Top 10 Camera Purchasing Mistakes
We're gonna start with top 10 purchasing mistakes. Now a little bit of John Greengo history for those of you who don't know it, is I at one point spent a number of years working in the camera shops selling cameras to people. I have sold easily thousands of cameras and talked to thousands and thousands of people about cameras, and they come in, and they look at these collection of cameras and they kind of glaze over because there's so many options to choose. And I've found that a lot of them come in with the wrong set of questions, and so I want to kind of put you on the right track for asking the correct questions. So I'm gonna go through my top camera purchasing mistakes. Number 10, you got bad advice. Sometimes this comes from your dad, a coworker, a friend of yours who happens to have a camera. They might be the most, the best photographer you know of so you go to them and you say, what do you think I should get? And oftentimes they're gonna be heavily biased into recommending what...
they own. Now that may be completely different from what your needs are to what their needs are. So, you need to talk to somebody who really knows about this industry, and knows what's going on and what your needs are, and so be careful about the bad advice. All right number nine, underestimated the money needed. Sometimes people set out on a goal of, okay I'm gonna shoot sports photography and I want to do it on a professional level and I have a budget of $1,000, and they never really did the research to figure out how much is it gonna cost to accomplish what I want to do. And so be careful putting a specific number on a specific application that you're going to do. Now you may only have a budget of let's say $1,000. Well you're gonna have to compromise a little bit on what you can do with that $1,000. Next up is the reality didn't match the ambitions. I've seen some people quit their job to become a professional photographer in a certain genre. Maybe they're gonna do real estate photography, and they do that for a while and then they suddenly realize, I really don't want to do this and I prefer to shoot landscape photography, or I like doing people photography. Suddenly what they purchased for doesn't match what they're actually going to do. The more you know about what you plan to do, the better job you'll be able to do making that decision. Distracted by special deals. I know a lot of the camera stores out there, they might advertise a particular camera, but then they'll package it with a bunch of other stuff that maybe you don't need, or maybe there's another camera they'll recommend that comes with an extra lens all for the same price. Well wait a minute, you really got to check into these things, so if you figure out what's gonna work for you, stick to your guns. Don't let somebody talk you out of it unless they have really, really good reasons for doing that. So be careful about those special deals that are on sale or come with extra items. Number six, overthought the unimportant items. Here in the Seattle area where I live we've got a number of tech companies. We've got Microsoft and Boeing, and Amazon. We've got a lot of engineers and analysts here, and they tend to do a full checklist of all the features that a camera has. I remember one time very specifically somebody came in and they were comparing two cameras, and they were saying, "Well this camera has "nine stop bracketing, and this other one "only has seven stop bracketing." Then I talked to him about what type of photography he was doing, and I came to realize that he probably would never use that feature at all in what he was doing. And I said, well you're not even gonna use this feature. And he goes, "But it doesn't have it." I say, well you really need to look at what's important to what you're doing. And so, no one camera is gonna be the best in everything out there. Every camera has a weakness, and as long as it's doing what you want it to do then you're gonna be fine. Number five, thought more money would solve the problem. There's some people that have lots of money, and they just say, give me the top of the line, and they start out on the very top of the line camera. They get the most expensive lenses, and it's kind of like a 16 year old kid going out and buying a Lamborghini. You can almost bet they're gonna crash that in the first six months. It's just a little too much to start with, and so even if you have the money, it's sometimes good to just start in a comfortable area where you know that you can handle that, because as you get to the higher end cameras, they require knowledge and experience, and precision in their use. And so, be careful about overbuying. It's often good to get a learner camera, and it's okay. Yes you're gonna sell it down the road and upgrade, that's perfectly fine. But it's a great way to learn photography. Number four, didn't budget for all the accessories. Some people think buying a camera is buying a camera. Oh well yeah, I guess I'll need a lens. Oh, I need to buy a memory card? Oh I should buy an extra battery? What, I'm gonna need a tripod? There's lots of other accessories and the more money you spend in photography, the smaller and smaller percentage the actual camera is when you're out shooting. And I know when I pack a good camera bag to go out and shoot, the camera body is probably 20% to 30% of what I spent my money on. A lot of it is on the lenses, but you need a good tripod for a lot of types of photography. You might need some filters and memory cards, and you want to have spare batteries. And so, it depends on how much you're gonna spend as to what the budget is for the camera, but the camera is often gonna be 60%, maybe 50, 40, or less when it comes to the total package. So you need to think about the total package of what you're gonna be needing. Number three, overly concerned about online reviews. Gotta admit it folks, I love going online and reading reviews about cameras. It's very, very fascinating. I actually have quite a bit to say about it, but I will say that there are some people that are highly opinionated online that don't like certain cameras for a variety of reasons, and that's perfectly