Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Choosing a Camera - Part 2

In my last article I started talking about what to know when choosing a camera. Now we are going to get a little more specific.

Let's start with Megapixels. Every digital camera will boast about how many megapixels the camera has. What does all of this mean? The larger the number of megapixels, the larger the image file size will be and the more detailed (supposedly) the image will be in the photograph. I say supposedly as there is some debate in the photography world that there are just so many megapixels the sensor in current camera technology can process and exceeding that makes no difference or can even have a negative impact. Never the less, the newest models are always more megapixels than last year's model. The newest models are at 15 plus mpx. But these are also the most expensive cameras. Expect to pay more for more megapixels no matter what category of camera you are looking at. Also keep in mind that high megapixel cameras can often be set to shoot photos at lower megapixel settings to save file space, but if you are going to never set your 10 mpx camera higher than 5 mpx, why pay that much more for your camera? I am not saying don't get as many mpx as you can afford - I would, but this is something to consider if you are on a budget and anticipate limited use of your camera for web photos (which need to be small anyway).

What brand camera is good? I am not going to say that any one brand is bad, but I will tell you that some brands are considered the top by serious photographers. At the top of the list are Canon and Nikon. These companies have been making film cameras for many, many years before they started making digital cameras and they bring their expertise and quality to all of the cameras that they make. Nikon has always had a reputation for one of the best lenses. Canon also has excelled in some of the features that they build into their cameras and thier lenses are also quality lenses. I have found the features in Canon digitals to surpass those in Nikon. Either one is going to take an excellent photo. Sony has been giving both companies competiton. Their expertise is electronics and they are concentrating that into their digital cameras. When I was looking for my last camera, Sony was my second choice, but Canon had more "camera" function in the model I was looking for.

I am going to jump off here to talk a bit about Canon. Many recommend the Canon Powershots - I agree with that recommendation but must add pick a model with IS in the name - IS for Image Stabilization. I spoke about this in this article. Canon has exceptional image stabilization in their IS models. This can eliminate the need for a tripod in many situtations. This can help anyone with "shaky" hands when trying to hold the camera still. Another create feature in many Canon's is "super macro", a macro mode beyond macro that will allow you to get so close to the subject that you have to be careful that you do not hit the lens with what you are taking a photo of. There may be other camera brands that do this, but from experience I can recommend Canon - as do many.

Is this going to just be a Canon ad? No. I have owned a number of cameras. Fuji has had nice features on thier cameras. Olympus has as well. But Fuji, Olympus, and Kodak, while capable are not up there with the leaders of the pack. The Lumix - made by Panasonic is an up and coming camera moving into the realm of Nikon, Canon, and Sony. They have been inovative in thier DSLR's offering a realtime and movable display on the back of the camera before the other companies did. Now, the others are also offering this on their DSLR's. Interestingly this is standard on the most inexpensive point and shoots.

In Part One of Choosing a Camera I spoke about the camera class that I am calling a hybrid - the camera that is a Point and Shoot with the look, shape, and features of a DSLR. Since starting this article I have done some research into the various brands that offer this type of camera. If you look in the photo department of your local electronics store you are going to see cameras made by Canon, Sony, Lumix, Kodak, and Nikon that look like DSLRs but are priced less than $400.00. Examine them closely and you will see that unlike the DSLR the lens is fixed to the camera and is not removable - but everything else looks so much like a DSLR. When you look through the electronic viewfinder you are looking through the lens - just like a DSLR. I am not going to repeat what I said in Part One, but I am going to tell you what I have learned looking at these cameras recently. If you want the most DSLR function in one of these "point and shoot" cameras you are going to want one of the Canon SX series. They have model numbers like SX10IS. The newest is SX1IS which adds High Def Video to the SX10IS model. Last years model - 8 mpx rather than 10 mpx, but in all other ways the same as the SX10IS is the SX5IS - still available and discounted. So what makes these Canons different than the other brands. One thing is that you can very easily add photographic filters and lens additions to the Canon. All that is required is an adapter sleeve which sells in camera shops for about $40 more. A ring on the camera lens unscrews and this sleeve screws on. The camera will now take standard size lens filters. Just screw them on to the front of the sleeve. The same sleeve accepts telephoto lens extenders and wide angle lens extenders which increase the already super range of telephoto function and wide angle function that are already built into the camera. Some of the other brands can do this but not as easily. and some only take filters and extensions made specifically for that camera. The view finder sceen on this camera can be flipped out of the back of the camera from its side and turned at various angles. This makes taking shop photos that you want to come straight down on a breeze when you set the sceen at 90 degrees to the camera. There is not a function on a DSLR that I have found that is not duplicated in some way on the Canon SX series. One I am asked to recommend a camera, this is the camera that I recommend. If you do not want any of these features, don't want anything that is the slightest bit complex, or want to not spend more than $200 to $250, then look at the Canon Powershot IS models or the Nikon Coolpix with Image Stabilization models.

Another factor to consider is whether the camera has a rechargable battery or uses regular alkaline batteries. The small point and shoots almost all have rechargable batteries. Some use regular batteries. I prefer cameras that use regular batteries - the ones that are available almost everywhere you go. For one thing, if you want rechargable you can put rechargable AA or AAA batteries into the camera. For another, if you run out of power and are near a convenience store they are going to have batteries for you to get your camera working again.

Here is another tip! If you are attracted to one camera or another in a store, go home and go online to that camera companies website. It is more than likely that the manual for that camera will be online as a free download. Download the pdf file manual and read through it. You will see how the camera works, how each feature is operated and know for certain what it can do and what it cannot do.

One thing that I must say is that you should not buy "cheap" because you want a camera that will last and one that will give you good photos when you need it. There are many discounts available on cameras. Almost every holiday has cameras being advertised at great savings - pre-Christmas, Fathers Day, Graduation season, vacation season. The store circulars are full of camera discounts. You may also find a good discount online - but don't buy online until you ahve held and played with that camera in a store. I was able to get a camera on a Pre-Holiday sale at a great price at a chain electonics store that would match prices. Right before the Holiday a local camera shop ran an ad that beat my great price by almost $40! I went into the store that I purchased the camera with the ad and got that price - the difference refunded to me! Don't be disuaded by the first price that you see. Cameras are often greatly discounted.

When you purchase your camera and bring it home the first thing you need to do is take out the manual and read it. Learn your camera before you take your first photo with it. You will then not be intimidated by your new camera in anyway and you will be able to easily use all of its functions. And don't lose that manual! I keep my manual with me in my camera bag so that it is always there should I not remember how to use a function.

Have fun with your new camera!


Judi FitzPatrick said...


I'll be back shortly to read this camera post, looks very interesting.

You have been awarded the Premio Meme blog award. Please stop by my blog to pick up your award.

Peace, Judi

The Chrysanthemum said...

Thanks very informative and helpful!