So you’re thinking of purchasing a new camera. You’ve read what feels like hundreds of online reviews and you’ve narrowed it down to just a few possibilities. You might even be thinking about asking your favourite photographer friend to help you make the final decision, but I think I can save you some time.
Here is the camera you should get: none! The camera you already have will probably do the trick.
I bet the camera you’re looking at is packed with features. It has one billion megapixels, 70 to infinity zoom, and a bulb setting; whatever that is. But the truth is, unless you’re a professional, a photography student, or a diehard hobbyist you likely have no need for a camera better than the one in your smartphone. It probably does more than you need it to, and you’ll never use it to its full potential (or even want to).
“But,” you say, “I’m planning a trip to Africa, and I need a zoom lens that will keep me a safe distance from anything that can bite my head off or trample me to death.”
For you, world traveller, I have one question. How often do you intend to visit Africa? If this is a once-in-a-lifetime event and you are likely to bring your camera home all banged up and never touch it again, don’t spend thousands of dollars (or hundreds, even). Instead, try renting or borrowing gear. It will be considerably less expensive, and you won’t feel that pang of guilt each time you see it staring forlornly at you from the shelf. (Just remember to get the extra insurance.)
Finally, I’d like to make an argument for living life unfiltered by a viewfinder. I am someone who is expected to have a camera constantly glued to my face, but I have a secret. I rarely carry my professional gear with me. It’s liberating to spend more time enjoying an experience than photographing it, and far more fun to participate in the conversations around me than documenting them.
I’ve had friends go on spectacular adventures overseas and come back with amazing stories. They might post one photo or two of them standing on top of a mountain, but even that can’t compare to the light in their eyes when they recount how elephants visited their camp, or that time they were chased by rabid dogs. (OK, there might not have been much light in their eyes during that last story.) These stories paint more elaborate pictures in my mind than any photograph they’ve shared with me.
Ultimately, you should do what makes you happy. I suspect that you’ll be happiest unburdened by bags of equipment and running wild with the elephants, or toddlers, or embracing whatever shenanigans life may present you with.
Still thinking about it? Let me know in the comments what camera you’re looking at buying and what you’re going to use it for. I’d love to hear all about the fantastic adventures ahead of you.