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Camera Buyer's Guide

Lesson 5 of 16

Camera Types

John Greengo

Camera Buyer's Guide

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

5. Camera Types

Lesson Info

Camera Types

All right, we're gonna go through the major features of the camera, and I wanna talk about the major categories and things you wanna look at when you're considering a new camera. First up is camera types. There are many different camera types out there, and we're gonna talk about most of them, but not all of them. So on an inverted pyramid, you might say, we have mobile devices down at the bottom, your phones, tables, computers, and so forth that can take photos. We then have point and shoot cameras, and these are cameras with built-in lenses that you cannot take the lens on and off. In some rare cases, you can add on extension lenses on them, but you can't take off the one inherent lens that's on it, and these are very handy and nice devices. They are kind of disappearing, because so many of our mobile devices are becoming good enough that we don't need 'em. But we're not gonna be talking about these in this class. Interchangeable lens cameras, and there's a category of these that do ...

not have viewfinders. I'm not a big fan of these, but we will talk about these a bit in this class. And then we get to the DSLRs and the mirrorless cameras that is kind of your mainstream interchangeable-lens cameras. And so, we are not gonna be talking about the point and shoots or the different mobile devices out there. We're gonna stick to the higher end cameras for the most part. Now, those phones and the point and shoots, lemme just explain a little bit on how they work and where their weakness lay. So, they have built-in lenses, which makes them compact and affordable in general. Light comes into the image sensor, and you get to see the image on the LCD on the back of it, whether it's a phone or a point and shoot camera. Inside the device is a leaf shutter-aperture combination unit, and when it's time to take a photo, what happens is the shutter closes so that the sensor can prepare to capture an image. It then opens, it captures the light, and then it closes again to end the exposure, and then it opens again so that you can see in order to take the next shot. Now, the downside to this system is mainly the LCD on the back, is that it is not bright enough nor big enough to see it really clearly, as you might see it with an interchangeable-lens camera in the proper viewfinder. The problem is one, it's small. It's not able to see truly if you're in focus. In order to make sure that you are in focus with a small camera like this, you need to playback the image, enlarge it, and go in to see if it's actually sharp. The other thing is that these don't work well in bright light situations. And so it's very difficult to use, generally outdoors, in my mind. So, now we're gonna get into the big battle in the photography world right now, at least, and that is mirrorless versus DSLRs. Now, the SLR and the DSLR have ruled the photography world for about the last 60 to 70 years, and that's because it has a big image sensor or film area, and it has a great viewfinder. The way this works is light comes in through an interchangeable lens, which has an aperture which can open and close down to restrict the amount of light coming in. As light comes in, we get to the reflex portion of this equation, and that is where it bounces light upwards onto a focusing screen up through a prism system and out the viewfinder for you to see. And this has been one of the great things about the digital single lens reflex camera, is that you have fantastic viewing of your subject. You get to see your angle of view, what's in focus. You get to see exactly what you are shooting with your own eyes, and your own eyes have a lot of benefits to them. Now, in order to take a photo, what needs to happen is the mirror needs to get up and out of the way in order for the light to get back to the image sensor. Now, before it actually gets to the image sensor, it gets stopped by the shutter unit, and there are two curtains. There's the first curtain and a second curtain. So let's look at this from both the side and the front angle as this is gonna work. So what happens is the first curtain opens. This is our exposure, we're capturing light, and then the exposure ends when the second curtain comes down, and then the mirror will come down and return the view to the viewfinder, and the shutter will reset to the beginning position, and it will do this again, up to 10 frames or more per second. And so, the downside here is that there's a slight delay, and there's some mirror movement in the camera, and the image that you're seeing in the viewfinder is not the digital image. You're seeing an image through glass and mirrors, which is the way you see the world with your own eyes. The way a digital sensor sees the world is a little differently. And so, that's one of the downsides to the digital single lens reflex camera. The main problem that we've been dealing with lately is the mirror in there. This bounces around a lot, obviously, and so that causes some vibration problems. But one of the other issues is that it forces the camera to be a little bit bigger than it needs to be in some ways, because it takes up a lot of space between where the lens mounts and the image sensor on there. And so, with the advent of digital, we have been able to eliminate the mirror, eliminate the focusing screen and the prism system, and we've been able to reduce that distance from the lens mount to the image sensor, and come up with what's called a mirrorless camera. And it's been enabling us to make slightly smaller cameras. And so the first thing that people talked about with mirrorless cameras is the cameras are a little bit smaller. Now, this is a slight distraction, because a lot of times, the mirrorless cameras that they were talking about had smaller sized sensors, which is a topic we'll get into in a moment. The cameras are indeed a little bit smaller, not by a ton, but by a little bit. So, let me actually show you a quick comparison. Let me grab a couple of cameras. So, in this case, these two cameras are about as similar as you can get being a, actually, let me get this correct for you, 'cause we're doing mirrorless I think on the left. And so we have a Canon EOS R, which is a full frame mirrorless camera, and a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, which is a full frame DSLR. They both have 24 to 105 lenses on it, and the mirrorless camera, it's not exactly the same camera, but it's got a lot of the same features and capabilities of the 5D Mark IV. It's got roughly the same sensor and the same image quality, so you can do a lot of the same thing. It's not exactly the same, but you can see how much they've been able to reduce the size of the camera. And it's a little bit. It's not huge. It changes the layout. You know, you don't have as much space, which means now that you don't have as large a screen there, or on the back of the camera, they've reduced the size of the camera, so over here, you'll see there's not as much space next to this flip-out screen that we can move around like this. So we don't have as much room for the big dials, so it doesn't feel quite as comfortable in the hand as the larger camera, 'cause this just has more real estate for a normal size hand. So the dials are a little bit smaller on it, and so there's a little bit of a trade-off. And so, when it comes to the smaller size of the mirrorless camera, it's a very, very minor thing. It's not a big deal, unless you start talking about different sensor sizes. All right, so let's get