Tag Archives: purchase

What Camera Should I Buy?

I Don't Have A Problem...

At some point in time, this is a question that every photographer asks. It’s also a question that I get asked frequently — probably several times per week. And that’s totally cool! It’s just that I find myself usually giving the same answers to people. So I thought I’d wrap a few thoughts into a post for those who haven’t ventured out to ask the question yet.

First of all, you have to understand that I never give out the answer as a specific make and model. If you ask that question of anybody and they give you a specific answer, don’t listen to it. The process of selecting a new camera is so involved that somebody else can’t answer it for you. But if you’re in the market, here are 3 important things to ask yourself:

1. Do You Own Equipment?

If you already have lenses, flashes, and other accessories for a specific camera brand, it’s probably a better choice to stick with that brand. The main reason is cost — starting over with a new brand can be a real hassle. This applies to those of you who shot film in recent years, and you still have equipment that fits modern cameras. If you don’t have existing stuff, just ignore this question.

2. What’s Your Budget?

Money makes the world go ’round. Before you even start comparing brands or models of cameras, think about how much money you’re willing to spend on a camera. This is VERY important — set that limit, and stick to it. Otherwise, you’ll be having nightmares for the next two years.

3. How Does It Feel In Your Hands?

Once you get past the first two questions, it really boils down to this. If a camera feels out of place in your hands, you won’t enjoy it (and it’s all about fun, now isn’t it?). Put aside all the resolution-noise-speed-focus-format-button-menu-stabilization-etc… CRAP! And make sure you’re comfortable with how the camera feels in your hands. You’re the one who has to hold it and use it for the next long while, so you might as well make it enjoyable. Once you get a feel for the cameras, then you can jump back into all the technical stuff and proceed to torment yourself.

And if you’re looking for some follow-up reading material on the subject, here are a few good ones:

What other tips and advice do you have for buying new (or used) cameras?

Your Guide to Buying Old Film Cameras

Linhof Mob
Creative Commons License photo credit: Voxphoto

With the boom in digital cameras, used film equipment has been dropping in price and increasing in availability. Many people switch over to digital and decide to get rid of their old film stuff that they’ll probably never use again. This is good news for anybody wanting to get into film — cameras and lenses are insanely cheap (though, not the ones shown in this first photo!).

The cheap old film cameras are fun to use and great to experiment with. If you currently use a digital camera with all the bells and whistles, I’d suggest looking into a fully manual film camera from the 50′s, 60′s, or 70′s. There’s a huge selection of these cameras out there, and most of them are still in great working condition.

Here are some things to think about when looking for a new used camera. And for additional reading on the topic, check out Antonio Marques’ 5 Tips for Acquiring Old Cameras.

FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU WANT

Before you start looking for that old film camera, you should probably have an idea of what you’re looking for. There are so many cameras out there, and you could end up wandering aimlessly if you don’t have any notion of what you’re after. Here are three ways that you can use to help you define what you’re looking for.

The Minolta Collection
Creative Commons License photo credit: auer1816

One way to start refining your selection is to choose a type of camera. Maybe you want an SLR, or a rangefinder, or a TLR, or maybe a box camera. Find something that interests you and meets your needs. Be aware of camera types that require removable lenses, and be aware of the type of film they use. Some film formats are no longer offered, extremely hard to find, or very expensive.

Another way to narrow your search is by selecting a film format. Be sure you choose a film that you can actually buy or one that can be re-spooled from a standard film. You’ll have a wide selection of cameras if you stick with the 135 format, or 35mm film. But maybe you want to jump into medium format and find something that takes the common 120 format. If you want to know what’s readily available, visit your local camera shop or film store and see what they have.

And yet another method of refining your selection is by brand, or camera manufacturer. If you’re a brand loyalist like me (I love Minoltas), you’ll limit your searches and avoid comparing across brands. But beware, there are a ton of old camera manufacturers out there, so this may not be the best method of selection unless you feel very strongly about one in particular.

Oh, and one last thing… figure out what you’re willing to pay for the camera BEFORE you start looking at them. If you want to keep it under $50, keep it under $50. Going into a camera purchase without a budget is a bad idea no matter what kind of camera you’re buying.

DOING YOUR RESEARCH

Ideas
Creative Commons License photo credit: louder

Once you’ve figured out your direction, start looking around the web and do some research. Wikipedia and Camerapedia are good places to do general research on cameras. Look around on the sites that sell the cameras and get a feel for the price and condition of the cameras. During this process, you may end up selecting a particular model that you’re interested in, or you might even change your mind from your original intentions.

