Simple Advice For Buying Your First Digital Camera
Thinking of buying a new digital camera?
This article is geared towards the casual photographer. Someone who wants a new camera, but isn’t concerned with learning all the technical aspects of a digital camera.
This is for the average person who takes photos of family, holidays, vacations and just wants a simplified explanation of what to look for in a digital camera.
Buying a new camera does not have to be complicated. There are only a few features that the average person will need to look for in a new digital camera, and a few up-sell techniques to avoid.
What is a Point and Shoot camera?
These are highly automated camera’s that take all the guesswork out of taking that perfect shot. The average person will not need to know technical terms like Shutter Speed, ISO, Aperture, F-stop, and so on. Many of these settings are automated on today’s Point and Shoot cameras so that even the most casual photographer can achieve good results.
So what should the causal photographer look for when buying a new digital camera?
There are some basic terms you should know to make shopping for your camera easy.
This is probably the Number One way a salesman will try to up-sell you on a new digital camera. Don’t fall into this up-sell technique. More megapixels are great for an ametuer or professional photographer, but for the casual family photographer all you need is….. get ready for this…… 4 megapixels! Today most cameras average about 10 megapixels, so Stop worrying about the megapixels! The only reason you would concern yourself with more megapixels than this are if you are cropping your photos a lot, or tend to blow up huge pictures for printing (Larger than 8×10).
Otherwise, anything above 4 megapixels will give you great results! With cameras having an average of 10 megapixels, this is not a concern when you are buying a camera. Don’t let a salesman up-sell you a 10 megapixel camera over an 8 megapixel camera. There are more important things to consider when deciding if you will pay more for a camera. The CCD or the CMOS sensor are really what are important in deciding the quality of photo’s a camera will take vs the megapixels, but again the average person will not have to worry about this.
Shutter Speed response time
This is one of the first things I test when looking at a new camera.
This is the delay between “clicking” the button, and the shot actually being recorded and taken. This is important, because if there is a delay in the shutter speed response time, the shot you saw in your viewfinder will not be the shot that is taken. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was with my first digital camera years ago that had a slow shutter response time. I missed many, many perfect shots.
The best way to determine the shutter response time is Play with the camera, and see if there is a delay. Check the delay at different Zoom lengths, as there can be more of a delay, the more the camera is zoomed out.
Now this is my personal preference, but my camera must have an option to turn off flash. The problem with this, is that most casual photographers do not know how to change other settings to compensate for shutting off the flash. But if you ever feel like you might want to experiment with this, to produce less “washed-out” pictures, then look for this option.
Also keep in mind that the camera should also have a red-eye reduction feature as well. Saves time editing out all those “possessed” eyes.
Optical Zoom-Focal Length
Standard I would suggest you aim for at least a 4x Optical Zoom (Not Digital Zoom). A 4x optical zoom will be comparable to a 35mm-140mm focal length. I could give numbers for different situations, but really testing out the zoom in the store will give you a better idea of how close you will be able to zoom in.
Just a note, I am talking about the Optical zoom, not the Digital zoom. You won’t have to worry about the Digital zoom.
This is a great feature for causal photographers. It “steady’s ” the shot so that less blur is created when taking a photo.
Shooting (Scene) modes
These are the auto settings for many different situations. Scene modes take the guesswork out of all the settings when shooting a picture. Scene modes you should have on your camera;
Portrait Mode- Simple and self explanatory, for taking pictures of people.
Macro- This mode allows you to zoom in Very close to a small subject (Like a flower) and take clear pictures.
Landscape Mode- This mode will allow you to shoot a Wider picture to allow more of a scene to be photographed.
Sports/Action Mode-Self explanatory, allows you to take pictures of subjects that are moving faster.
Night mode-Auto setting that allows you to take better photo’s at night or very low light. (Optional, but nice to have)
Yes, I believe the brand is important. There are camera manufacturers who have been around for years, and the quality of even their lower end camera is going to dominate a less known brand name. Brands that I like are Nikon, Cannon, Kodak, Sony,and Fuji. I will trust these brands over any of the others.
So what would I suggest that you pay extra for?
1. Zoom- I would definitely buy a 8 megapixel 10x zoom over a 14 megapixel 4x zoom.
2. Flash- Options to turn off flash and reduce red-eye.
3. Image stabilization
4. Shooting Scene modes- Basic scene modes, I would not pay extra for many modes beyond what I have explained because the average person is probably not going to ever use them.
5. Brand names-I have a preference, and trust the longstanding manufacturers technology over newer, less known brands.
It comes down to how the camera looks and feels in your hands. Nothing can beat holding and testing a camera in store to see how it feels and performs.
You can buy cameras with all kinds of extra features like shooting video, editing within the camera, extra shooting (scene) modes and so on. These are all personal preference.
So, what camera should you buy? That is all up to you. Just about any entry level point and shoot camera on the market today will give you good photo’s. Don’t let the salesman up-sell you on features you do not need, or will never use. Before you buy read customer reviews.