Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How to Choose a Digital Camera, Some Considerations

I have the Canon S3, and I do like it. It looks like a pro's camera, but it's actually a point-and-shoot with a 12x zoom and some manual controls. (It also has a kickin' video mode. Bye-bye bulky Sony camcorder!)

But if I was buying a camera just for personal use, I think the A570IS is the one I would get. It gets such great reviews, has manual controls and image stabilization, and it is small enough to put in a purse. (My S3 isn't.) It's also SO inexpensive, because Canon keeps coming out with new models.

I did some online research before buying my camera, and decided on a few things that were important to me. Might not be the same for everyone, but here's my list, in no particular order:

Image quality - This isn't only about megapixels, from what I understand. Although you do need more than the bare minimum if you're going to offer them for print, higher resolution alone does not make for the best image quality. (It has something to do with the size of the image sensor, but I'm no photography expert and can't explain it!) I looked at review sites and example pictures to make a decision.

Price - Obviously. But the higher priced cameras are not always the ones with the best reviews. If you have $500 or so to spend, the Nikon D40 is the one to choose, according to practically everyone. This is an entry-level pro’s camera.

Manual controls - I prefer a point and shoot with the option of manual controls. You know, in case I learn how to use them someday!

Size and weight - Do you want it to fit into your purse? Don't get the S3, S5 or comparable point-and-shoots if you do. (But that's why the A570IS seems good...very small, but lots of features.) And if you’re looking for a pocket camera, you definitely don’t want a digital SLR like a Nikon D40.

Battery type - I never even thought of this until I started researching it, but if you get a proprietary rechargeable battery, you are stuck with it when you're hiking through the Grand Canyon and your battery dies. For this reason, I bought a camera that just uses AA batteries. You can still get the rechargeable kind, but if you do need to buy replacements, any convenience store carries them.

Viewfinder thingy - These days, it seems like most people frame their shots using the LCD screen on their digital cameras, but having the option of doing it the old fashioned way by holding the viewfinder up to your eye can be helpful in certain situations. Some cameras don't have viewfinders anymore, but on a really bright day, it can be hard to see the screen of the LCD. Just something to consider. Could be important.

Here are some resources I used in searching for a digital camera:

Digital Camera Resource (My favorite, because it explains the technical information very well for the layperson. Also, the reviewer is frank about any of the cameras' failings in comparison with similar models.)
DP Review
Digital Camera Review

When I finally had a few models I was interested in, I checked out the Amazon reviews for those particular models.

And I just checked out photographer Ken Rockwell's site on the recommendation of another freelance writer. He has a "Recommended Cameras" page, but I got completely distracted by his photos of his cute kid. :) Wow, I wish I could take pictures like that! (My daughter is cuter, of course. :D But her mommy’s not quite so good with the camera.)


Serenity Now! said...

Good tips Carolyn!

I have a Nikon D70s. I love it. I'm also hoping to take some photography classes this spring.

I also have a point and shoot with video capabilities.

Another tip: the larger the LCD screen, the faster it will drain your batteries!

Carolyn Erickson said...

I drool over the digital SLRs - especially the Nikons - but I can't justify the expense ... yet.

Photography classes would also be wonderful. There are so many things I could do with the camera I have right now if I only knew how to use all of the features. :)

Good to know about the size of the LCD!