Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Do you need a new camera? A short guide to aid your purchase

There are a bewildering number of different camera models available for sale today. For example, Canon has seven different camera series with from 3 to 28 different models in each series and that is just one manufacturer. The price range on Canon cameras is from well under $100 for a complete camera, to over $6,700 for the camera body alone without a lens. That Canon EOS-1D X Body is far from the most expensive camera sold today, that prize goes to the Hasselblad H4D-60 at $41,995. I'm sure most genealogists are looking for a camera much closer to the sub-$100 range than the pricier alternatives. But how do you decide on a camera when there are so many different models?

The answer to the question turns out to be relatively simple; go to, look for digital cameras and sort the results by popularity.

Why buy the most popular camera? Because it is the most popular camera. You can look at the issue from the standpoint that a purchase is a vote in favor of a certain model. But what about quality? Almost all the "popular" cameras take good quality images. If you were a professional photographer purchasing a new camera, you would look at the following factors, in this order:
  1. The quality of the lens system
  2. The size of the sensor
  3. The quality of the sensor and resultant image
  4. The durability and ruggedness of the camera
Unless you were told which camera took which photograph, you would be hard-pressed to see any differences from one model camera to another. In addition, unless you are a professional and selling huge prints from your images, you will get perfectly adequate images from the least expensive cameras. If you read up on the subject, you will find out that there is a movement among professional photographers to use the cameras in their smartphones. Here are two photos. One was taken with my iPhone and the other was taken with my Canon 5D Mark II. Can you tell which is which?

Just for the fun of it, let's let the comments vote for which one was taken by iPhone and which one was taken with the $3000 Canon camera with the $1200 lens.

Here is a list of some suggested uses for a digital camera by genealogists:

  • family reunions
  • conventions
  • grave markers
  • notes in repositories where allowed
  • heirlooms
  • scrapbooks
  • museum exhibits where allowed

And a thousand and one other uses. There is a saying among photographers that goes, "The best camera is the one you have available when you need to take a photograph."


  1. Tis a simple matter to determine which photograph was taken by iPhone and by Canon - Just look at the name of the picture. But - before I discovered this I would have guessed wrong. :)

    1. Simple. Glad you figured it out. I was just using that as an example. Since both images have been reduced to essentially a screen resolution, there shouldn't be much difference. If there was a difference, it would come out in the size of the photo image, i.e. the physical size not the file size.

    2. But the images, upon being exported to Blogger, are actually the same size and file size. Without the name difference, I could not tell the difference.