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1 Pick Your Gear Outdoors Photography for Beginners Produced by: Frank and Sue Wall / Our Hiking Blog Pick Your Gear Stephanie Cotteret

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Pick your gear takes you right from the start and teaches beginner photographers how to choose the right equipment for your needs. It includes a comprehensive rundown of the different types of cameras available, important features to look for, accessories and what they can do and advice on caring for your gear.


Page 1: Pick your Gear - Outdoor Photography for beginners

1 Pick Your Gear

Outdoors Photography for Beginners

Produced by: Frank and Sue Wall / Our Hiking Blog

Pick Your GearStephanie Cotteret

Page 2: Pick your Gear - Outdoor Photography for beginners

2 Pick Your Gear

As tourists, travellers and hikers, we come in contact with the outdoors

at its best. From grand mountain crags to pristine deserted beaches, nature is full of gorgeous scenery. Beyond the beauty of the landscape, nature also lives in the moment - the flight of a sea eagle above the waves, the play of light falling through the trees deep into the woods, or the smile of a partner or a child as they explore new places - the many instances that come together to create powerful experiences and weave fond memories.

Photography is a natural companion in your discovery of the outdoors. Photography helps you appreciate and reflect on your surroundings, engage further with the environment,

and above all, capture the moods and essences of those precious moments.

This Outdoors Photography for Beginners series will ease you into the wonderful world of photography. This first book, Pick Your Gear, takes you right from the start, as we explain how to choose the right equipment for your needs, with:

• a comprehensive rundown on the different types of cameras available;

• the important features to look for;

• the wonderful range of accessories and what they do;

• advice on how to care for all this fabulous gear.

Welcome to Pick Your GearIntroductIon

OverviewTable of Contents

Click on a chapter title to jump to that chapter.

What type of camera should I get? . . . . . 3What to look for in a camera . . . . . . . . . . 10Lenses for your SLR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15Accessories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19Caring for Your Gear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25Sharing our passion for the outdoors . . 29Learn the lingo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30Explore the great outdoors . . . . . . . . . . . 33A Big Thanks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

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What type of camera should I get?chaPter 1

What is a camera? Nowadays, a camera can be anything from an option on your smartphone to a complex, state-of-the-art SLR. This section gives you an overview of the range of cameras available and helps you decide which type may be best for you.

Image: Vladimir Agafonkin

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You will be familiar with the point and shoot camera. Small, lightweight, cheap and easy to use, the compact camera is the obvious choice when you are just starting out in the world of photography.

These tough little cameras come packed with special features. A variety of modes allow you to take different types of photographs, from portraits to landscapes and sports shots. All compact cameras include a video mode as a standard feature, and many make it easy to take panoramic, black and white or sepia photographs. They have an in-built flash, simple controls and advanced technology such as face detection, so taking pictures is a quick and easy job.

Because they are so easy to use and carry around, point and shoot cameras are the ones you are most likely to take

with you, no matter where you go. Shockproof and waterproof models are available, making these cameras truly all-terrain and virtually unbreakable.

In many ways, a point and shoot is the ultimate foolproof camera. However, great ease of use comes at the cost of freedom. Compacts will rarely let you choose your own settings, relying instead on built in automatic modes, that is, the camera makes the decisions for you. As you improve, you will want to have more control of your photography, and the limitations of a point and shoot may soon have you frustrated and wanting more.

Compact Cameraspoint and shoot

Bottom line?

Compact cameras pack a lot of punch into a tiny package, so you will get you great bang for your buck… for a while! But don’t panic – when you outgrow your point and shoot, it is still so handy you’ll want to keep it around!

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Phone Cameras Using your phone as a camera has two great advantages. First, it’s small, slim and light and you’re very likely to always have it with you. Second, it makes it incredibly easy to share your pictures with friends through social media, instant messaging or email. But, unless you own a high-end phone or Smartphone, image quality will be at best average. As the camera is just an added bonus to the phone, it suffers from the lack of dedicated camera controls – making it impossible to tweak settings, or use accessories such as tripods and filters.

Bottom line?Use your phone as a good backup camera - handy for quick snaps and sending pictures instantly to family and friends.


A helping hand

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of cameras available, you’re not alone.

As well as asking the helpful staff at your local camera store for advice on specific cameras, there are plenty of resources available online to help you with your choice.

Two sites which review all types of digital cameras to help you decide between them are linked below:

• Digital Photography Review

• Digital Camera Resource Page

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Bridge cameras are bigger and better than a point and shoot camera, but still not as advanced or expensive as an SLR. They are great for intermediate level photographers, or keen, committed beginners. They are the perfect go-between – hence their name.

Because it is usually physically bigger and heavier, the bridge camera might not be quite as practical as a compact, especially if you intend to carry it for long distances. Shockproof or waterproof options are not usually available. However, because bridges still include a wealth of automatic or semi-automatic modes, as well as video, they are just as easy to

use – just a little heavier to carry around.

Why bother with that extra weight and mass?