back to our mirrorless camera and talk a little bit about how our mirrorless camera works. So, in this case, the shutter curtain needs to remain open so that light can go back to the LCD screen on the back of the camera or the electronic viewfinder, which enables you to see what your sensor sees. And so, now you can see a digital version. You can get a preview of what you're actually shooting, and this can be a big advantage, 'cause you can see white balance and exposure and the way that your camera is interpreting the scene that it's looking at. Now, in order to capture the image, let's go ahead and take a look at what's going on with the sensor, because as we say, we're starting with the sensor open. So what happens is the first shutter closes, and then the sensor is prepared to capture an image. The shutter will then open. This is your image exposure right here, and then the second curtain comes in, and then in order for you to see, it needs to open again so that it can send the information back to the LCDs. Now, for those of you who are a little bit more advanced, yes, I know there's front curtain, silent shutter, and some other things going on, but this is kind of the basic premise of how a mirrorless camera works. It's reduced the space in there because that mirror is no longer there, and it's reduced some of the vibration in there as well. And so, when we are looking at this battle between mirrorless and DSLR, let's talk about some of the differences. The camera is a little bit smaller. The lenses aren't, so by the time you end up getting a camera bag, it's usually the same camera bag, or maybe just a little bit smaller. I think one of the biggest advantages with the mirrorless camera is the digital smart viewfinder that shows you results before you've even taken them. Very, very handy. The silent electronic shutter is a new option that I think will be making more headway. As we go forward in photography, we're gonna lose that shutter sound, 'cause they are gonna be able to take photos without any sound at all. There is a more accurate focusing system because of the way it works. It's a contract detection system. When it focuses in and it catches a subject, it is spot on, and you don't have to worry about accuracy ever on these cameras. The design is a little bit simpler, so it's a little bit easier to manufacture. This really hasn't resulted in lower prices yet, so I don't know how much good this is gonna do other than possibly making for a slightly more reliable camera in the long term, potentially. The DSLR has a large, very sharp viewfinder. If you wanna manually focus, you wanna see sharp details through the viewfinder, it's still the best way to go. The fast autofocusing system that they have extends from the top of the line down to the lower price models, and so there are some mirrorless cameras that are absolutely fantastic at fast autofocus, but it's a little bit more common in DSLRs right now. But that is changing very quickly. Generally, the DSLRs have lots of lenses because they've been out on the market, and there's been these legacy systems that I say are 20, 30, 40, 50 years old, and so there's a long time running. Mirrorless is still kind of the new kid on the block, and they don't have quite as many esoteric and exotic lenses out there. They'll have most all your basic needs covered, but there's a number or new mirrorless systems that are growing. For instance, Canon and Nikon introduced full frame sensor cameras mirrorless cameras, and they have three, four lenses. They have more on the way in the future, and as the years go forward, they're gonna see lots and lots more lenses. But compare that with the 70 lenses that are already available on their SLR system. Lots of other accessories when it comes to flash, remotes, and everything else, and the whole DSLR system has been around for a while. It's a highly refined system, so it's a very safe choice to go with, because it's a well proven system. So, you might be asking the basic question, just, what should I buy? Should I buy a mirrorless or DSLR? And folks, I'm making a major change here, and this is the first year of the change. I think most people should probably start with a mirrorless camera, as that's the intention of what you would go out and get. Now, it doesn't mean everybody should go out and buy a mirrorless camera. I think you should buy a DSLR camera if you are shooting fast action today. Most DSLRs at a given price point will outperform a mirrorless camera. This is most, this is not all, and this is rapidly changing. And so, in one or two years, this might be completely flipped. Second reason to be in the DSLR camp is if you find value in being part of a large system. If you need accessories, lenses, like tilt-shift lenses, I don't know of a single tilt-shift lens, and they're too an esoteric, strange lens, designed for a mirrorless camera. They are all designed for SLRs at this point. That's gonna change in the future. If you're interested in buying used gear, you find a camera you want, but you want a collection of used lenses that you can get into, there's just not as much to choose from on mirrorless, 'cause they're more new, and there's not as many people selling them. If you need service, whether that's repair or accessories or any of those other things, shops that have your stuff in store, mirrorless is still a little bit newer. There's still a ton of DSLR stuff out on the market out there. And so, if you're a pro and you need overnight repair service, yeah, the DSLR is probably still the way to go. But I think for most people, if you're starting new in the game, I would go out there with the intention of buying a mirrorless camera and seeing if it fits your needs, because that is the way going forward. And it is amazing how much mirrorless has taken over our entire world. And so, I wanted to put one graphic together that showed how many SLR cameras versus mirrorless cameras that are out on the market, and this is currently out on the market right now, and it's almost by a two-to-one ratio, there are more mirrorless cameras than SLRs. Now, available models does not indicate actual used models out in the field, because I would hazard to guess there are twice as many as DSLR cameras compared to mirrorless cameras out there, just from the anecdotal information I see of people out there shooting, taking classes, on photo tours, and just out photographing. But, the changeover, you can see, it's very clear where the manufacturers are going. I looked over the last two years to see what models are being introduced, and there were 11 new DSLRs introduced over the last two years, 11 DSLRs. There were 23 mirrorless cameras introduced. At the most recent trade show, major trade show over in Europe, which attracts all the big manufacturers, and they always wanna have a nice product to show everybody what they've been doing at this trade show. And it is the first time in my memory, and I haven't been able to dig up information on this, but I would hazard it's probably the first time since the 1950s that no manufacturer showed a mainstream SLR camera. Leica did showcase a new SLR that they were gonna have in the medium format realm that runs in the 10 to $15, range, which is not really the grouping that we're talking about here, but none of the major companies, Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Sony, any of those companies showed a new SLR. Oh, the showed a lot of new mirrorless cameras, but no new SLRs. And with this new change that Nikon and Canon have introduced full frame mirrorless cameras, you are gonna see very few new introductions with DSLR cameras and lenses going forward. This is the tipping point. Things have just changed.

