In the beginning, there was film. You either were a hero or you sucked at it and didn’t have a camera. Then there was autofocus and automatic exposure and taking photos went from impossible to learn to merely inconvenient. Then there was digital. Taking pictures went straight to “any idiot could do this!” and now your stupid robot phone has a camera. Making photographs is super easy!
But then, people who make their living behind a camera pretty much all have these big huge ugly loud noisy heavy big cameras with lenses that can be switched out. Your point-and-shoot is little and tiny and zooms from gnatsass to acrosstheGrandCanyon, weighs nothing, and is quiet. But the professionals obviously fail to think this is Good Enough. If you were to ask a professional photographer why their big DSLR is better than your point and shoot you would come away with a vague impression of complicatedness, but a quick conversation only taught you one thing:
That guy has some badass lenses and I want in! Plus for some reason or other he has to put the camera right up to his face, how stupid is that? Everybody knows how much easier it is to just look at the back of the camera, duh. Don’t you wish you could buy a camera with cool interchangeable lenses but it’s not all huge and loud and junk? Well good news! They make those now, and you don’t even have to smash the stupid camera up to your face to take a picture! They even have a cool name: EVIL cameras. How awesome would that be, right?
EVIL sums up the main advantages and disadvantages of this type of thing, all in one swell foop.* Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens. There is no way to make an optical viewfinder on these cameras, because they are not that kind of camera. Your 15 year-old point and shoot might have a button to switch between the viewfinder and the rear-panel LCD, but bulky, loud DSLRs used by professionals barely got this capability in the last couple of years. Why?
Because of magic. They used a mirror to show the photographer exactly what is going on in his shot, plus some measurements that only happen when the mirror is down to measure the exposure adjustments. Then you push the button and the mirror goes CLACK and the shutter goes CLACK and you have an image recorded. The image plays back on the LCD and it looks different from what you saw looking in the viewfinder. This is a mystery. To the uninitiated, it makes no sense. Why, given the option, would you not rather look at an LCD that shows what you are going to get when you take the picture? Who cares if you aren’t looking through the optics with your eyeball? If you don’t, then an EVIL camera might be for you. But you are missing out. Interchangeable lenses have the capacity for greatness, but they are only half the system. The other half of the EVIL camera is the dumbed-down part. If you like automatic transmissions in your cars, pay with the EZ-pass on your keychain, and like compact fluorescent bulbs – AND you want to be able to change out your camera lenses, then the EVIL is perfect for you. If you want to make pictures that are as good as possible and don’t mind a steep-ish learning curve, then do yourself a favor and get an entry level DSLR from Nikon or Canon.**
The fact of the matter is, for most people, image quality is going to be about the same, regardless of what kind of camera they buy. You will snap photos of Johnny opening his presents, look at them on screen and print 0.024% of them on a kiosk at Wal-Mart. For these people, the camera on their phone is approaching, if not already past Good Enough for Everything. Truth.
*Piers Anthony does NOT know when a trilogy is supposed to stop.
**as good as possible, and not require the film to be developed. If you want the absolute best no-compromises image quality then digital sucks compared to medium-format film. The learning curve for DSLR cameras is less-steep than it used to be. The first DSLRs were SLR film cameras with digital guts and they would tell you your picture was bad but not help you fix it. New cameras come with magic digital brains and take perfect photos every time, because some of the best engineers in the world lost sleep over how to make it happen for the last two decades.