Hello Ladies & Gentlemen:

I wanted to take an opportunity to share with you a series of questions that I receive from not only students, but members of the public as well. It is my hope that through this Q & A, you might find clarity on some issues in your photography that you were unclear of.

I was recently contacted by a person-(a man in his early 20’s) who indicated he is a novice photographer. Regardless of that, as a teacher, I am always pleased to offer anyone assistance if I’m able. I have spoken to countless people ranging in age over many years and never tire of providing assistance to them.

There were several questions I wish to address from many people over this year through a series of upcoming blog post articles. Let’s start with one of this fellows initial remarks. Here is what he inquired about.

Hi Mr. Ryan, I was on your website and can see you have created so many pictures of people, nature and buildings. I am so confused as to know what type of camera to buy. I don’t know what you use to create your pictures. Do you have just one camera or more? There are too many choices. Also, the more features on these cameras means I have to pay a lot more money to own one and I’m not sure if I need my camera to do all these things. What do you think I should buy?

My Reply:

Thank you very much for touching base with your camera concerns. Let’s start off by asking yourself what type of photography you do? This is something which many people do not invest enough time into reviewing when they purchase photographic equipment. Today’s cameras are loaded with almost endless amounts of features. Sound advice I can provide you with here is to run yourself through a series of questions about your photography. Start itemizing what features you are “going to need” to produce your particular style of imagery. Make a “detailed list” of these features and take the time to review it again and again before purchasing anything. The cameras of today have changed extensively over the last decade meaning regular digital camera bodies with an internal mirror to more current models of mirror less bodies. The more sophisticated the body of your camera is the more you will be expected to pay. For countless years, cameras containing a mirror in the viewing system was the norm. I still use that particular style of camera and have never felt the need to upgrade. I believe my professional Nikon camera which contains a mirror is capable of capturing up to 5 frames a second. (5 fps in FX format at full resolution, and up to approx. 7 fps in DX format* at approx. 15.4 megapixels (recording pixels), with more secure subject capturing thanks to the new group-area AF mode). No one can use the reasoning that a camera containing a mirror is operating too slowly anymore.

Warranty: When purchasing a camera body or a body with lens, you have the option of purchasing brand new or second hand gear. If you are buying from a reputable camera store, they will often suggest an additional warranty. The typical warranty on second hand gear is approximately 30 days. Brand new gear most likely comes with a one year coverage plan. To purchase an additional warranty on brand new equipment that will give you additional coverage/protection for roughly 3 years, can run you an extra $300. above the camera cost. If you can afford this extra money, I would suggest you purchase the extra coverage. The reasoning behind this is with “so many circuits” in a digital camera, electronics can fail at any time. Electronic components typically either work very well until they simply start acting up on a rather immediate basis. My own digital camera has failed during a photo session producing remarkably distorted imagery. The cost of shipping your camera to a repair facility such as Canon or Nikon for example plus their labour rate per hour can very quickly add up to exceed your initial expense of $300. A colleague of mine often compares the cameras of today against cars. They as well contain excessive amounts of electronics that can break down from one day to the next.

On your list of requirements, think about the lenses that you will need to record your particular style of image creation. There are endless amounts of lenses but my best recommendation is to consider a couple of zoom lenses with focal lengths that will provide you with pretty much everything you need. Everything you need means covering the visual range from close ups if you do this, to more distant imagery. Depending upon the camera company you choose to go with, lens manufacturers produce similar focal length lenses but they often are not exact matches from one manufacturer to the other. Go to a good/well stocked camera store and try various lenses on their camera bodies. This is very good first hand knowledge which will benefit your decision making.

Do you need a camera that offers a complete manual and automatic metering system? To this day after many years of photography, I still frequent manual exposure metering over automatic. Whichever metering system you prefer to use, it is still good practice to have both manual and auto metering available to you. Manual metering systems are typically used by individuals who wish to take more time producing compositions and determining light values.

I would recommend the following features in your camera body:

-A good quality, well recognized product-(brand name) that can be serviced without difficulty.

-Both auto and manual metering.

-A self timer-I use this more for preventing camera shake as opposed to running back to the area being photographed to be included in the picture. I almost always use a cable release however if I have misplaced it, the self timer is the next best way to ensure no vibration during the actual exposure.

-A cable release socket.

-A product that has a fairly high megapixel capacity. My digital camera is a 36 megapixel product and it serves my needs very well.

-A manual and auto focus switch on the body and lens for determining focus

-A “PC” flash socket on the body when using remote, non camera mounted flash

-An exposure compensation control

-White balance settings

-Bulb/Time exposure ability

Features that are questionable:

-Various portrait/landscape modes

-Built in flash

-Numerous automatic focusing modes



I mentioned above used in comparison to brand new gear. Their are many good quality camera stores that recieve trade ins from customers when they are upgrading their equipment. The camera store often grades the overall quality of their camera bodies and lenses with a numbering system. Typically, a number o 0 is exceptionally poor while anything from 8 or 8+ is highly rated. The stores usually run the cameras through a series of thorough tests before rating the gear. The point here is, don’t discard the used market. If you can find a second hand camera body with a “low shutter count”, it would definitely be something to consider. Not only would the camera presumably be in good cosmetic condition, but it’s electronic components should also be in fine operating condition due to the low shutter count.

*My professional Nikon cameras shutter is rated for 200,000 actuation’s. This means that the camera should not in theory break down before I reach that number. Many people have easily surpassed the 200,000 clicks of the shutter without any errors occurring. The cost of a second hand body will also be considerably lower than a brand new piece of gear so investing the extra $300 or so for extended warranty coverage looks more attractive at this point.

I will continue to address concerns of people contacting me for advice in additional up coming blog posts.

Thank you for being here and good luck on all future endeavours’!


With Good Wishes Extended,

Jeff Ryan Photography/Ryan Studio