With weddings EVERY choice is important – the dress, the cake, the bride’s maids’ dresses, the Song, the photographer, and you should even be aware that the type of digital SLR the photographer uses to capture the big event. However, technology has increased the parity between dSLRs and the various camera-specific features are the “value-added” service that you can market when peddling your photographic services. The true distancing factor for photographic excellence is the camera lens. So let’s take a look at some of the features available, and then discuss why your creative eye and the lens selection is the ultimate deciding factor for what dSLR.
While almost any of today’s dSLRs can work for the standard wedding fare (group shots of the wedding party, shots of the couple, etc.), many couples are opting for more candid photos or even going so far as to request photojournalist techniques for their wedding. To address this need/request, you’ll want to make sure your camera has a robust memory buffer and short recycle rate for Burst Mode, so you can capture “movement” and spontaneity among the wedding party and guests. Of course this means using the highest level memory card that you can afford, and you’ll want to make sure that the camera you select can accommodate a high capacity memory card. This is also important if your dSLR records HD-video, like the Canon 5D Mark II.
One feature that you want to review is a camera’s color noise at higher ISOs; this is important because so many of the best moments at a wedding have challenging lighting conditions and you want to make sure that you can take the photos you want without the intrusiveness of a flash (note: flash photography should be done with tethered speedlites or other similar off-the-camera flash units). Canons do seem to perform better in low-light conditions (which is predominantly the case for most weddings before and after the actual ceremony), so you can purchase any one of the Digital EOS bodies.
You also might want to get a camera that enables you to adjust certain picture elements within the camera – sort of like using different film stocks – so that you can get customizable “looks” for the photos. The Canon EOS line has just such a feature called “Picture Style”, you can make incremental adjustments to the pre-sets and achieve an aesthetic that is unique for each situation.
Many of the higher end consumer friendly dSLRs have LiveView, which is a feature that allows you to use the rear panel view screen as a viewfinder. This is more than helpful for getting photos when you have to hold the camera way above your head or in some other awkward position in which you can’t put your eye to the viewfinder. Although you typically can’t use LiveView with the HD video recording feature.
However, aside from those features, the true make-it-or-break-it element is the quality of lens that you slap on the camera body. If I purchase an entry-level Nikon dSLR but put on one of their high-end lenses, my image quality will outperform Nikon’s top-of-the-line camera with the kit lens. Image quality is a little hard to measure on the camera’s rear display screen (it doesn’t have enough resolution), but when it comes time to import the images into Photoshop (or some other image processing software) and then make digital prints on an Epson 7-ink inkjet printer – that’s when you’ll see the difference.
The photographer’s eye is ever-important and is the most deciding factor of affecting and dynamic photos, but the distinction in image quality is going to come down to how the fine the lens glass is. You’re better served buying a less expensive camera body and splurging on a high-quality lens, than buying a high-end camera and using the kit lens. When you show people and/or perspective clients your portfolio, if you’ve photographed with a high-end lens that’s what will get you the job… everything else being equal. Think about – sharpness, image detail, color accuracy and smoothness of image are all a result of the glass… not the camera.
There are many pre-digital lenses that are unquestionably superior in their image quality.
I mention this in regards to what dSLR you should purchase; and that’s one with a full-frame sensor (i.e. an image sensor the size of a 35mm film frame) so you can use a range of lenses from the past 30 or 40 years.
At the end of the day, all the digital-age features that are jammed into almost every dSLR give you more flexibility in creating your images than ever before, but nothing beats the quality of the lens. Many people will tell you that Nikon has edged out Canon with its glass, and that’s why many people swear by Nikons (the new D5000 is a perfect example). But you can go even further; an exotic, elite camera company like Leica is renowned for the caliber of its lenses, and there’s a reason for that. Leica’s lenses produce unparalleled image, and the intense methodology and precise machining required to manufacture a Leica lens push the envelope, but in the hands of an amateur that doesn’t even matter. Everything else is pretty much on equal-footing (sure there are Nikon fans and Canon acolytes, but that’s subjective), few distinctions.
Choosing the right DSLR is just the first step towards compelling wedding photography. However, to become a top shot in wedding photography requires requires dedicated efforts and a clear blueprint. Digital Wedding Secrets by Nick Smith is perhaps the best resource to make the most out of your wedding photography shots. For short time he is offering a free report that reveals the best kept secret of wedding photography. Sign up while its still available!
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