QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU BUY A DIGITAL CAMERA
So many cameras…so much to learn. There are hundreds of cameras out there in all sizes, shapes, capabilities and prices. It is a juggling act to balance your needs, wants and money with the camera that speaks to you and helps you capture your memories in a fun manner. Here are a few tips to help you make a smart buying decision.
- What is your budget?
- What are you going to do with your photos?
- What will be your subject matter?
- What are your photo skills and how much do you want to learn to take photos?
- How many photos do I shoot and how many will I shoot over time?
- Do you want to do a lot of post processing of your photos?
- Shutter lag – the single most annoying feature of low end digital cameras.
- How good are your eyes.
- How does the camera feel in your hand?
- Do you want to shoot short videos
- Are you ready to take the plunge?
1. What is your budget? This is the deciding factor. You can still get a lot of camera at a budget price…it just might not include this years bells and whistles. Don’t forget that you will still need some necessary accessories in addition to the camera such as extra storage cards and batteries so put that in your budget. You may save money on film and developing but don’t forget all the money you can spend on the ‘accessories’: printers, software, storage, add-on lenses etc.
2. What are you going to do with your photos? Small 4×6 prints? 11×14 portraits? Web photo galleries? Each use demands a certain file size and you can’t make a small file print large photos. This is usually measured in mega pixels and larger mega pixels generally mean larger photos are possible. The general rule of thumb is 2megapixels or less is great for small prints and web postings…3-5 is good for prints up to 11×14…6 and above should give you a great 16×20 and do almost anything you want.
3. What will be your subject matter? If it is going to be family snapshots and a few holiday photos a total point and shoot will be fine. If you want to take some shots while you’re on a birding safari you will want a long lens to get close good tight shots of the birds. Small and lightweight may be the most important factor if you want to take your camera traveling. If you want to take your camera underwater there are still other choices to make. Many Brands now have inexpensive waterproof housings available and some are totally waterproof and you can take them snorkeling as is.
4. What are your photo skills and how much do you want to learn to take photos? If you are an advanced amateur you may want full manual exposure control and white balance bracketing…if you just want to take some photos without any hassles a point & shoot is your best bet. Most cameras have a mix of features so if your photo skills are intermediate you can find a camera to match your level.
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5. How many photos do I shoot and how many will I shoot over time? If you only shoot a dozen photos every once-a-year trip then you won’t have to worry about storage and retrieval. If you shoot hundreds of photos each trip you will have to decide what to do with those photos and you will have some decisions to make in buying a camera. Cameras have different ways of storage, file types and software for retrieval. For example…. If you are a Mac person you may want to use Iphoto for storage and certain cameras are compatible with that software…others are not.
6. Do you want to do a lot of post processing of your photos after you take the pictures? Image Editing Software like Photoshop and Photo Elements give you a lot of control over your final photo…you want to make sure your camera gives you lots of control to make your best shots better.
7. Shutter lag has nothing to do with jets or travel. It is by far the most mentioned annoying feature in digital photography. This is something you will want to know about your prospective camera before you plunk down you hard earned cash. It is not something that was a factor in film cameras but it is an important point in virtually all simple point and shoot digital cameras and most mid range cameras. Simply put ….it is the time from when you press the shutter button until the camera takes the photo. In film cameras it seems like you push the shutter button and instantly the camera takes the photo. With auto focusing digital cameras you push the shutter button, wait a second or two while the camera focuses and digests the electronic information and then you get the photo. In practical terms…. Your kids who were running by are long gone by the time the camera takes the photo and you get an annoying and all too frequent blank screen.
8. How good are your eyes. For those that are sight challenged …those tiny LCD monitors are difficult to see especially in daylight. You may want a larger LCD screen (as close or larger than 3 inches as you can find) and you may want to research if the screen is useful in sunlight or just a bright, hard to see, square on the back of the camera. Some cheaper cameras only use the LCD and do not have the traditional optical viewfinder as seen on all film cameras. If the LCD is hard to see in sunlight you are out of luck. Some cameras also have the ability to zoom in on the taken photo and you can check if the photo was in focus if your subject had her eyes open and was really smiling. If you wear glasses or contacts you also want an optical viewfinder that has diopter correction, which is like putting reading glasses over your viewfinder.
9. How does the camera feel in your hand? There are some tiny cameras on the market now. Some are too small for large hands and some cameras are just bulky and not well designed for everyone. Go to your local Photo Store and hold your prospective camera and see if you want to carry it around and if it is comfortable in your paws.
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10. Do you want to shoot short videos to send over the Internet to family and friends and supplement you video camera images? A lot of cameras have the ability to shoot full screen video now and even record sound. Some even record sound that attaches to your digital still files so you can speak your notes about a particular photo you took. An improvement over the date and time imprints that cluttered up many 35mm snapshots.
11. Are you ready to take the plunge? This may be the most important question. If you are a technophobe and hate learning new technology you may be better off sticking with your film camera and getting the photos scanned at your local Photo Processor. If you love a new challenge and have the desire to put in the necessary time to tackle the steep learning curve you probably are ready to make the plunge into the digital world.