Search around for reviews, follow threads in forums, and basically dig up anything you can on your camera. The more you know about it, the better you’ll be able to interact with sellers. If you go into a camera purchase not knowing the basics of how it works or the features it has, you won’t know what to ask or what to look for.

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Different cameras will have different things to watch out for, but some things are similar across all cameras. I’m talking about spotting problems and avoiding bad equipment and sellers. Ultimately, what you’re after is a working camera at a fair price. Here are some things to look out for while scoping your equipment.

Watch out for prices out of the ordinary. You ought to have a feel for the going price on your camera — if you see one that’s priced too high, you might want to keep looking. Likewise, if you see something that’s listed way too low, there’s a good chance that the seller isn’t trustworthy or there’s something wrong with the camera.

Make sure everything is in working order. Some sellers don’t know the camera as well as they should — I recently bought a rangefinder “in working condition” and it showed up with a broken rangefinder mechanism! That sort of thing is kind of important. You’ll also want to make sure that things like the shutter, aperture blades, and film winder are working properly. Try to get a feel for the condition of the glass, and ask about scratches, dust, and fungus. Old camera bodies are pretty tough and scratches won’t do any harm, but watch out for cameras that are terribly beat up.

When was the camera last used? If it was recent and the seller is stating that it’s in working condition, then it’s likely that the camera will be fine. If the camera hasn’t been used in decades or if the seller is selling for a friend or relative, I’d be cautious. Old cameras will keep working for quite a while as long as they’re maintained and used often. If they sit in the closet for too long, things will start to rust and stick.

Cameras are sold for parts. Make sure you read the description for the camera you’re buying — some cameras are sold with the statement that they do not work and they could be used for repair or replacement parts. Don’t assume that all cameras for sale are in working order.

WHERE TO FIND FILM CAMERAS

There are plenty of places out there to buy used cameras. Here are a few that I’ve come across.

  • EBAY
    Most of my film cameras came from eBay. The selection is great, prices are low, but the risk is slightly higher than other avenues. On eBay, it’s important to predefine your spending limit and don’t let yourself get caught up in bidding wars. It’s also important to fully read the product descriptions and ask the seller questions if anything is unclear.
    See eBay Film Cameras Under $50
  • B&H PHOTO VIDEO
    B&H is a great store to buy new photo equipment and they’re a highly trusted source in the industry. They also offer used equipment and they have a collection of old film cameras to browse through. The selection is smaller than that of eBay, but the equipment is tested and inspected by B&H before it’s offered for sale.
    Take a Look at the B&H Used Gear
  • ADORAMA
    Adorama is another highly trusted source of photography equipment, and they also offer used equipment for sale. Again, items listed can be trusted to work more than those coming from eBay. They also have a nice little article on bargain-hunting in the film camera department — a nice little guide to the different types of film cameras you can find there.
    Browse Through Adorama’s Used Cameras
  • GOOGLE PRODUCT SEARCH
    Google does it all… even shopping online. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at other specific sources, you might give this a try and see where it points you. The nice thing about it is that you can set a price range in your search criteria so you have less crud to weed out.
    See Film Cameras from Google Product Search
  • OZ CAMERA
    An avid film photographer I know turned me on to this site. John Cooper from Australia runs it as a hobbyist collector, but many of the cameras found there are also for sale. He’s got a very nice collection of some obscure cameras that you won’t readily find elsewhere. It’s best to go in there knowing which brand you’re after.
    See the Goods At OzCamera
  • BLACK MARKET ANTIQUES
    I just recently found this online antique shop which is based out of Pennsylvania (go figure). They also have some really interesting finds, and most of the stuff is quite old. The prices are ridiculously low, so it’s definitely worth a browse.
    Check Out the Oldies at Black Market Antiques
  • ANTIQUE SHOPS
    If you live in an area with antique shops, go check them out and see if they have any cameras. Ask them if they typically get cameras, and you might even have them give you a call when new stuff arrives.
  • SWAP MEETS
    If buying old cameras online isn’t your thing, check out the local swap meets and flea markets. Sometimes you’ll encounter people with massive collections of cameras, and sometimes you’ll find hidden gems amongst the other stuff. The nice thing about this method of buying is that you can tinker with the camera and try to determine if things are in working order.
  • FAMILY
    It seems like everybody who grew up in the film-era has at least one old film camera lying around. Sometimes you never know until you ask them! My dad gave me his old SLR, my grandfather pulled out a pristine Canon AE-1 and an old Polaroid camera the other day, and my Mother-in-Law still has her Kodak Instamatic 44. So ask around and you might be able to resurrect and old film camera at little or no cost!

