Beginner Testing and buying a camera

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#1
Having finished an online photography course, I may need to upgrade from my combination of iPhone X / GoPro Hero7 Black for landscape photography.

Ideally I want to test a range of cameras in a landscape setting, get all of the images on a file and compare the quality to figure out the optimal level of quality against funds invested.
I may attend a photography club and ask people with the same shot on the same day to send me the file - do you guys have a better method to figure out the optimal level of camera to buy?

Also, is Amazon the cheapest place you guys recommend to buy a camera or am I missing a trick?

FWIW, I'm looking at getting a full sensor mirrorless camera - Sony A7R would be bottom of the range here.
 
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Jeremy Moore
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#2
Don't worry too much about testing. Most cameras have been tested in every possible way by the time they have reached the shops! You'll find all the results you'll ever need on the web. The only things you might want to try out is how well they feel in the hand, and/or how easy it is to navigate around the menus, etc. Most bodies these days will give you good results.
 
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Richard
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#4
You can download files from (almost) every camera under the sun* from dpreview.com.

* not so much sun since they moved to Seattle compared with so sunny London ;)
 
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Alistair
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#5
You have an iPhone and GoPro and you want to jump to a Sony A7R?
Have you shot with a DSLR or Interchangeable Lens Camera before? If not, that's quite a jump and learning curve.
The A7R is a good camera, but it's getting a little old, relatively speaking (unless you're talking about the A7RIII).
Try not to get drawn into the megapixel battle. 16-20mp is fine for printing up to A2 if you want big prints and if you're just putting them online, then it'll be fine.
With landscape photography, it's more about being in the right place at the right time with the right light than it is with having the highest megapixel camera.

If Sony is the way you want to go, you might be better served by the A7II.
The problem with Sony is the price of the high quality lenses. With Canon and Nikon you have a large back-catalogue of older but still very good lenses that can be bought cheaper, but Sony lenses, although they are very good are expensive.
That said one of the best bang-for-buck lenses on the Sony E-mount is the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 which is £729.

If you actually want to try one of these cameras in the field you have two options, either you borrow one off a friend who has one, or you hire one.
WEX have Sony cameras available to hire. The A7III for £60 per day or the A7RIII for £85 per day, then you need to add the cost of the lenses. See here
Hire-A-Camera have a few other options with the older A7RII. See here
The problem with this might be that if you're not so experienced with Interchangable Lens Cameras, it might be such a steep learning curve that you actually need a few days with the camera to get used to it.

If you can't borrow or hire one, go to a good reputable shop and ask to try a few to see how you like them. Different cameras suit different people. Some like the chunkier DSLR style, others like the retro-designed Fujis, some like the Sony's squarer feel.
Try them for weight and shooting experience, how is the electronic view finder and the screen, try the menus too see if you can find the options you need.
Depending on where you are based in the UK, :
London, try Park Cameras or Camera World - both near Oxford Street
UK wide, try London Camera Exchange (branches all over) or worst case, Jessops, or even John Lewis
WEX have a few showrooms too, the big one being in Norwich.

As for buying, you can check out where has the best prices on cameras by looking at Camera Price Buster, see here the current best prices on Sony camera bodies.

Good luck.
 
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Alistair
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#7
That dpreview is good, thanks!
No I haven't. What do you recommend? I will be shooting landscapes, with a person in the foreground (as my watermark :)).
In which case don't limit yourself to just looking at the Sony cameras.
Seriously go to one of the decent camera stores and pick up a few different models and try them in your hands.

It is assumed by many that you need a full frame camera (like the Sony A7 series) to make good landscape photographs, but you can use almost anything; full frame, crop sensor or micro 4/3rds.
With photographing landscapes, you also have to consider that you need to be able to carry all the gear, so weight is an issue.
The last consideration is your budget. If you have £2000 to spend you can get a lot of nice gear, but even if you only have £500, you can still get a good starter setup, especially if you consider secondhand bargains.
I started 10 years ago with a £150 secondhand Sony Alpha 100 DSLR. I'm still using secondhand gear, it's just newer stuff.

I would go to a good store like London Camera Exchange or Camera World or WEX. I would try out:
Sony A7III, (full frame)
Fuji X-T3, (crop sensor)
Canon EOS-RP or Canon 6D Mk2, (full frame)
Nikon Z6 or Nikon D750 (full frame)
Panasonic GH5 (micro 4/3)
Olympus OMD E-M5 Mk2 (micro 4/3)

For almost all of these models, there are older versions which would be cheaper secondhand options. If you go to any of those stores, they will have a few secondhand cameras in store to check out too.

If you like specs (don't get lost in them), DPReview has a comparison tool so you can look at the differences in spec side by side.
Worth looking at if only to consider the weight and size of each one.
For example the Canon 6D Mk2 is 765g, vs the Olympus E-M5 Mk2 which is 469g
Take a look at this comparison here: link
 
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#10
you can use almost anything; full frame, crop sensor or micro 4/3rds.
So you find the step up from 4/3rds to cropped and full sensor isn’t much, but the step up from my current (about 1/2.5”) iPhone or GoPro sensor to 4/3rds would be substantial?