Class Description

Our Camera Buyer's guide will be your guide to figuring out the best digital camera for your needs.

Gear expert John Greengo dives into the major brands and lenses that are currently on the market.

John breaks down some of the more confusing aspects of mirrorless and DSLR's from focusing systems to sensor size; you'll get a better understanding of what the gear does so you can make an informed decision.

At the end of the class, John gives his recommendations for different types of photographers from the aspiring student to the filmmaker and everyone in between. If you're looking to purchase a camera or gift one to a budding photographer in your life- this free course will be your guide in making the best purchase.

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Denise Watson

Another outstanding class by John Greengo, my favorite Creative Live instructor. John's delivery is entertaining and his info clear and very easy to understand. If you need more explanation, well, don't worry - he's got a slide or PDF for that! I'm a working photographer and I learn something new with each of John's classes. Don't hesitate to buy any of his classes - you won't regret it.

David Reichel

Yes - there is such a thing as a free lunch - this class is it! I enjoy landscape, seascape, architecture, portrait and travel photography. I've been a Canon user for decades (film and then digital full frame with the 5D Mark II then 5D Mark IV). Recently I got a Fujifilm mirrorless medium format GFX 50R and discovered some Fujifilm features (e.g., film simulation, menu system) that resonate with me. I now have over-kill on full frame format and because I like the Fujifilm so much, I've been thinking about moving from my Canon 5D Mark IV to a Fujifilm X-T3 as my walk-around camera. This class helped me better understand the trade-offs and alleviated my concerns about a crop format sensor in the X-T3. On top of that, this is a great refresher course on camera fundamentals.

Sherry Throughmyeyes Prater

There a thousands of reviews/guides/ floating around the internet, but this one is by far the best by far. I usually watch a portion and then move on because I simply lose interest, but I watched every single lesson. John gives a very unbiased explanation of cameras, functions for every type of shooter. Not only would I recommend it, but I am going to recommend. I am a member of multiple photography groups on FB and one of the most asked questions is camera buying advice. This is excellent!