In the blogging world, it seems everyone who has a vague interest in improving their photography dreams for or is planning to buy a DSLR camera. We all know they’re what the pros use, when people ask for camera recommendations, apart from the odd phone camera thrown in, it’s always DSLR models that are mentioned. You don’t hear someone say, ‘I love my compact zoom and it does everything I could wish for’ etc.
Until the end of last year, I’d been through a few cameras in my time blogging. When I first had N I had a Canon Powershot compact. I loved it initially but then had a lot of problems, and got black spots on the photos, so I was recommended to change because it would be cheaper to buy than to try and repair it. I decided to change to a Panasonic compact and that was me converted away from Canon.
As I started photo challenges like Project 365, and wanting to improve my blog photography, I wanted to have more flexibility to really learn to use more of a camera. I could have upgraded my compact to the next Panasonic Lumix which shot in RAW, but for the price, I may as well go for a start price DSLR.
When I started researching into cameras, I realised there were a lot of great things about DSLRs, but also one big no for me, and that was the size. Out and about for short trips I mostly used my phone because it was too much hassle taking a compact out. So the likelihood would be that a bulky DSLR plus lenses would be a pain. Therefore my alternatives were a bridge camera – fine for starting to use manual control, but limiting if I wanted to develop more skills – or the smaller alternative to a DSLR, a compact system camera (aka mirrorless camera).
After reading into compact system cameras, I decided that they sounded perfect for me. Not too bulky, but challenging enough for what I wanted to learn about and develop, and enough lens options for what I’d want to use them for.
So what’s the difference between a DSLR and CSC:
It’s easiest to see in a table to compare them. I’m using the term csc, but they’re also known as mirrorless, digital single lens mirrorless camera as well.
There are similarities though, which make it clear why many photographers, amateurs and pros alike are choosing the more compact option of a csc.
I was really clear why I wanted a csc, and it’s turned out to be a great choice for me. I’d moved up from a standard compact camera (albeit a superzoom, good quality one) and had done my research, knowing that’s what I wanted. But even so, the guys in the independent camera shop weren’t really convinced and were trying to push a bridge camera. So if you’re thinking of upgrading to a DSLR, is it the right choice for you or might a CSC be an option?
I asked keen and pro photographers on twitter who had previously used a DLSR and asked why they made the change or added a csc to their equipment.
Those people I’ve spoken to who have opted for a CSC camera seem to be really pleased with their choice over a DSLR as well.
@ETusty wanted something light, portable and easy to use. Budget also had an impact. Like the quality, esp. video. Got a Canon EOS M.
— Nicola (@nicolasays) April 30, 2015
Being a Panasonic lover, I chose the Panasonic Lumix GX7 which came with a 20mm 1.8F pancake lens rather than the usual kit zoom lens. I’ve got a couple of zoom lenses, and my next aim is for a macro lens (or some extension tubes in the first instance).
But what is it that I love so much about my CSC?
The great bits about compact system cameras:
- Control over manual settings
- Clarity of photos
- The challenge of learning to use it properly and achieve better photos
- The size
The ‘I wish it were better’ bits:
- While I love the more compact size, it’s still a lot to carry around with me – decent bag, couple of lenses
- Limited lenses compared with DSLRs. For example, until recently there was only one macro lens available for Panasonics, there’s now another, but I’m struggling to find out more about it.
Of course there are always going to be challenges whether you’re new to a DSLR or csc but that’s more about my ability and confidence.
- Having to learn manual settings. Sometimes I find it hard to quickly change, other times my colour is out, although the latter is easily edited afterwards.
- Getting used to which lens to use when out and about and photographing different things – my son running around, buildings, flowers etc.
- Always wanting to get something new and learn something new. Cameras and photography can be an expensive hobby
I did do a couple of online manual/DSLR courses during the winter months, but really it’s about practising and stretching yourself to learn more. I knew quite abit about the theory already, it’s now about putting it into practise rather than using the safety of manual. These are some of the resources I found useful as a newbie to manual photography:
Paid for courses:
- The Photographer’s Element (TPE) – I really enjoyed this course, the video trainers/photographers are approachable and friendly, and there are 2 options, either the full course (which includes homework tasks and feedback) or the audit level (no feedback, although you can still do the homework tasks as practice). I’d say this was really good if you want a personal touch to training, maybe a bit more feminine and friendly in the educational style. Courses are released at certain times of the year, and are topic based.
- Shaw Academy photography course – I got a really good deal on Groupon or Amazon local for this one so it was worth doing. I struggled with slow internet speeds and the videos, but on the whole it was clear and at the right level for a newbie to manual. There are tests at the ends of modules to reinforce what you’d learn. Personally I preferred the TPE course for explaining things, but that depends on personal preference.
Free resources / informal courses:
- MirrorLessons – THE place to find answers to all your mirrorless camera questions.
- Emma Davies Photography #Remarkable2015 – Emma is a photographer and blogger, and wants to help others improve their photography. If you blog and want to be part of a community as you learn, then this is the one to sign up to for free weekly tips and guidance, as well as exercises set for the week. You can share what you’ve taken in the Facebook group for feedback. There’s also a weekly twitter chat on different topics, just follow #blogphotochat.
- Digital photography school – load of free tutorials, guidance, examples of others’ work and exercise ideas. Sign up for the weekly emails for numerous articles to help your photography come on.
CSC / Mirrorless reviews
If you want some starters for the ‘best’ csc on the market today, then the pocket lint guide is a good start point.
.Steve Huff’s photo website has reviews of every csc since they were launched. Hopefully if you are making or thinking about a move to a compact system camera, then you’ve found this overview useful.
If you’ve got any questions, then do ask, and I’ll try and answer them or point you towards someone else who many know.
To sum up from @MeandOrla
A compact system camera might be worth thinking about.
What camera do you use? What tips did you find useful in moving to a csc (or DSLR)?