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What camera to get for car shots?

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Author: Adrian Moisei

There are lots of cameras in the market so it might be confusing when you have to choose. Most important, before making the choice you must be sure that you are getting the right type of camera, depending on your needs.

Because of the huge development of digital cameras, I'll talk only about this category since the buyer has the digital advantages on his fingertips (like the almost instant review of the image shot, Changing ISO on the fly, costs per shot much smaller, etc.)

Since in some cases the buyers realize that their needs are fulfilled, or not, after buying their camera, I'll try to make sure that you have a clear vision of what is needed to have great shots of cars, presented in showrooms/events or in action.

But first let me review the types of cameras, and for this I'll consider only cameras with 5 Megapixels or above. First, strangely maybe, I'll talk about the cameras with WiFi built-in such as Nikon Coolpix P1 or Canon Powershot SD430. Then in the 5-7 Mpx consumer class cameras are cameras like Sony Cybershot P200, Nikon Coolpix 5600, Canon Powershot A620, Panasonic LZ2 and many others.

In the past few years, was launched a SuperZoom class (10-12x): Canon Powershot S3 IS (launched few days ago), Panasonic FZ30, Sony Cybershot H1, Nikon Coolpix S4. Please keep in mind that the cameras presented here, as examples, are not the only cameras in the class, but are definitely some of the best.

Now we enter the area where the cameras are more expensive but their price is well deserved. In Semi-professional class, cameras offer you some capabilities that are not available on previous classes (extended manual control, higher ISO values, better optical quality, faster AF and more). In here we got: Sony Cybershot R1, Nikon Coolpix 8800, Canon Powershot Pro1, etc.

The ultimate class of digital cameras is the DSLR class. These cameras have a significant advantage over other digital cameras: you can change the lenses depending on your needs or your budget. This advantage can easily transform into a huge disadvantage if you are not careful about what lenses you choose for your camera or if you do not intend to buy more than one lens, since the some of the semi-professional cameras have great lenses.

Also DSLRs have faster start-up time, faster AF, better image quality of ISO for higher values (800-1600-3200), better burst mode because of the bigger buffer memory and other maybe less obvious (like minimum exposure time for example: 1/8000).

The DSLR class has 3 sub-classes: Amateur, Enthusiast and Professional. Amateur DSLRs cost under $1000 (body + kit lenses): Nikon D70s, Canon 350D, Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D and others. Enthusiast DSLR have better body building, bigger buffers, and better quality (Canon 30D, Konica Milonlta Maxxum 7D, etc.). The top class professionals include Canon 1Ds MII, Nikon D2x, FujiFilm S3 Pro, etc. These cameras are pretty expensive and aren't just for everybody (for example Canon 5D, over $3000 just for the body).

After getting the body, there is also the lens problem. In here there is a lot to talk about and the DSLR lens are not the topic of this article.

Now that we just reviewed the cameras, and knowing your budget you probably already get your eyes on a model. But our question has not found an answer yet. What is the camera for car events? If you are into photography then you should look into the semi-professional or professional classes since these cameras will meet all of your needs. If you are present at lots of car events where are cars in motion and you want to get the best shots, you may want to consider getting a DSLR, since the burst-rate they offer (3-5-8 fps, depending on the model you get) has no match in the semi-professional class.

If you want a decent continuous shooting capabilities and you are not willing to spend 1500+ on camera and lenses (at least as a future plan), you can go for a semi-professional camera with wide angle lenses (for example Sony R1 > 24-120 mm). The wide lenses will help you make great shots from close range with a wide view.

And as you try cameras, here are some points to consider:
Does the camera fit in your hands comfortably?
Can you keep the camera stable enough to avoid camera shake when you take pictures?
Are the external controls intuitive and easily accessible?
How quickly does the camera turn on and how quickly does it wake up from sleep mode?
How quickly does the camera take pictures? In other words, after you press the shutter-release button, how long does it take the camera to actually capture the image?
Is the LCD bright enough to view in moderate to bright sunlight?
Are the menus easy to navigate, and are options in logical and intuitive groupings?
If you're a beginning photographer, or prefer to take quick snapshots, does the camera have scene modes appropriate for the scenes you most often photograph?Features to look for Digital cameras sport some very cool features that make it difficult not to get a good picture. New and notable features to look for include:
Image stabilization to ensure crisp hand-held images even at slower shutter speeds.
An adjustable LCD monitor that rotates for viewing at various angles.
One-touch white balance settings to ensure that the color balance is accurate in various types of lighting.
Multiple flash modes including night scene flash modes.
Adjustable ISO and white balance (balances image color based on the scene light) settings.
In-camera or post-capture filters that mimic film-camera type filters.
In-camera digital adjustments that allow you to adjust exposure, color saturation, and contrast on the fly.
To be able to make the best decision for your needs you need to continue reading, in part 2 I will tell you more about the technical details, that will help you understand the specs of the cameras and compare them keeping in mind your needs and knowing what different values are doing.

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