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What camera is best for the avid angler?
I was inspired by my friends at OutThereColorado.com to write an article on what to look for when purchasing a camera to take with you on the water.
Here are some questions I will attempt to answer as well as providing camera options: Do you buy a compact "point and shoot" camera or the larger digital SLR (single-lens reflex)? What about low light? Do you want your camera to shoot full 1080p video? How important is it that your camera is waterproof?
First, most "point and shoot" cameras aren't much better than the cameras built into the latest phones. There are exceptions. Can you get away with simply using your iPhone? That depends on the quality of photo you're seeking. A "point and shoot" camera or phone rated 8 mega pixels won't help you produce higher quality photos than a DSLR rated 6 mp.
The sensor on a digital camera does the same thing that film does in a 35mm camera. When you press the shutter release button on an old-school 35mm camera the shutter opens and the image is captured on film. Digital cameras record images onto a sensor.
Digital cameras come with different sized sensors the same way that film comes in different sizes/formats. Digital SLR cameras have larger sensors than camera phones and "point and shoot" cameras. Full-frame DSLRs have even larger sensors. You're unlikely to need a full-frame digital camera unless you plan on making wall-sized prints. The size of the sensor will greatly determine how large a print you can make.
In other words, a "point and shoot" camera that packs 15 mega pixels onto a tiny sensor won't allow you to make a clean poster-size print of that 10-pound brown trout you landed last fall, and a DSLR will. You can make a decent 8x10-inch print from most new camera phones and "point and shoot" cameras. You can make a poster-size print from a DSLR. You can make a larger print from a full-frame DSLR.
I carry a DSLR when I fish so I have the option to make larger prints of my photos.
Another reason I carry a DSLR: they tend to perform better in low light conditions. Many huge fish are landed either first thing in the morning or during that magic hour before the sun sets - and I want to get those shots.
A camera's ability to capture images in low light is determined by its ISO range. The average "point and shoot" camera or phone camera has an ISO range of 50-800. A good range for shooting in low light is 100-3200. The higher the range typically the better the camera does in low light.
There are a few compact cameras to consider, if you want that size. The Canon Powershot G12 has an ISO range up to 3200, built-in image stabilization, and shoots 720p video with stereo sound. Honestly I don't think there is a better "point and shoot" for the money (other than its replacement, the Canon Powershot G1 X).
Because the G1 X has a larger sensor, a highspeed USB connection, ISO up to 12800, and shoots full 1080p video, it is the ultimate fishing compact camera. And you'll pay for that: $800. You can pick up a G12 for $450, and the price likely will drop, so that's my pick. Neither camera is waterproof, but if you want to shoot underwater, consider a Gopro Hero 2. Keep your camera on the bank, where it's dry, and take your fish there when you want a photo.
DSLRs have many benefits if you want to capture great photos of your fish and the beautiful areas where you fish. In addition to the ability to shoot in low light, they have interchangeable lenses. You'll see a tremendous increase in the quality of your photos if you invest in good lenses for your camera. Also, the images taken with a DSLR tend to hold up better when you crop it for a print.
There are two major players in the DSLR market: Canon and Nikon. Nothing against Canon, but I have only owned Nikon cameras. I think Nikon does a great job of including options in its entry-level cameras that make it easier for new photographers to learn the technical aspects of photography. I also believe Nikon has extremely good quality glass in their entry-level lenses.
Almost all of the entry-level ($600-$800) digital SLR cameras come with a lens that will get the job done, and most shoot video. If your main concern is shooting video, however, you should buy a video camera.
If I were to purchase a new entry-level DSLR, I would pick the Nikon 3200 ($700). It has an ISO range of 100-12800, 24.2 mega pixels, full 1080p video, and a built-in guide mode that teaches you how to use the camera. A 18-55mm lens with built-in vibration reduction helps get clean shots in low light without using a tripod.
I recommend the Canon Powershot G12 and the Nikon 3200 for fisherman. Not taking video into consideration I give a slight edge to the Nikon 3200 based on its user friendliness and the quality of photos. But if you want a camera that you can throw in your fishing pack that won't take up a lot of space, the G12 is an excellent choice.
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