Which camera should I get?

bighorn sheep lamb mammoth springs gardiner yellowstone national park

Looking at new cameras and reading reviews (yes, I still haven’t bought a new camera yet) has been a great reminder that actually getting out and shooting is much more important than the gear you’re using. I’ve read discussions where people have popped in just to tell a group of users they’re wasting their time shooting micro four-thirds (M43) when there are better sensors out there. As if the most technologically advanced sensor determines the worth of the photo they take.

I’ve shot with many different brands of cameras over the last decade and a half—Sony, Canon, Pentax, Nikon, and back to Canon, with some Olympus for fun in the middle there. I’ve never had much brand loyalty. I will say Pentax was the first system that made photography really click for me. After borrowing my old photo editor, Kisa Koenig‘s medium-format Hasselblad, I felt confident shooting completely manually. The Pentax K100D was one of the only cameras at the time that accepted legacy glass which allowed for a lot of options for the frugal photographer.

As time went on and I dove further into wildlife photography, automatic features became very handy. Good autofocus and low-light capabilities could help me in situations where I was tracking small birds in wooded areas. When I lived near Yellowstone National Park, though, the wildlife was huge and the Pentax with my Sigma 135-400mm was long enough to get me fairly close to many animals.

The above image was taken with my Pentax K100D and the Sigma 135-400mm the day after I bought it from Bozeman Camera Shop in Montana. Driving home, we detoured into Yellowstone and the first thing we see inside the Gardiner entrance were this bighorn sheep family aside a steep cliff. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite moments shooting in Yellowstone. The light was just amazing and it was just a random moment.

mountain bluebird yellowstone national park nikon 70-300mm

The switch to Nikon was after moving back to Florida. There’s not a lot of big wildlife here (other than alligators). My family and I started visiting all of the birding trails in the state on the weekends. The Pentax K100D wasn’t keeping up. I was constantly missing my focus and at 6 megapixels, there wasn’t a lot of room for cropping. The Nikon D90 was this tool in my budget that has much faster and more accurate focusing speed, better low-light capabilities, a solidly-built body, and more megapixels. Nikon also offered a great assortment of telephoto lenses compared to Pentax.

The photograph above of the mountain bluebird was taken after we made the switch to Nikon. Not far from where the bighorn sheep photo was taken, we sat in brush on a chilly morning below Mammoth Springs where nearby elk were bugling and running up the hills.

Was that mountain bluebird shot possible with the Pentax? Maybe. It was just easier to make happen with the Nikon.

Different tools have different uses. Some cameras work better than others in certain situations, but I just get annoyed with the idea that there is a “best” camera out there. It’s hard for me not to find work that I like from almost every camera out there. However, if I went by people talking on Internet forums, the only good photos should be shot with a Sony A7Sii or other camera du jour.


If that was true, why would I have just recommended my own mother to get an Olympus OMD E-M10… a lowly M43 instead of a full-frame system. Well, my recently retired mom who loves traveling and photography liked the idea of having something smaller and lighter, though she didn’t want to lose much from what her Canon T5i offered her.

She took her new OMD E-M10, kit lens and the Panasonic 100-300mm OS up to North Carolina for a week and came back with images she would have gotten with her current kit and more. I took the photo above in her backyard garden with her new kit. She loved using the camera and felt it was just easier to take with her everywhere compared to her Canon system.

Long story short, good photos can be taken with most every kit out there. If you’re getting lost choosing a camera because you don’t know which one is best, you’ll never find it. Go with a system that offers you the functions that you need. Cameras are just tools in the end. They don’t make great photos–you do.

1 Comment

  • Real solid gold advice there. Yeah, it’s the photographer that captures the best moments. The gear is just the equipment. Just as music comes from the pianist, not the piano.

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