First– it’s not that bad. Bridges are still quite light, and their medium size makes them more comfortable to use

for people with bigger hands or when wearing gloves! Their larger, better quality

LCD screens are a boon to everyone, as are their powerful zooms.

Second - and most importantly - what a bridge takes away in practicality, it gives back in functionality.

Bridge Camerasstart learning

Bridge cameras have full manual controls. This means you can use photography staples such as shutter speed

and aperture, and good understanding of your camera and fine tuning your settings, you will improve as a photographer. Plus, if you’re in a rush or feeling lazy, it’s easy to just flip the switch and revert back to automatic!

Bottom line?

If you’re keen on photography and have a bit more cash to spare, a bridge camera will take your photography further and last you longer.

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For years now, the SLR has been the cream of the crop, and the digital revolution has not changed that one bit. What has changed is that, thanks to the digital revolution, an SLR is now within reach of the keen amateur!

What makes an SLR so good?

SLRs have bigger and better sensors for optimum image quality. They perform well in difficult, low light conditions. They are extremely quick to start up and shoot fast, so they will get more shots right - no more ‘missing the moment’ because your compact needed a minute to think first! SLRs react instantly to the press of a button.

SLRs come with full manual controls, both in settings such as shutter speed

and focusing. If you feel like playing with depth of field, or notice the autofocus floundering you can take charge and have complete control over your photography. Whereas bridge cameras have only one lens, SLRs have many interchangeable lenses. Although this means you’ll have to buy more gear to take full advantage of an SLR’s potential, it ensures fantastic image quality due to greater optics. And because there are so many different kinds of lenses available, the SLR is unparalleled in terms of versatility.

This all comes at a price – literally. SLRs are by far the most expensive cameras, and their high performance and quality build make them big and heavy, so they are never fun to carry. Their high price tag may be a source of

Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camerasTurn into a pro!

extra stress as you really wouldn’t want them to get broken, lost or stolen.

Bottom line?

SLRs are designed for the serious photographer and imply a serious budget. But if you do go crazy about photography, there are no two ways about it – you’ll want one sooner than later!

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Now that your head is buzzing with information about the long-standing division between compacts, bridges and SLRs, you might be wondering why no one has thought of combining the best qualities of each yet. Well, surprise – they have!

Although hybrid cameras are still rare, they could turn out to be the next big thing. Hybrids can be compared to bridges in that they stand halfway between a compact and an SLR, but they do so in a smart new way. The idea behind a hybrid is to have a camera with the full manual controls

and interchangeable lenses of a SLR, but be as small and lightweight as a compact

How is this possible?

SLRs have always used internal mirrors as part of the viewfinder and exposure

system. This works very well, but takes up a lot of room inside the camera, making the body bulkier and heavier. Hybrids have done away with mirrors entirely,

thus saving a lot of space and weight.

This saving is used to accommodate interchangeable

lenses and a large sensor -

Hybrid CamerasThe best of both worlds?

synonymous with better image quality - while still ending up smaller and lighter than a traditional SLR. Because the mirror affects the way lenses are built, hybrid lenses are smaller than SLR lenses, making the whole camera lighter.

Now, surely, there are downfalls to such an amazing new system? Surprisingly, the drawbacks are few:

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Because they have no mirrors, hybrids don’t have an optical viewfinder and instead rely on an LCD screen or electronic viewfinder. The difference is no big deal. Sensor area is still smaller than an SLR, which may lead to slightly lower image quality.On early models, autofocus may be slow. The range and quality of lenses available is not on par with SLR lenses yet.Hybrid cameras are not cheap, and for the price of a brand new one you could almost buy an SLR instead.

Bottom line?

Hybrid cameras may be the way of the future, as their image quality is similar to that of an SLR, you can change lenses as needed, and they are a fairly compact size.

Hall of mirrors?Hybrid cameras are often referred to as ’mirrorless cameras‘ for obvious reasons, and also as ’Micro Four Thirds‘ which is the name of the standard for mirrorless interchangeable lenses cameras developed by Olympus and Panasonic.


If you cannot make up your mind as to which camera is meant for youyet, think about it in terms of activities:

• A compact camera, especially one that is shockproof and waterproof, will be a great all-rounder that can tag along with you no matter what. If you love kayaking, rafting or snorkeling, or if you intend to go on a tough tramping trip where every gram counts and conditions might be wet and difficult, the ompact should be

your weapon of choice. As a matter of fact, a compact camera is generally a good choice if photography is only a secondary purpose to your activity.

• If, however, photography is equally important to you as your other activities and you can afford to carry some extra weight with you – for instance on day trips, easier tramps or birdwatching excursions – then pick a bridge or SLR according to your budget and whether you decide to prioritize practicality or image quality. Hybrid cameras may soon prove to be the contender of choice by their ability to combine both, but as the technology is still in its early stages nothing is certain yet!

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What to look for in a camerachaPter 2

Now that you have an idea of which type of camera you may want to get, we will dig a bit deeper and explore the important features that should help guide your choice for a particular model. As you learn more about camera features, keep your mind open and be ready to challenge any preconceptions you may have had. A camera is an investment – be informed and choose wisely!

Image: Azlan DuPree