How To Choose A Camera – 31 Practical Things For You to Consider

Having recently bought a new camera I thought I would share my thoughts with you all.

In this post, how to choose a camera. I will tell you the 31 practical things that I considered before moving into the micro four thirds ecosystem with Olympus. These are the 31 things that were things that I wanted in a new camera - features that would help me to take better photos. And that is what is important - taking better photos. And some of the things I wanted I had to forsake, so having produced this list I still had to compromise. So don’t be surprised if you cannot find exactly the camera you want!

Choosing a new camera is not an easy decision to make, but hopefully my thoughts and practical advice will help you if you are going through this process.

The background to this question

I have been using a Canon 6D for a few years now. And a few months ago I wrote about my old good faithful Canon 6D, and asked if I was ready to replace it, and if so what with? I spent lots of time talking about the Canon 6D in that article.

WhilstI am on the subject you might want to check out another post from me titled Is The Canon 6D Still Worth Buying In 2019?

The starting point for the thought process was what would I do if I broke my Canon 6D – this is an entirely likely scenario as I am

  • Intrinsically clumsy, and

  • Take photos on live construction sites

  • Like putting my camera very close to the bit of land where the waves and land meet.

  • Take my camera with me absolutely everywhere

  • Seriously I am really clumsy

And there is an element of something else.

I just want something shiny and new!

Shock confession. I want a new camera. There – I have said it now. I think that this has become one of those self-fulfilling prophecies. I started writing about not replacing my Canon 6D and find myself here writing this post with much too much enthusiasm!

To be fair to me my cameras tend to last me five years so I am due for something that will take me into the year 2024 – imagine what technology will be doing for us by then!!

Back to the subject in hand - here are the 31 things that I considered in choosing my next camera.

1 - Smaller and lighter than my Canon 6D with lenses attached.

I found myself using my iPhone more and more on holiday. I basically couldn’t be bothered getting my Canon 6D out all the time, and really enjoyed the ease of using an iPhone.

I know – its not Canons fault I’m lazy!

I used my Canon 6D for sunrise shots, where it was just me and the sunrise, no on else around and just me to think about. I used my Canon 6D on my travel tripod, the Manfrotto 190 Go.

I would really like something much smaller and lighter that I can take on trips and not be burdened with.

My 6D is not that big to be fair – it is just the collection of stuff together that bugs me. And I know there is smaller stuff out there.

Talking of tripods I also use a Platypod and a very small tripod called the Manfrotto Pixi. If I had a much smaller camera, I would have more options in terms of tripods and other supports which is rather exciting.

2 - In camera HDR

I am going to refer to my Canon 6D as my camera from now on. OK?

My camera has built-in HDR, but this is only to Jpeg files. I shoot in RAW only, so this feature is of no use to me.

Or is it?

Is there a different way of looking at this? Has the technology of cameras, sensors, image capture and image processing progressed to the point where there is no real difference between Jpeg and RAW?

Is there a camera that makes this differentiation irrelevant?

And is there a camera that makes HDR irrelevant as well?

Well it’s a thought.

Can a single image capture be enough?

Or a single image capture processed using something like Aurora HDR.

3 – GPS

GPS is a must for not only my travel photography, but also my commercial photography and the stuff I do on the way to and from shoots.

I have GPS on my Canon 6D which I always use, which I find incredibly useful.

I use the Map Module in Lightroom a lot, especially when I am writing about my photographs on my various websites, blog and also on the Improve Photography website.

View from Oia Lightroom Map 19102018.PNG

GPS is pretty much an essential tool for me.

4 - Wi-fi

I use Wi-Fi to remotely control my camera using the Canon Connect App. I have used this to activate my camera from the top of my painters’ pole in a couple of situations.

Me using the Wi-Fi on my Canon 6D

Me using the Wi-Fi on my Canon 6D

This photo was taken in a pretty harsh environment, a gravel loading facility next to a live rail siding. I had to photograph the gravel being unloaded by the 360 machine from the train into the gravel bays.

And when these guys are unloading from a train on a live rail network they get on with it!

No time to wait on this shoot with my Canon 6D

No time to wait on this shoot with my Canon 6D

The other example is where I want to take a photograph of a building from higher than ground level, like the photo above. Getting to first floor level, which is only circa 3m gives a completely different perspective, and also means that my camera is at first floor level, eliminating the need to correct verticals.

Architectural photography in Hampshire using a painters’ pole

Architectural photography in Hampshire using a painters’ pole

5 - Connectivity as good as an iPhone

In the year 2018 why do cameras not have the same functionality and connectivity that we all enjoy with our phones?

My Canon 6D is an older camera now granted but cameras in general seem to lack way behind phones.

Why can’t I take a photo and share it with a client immediately? I can with my phone.

6 - The functionality of an iPhone

Same point relay but rather than connectivity functionality.

7 - Connectivity to my iPhone (thinking about it)

improving that in a clever way could negate the need for the two points above.

