure the amount of data points collected by the camera and indicate how large you can blow up that photo before losing image quality. The larger the number of megapixels the larger you can print it. But since most of us (sans any wedding photographers reading this), use our images online and rarely have the need to blow it up to a large canvas or massive advertising billboard, an insanely large amount of megapixels doesn’t really matter. So, while it does have an affect on quality and is something to be taken into consideration, for most of us what’s more important to consider is the sensor size.
The sensor size refers to how big those megapixels really are. The larger the photosensitive surface area, the more light that’s taken in, and the better the image quality. This means that cameras with the same number of megapixels (like a DSLR and a point and shoot with a small sensor) will produce completely different images. The smaller sensor can’t take in as much light meaning more noise, less range, and poorer image quality.
Since sensors are typically the most expensive part of a camera, the larger the sensor the higher the price point of the camera. This was the one spec that directly relates to price that I was missing above.
Below is the best graphic I was able to find, visually showing the different sensor sizes and how they compare to each other. Credit – theverge.com (I totally didn’t design this myself!)
This image helped me understand one of my other burning questions, why does every one keep recommending a 50mm lens??? It’s called the nifty 50 and it was recommended on every blog or YouTube video I came across. My Sony a6000 [insert affiliate link] came with a kit lens, 16mm-50mm, the only lens I own. So naturally, I zoomed in to 50mm to see what all the rage was about and to see if purchasing a 50mm fixed lens would be a good next purchase….and omg it was horrible! It was so incredibly zoomed in, you would have to stand so far back to shoot anything! I seriously thought everyone was massively crazy, until I realized, they are recommending a nifty 50mm for a full frame camera! I checked the sensor size on my Sony a6000 and it’s an APS-C, meaning it’s 1.5 times smaller than a full frame camera…..meaning any lens I put on will be 1.5 more zoomed in than on a full frame camera. So instead of really looking through a 50mm lens, I was looking through a 75mm! So, if I want to see what others love so much, I’d need a 35mm lens.
There are lots of other things to consider when purchasing a “good” camera, but they mainly come from the lenses you choose to get with it, like the focal length and aperture range, and the great thing is, you can purchase multiple lenses for the same camera body.
After my two days of research, I realized many of the other recommended DSLR cameras out there have the same sensor size as my Sony, APS-C, and wouldn’t provide any increased image quality for my clients. The next investment purchase would be a full frame camera (thousands of dollars), but since I mainly shoot for clients to use images online (websites, newsletters, social media, etc.), the difference in image quality would be so minor, most wouldn’t even notice it! So, conclusion? Stick to my trusty Sony a6000 and consider adding on lenses for any specific shots I’d like to capture!
I hope this helped to make things a bit easier when considering what new camera to purchase! Let me know if you have any new questions below and what camera you love shooting with!