Photography Tips – What Camera for your ski holiday?

One of the most time consuming and difficult stages to becoming a photographer is finding the right camera to buy.  So here are some steps to help with your decision.

First of all you have to decide how much you want to spend and from there you can decide whether you want to buy a compact camera, a compact system camera or a DSLR.

 

 


A compact camera is the smallest one.  The lens does not remove from the body but is built into it.  Compact system cameras are small and compact but have a range of lenses you can attach to them.  A DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) is the biggest and has an extensive collection of lenses and accessories.  A DSLR can be used in point and shoot mode, but they are predominantly designed for photographers who wish to control the look and feel of their images using the manual settings.

 

 

Before buying a camera it is a good idea to decide what your needs are:

  • What conditions will you be shooting in (Indoor/outdoor/low light/bright)?

If you are going to be shooting in bright conditions only, then all cameras from compact point and shoot to DSLR will do the job.  However if you are also going to shoot in low light, or at night, you will need to choose a camera that has a larger sensor meaning it will take in more light. Most compact cameras have a small sensor so the camera will take in less light. You should be aware of this and choose one with a bigger sensor. Also choose a camera with a lens that can open wider letting more light onto the sensor.  Many compacts open only to f/3.5 (the lower the f-number, the larger the f-stop/aperture) therefore best for low light would be f/2.0 or f/1.8 even.

 

  • What size/weight will you be willing to carry?

 

If you intend skiing for the whole day, you have to decide whether you want to have a camera that slips into your ski jacket pocket and is easy to access quickly on occasion or whether you are happy carrying a more advanced and larger camera on your back for the whole day.  You may just want to have fun and snap friends and family on the piste, so a compact camera would be perfect for you.  If you want to venture further and have the ability to print the images, then you would need to carry something larger that would require a sturdy and protective backpack. It may be physically tiring, so you also have to take into consideration your fitness level and strength.  However, you would then have images that would blow up large enough to print or even sell.

 

 

  • What range of subjects will you be shooting (ski action/mountain landscapes/people)?

Of course you can shoot all subjects with any camera from compact point and shoot to DSLR, but you may want to consider how close you want to get to the subject.  Do you need to add special zoom lenses to the camera for ski action for example? Then you would need a DSLR so you have the option of changing lenses.  Do you want to print?  You will need to consider a larger sensor and more megapixels and a good lens for this. Maybe you simply want to catch an easy memory, and therefore a compact may do the trick.

 

  • Will you want a good zoom lens?

One piece of advice for compact and compact system cameras is only pay attention to the optical zoom.  Digital zooms only enlarge the pixels creating lower quality.  You will see ‘pixelation’ in your image if you use digital zoom.  So although these cameras may sell themselves on massive magnification, it will not be good quality.

If you are buying a compact system camera, make sure you look at what lenses are available before you buy.  With a DSLR, the options are endless but again make sure and check what lenses are available for the body before you buy.  A high quality lens is almost more important than the body as every year the camera manufacturers upgrade the body technology, but the lenses generally stay the same.  So you will always have your lens but will most likely upgrade the body eventually if you become serious about your photography. 

 

  • Would you prefer to use something fully automatic or would you like to experiment with manual modes?

Many compact point a shoot cameras are fully automatic and make it easy to ‘point and shoot’, without having to think about settings.  This is ideal for a family holiday where you want to snap the kids with ease and speed for example.  But you may want to do some special effects with your cameras manual settings, like adjusting the depth of field.  For example, having your subject totally in focus and the background out of focus.  For this you would need to be able to adjust your cameras f stop / aperture (More about this in Lesson 2).  Some of the Compact System Cameras do this, and the DSLRs are built specifically for this.  So budget may be the key as to how much you want to do this.

 

  • How much are you willing to spend?

You get what you pay for.  So the more you spend, the higher the quality of image.  Some of the compact cameras and compact system cameras take amazing pictures.  The difference will only be noticed when you want to do high quality printing.

 

  • Will you be printing the images?

If you are just going to be sharing the pictures and don’t need to print, then for web use, Facebook or email, the quality taken on everything from a mobile phone to point and shoot compacts will be fine.  However if you intend on high quality printing, or sending your images to magazines, then you will need to invest in something more expensive

 

One final thing to point out is that more pixels do not always mean that you will get better quality images.  In digital cameras, the image is recorded on a sensor.  The pixels pick up the detail on that sensor.  If you have a large sensor it means larger pixels that in turn would mean better quality.  Compact cameras tend to have small sensors that use very small pixels, leading to lesser quality.

In my bag I carry a Canon S100, a Canon G12, Canon EOS 7D, Canon EOS 5D III and Canon EOS 1D Mark III.  Although some of these are not the latest models, I still feel the quality is high enough if you have a good eye and have good lenses.  The camera manufacturers bring out a new upgrade on each camera every year and it is difficult to keep up with.  So if you want the best deal I would suggest buying last years version when a new one is released as the prices drop dramatically on the previous version as soon as a new one is released.  The quality of the new release is not necessarily dramatically different so bare this in mind if you are on a budget.

Here are some models (from 2012) of which I would recommend at prices ranging from about £150 (I found lowest current prices on www.pricerunner.com).  Please be aware that there are many makes and models, especially in the compact and compact system level and you should read the reviews on the internet. However, I personally recommend using Canon or Nikon in the DSLR range. 

 

Compact: £150 - £350

Canon S100 (£320) / Nikon Coolpix P310 (£184) or Lumix DMC-LX7 (£383)

Samsung MV800

 

Compact System:  £350 - £550

Canon G15 (£499) Nikon P7700 (£448) or Lumix DMC-LX7 (£383)

Canon G1 X (£666) or Nikon 1 V2 (£799) Fujifilm X-Pro 1 or Panasonic Lumix GX1 or Sony Alpha NEX-7 or

 

DSLR:  £550 - £5000

Canon EOS 650D (£519) or Nikon D3200 (£361)

Nikon d5100

Canon EOS 60D (£686) or Nikon D7000 (£637)

Canon EOS 6D (£1789) or Nikon D600 (£1380)

Canon EOS 7D (£989) or Nikon D300 (£999)

Canon EOS 5D III (£2239) or Nikon D800 (£1977)

Canon EOS 1D X (£4970) or Nikon D4 (£3889)

 

Click here to read tips on Ski Club of Great Britain website