There are many important factors beyond basic image quality when choosing a new camera system but what qualities and features are important to you depend on your own preferences, shooting style and type of photography.
While Full-Frame (FF) DSLR cameras are tops in terms of performance, features and image quality (ignoring the very large and very expensive medium format cameras) , they have drawbacks in terms of size, cost and complexity. If you are a professional sports photographer the current crop of FF DSLR from Canon and Nikon are the way to go for the best in high-ISO performance, continuous auto-focus tracking and fast bursts with deep buffer. Note that these cameras are limited to 20 Mpix in order to maximize all these performance aspects. If you are a professional landscape photographer, then a Hi-Res FF DSLR like the D810 with 36 Mpix or a mirrorless FF like the 42 Mpix Sony A7R II is the way to go for maximum detail (or one of the aforementioned Medium Format cameras). Also, if you are a professional studio portrait photographer then one of these FF or larger cameras will provide you with the best depth-of-field (DOF) control and the smoothest skin tones.
For just about any other type of photography a good argument can be made that the cost and size of these cameras and lenses is a serious drawback. As well, Mpix counts above 24 are in my view more of a drawback than an advantage for 95% of photographers (see: How Many Megapixels is Enough?). So with this background in mind, what are my priorities when it comes to buying into a new photography system?
I personally do not do sports photography and I do very little studio portrait photography. I do some landscape photography but never make prints beyond 16″ x 20″ so I really do not need a high-end or high-resolution DSLR. My primary photography consists of street photography and travel photography. I also enjoy macro-photography especially insects, flowers and watches (I’m a watch collector). Since I’m a nature lover I also do some landscape and wildlife photography.
So for my primary style of photography, Street Photography, what I want is a smallish and light camera, preferably rangefinder style with good low-light capability, a very sharp but smallish 35 or 50 mm lens and fast single-frame auto-focus. For my second priority, Travel Photography, the same camera requirements apply and I would add a sharp and fast 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom. Usually when I’m travelling I don’t want to lug around a lot of gear and I do not want to change lenses in the field. The 24 mm wide-angle is by far the most important whether it is for shooting buildings, landscapes or interiors. The 70mm is sufficient for portraits and some close-ups. A longer zoom like 90 or 120mm would be nice but I do not want to sacrifice the f/2.8 aperture.
This leaves Macro Photography, for which pretty much any camera will do, although one with focus bracketing would be very handy, and Wildlife Photography for which I need fast auto-focus and a nice quality telephoto lens. I also do not do much video, so if my camera does decent 1080P HD I’m happy, don’t need 4K.
I want a minimum of 16 Mpix sensor and a maximum of 24 Mpix. Anything more than that just becomes a burden. With these parameters in mind, my next few posts will explore what photography systems are out there that would best meet my needs.