I did some research many years ago around getting a proper camera - I had many point and shoots and wasn't enamoured by the quality or the colours that were captured from the photos, so I thought 'right, get a proper camera and then you'll have great photos'. As well you know, it doesn't work out like that! As above, amazing clouds...no foreground, no real leading lines..but look at those clouds!!
Olympus, Fuji and Niko
I've had them all as point and shoots or super zooms. I could zoom in to a fly's socks from a quarter of a smile, but it made my shots no better. That's because I couldn't actually take shots, I just pointed and shooted. A fancy DSLR made me no difference. I spent a good deal of money and research on my first real SLR, and plunged straight in to a Canon 7D. It had HD Video (which I've never used) and lovely sharp images. It propelled me to use my camera as I'd invested so much in it, but alas my shots were still crap. Meanwhile, my girlfriend was taking photos with her iPhone and smashing me out of the park. I in turn smashed her iPhone. That's a completely normal reaction, right?
The Canon is a wonderful camera. Unlike the Nikon, it has the stabilisation built into the lenses instead of the body, but like any DSLR lenses, they're all bloody expensive. The Canon 7D though wasn't a full frame camera, which I only learnt after I bought it. What difference does that make? Purely the image sensor size, which means the quality of the image. So I was lugging around the weight of a full frame, but not the cost or the quality of image. Bastard. The standard lens was* an 18-135mm, and I brought a 100mm Macro to use with it too.
* I say was, I still have the camera, I love it!
The image quality though is superb, the start-up speed is terrific, the battery life is immense, and weight is like a bloody millstone. If you like wandering around fantastic touristy areas admiring the breathtaking scenery all the while rubbing your aching neck, a 7D or full-frame SLR is for you!
The most important question ever
What are you using it for? It's so trivial when you first start out. Well, I'm going to take pictures , dumbass! But of what? When? The reason they ask you this is because if you want to take it travelling with you, then maybe lugging around 35kg of camera equipment isn't for you. In the world of cameras, and with most things, you buy for the 'it'll do" scenario. I met a German couple in Uzbekistan with a terrific SLR, so we got talking about cameras and where they had been. Now in their 70's, they had only just climbed Everest Base a few years ago. Did they take their SLR? Did they bollocks. They took an iPhone. If you intend on travelling solely with your car, then get as much equipment as you like! If you love Sports photography, most likely you'll turn up somewhere with a playing field and a car park, so get the best and nicest equipment you like as you won't have to carry it far. Obviously there is more to it than that, but for me it really is that basic.
Olympus Em5 Mark
Enter the fray the micro 4/3rds. After busting my ass around The Stans two years ago, I decided I needed something smaller. Two Germans we met (Anna and Doris) had small cameras, one of which was the Panasonic GH4 with great quality photos and not even a broken neck in sight. My mind was made up. Some investigation later and my girlfriend bought me the Olympus Em5 Mark 2. I love this camera!
So now I have the right camera, I take amazing photos, right?
No!!! I still hate lots of the photos I take, but they are getting better and I never stop learning. There is a fantastic video by Steve Kelby that tells you a great deal over and above the rule of thirds, leading lines, patterns, filling the shot, foreground and background etc that most books tell you. The best bit is that he tells you honestly what he went through to get the finishing shot. No photographer in the world rocks up, shoots and blinder and pisses off to the pub. Does. Not. Happen. Steve is honest enough to admit that and tells you all the things he tried to get that one shot he loves. And then...it's all down to opinion. I have to admit that when Steve was showing off his presentation shots, I didn’t like many of them, but that's my opinion. He probably hates mine, and he'd be right! But it's all down to opinion of whether you like it or not - art isn't a packaged form. I'll add the link here.
Best Photography Tip in the World
I learnt this one today, so am keen to write it up. Today in Melbourne we have had a very cloudy day, but it's been one of those days where an artists grey brush has peppered the canvas with various hues, sporadic mixes of darks and lights that show real drama - the calm before the storm. About 60km away there is an outcrop called the You Yangs, and on this particular day there was straw bails all lined up after harvesting. I had leading lines, foregrounds, dramatic colour...it was all sexy as hell!!! But all of it wasn't worth a damn. Why? Because I forgot my SD card at home. Teh clouds were captured with my Samsung S6. Best tip in the world? Always bring your camera. Try different shots, take lots of photos by trying different angles and settings, but you need your camera with you to even begin. It's pointless when it's at home. Second best tip? Bring your memory....so when you forget your damn SD card, you can picture the shot in your head!