8 - In camera image processing

What do I mean by this? I guess I am talking about Jpeg image capture with more processing, meaning I can use images straight from camera (with the connectivity mentioned above).

9 - Fully articulated screen

I put my camera on a painters’ pole. I also put my camera on the ground, on a Platypod or Manfrotto Pixi tripod. I hold my camera out of windows.

I hold my camera out in front of me to get over things.

For all of these situations a fully articulating screen would be a huge bonus to me – this would genuinely help me taking photos.

10 - A screen I can actually see in normal light and also in direct Greek sunshine

I am getting old. I am (rather tragically) over 50. And my eyes are not what they were.

The screens on my Canon 6D are an issue. The tiny numbers in the viewfinder are also an issue to me.

Photographing the sunrise on Santorini

Photographing the sunrise on Santorini

I have been getting away with these shortcomings mainly by the way I take my photos. I pre-set most of my camera settings so most of the time all I am changing is the aperture and the point of focus.

When I want to deviate from that in any way the problems begin.

And I have noticed recently that all things that I do with my Canon 6D are becoming more difficult. Not just my Canon 6D of course – all things that I do that involve close focus.

And the distance stuff isn’t that great either.

Oh the woes of getting old…….

A large bright screen will help I have no doubt. Going from my iPhone 7 Plus to my Canon 6D screen is like going from my iPhone back to one of the old Nokia phones with the little screen – remember them??

11 - Touch screen with full functionality

This ties in with points raised before, putting all these bits together to get something approaching iPhone touch screen functionality.

The thought of a touch screen that is as user friendly as that on an iPhone or iPad is rather exciting to me.

12 - Ergonomics that make it a pleasure to use

My Canon 6D works for me ergonomically. I have handled some smaller cameras and am not sure how they handle ergonomically – that is a very good reason for going to an actual camera shop and actually holding an actual camera rather then reading reviews online.

The internet will never replace a shop for the experience of actually holding something and getting that tactile experience – that is one reason why it is so important that we all go to shops and buy things, or there will be no shops and nowhere that you can go to hold an actual camera.

13 - Simple logical menu system

Not a lot more to say really – I have heard that other camera manufacturers systems are not as good as Canons, which I am used to. And to be honest I change so little, maybe because there is so little to change, that this is not currently an issue.

This may be an issue if I had a camera with more variables to play with. One to think about,

14 - 4K video with high quality audio recording

I currently do 99% of videos with my iPhone. Now I do have a DJI Osmo Mobile that I need to make better use of but I would like to do more 4K video with an actual camera – my Canon 6D does not do 4K video of course.

My videos are not the best, but on the plus side check out this lovely 6 minutes of sunrise tranqulity on the wonderful Greek Island of Paxos.

15 - Excellent Vlogging/ recording capabilities

I am finding the need to produce more videos, some for my own promotional purposes, some for clients I am working for. At the moment all I am doing is holding my iPhone up in front of me and talking into it using the built-in mic. Whilst the picture quality is adequate the sound is not good enough.

16 - Smaller cheaper lenses offering similar quality

This ties in with my desire to have smaller camera gear especially for travel photography. I have found in recent trips that I have been using my iPhone more and more for day to day shooting, using my Canon 6D for sunrises and stuff like that.

Whilst the iPhone has a remarkably capable camera it just does not compare with my Canon 6D and Canon L lenses, and nor should it to be fair.

17 – High quality sensor

I love the sensor on my Canon 6D, and love the images it captures. This is a 20 MP sensor, and I will not accept a lesser performing sensor.

Another intangible here is how the sensor on another camera will perform, and what will the look be of the images?

18 - Excellent low light performance

My Canon 6D has excellent low light performance. Well I think it does. Again performance needs to be better than that I currently enjoy.

19 - Stuff like time lapse, long exposure and other good stuff etc built in

I want some toys and things that I can play with and have some fun! And I want to be able to use the latest technological developments in my photography. I know it is all about the composition but I have worked hard on that over the last year, and will continue to do so going forwards.

I just want some fun when I am taking my photos and some new things to try out.

20 - A sensor that doesn’t need cleaning

I hate removing sensor dust spots. Hate it.

So a sensor that doesn’t need cleaning will be good. Not an essential but a nice to have.

I do not know if this is even a thing – one of the problems with mirrorless cameras is that the sensor is closer to the bit where you mount the lens as there is no mirror there. On an SLR there is a mirror in-between the rear lens mount and the sensor which must provide some protection.

21 - Interchangeable lenses

Now this is an essential. I want to be able to change lenses, I want to be able to expand the range of lenses that I have in the future as and when needed.

And I want the lenses to be of a similar quality to my current Canon L series lenses.

22 - Tilt shift capability

I have a tilt-shift lens that I rarely use. The truth is I do not like it. It is manual focus, and I have managed for so long without it that I am in two minds whether to get rid of it or not.

