Photography: What Camera should you buy?


“What camera should I buy?” is one which every pro shooter is asked at least once every week. With cameras ranging in price between 5,000 and 95,000 baht, no wonder the weekend photographers get confused. Then you have to also consider the top models of camera phones!

Just last week, I was asked by a restaurateur here just what camera he should buy to take pictures of food. Unfortunately, the choice does not depend on what it is you want to shoot – it is more important to know what you want to do with the final shots.

Sounds a bit cart before the horse I know, but that is probably the most important factor to consider in your decision. You see, if all you want to do is get some family style snap-shots that you will look at for 5 minutes and then put them in a file somewhere in the computer (where you can never find them again) and where they will stay for the next decade, so it does not matter what camera they were taken with. Any old 35 mm point and shoot compact will do. The cheaper the better. Use the money you save for wine, women and song and waste the rest.

Now let us look at the restaurateur’s photographic needs. If he wants to make large blow-ups of pictures of his food to fit into a light box in his restaurant he is going to need very precise, high resolution lenses that can give a sharp enough image to stand the degree of enlargement. He is also going to need good lighting, f32 aperture lenses and a tripod. He needs a good quality medium format camera giving a 6 cm x 6 cm negative, with top class lenses and needs to study lighting techniques if he wants a “professional” result. It is probably cheaper for him to hire a professional to do the shots for him! The money he saves can be used to invite women to eat and drink at his restaurant and waste the rest.

Now look at a camera for the enthusiastic amateur. This photographer enjoys the art of photography. He or she probably has a good “eye” and wants to end up with photographs that would be good enough to have enlarged and hung on the wall. There is also a hope that one day, these images might “sell”. In addition, this photographer wants to be able to manipulate the images to produce results that are out of the ordinary, surreal or even hyper-real. To do this, the equipment required is a manual 35 mm camera with a series of good quality interchangeable lenses. This will be the start of a camera “system” that can be built on and enlarged over many years. This will need to be good quality equipment. There will be no money left over for wine, women or song and the photographer will have to get used to water and noodles till the photographs are good enough to sell.

The next types of results wanted are wildlife and action sports. Funnily enough, the camera equipment needed here is almost identical. These pictures are destined for magazines and other editorial work. Whether you want to take photos of charging rhino’s or Valentino Rossi on his MotoGp motorcycle, the needs are the same. You will need a 35 mm SLR with very fast shutter speed and capable of carrying a 600 mm telephoto lens. For this type of photography it is a case of bringing the action close to you – not taking yourself close to the action! The lens will be more expensive than the camera. You will need to meet a rich widow if you want any wine, woman or song. You have just blown a year’s wages on the photo gear!

So what camera did Harry Flashman have? In his studio overseas he had a 5” x 4” Cambo plate camera, three 6 cm x 6 cm Hassleblads with five lenses and three 35 mm Nikons with three lenses. Add all that lot up. No wine. No women. No songs! Just bank overdrafts.