Thoughts on Systems

Emil Sit

Apr 1, 2008 - 3 minute read - Photography Technology camera dslr Photography tools

Choosing a camera for your small business

If you are in a small business that needs the occasional picture—for record-keeping, documenting events, or including in promotional material—having a digital camera on hand is definitely useful. A friend recently wrote: > We want something that isn’t too complex, but takes decent shots for print > and web. Possibly with a good zoom so we can get wide-angle […] > as well as portraits. Nothing crazy on either end, we don’t need to have > multiple lenses and all that. > > Would you recommend an slr?

For my friend’s uses, I have no hesitation recommending a digital SLR over a compact, ultra-compact, or superzoom. Normally, the main reasons for getting a smaller camera are price and portability. While DSLRs have come down significantly in price—for almost the same cost as a high-end superzoom, you can purchase a quality, entry-level DSLR—there are definitely functional options available for under $200. DSLRs do not fit into your pants pocket, unlike ultra-compacts; then again, a more functional compact or superzoom will also not fit in your pocket. A small-business, however, is unlikely to require a camera that can be carried off in someone’s pants pocket.

Digital SLRs currently have numerous advantages, including:

  • high quality sensors,
  • fast focus and shutter response time, and
  • flexibility in terms of lens, lighting and processing.

This means excellent image quality, never missing a shot because of the camera, and room to grow. Much has already been written about the importance of a quality sensor—pixel for pixel, DSLRs will have better sensors, capable of taking clearer pictures with less noise in low-light conditions (e.g., the interior of a business). Similarly, even a basic lens will have higher quality optics than the average compact camera. The ergonomics and usability of digital SLRs is excellent: they are comfortable to hold, turn on instantly, and take pictures when you click the shutter. Modern DSLRs have excellent auto-exposure (“program”) modes, allowing them to function as point and shoots, but with the option of additional photographer control.

The reason I highly recommend a digital SLRs for a small business in particular, however, is flexibility. First, digital SLRs almost always offer the option of RAW capture, which allows for great latitude in image-processing after the fact. Second, with a known brand like Canon or Nikon, it easy to incrementally improve the capability of the camera by using additional lenses and off-camera lighting equipment. You may not want to own a plethora of lenses, but you may occasionally want to rent the highest quality professional gear. With rates starting from $25/weekend (from a local store like Calumet) or $50/week (from a mail-order shop like BorrowLenses.com), you can get what you need for a specific project, while having a quality camera around for regular use.

How to pick the camera for you? For a small business, don’t worry about perusing the many specs at dpreview.com. An entry-level (or one-generation-old medium-level) camera from Canon or Nikon, purchased at a reputable store like Amazon, B&H Photo or Adorama, will serve you well. If you know any photographers, choose the brand that they own, in case you have any questions or want to borrow lenses or flashes. A more expensive camera is generally unnecessary—you will know when you are ready to use one.