Canon 24mm tilit shift lens

Canon 24mm tilit shift lens


I have been planning on using my tilt-shift lens for a prolonged period of time but have never got around to this.

I think that this may be because don’t really want to – I feel like I am forcing myself (potentially) to use a piece of kit just because others say I should.

It is unlike me to do such a thing so lets just park this and say that it will never happen.

That’s tilt shift lenses done then!

23 – Ultra-wide angle lens

This might be an issue with crop factors. At the moment I have a Canon 17-40mm lens on my full frame Canon 6D. If anything I want the ability to go wider than 17mm if at all possible, but without the size and expense of the canon 11-24mm lens – an awesome lens for sure but not what I am looking for at the moment.

This could be a deal breaker for me.

24 - Bespoke programming – Custom Function that works!

I have never got on with the custom functions on my Canon 6D. I think this is my own fault, a definite display of petulance and a lack of time studying this feature.

But to be able to have pre-sets that I can switch to automatically to mix things up is very appealing to me.

25 - RAW Capture

I shoot in RAW, process in RAW and output in Jpeg. But with the new technologies out there is this still a thing? Or has the in-camera elastic trickery made this a thing of the past?

26 – EVF

I have tried various EVFs in shops, and also at Gatwick Airports’ Dixons World Duty Free. The main thing that I do with my airport downtime is look at cameras and marvel at EVFs.

I love the way that you get live exposure simulation in the EVF – such an awesome thing to be able to see.

The EVF however needs to provide the same optical experience as the viewfinder on my Canon 6D though – field of view here is a consideration together with brightness and realism.

And the size of the stuff in the EVF.

27 – Computational photography

I know very little about this, but the advances in technology must be being included in image capture?

I am sure that with the power of processing things like sensor size, mega pixels, noise and stuff like that the gap between high end and lower end cameras is closing.

28 - Focussing in the dark

My Canon 6D is pretty good at this. I have written about this on my blog and also on the Improve Photography website.

And to be honest people have been surprised that I find the Canon 6Ds low light focussing capabilities.

I am sure that newer cameras will have better low light focussing capabilities than my Canon 6D so I expect to see benefit in this area with a new camera.

29 – Weather-sealing

I need a weather-sealed camera. All my photography is done outdoors. And I don’t stop for the rain.

And I work on live construction site which are wet, dusty inhospitable and noisy places. Not that noise is relevant here.

30 - And the ability to output straight from the camera.

Straight from the camera onto the internet. This is a new business need which I will expand on in the summary.

If I could take a photograph with image processing pre-sets that I knew would give me the initial level of processing that I wanted that would be a start. There is of course the question of the metadata, filename, title and description. But I guess they could be added after the event?

I need to be able to add high quality metadata to my images – this is something I am quite fastidious about.

It is the ability to be able to get processed images out of the camera and onto my websites that I am keen to have.

31 – Shiny new loveliness

I have often written that there is too much talk about gear, which I still maintain is true. But this does not mean that I do not want some shiny new techie loveliness now!

And when I get a camera I do tend to use it for a number of years.

So yes, I did want something shiny and new! Well I am only human after all!

But there is a genuine worry here

What if I jump ship to another manufacturer and don’t like it? If I were to get a Canon EOS R, which is a strong contender, I would be staying in the Canon ecosystem. I would know what I was getting, but with lots and lots of bells and whistles in addition.

But what if I went elsewhere and just did not like it – that does worry me. Thankfully I found the answer.

Do I just have two camera systems?

Ah bless here is the Canon 6D. My old friend.

Canon 6D

Canon 6D

I might have missed a trick here. My Canon 6D works just fine, and still captures great images. What if I got something smaller for travel photography?

What is wrong with having two camera systems?

Nothing at all is the answer. Well apart from the cost that is. And that is what happened. I took the bits from the Canon that I wanted to change and got most of them in the shape of the Olympus OM-D EM5 Mk 2 with Olympus 12-40mm F 2.8 Pro lens.

Next week I will go into more detail on what I did and did not get.

Do I use both camera systems?

Yes.

Having decided to keep my Canon 6D, and use my micro four thirds camera for travel photography. I have actually used the Olympus EM5 on a commercial shoot and the results were excellent.

Further reading

I have written a number of gear related posts which are completely relevant to this post. They are

My Micro Four Thirds Travel Kit – Travelling Light In Style

Is The Canon 6D Still Worth Buying In 2019?

Professional photographers who use micro four thirds - really?

And check out the video for this post on my YouTube Channel.

Summary

Rick McEvoy

I hope that you have found this post, How To Choose A Camera – 31 Practical Things For You to Consider helpful. At the end of this deliberation I bought an Olympus OM-D EM10 Mk 2, and not long after that an OM-D EM5 Mk 2.

More on that next week on my photography blog.

I would like to conclude thogh by saying get the best gear that you can afford, and then learn to use that gear.

Rick McEvoy ABIPP, MCIOB - photographer, blogger, website creator