Which Digital Camera Should I Use?

This page is going to discuss digital cameras and which one to buy. BUT not from the standard technical view of pixels and white balance etc. But just from the old fashioned stance of: How do I get family photos that are good enough for me to hang inside my home? Like my parents used to do, when we just had film cameras from Kodak and the like... This page is dated:

10th March 2019

At the time of writing, there are many new digital cameras coming out, with amazing specifications and loads of extra settings and capabilities. Even professional level video shooting is available, right inside a standard camera...

BUT, I am just interested here in taking family photos, at a high enough standard to make them proper family heirlooms, like all those old ones we've got from our parents or parent's parents... So, how do we manage this today, with all these fancy digital cameras...

Because the market moves on so rapidly and in fact, I am totally using second hand cameras here, please bear in mind the publication date of this page and be aware that if the market moves, the cameras here could change their values relative to each other.

To give you some context, right now, on the second hand market, I can buy a Mamiya ZD for about £1200, a Canon 20d for £75 and a Sigma DP2x (the original one) for about £225 - this is current pricing on the internet auction sites.

The latest current Canon digital camera (Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Digital SLR Body) is 'on offer' at £2,799.00 in a popular UK camera shop. So basically, all the cameras used on this page could be classed as affordable. That's the idea, although the Mamiya ZD is hard to find. You'll have to keep your eyes open for one to come up for you to buy.

Conclusions taken directly from an email trail

(read from the bottom up)

  • The Sigma is clearly the best! It uses the Foveon X3 sensor. A unique chip design that works just like colour film.
  • The Mamiya is a very close second. This has a Dalsa 645 chip (a large 48 x 36mm CCD sensor)
  • The Canon represents all current digital cameras with a standard Bayer Sensor and standard sized chip (35mm or under)
  • The standard digital cameras don't really come up to scratch compared to Film or the other two options above.

Details
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4. [ Mamiya ZD ] One more to show you. This one does compare favourably to the Sigma but this is the Mamiya, A proper camera! Well, still digital, but made more for professionals, like wedding photographers etc. This is a different sort of picture, but you probably can see the quality. It's just different from the standard Canon output: it has a depth to it, almost as good as the Sigma:

 

3. [Canon 20d] One more round for you to consider: scroll up and down. Might be easier to see with prints next to each other. The Sigma's are definitely easier to get good results out of: This is still just 'flat' compared to the Sigma below: The Sigma is much more like film: But pricey remember...

Look at the grass in this picture and compare it to the grass in the Sigma one below. You can see the issue there. The sigma really does properly 'show' the grass. I think this micro contrast is the key. The Sigma chip is just superior. And even the Mamiya, with its much bigger chip struggles with this level of detail. Probably down to the science of the Bayer processors themselves. Sigma have clearly developed the next generation of camera sensor here, I would say.



 

2. [Canon 20d] I can get this out of the Canon 20d: not too bad: It is just a bit flatter. That's down to micro-contrast right down at the pixel level... Filters can improve this probably. This is straight out of the raw converter - still has done some work on it, but that is standard really, with any digital camera:



 

1. [Sigma DP2x] We can try and get this quality out of the Canon 20d. The camera used here is a special Sigma one (a DP2x). But the Canon is also very good. We'll do some experiments. I might try a few now if I've got a bit of time: (these Sigma cameras are a bit pricey to take off to school I'm afraid):