Buying a Camera

I really thought I wanted a Canon EOS 60D. I am not brand limited — this is a story about the personal choices of choosing a new camera. And a story about camera love and loss and love again. You will not see photos of cameras here because this is also a story about photo needs not about how pretty a camera looks.

I think all modern digital SLRs are pretty amazing and offer great results — I or my students have worked with most of them. I had been big on Olympus. I love their tilting LCD screens and I had a complete system. I had a Canon system, too, though until a year ago, I mainly shot Olympus because of the tilting LCDs and the compact size of the cameras.

But my needs changed. I needed 1080 HD video capability, and Canon had that. I have been shooting with a 7D, enjoying it, but really missing the capabilities of a tilting LCD. So of course, when the 60D came out, I was ready. Then I handled one at a trade show and did not like it. Canon had changed some of the controls so that you could not quickly go from the 7D to the 60D and back. Plus, it just didn’t feel as good in my hands as the 7D. I think the latter is very important because if a camera does not feel good in your hands, you will not enjoy using it.

I tried an accessory LCD panel for my 7D from Marshall Electronics. I really liked the big view I got, plus this panel could be tilted so I could shoot low angles and from many heights on my tripod without having to go into contorted positions myself. The panel truly is a beauty and helped with focus as well as composition. The larger LCD screen that comes with this panel is also a big help for aging eyes.

Then I went to Costa Rica. Conditions were often wet and we were in many locations. The accessory LCD panel largely stayed in my bag. And I sorely missed a tilting LCD panel. (By the way, I have a discussion on my blog on dealing with the wet conditions so common now around the country — www.natureandphotography.com).

I have long loved low angle and unusual angle shots, even when I shot film. I have never liked right-angle finders and when swivel, then tilting LCDs became first available for DSLRs with Olympus, I totally switched over to that system. I don’t care what people say about being able to lay on the ground, etc., for the unusual shot, most people won’t do that, so the tilting LCD immediately changes what you will and won’t photograph.

So guess what? I have now bought a 60D. I am willing to get used to the differences in handling between the 7D and 60D just for the 60D’s tilting LCD. I now have a lightweight DSLR complete with tilting LCD in a compact package that makes the camera excellent for travel and light packing.

There are some lessons here. First, I really believe that one should buy a camera based on real needs you have for the gear. I use my gear steadily and I need it to respond to my needs. I neither want nor need a big, heavy “full-frame” camera that does nothing for me besides add weight and bulk to my camera bag. I did need a compact DSLR with a tilting LCD.

Second, sometimes certain features trump other elements of a camera. So even though my initial impression of the 60D was not favorable, the compact quality of the camera along with its tilting LCD is simply more important than that. I can learn to deal with the controls.

Third, I think this really points out how personal the decision to buy a certain camera really is. I think a lot of photographers get into trouble when they buy a camera because someone else says they need it (or a magazine or a website). I see this a lot when people buy “full-frame” cameras that they do not need and struggle with the size of the camera and the lenses.

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