What Camera Is Best For Me?

Written by: The Grand Poobah of Creve Coeur Camera himself … Stephen Weiss

The standard answer is …the one you carry with you!

This for us is an easy answer, it depends on:

  • Your skills
  • What you want to photograph
  • How much weight you want to carry
  • What size of final print you want
  • Your budget

As a photographer and owner of several camera stores, I have shot hundreds of cameras over the years, everything from ‘cheap’ point and shoots to the top-of-the line DSLRs for sport, ranging from $100 to over $6,000.  I’ve shot cameras from manufacturers that are still around to ones that have vanished, and from film to digital.  I’ve carried cameras that weigh just ounces ( a Minox) to a huge 20lb. 8×10 sheet camera and even from as simple as a waterproof digital to the top-of-the-line pro setup.

Each camera has been designed for a specific purpose or just for overall shooting.  “I’ve tried ‘em all.”

I travel several times each year for pleasure and take at least two photo trips annually.  These photo trips are for teaching, and I take lots of equipment so I have most of what I need under any condition:

  • 2 Cameras and multiple lenses,
  • Flashes and a host of little accessories, like tripods & filters,
  • A rolling travel bag,
  • A shooters belt for during the day with 3 lens pouches…Usually 40 pounds or more

In the past it’s been the Nikon brand of cameras. I carry a Nikon D5 and a Nikon D750.  I have used both for professional work and both have “full-frame” sensors.  The D5 is one of the fastest, most advanced cameras I have ever used.  The D750, in my opinion, has been the best camera for image quality that’s available. It handles low light wonderfully and the file size is not massive.

Several times annually I “lug” this gear with me for 2 to 3 days around the local race track shooting NASCAR, NHRA and INDYCAR.  These cameras give superior quality images and directly compare to the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and EOS 5D Mark IV. The Canon & Nikon are very similar in speed and quality.

Here’s where it gets interesting: In the past few years several manufactures have come out with much smaller and lighter equipment.  Many of these have better sensors than in the past. Today’s cameras (or as I call them computers) have gotten much faster, better and sharper.

Currently, my camera of choice is the Olympus OMD-EM1 Mark II, a Micro 4/3rds camera.  This means that the sensor is slightly smaller than most cameras, but still produces a wonderful image.

Why do I carry the Olympus when I have access to the other equipment?  Just look at these features:

  • Compact and light weight
  • 5 Axis Image Stabilization – this is huge!!!
  • The ability to see the image (digitally) in the viewfinder
  • Olympus’s “High Res Shot” where the camera takes a 40 megapixel image
  • Built in HDR
  • Programmable buttons (on some models)
  • 60 frames per second!
  • 4k Video
  • And my favorite mode…Live Comp. (in-camera stacking for the best night shots)

Plus, Olympus offers lenses that are small and lightweight and produce sharp images, even in their non-pro lenses.  Even so, I shoot their pro lenses, and they are considerably lighter weight than the competition for the same aperture and focal length.

Olympus offers several camera and lens packages starting just above the $500 mark, and you should consider them when looking for a beginner or an advanced DSLR, especially if you are not already tied to a particular camera manufacturer by your existing equipment.

Now… my wife has several Panasonic cameras that she loves.  She is not technical (although she is a doctor) and loves the size and features of her cameras.  She shoots a Panasonic GH4 and the new G9 with several different lenses.  The features of this brand are similar to the Olympus, but have a couple of features that work best for her.  Her cameras have 6k photos mode.  She shoots a short video and gets to pick out the frame she wants and then processes it to an 18 megapixel image.  This feature is great for shooting her kids in sports.  Her daughter plays volleyball and she is able to get the perfect shot every time using the 6k photo mode.  She just shoots in 6k mode and chooses the shot where her daughter is at the top of her jump hitting the ball or the split second she releases the ball while serving!

Plus, her camera has a similar 5 axis stabilization when keeps her images sharp even in low light.  Panasonic features Leica lenses that are super sharp and still compact. By the way… both Olympus & Panasonic lenses will fit on either brand camera!

Most of the above has been focused on the DSLR type of camera, but both Panasonic & Olympus have many smaller “point & shoot” models that have a lot of the same features mentioned.  Most importantly, large sensors and image stabilization are available.

To summarize, if you are “invested” in a camera line…stay with that brand…if not, you should consider looking at this new lineup of cameras. They are called either Micro 4/3 or Micro Mirrorless. You will love the size, the weight and of course, the image quality!