The Photographic Garden

How to think like a camera

By Matthew Benson

Photography by Matthew Benson


garden with morning lightChoosing a Camera

What is the best camera to use in the garden? The one that’s with you. If you buy an expensive single-lens reflex with interchangeable lenses but it’s too cumbersome to carry, then it’s the wrong camera.

That said, all cameras are not created equal. The quality of the sensor, the digital “film” where the image is recorded, is more important than the number of megapixels. Ten megapixels is plenty, given a quality sensor. Some cameras deliver better image quality than others with identical megapixel counts by improving dynamic range (the amount of tonal detail captured in light and dark areas of an image), image noise (the digital equivalent of film grain—a lot of noise looks grainy and less sharp), and low-light performance. Canon’s G series of compact digitals have high-sensitivity sensors, as do Nikon’s Coolpix. These cameras allow you plenty of creative latitude, while being compact enough to be carried in a coat pocket.

Features to consider when buying a camera are: (1) Lens speed: The faster the lens, 2.8 or less, the more versatile the camera. (2) Sensor size: Size matters, but so does quality. Megapixel machismo is no substitute for a quality sensor. (3) Exposure compensation: a must-have feature to backlight the garden. (4) Large LCD screen: Some are even moveable, allowing you to remove glare with a simple tilt. (5) Ergonomics: a big word for those tiny camera controls. If a camera fits in your shirt pocket, it may not fit your thumbs.