When I first entered the foodie scene (thank you, Zomato), I was taking badly lit food photos with my Samsung S2. It was just when all these things began, and most people were doing the same, even though none of our smartphone cameras were up to the task. Every now and then, someone would arrive with a proper camera, and take those amazing pics that were somehow well-lit without any light around, and did that awesome “front in focus, back all blurry” thing (you know, f-stop stuff). I remember that feeling of looking at those photos going “oh man, this Canon pic though!”.
Despite smartphone cameras having made leaps and bounds in tech and ability (and low-light photography), I keep discovering that it still does not quite have the absolute (and certain) magic that you can secure with a serious camera, especially a DSLR. This is often underlined for me when I look at, for example, fellow blogger and media man Jeff Siepman‘s car and food features. Just check out his recent profile on Nikos to see what I mean.
On the other hand, you’re asking yourself things like:
- Is it worth shelving out this R20k+ on a camera and then you would still need to see about lenses?
- If I have this über shmancy camera, will I be able to use it effectively? Do I have the necessary skills?
- What if I invest all this money in a fancy camera and it gets lost, stolen or damaged?
Well, those are the questions I’m asking myself, anyway.
I started my “proper camera” journey with Travel Gigolo‘s oldish bridging camera, a Canon SX50HS. This camera has incredible zoom range (50x optical zoom) and can do a fair amount for someone doing general photography. When I first started tinkering with it, I asked him a lot of questions and we soon realised he hadn’t been using the camera to its full capacity. Which is true for many people. So of course, Google and YouTube to the rescue, and soon *I* was teaching him tricks on his own camera.
But we were still struggling with this particular Canon. It was great for general landscape photos, and getting shots of things far away, but we couldn’t quite get it just right for epic low-light photography, and its f-stop range was extremely limited. Though we could zoom quite a distance, the shots were never fully crisp and clear on that level of zoom. And as we ventured more and more into travel writing and vlogging, it seemed we were missing something in our arsenal.
We’re fortunate in that we soon had the chance to test-run a really amazing Canon DSLR without having to make a decision about buying it just yet – the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. This was a fantastic opportunity to figure out the pros and cons of a DSLR in the field, and whether it was worth the lay-out of purchasing. This camera came with an absolute bucket-load of new features and oh so many buttons. So we set about doing our homework and studying hard, so we were sure we could use most, if not all, of these incredible features.
We were all set for our trip, and a few weeks of travel during which we could test and play with the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. Despite this camera not being the latest model out there, it is still leaps and bounds ahead of current smartphone tech. Though we got a standard prime lens (35mm) along with the body, and tried hard to find a really nice long-range zoom lens for our far-off wildlife shots, we had to make do with what was available to us. Can-do attitude, and all that! We’ve made do with a lot less and I feel okay in saying it’s not been too bad so far.
So yes, we definitely missed out not having a telephoto zoom lens. Getting great animal pics when they were even a small distance off was just not going to happen, and we reverted back to the Canon SX50 for those. Animals in movement, and in particular, great “bird in flight” shots were also something we missed out on.
However, we did find that we could zoom into a final shot quite successfully and it wasn’t half-bad, provided we nailed the focus and got a good still image! Yes, not National Geographic or Getaway Magazine stuff, but totally workable for blogging & vlogging, and travel features.
We did take a few “animals in motion” pics but need to upskill in this particular area as we struggled to get the focus exactly right.
What we also found was that it was fantastic for video clips, again provided the animals were close-by. Not too difficult in the Kgalagadi, where they’re basically right next to the car quite often.
Landscape photos, sunset pics and depth of field shots were high up there and for those alone, I felt a pang of deep regret when I had to part ways with the Canon.
I am struggling to do the post-editing. I am not subscribed to Adobe and have always used smartphone apps to tweak my shots, but one thing I have to say is that the Canon EOS 7D Mark II shots in particular do not seem to lend themselves well to this kind of editing. Here, I do need advice. Is it because you have to spend more time getting the original photo just right, or that only Lightroom and Photoshop will do for editing?
In the end, I realised what a difference having a great DSLR can make, provided you can get those awesome lenses too. I’m already trying to work out how I can up my side-hustle game so I can start putting away money toward getting myself a beautiful DSLR. Worth such an investment? After my recent Canon experience, the answer is a resounding YES.