For the last 4 years I have been using the same point and shoot – a Panasonic DMC-TZ6. It’s a wide angle 25mm with a 12x zoom. I’ve had great fun with it and love shooting wide angle shots, they have defined my style and I rarely use the zoom or crop in post-processing. For me part of the art of photography is getting the composition right when you’re in the moment, on location with the scene right in front of you.
I’ve been thinking for a while that I should invest in a camera that gives me more control over my photography. With the point and shoot my creativity and interpretation of a scene is largely limited to the composition. With fiddly menu systems to change the simplest of settings I can never find the motivation to experiment and there is no way to conveniently change them in the heat of the moment. Over the last few weeks I have been evaluating the current crop of 3rd generation (or mirrorless) cameras out there to try and identify the one that’s right for me. I had it down to two – either the Sony NEX 5r or the NEX 6. Both cameras are fairly similar, they offer great image quality and interchangeable lenses in a small package with the ability to adjust the aperture and shutter speed. There are two key additions on the NEX 6 that make it more expensive:
1. A more traditional mode dial on top of the camera to switch between aperture/shutter priority and manual mode.
2. An electronic viewfinder.
I knew that I wanted something less cumbersome than a DSLR, but I was conflicted over the viewfinder on the NEX 6. Was it worth the extra money?! I had never used a viewfinder to take photographs before!
I was lucky enough to have a work colleague who suggested I borrow his old DSLR – a Sony A100 – to try out a viewfinder and see how I got on working in manual mode. I’ve not quite made it to fully manual mode, but what an experience!
I felt like I had so much more control over the photographs I was taking! I had much more room to interpret a scene and make it unique not just through the composition, but through the way the light was captured. It made me feel more creative, like the photo created was mine and not just a simple capture of a landscape or portrait. And the viewfinder made a world of difference. I was skeptical at first and thought it might feel a bit awkward after years of staring at a small LCD screen to see the world through my camera’s eyes. But after just a few hours of use it seemed like the most natural thing in the world, I felt connected to the camera and the image that was being captured.
I performed a quick experiment to verify this wasn’t just some spooky magic. I was doing some test runs in low light to experiment with ISO and shutter speed and after a while I thought I’d try and capture a similar image as best I could with my point and shoot. I immediately felt very clumsy trying to take a close up picture of my subject – some cufflinks. Holding the camera at arms length to get close to the subject (because the zoom could not focus properly in low light) and looking at the screen to compose the image did not feel natural at all.
I’m sure you can guess given my enthusiasm for the viewfinder that I have decided to purchase the NEX 6! So my first experience with a DSLR was entirely positive and very enlightening. I would encourage anybody who is in the same position as me – on the cusp of point and shoot and thinking of diving into the world of manual photography – to take the plunge.
Have you recently moved from point and shoot to a DSLR or 3rd Generation camera? Have you invested in the Sony NEX range? Think I’m crazy to buy one?! Please feel free to comment below!