With regard to lenses - is there a particular type of lens I should be looking at for landscapes with a person in the foreground? I can couple this with the price of the body to be more realistic about costs.
 
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Alistair
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#11
So you find the step up from 4/3rds to cropped and full sensor isn’t much, but the step up from my current (about 1/2.5”) iPhone or GoPro sensor to 4/3rds would be substantial?

With regard to lenses - is there a particular type of lens I should be looking at for landscapes with a person in the foreground? I can couple this with the price of the body to be more realistic about costs.
The step up might not be as noticeable as you think.
Again, referencing a feature on the DPReview website, they take test shots with every single camera they can get their hands on of the same scene so we can compare the image quality. Click this link and see the comparison of the iPhone X (phone) vs Sony A7III (full frame) vs Fuji X-T3 (crop sensor) vs Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk2 (micro 4/3rds).
Plenty of people shoot m4/3 and crop sensor cameras for landscapes and get great images and benefit from the smaller lighter load to carry. Equally some people are happiest shooting with a bulky full frame DSLR or even bigger.
Use the search tool on Flickr to search for example images taken with any camera you like.

As for lenses, you're best off getting an general purpose zoom lens to start with.
If you're on full frame, something like a 24-70mm f4. This covers wide angle and zooming in for closer shots.
On crop sensor, something like a 17-50/18-55mm. This gives a similar equivalent image to the 24-70mm on full frame.
On M4/3s, a 12-40mm lens would be good.

Once you've got to grip with it, you can add more lenses for different shots.

A lot of shops will sell you the camera body with a "kit lens". This is often a good starting point.
For example a Fuji X-T20 (a slightly smaller version of the X-T2) with an 18-55mm lens is £849 currently here.
Or the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mk2 with a 12-40mm lens is £1149 from Amazon
Or the Sony A7III with a 28-70mm lens for £1995 from here
These are all brand new prices, if you look at secondhand cameras and lenses you can save a huge amount. I'm not sure if MPB ship to Ireland, but they are one of the best places to look for secondhand camera gear.

If you look at landscape photographers on youtube, you'll see they use lots of different cameras; Thomas Heaton shoots with Canon, Simon Baxter shoots with Sony and Nigel Danson shoots Nikon and Fuji. But I doubt, if you look at their images you'll be able to tell what camera they used.
On a youtube note, check out Brendan Van Son, he's known for travel and landscape photography and also for putting himself or his girlfriend into the foreground. You might find that interesting.
 
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#12
Another amazing response, thank you!

That link at DPReview is amazing for comparisons- I'm wondering is it all laid out on a big table, they take one photo on each camera and then we compare the zoomed images?
It's a pity they don't have a landscape, or something with a sky in the background in this comparison, unless you know something similar online?
 
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Bazza
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#13
Didn't the online course give any ideas as to which camera/lens for which purpose? I would have thought that ANY course would start with the basics before anything else.
it is handy to know for example a macro lens is no good for landscapes but ideal for small subjects. Then even down to discuss what type of camera is best for your needs.

This is why I am very much anti courses but prefer to practise and develope what I am happy with even if it is not technically correct
 
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#14
I agree with this statement reguarding sensor size.

Generally, full-frame cameras provide not only better low light & high ISO performance, but a better dynamic range. These factors combined eventually produces a much better image output than any crop-sensor camera can achieve.
Full-frame cameras are capable of capturing the most light and will almost always out-perform an APS-C or Micro-Four-Thirds camera body under low-light conditions. Micro-Four-Thirds sensors don’t perform well under low-light conditions where the ISO needs to be cranked up to say, above 2000.
For these reasons, despite full-frame camera kits being expensive, bulky and heavy to carry around, they are still industry-standard and the preferred cameras for virtually all professional photography work.
 
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Lindsay
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#15
As an aside, when you have identified the camera/lens combination you want, it may be worth checking the duty-free shops when you travel between the two countries as you will avoid paying duty on it, saving a bit of money hopefully. But I'd try for 2nd hand really because once you've bought something that way and tried it out well, to know better what you like and don't like, you can trade it in or sell and buy something you prefer without losing too much in the process.
 
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Richard
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#16
Another amazing response, thank you!

That link at DPReview is amazing for comparisons- I'm wondering is it all laid out on a big table, they take one photo on each camera and then we compare the zoomed images?
It's a pity they don't have a landscape, or something with a sky in the background in this comparison, unless you know something similar online?
Dpreview’s been going for 20 years and kept remarkably close to the same format over the years so they are useful for comparisons but you shouldn’t treat them as your only source but only as a starting point or to go back and check on something.
The reason I referred you there was that you were asking for files from different cameras to compare. If you go to any camera that’s been reviewed on dpreview you will find a gallery of photos, many taken the same sorts of places with different cameras (at different times) but mostly on basic settings and where possible similar lenses.
Personally, I think you are overthinking though, lots of good advice earlier about handling etc etc.
 
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