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR CAMERA


Creative Commons License photo credit: 油姬

Once you get your camera and you determine that everything works properly, go have some fun! Use it, and use it often. Take it out without bringing any digital cameras along. The best way to kill your film focus is to bring a digital camera along “just in case” you need it or something. Once you learn how to use it efficiently, you might even prefer it over your shiny new digital camera.

Keep it clean and store it in a place away from moisture or extreme temperatures. Letting these old metal cameras sit for too long can cause them to freeze up. Hi-tech materials weren’t as readily available in the 1950′s as they are today, so your camera parts will be more prone to damage and decay… which is probably why they’re built like tanks.

Experiment with different films. This is the great thing about film — you can totally change what your camera produces just by changing the film. There’s more to black & white film that just black & white. You get to play with things like differences in grain, contrast, and other features of appearance. Color films are great too — they all have a different look and feel, and different cameras will produce different results on the same films. Throw in some slide film and have it cross processed — you’ll get some really interesting results.

If you put the time and effort into selecting and buying your old film camera, you’ll be more than pleased with your choice. You could end up with a camera that’s much older than you are, and it will probably outlast your digital camera by many years.

Link Roundup 05-10-2008

  • 15 Fun Fabulous Fisheye Photos
    digital Photography School
    If you’ve ever been interested in fisheye photography, check out this article packed with great examples and explanations by Neil Creek.
  • 11 Things To Do With Your Cameraphone While You Wait
    Beyond Phototips
    We have our cameraphones with us more than our real cameras, so why not use them to explore the world around us and shoot it up?
  • DSLR Viewfinder Size / Coverage Comparison
    Photolectic
    Here’s a neat little chart that shows crop factors, coverage areas, magnification, and effective sizes for the viewfinders on just about all dSLRs.
  • 5 ways to deal with negative photo-critiques
    Photocritic
    Dealing with criticism is a difficult thing to do as a photographer — we have a strong connection with those photos. But critiques will happen, so here are five ways to deal with them.
  • 13 of the best flickr silhouette pictures
    All Day I Dream About Photography
    A very nice collection of silhouette photos from the creative minds at Flickr.
  • How to frak your next digital camera purchase
    1001 Noisy Cameras
    Wanna screw up your next camera purchase? Here are some tips to help you accomplish that.
  • Do you know what Hyperfocal Distance is?
    PhotoWalkPro
    Do you like to photograph landscapes? Do you know what hyperfocal distance refers to? Check out this great technical explanation, complete with some fun charts.
  • 70 Free Photoshop Actions
    Reyns Wim Photography
    Wow, a very nicely done package of Photoshop actions. The download page also has a preview functionality so you can see what all the actions do. Most of them are for “normal” editing techniques, but there are a few “artistic” ones in there too.
  • Color Junkies
    The Online Photographer
    “The Online Photographer” takes a stance against color photos. Somewhat humorous, but he makse some very good points for b&w and how to evaluate if a color photo is really worth pursuing in color.
  • If You Put That Picture On The Internet I’ll Call My Lawyer
    Jeremy Brooks
    Jeremy Brooks runs into a crazy guy on the street and writes about his confrontation. Here’s a good example of when to stand up for your rights against people who think they can bully photographers.
  • And here’s a neat photojournalism video/slideshow from Richard Wong.

What Would You Pay For Fine Art?

Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re not a photographer. You’re an art collector with a little bit of spending cash from time to time. Fine art is a hobby of yours, just like photography is a hobby of ours. Let’s also say that you’ve got your own local framing/matting guy who you take all of your collectibles to, so you typically purchase unframed photography prints from a wide selection of artists.

You’re looking for a modest 18″ print to hang in your house, and you’ve been saving your spare change for a little while. You find a great piece of work offered at a very high quality/longevity and you MUST have it. How much money ($US) are you willing to spend on that print?

What Would You Pay For Fine Art?

And yes, this has to do with the upcoming Fine Art Photoblog. But no, you guys won’t be setting our price point for us. I’m just curious how much of a consensus you’ll come to. Hopefully, it will be more definitive than last week’s poll “Which Site Name is More Appealing?” We had a 50/50 split between fineartphotoblog.com and fineartphotographyblog.com — and I ended up going with fineartphotoblog.com.