fair. We're all free to have our own opinions, but just be careful about how that applies to you. Because these are opinions, a lot of the time they're not stating facts as to whether they like or dislike a camera. It's just their opinion, and so you probably want to seek out multiple opinions and ideas about a particular product. Number two, didn't do the research. Yep, like I said before, it can be overwhelming. There are so many choices. There's different brands, there's different styles of cameras, and we're not even talking about lenses yet. There's a lot of different options there. And so some people just kind of zone out and they take that bad advice, or they just walk into the camera store, they just whatever is the top listed item, or the top rated item online. But you really need to think about what is right for you, which means you need to do a little bit of research, and I know you're doing it right now, so good on you for that. Number one, this is the biggest one folks. Belief that a great camera takes great photos. This is a problem because people oftentimes will just look at this and they'll just say, well what's the best camera? And sometimes, the person standing there will, well I don't know, and so they'll kind of fiddle and so the person asking the question will go, what's the most expensive camera? Okay well there is a definitive answer to that. One of these is the most expensive camera, but that is a camera that I would definitely not recommend for most people. It's a very unusual item in some cases. And so don't just think a better camera is gonna give you better photos. You need to get one matched to your needs. When you decide to buy a camera, there is no doubt you are going to seek out a review on that particular camera, and I recommend that you do this. There are reviews available online. You can have friends that review cameras. There are magazines that do reviews on cameras, and I have to tell you, I find these reviews very interesting, and it's because I know the cameras really, really well. I teach in depth classes on almost all of them and so I know the cameras really well and I know a lot of the people who do the reviews. And I know that there's kind of some things going on behind the scenes that maybe not everyone sees. And so I just want to let you know what I see when I am looking at these reviews. There's some things I think you need to know about. So this is my review of the camera reviewers. Number 10, opinions aren't facts. I can't tell you how many times I've seen somebody say, this is not a good feature, or this does not work right. And it's obvious, this is their opinion, and this is their right. I have no argument with them having that right to the opinion, but be very clear about opinions and facts. When somebody says a camera has one control dial, you can probably pretty well bet that it has one control dial. But if they say they don't like the way the button works, well that's something to maybe put on your checklist to see if that's something that you like or dislike in the future. So just be able to separate the opinions and facts as you go through these. Number nine, apples and oranges comparisons. I will often find them taking one camera and pitting it against another camera. Perhaps because, oh it's of a competitive manufacturer, or perhaps because it's at the same price, or perhaps because it has some of the features the same. And there's just a lot of differences when you go back and forth from camera A to camera B. And sometimes you do have to do that to see what's going on. But these cameras, like automobiles, are very unique in what they do. And you will undoubtedly do some camera A to camera B comparisons, but be careful about not taking it too far. Number eight, reviews do not instruct, and so if you read a review hoping to learn how to use a camera, that's not what reviews are designed for, and so it's not really a complaint against the reviewers. They're not trying to teach you how to use the camera. I know this because when I teach a class, what I do is I go read reviews to see if there's any extra bit of information I need to pass along to my students in my class about how to use the camera. And there is virtually nothing in those reviews that tell you how to use the camera, or how to take better photos. That is not what it's intended for. It's just intended for opinions about that camera. Checkbox comparing. A lot of times people will pull off two cameras, and they'll have a checkbox list. Does this camera have this feature? Does this camera have that feature? And does this one have this one? And that one and this one? And they go back and forth, and it's hard not to do it, but you can't just base everything on this. Now, when you went to buy your last Ferrari, see I love analogies that everybody can relate to, so when you went to buy your Ferrari, did you check on the towing capacity? Because there are trucks that have much better towing capacity than Ferraris, and so you have to be a little bit careful about what's relevant in those checkbox comparing. Because some cameras companies, kind of the behind the scenes, they don't have rights to use a particular feature, and so it's not in their camera at that time. And so you have to look at it, face whether it's important or not, and go from there, but don't worry about everything, checking every box off that's possible. All righty, what is next? Number six, overly concerned with image quality. Now this might surprise some of you, but image quality is not necessarily the end all be all of a camera. It is obviously important, it's very important, but I'll be honest with you. I do not own the highest image quality camera available today. In fact there are very, very few people who have the camera that has the highest image quality available. Partly because that would probably be a camera that would sell for around $100,000 these days, and so there's always going to be compromises. What you need to look at is what your needs are, and what's gonna fit your projected needs of that particular camera. And so you do want good quality, but handling, features, there's many other things that are very important, as important as image quality. Number