Why I take pictures with an external camera?

At some point I started taking pictures with an standalone camera and not my phone anymore. I wanted to describe the reasons here and also shortly how I do that as well as giving some little start guide.

Published on December 22, 2021

photography dslm sony a6400

9 min READ

Why would you carry a external camera?

I was always one of that people that thought my smartphone is good enough to take pictures and keep memories but after some years I realized that good is not good enough for me. Yes the smartphones nowadays take great pictures that is true but after my little one was born I wanted to keep those memories in the best quality I can with most of the flexibility. I wanted to take pictures in a loss less format and with a high resolution to print them both on paper and on canvas. If you ever tried doing so with a JPG taken by phone you will find out its okay, but if you are someone that wants details and really good results there is no way around taking pictures in RAW and with a good optics (Camera + Lens). Yes it is also some more things and weight to carry but nothing that would for me personally not be worth it. Summarizing my personal points that make me carry a camera and equipment:

  • Image Quality
  • Editing flexibility
  • Speed
  • Learning something new

What are you using?

I was reading and comparing a lot and found that a Sony Alpha 6000 is a great camera for a decent price. However, I already switched to the newer Alpha 6400 and sold the a6000 again (Better low light performance, more buttons, better display etc.) Besides the cam body which is not the most important I would say I do own some lenses. I have the Sony 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3, the Samyang 12mm f/2.0 and the Viltrox 23mm f/1.4 those lenses have surved me great in the last years and I used them for different purposes. Mostly for traveling and casual photography I do use the 18-200mm from Sony it has a wide range and you can do a lot while on the road, however if you compare the image quality to a prime lens as the Samyang 12mm or the Viltrox 23mm of course you will see the prime lenses will win. But that is a compromise like a lot in photography you need to decide on. For example with 18-200mm you can “Zoom” a lot and have a lot of possibilites but it comes to the cost of image quality of course. As mentioned photography is about compromises for example the Sony a6xxx series is also not a full format series its APSC which means there sensor is a “cropped” version of a fullformat one. That has good and bad things of course.

First the good things you pay much less for the camera body also the lenses are cheaper, on top because you literally need less glass the weight of the whole system is less. About the bad things: Of course the image quality is different because the sensor is smaller it can catch less light obviously which means you may have more noise in different circumstances (low light for example). Of course the higher priced fullformat bodies are targeting a different group of users which makes them offer more buttons, bigger displays, more SD slots and so on. But that should be it why an APSC and not a fullformat basically weight and money (at least for me).

What else I do carry: Normally I do have a tripod while traveling to take family selfies or do night shots etc. I bought a cheap one from amazon really small and light weight but still high enough. On top I have some extra batteries, a strap to carry it, a camera backpack to carry all the stuff (Which I would have anyways because on traveling you do need a backpack), I also have several sd cards (you can never have enough), on top I also own a external flash and also a remote flash controller. The flash I do use normally inside while taking pictures of family events to also have decent quality in bad light conditions for example candle light around christmas. Last but not least I also have some filters: ND filters for long exposure shots and a polarization filter to remove reflections.

In general I think thats it nothing more here is a full list of equipment (I do not carry everything all the time only the things I need for the case):

  • Backpack
  • A6400 Body
  • Lenses
    • Sony 18-200mm
    • Samyang 12mm
    • Viltrox 23mm
  • Tripod
  • Batteries & SD Cards
  • Filters
    • ND 8 up to 1000
    • Polarization
  • External Flash & Remote
  • Strap & Camera clips (attached to backpack)

Which pictures do you take?

I want to add a gallery section also on this page but first let’s link to my Instagram @neristancecam Normally I upload most of my non private photos to instagram. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for me to post but from time to time new pictures will appear, I do not upload any photos of my private life or people I know so its mostly travel pictures or places I visited.

These are some examples, as mentioned I will add more galleries for different topics in future so stay tuned. Also if there is interest I will explain how I did take some of the pictures because some of them require a bit more effort and postprocessing.

Which tips do you have?

At first I would give the tip of checking if you need to have a external camera or is your smartphone good enough? Second a good option is to rent a camera and lens from a friend or some shop, there are some possibilities that of course cost money but to see if that is the right thing you can rent a camera for a vacation and check. The next point which is imporant: Get used to photography, its rules and principles as well as best practices. My plan is to also write some articles about specific topics when I have time for it ;)

Once you decided to buy your own hardware its worth to not by the top notch and maybe the series before the current top model or wait until something new is released to get some good discounts. A good option is also to buy used lenses, especially APSC lenses you can get for much less then the market price. That is mostly because people decide to switch to fullframe or did not check the points mentioned before, get frustrated and sell there hardware again.

The beginner list of things to learn

Here are some helpful things that helped me to get started a bit, of course I’m not the expert but I read a lot and I think its nice to share with the world.

  • Check the manual of your camera what it offers and what it does in which mode and settings
  • Learn the basics of exposure e.g. the exposure triangle ISO vs. Shutter Speed vs. Aperture
  • Check the different forms of picture composition
  • Start with taking JPEGs if that is not enough then shoot in RAW however, be aware you need some software to post process
  • Try to redo pictures other people did take. I don’t mean you should copy but you should try to understand what they did in order to achieve the specific image. For example if you see pictures with “milky” water it very likely was a long exposure so try to take a similar picture

The list above is already a lot and I constantly learn as well, for example I mostly have still some issues finding the right image compositions, sometimes that is also not easy because you are in a city walking with your family and you simply don’t want to spent hours on the same spot trying to get the best composition. But I do have some basic set of rules I follow for example the rule of thirds. Also while walking around in cities etc. I barely use my tripod and do try to have a fast enough shutter speed to always have sharp images instead of blurred once for example.

Closing words

I started this blog post to explain a bit why I take pictures and it ended up in telling even more, I may have used some terms that I did not explain but that would be a whole book in the end. Also I do not want to write about things I may not 100% know about. But in future I want to push out some more posts about photography.

Happy holidays see you next time!