five, overly impressed with new features. When you review cameras, this is one of the most exciting things to talk about is when a camera does something that no other camera has ever done before. Now how valuable is that in the world of photography? Well that's up in the air. You could use this for anything, or you might use it for nothing and it's completely unimportant to your photography. This is something that the reviewers will talk up and up, and up, and you really have to look at it with a cold hard look of, is that even something I would use? Because they're gonna talk about it because that's what you want to talk about are things that are new when you're reviewing a camera. Number four, under impressed with value. I find this one really frustrating. There was a particular camera, I'm not gonna name names. There was a particular camera that came out recently that did nothing better than any other camera in the market. It didn't do anything new. It was considered a boring camera by most people, but I looked at the camera, and I says, wow this has a really nice set of features. It's at a really good price, there's a lot of options. This is like the perfect camera for a huge collection of photographers out there, and it just got terrible reviews. Not that it did anything bad, it's just that it didn't do anything new and exciting. Because reviewers love to get excited about new features and the very best. It's kind of like, and I'll use this analogy throughout the class, it's like looking at cars. When they review next year's Honda Accord, that's kind of a basic ho hum, it's another average car. But when Lamborghini introduces a new car that reaches a new top speed, wow is that exciting. Doesn't relate to most of us, but it is exciting for the reviewer to talk about. Number three, exaggerate small differences. I've read reviews on cameras where one camera shoots at seven frames per second, and the other camera shoots at six frames a second. And the camera that shoots at seven frames a second is much better at shooting sports, and I'm thinking, much better at sports? I've shot a lot of sports, and one frame of difference is not gonna be a big deal. In fact most of the time it's not gonna make any difference at all. You shoot sports all year long every week and there might be a couple of extra moments that you got. It's a little bit better but much better? And so they tend to just kind of go overboard when one camera is a little bit better. They want to, if there was a small difference between cameras, they want to heighten that difference to make it seem like something greater. Number two, overly emphasize video. Now, this one's been perplexing to me. I have a still photography background and so I'm kind of trained and I really like still photography, but I do like video, and I love having a camera that shoots videos. It's a nice bonus feature to have in cameras, and I've found, I think I've figured out why there are so many reviewers that really talk a lot about video, way more than the average photographer is interested in it. Because I teach a lot of classes in person with students, and I ask them, how many people here are shooting video? And if I have a class of 10 people, about one person will raise my hand, and it's because the reviewers are often having their own YouTube channel, and they're shooting their reviews on video, and so they're using video in their own business of reviewing cameras. So for them, video is really important. And for you, video may be important. It may be not important. Almost all of the cameras can shoot video. Some are much better, and we'll talk about that. In fact I'll even have recommendations for which cameras are best for people who want to shoot video along with their stills. But I have found that they will often tend to downgrade a camera quite a bit if it's not the latest, greatest in shooting video, and I know a lot of you who are interested in shooting stills, video is just an afterthought. You may not even use it at all, so be aware of how important that aspect is to you. And number one, they are too quick to recommend upgrading. The photography market and camera market is crazy these days in my mind. How quickly they come out with updates. Nikon and Canon on a lot of their mainstream cameras are coming out with updates, let me pull a couple of them out here. They're coming out with updates every 12 to 18 months on these models, and the difference between this year's and next year's models of these cameras, in my opinion, is very, very small. I got to admit, I like having the latest generation camera, I like having the latest out there so that it's kind of as good as possible and I can keep it as long as possible. But the difference for the average photographer from one year to the next is really small, and it feels like the reviewers are just trying to get you to buy new equipment. Some of the smallest little upgrades, oh they tweaked some of the buttons, they've added a little bit of extra features, they put a new port on it. And like, ah yeah it's definitely worth the upgrade. And this is a phrase that I really have a problem with. Definitely worth the upgrade. It is never definitely worth the upgrade, because they don't know how much money you have to spend. If you have an unlimited amount of money to spend, yeah, the upgrade of course, why not? But for most of us, money is an issue, and you have to be thinking about, how much is it gonna cost me to upgrade? What could I do with that money? Maybe I could buy a lens, maybe I could take a trip, or maybe I could do something else, buy some lighting equipment with that money. So, before you feel like you have to upgrade every generation, because it comes around at most every three years, really look at what's going on. I know there's a number of photographers that are using cameras that are five, six, seven years old, which is archaic in current times right now. Do not need to upgrade every year, especially on the mid to lower ends. It's just not necessary. There's not that many changes, and so just read specifically into the changes as to what is changing from one model to the next before you figure out if it's right for you to upgrade.