In this post we are going to write a complete guide that will help you buying a digital camera.
The market for digital cameras has been flooded with devices, and it seems that every day more and more cameras are added to the already heaving store shelves. The success of digital photography is undeniable, as it places the hobby in the hands of everyone, at a fraction of the price of film photography. Re-usable media, simple image storage and instant access to photographs are a handful of the reasons why digital photography has forced film photographers into a small (and apparently rather snooty) clique. But just having a camera doesn’t make one a photographer…
One of the key steps towards achieving excellent photographic results is having the right camera. A well-known photographer once said that a good image can be taken with any kind of equipment – the secret sits behind the camera. This is true… there is far more to photography than having all the right equipment. Skill, knowledge, logic (and a bit of talent and even luck) all add to the equation. But having the right kind of equipment certainly helps.
Moreover, spending a lot of money on equipment may not be necessary, if one carefully considers their needs before purchasing photographic equipment.
The basis of every photography kit is the camera, naturally. Cameras can be divided into broad categories, namely pocket cameras and DSLRs.
These, in turn can be further categorised: pocket cameras can range from simpler cameras through to devices that are extremely capable… often the only difference between these latter devices and DSLRs is the fact that you cannot exchange lenses on the pocket camera. DSLRs run from entry level cameras that guide the user in many ways through to high end cameras that have fewer pre-sets, but allow the photographer more control options.
The decision as to which class of camera you’re going to buy should be made before you even get to the store. Do you want something that is quick and easy to use, or do you prefer more versatility and potential power. If you are going to opt for the former, you should consider a pocket camera.
While these cameras are simple and fast to use, and tend to be smaller, only the higher end units start touching on the capabilities of a DSLR. However, they are more convenient and take little preparation before you’re ready to take photographs.
On the other hand, DSLRs offer a much wider range of versatility, but to take advantage of that you’ll need more storage space – and a bigger budget, as much of that versatility is tied into extra lenses and other equipment (which is pretty much always sold separately.)
When you get to the store, keep in mind that the salesman is going to try and sell you the most expensive camera he can. He does not understand your needs, necessarily, and will always look at parting you and your money in the greatest degree possible. There’s nothing wrong with this – it’s the salesman’s job. But if you have a clear idea of what you will need in a camera, you may be able to avoid falling into a trap.
The first thing to consider is the megapixel capability of the camera. These days, most cameras are being produced with sensors that shoot images at a very high megapixel rating, but do you really need your images to be that size? Anything that is 10 megapixels and above will produce clear, large prints (even up to A3 in size) but if you are going to be viewing your images via a computer screen, or relying on smaller prints, opting for a smaller megapixel rating will save you some cash. Of course, when working with photographs and megapixels, bigger is better. Reducing a photograph in size will always yield good results, but making it larger will generally degrade the quality of the image. Keep that in mind.
The next thing that will be used as a selling point is the camera’s zoom capability. It’s an important, popular and very useful function, but there is something that the buyer needs to be aware of: the difference between optical and digital zoom. When a camera uses optical zoom, the glass within the camera’s lens moves… this results in clear, “true” zoom. With digital zoom, the camera simply enlarges the images pixels, which results in blocky, pixilated images that – quite frankly – look terrible.
Many cameras will have an ‘additional’ digital zoom beyond their optical range, but don’t let that distract you. Optical zoom is what you’re after, nothing else. Also, it’s good to remember that many of the lower end pocket cameras only have digital zoom. If it looks like the lens elements can move – in other words, if the lens protrudes from the camera body – you’re more than likely dealing with optical zoom. If the lens is flush with the camera body, it’s probably digital. As an example, the vast majority of cell phone cameras use digital zoom – their lenses never move.
Another thing to consider is storage media.
Does the camera use widely available, well-priced storage media, like SD cards? Or does the camera use storage that will be harder to find, and possibly expensive? Personally, I like the idea of SD cards.
They tend to be reliable and can be bought anywhere from specialist stores to supermarkets. They are also relatively inexpensive, and can store a lot of data. Also, their small size makes it easy to carry a number of them, so that you don’t ever run out of storage space. Just make sure that your camera can use high-capacity cards before you go buy them!
Next up, what kind of battery does the camera use? While cameras that use commercial batteries – like standard AA cells – might seem convenient, the battery consumption will turn out to be costly in the end. The best bet is a camera that uses a proprietary rechargeable battery. It’s also a good idea to get a spare, so that you don’t run out of power when you need it most.
These listed above are basic concepts that will get you started on the road to purchasing the best digital camera for your needs. There are other considerations, too, though – do you need all those added extras, like video and face detection, for example? Is the camera made by a manufacturer that is well supported in your region? Is this a new model, or an end of the line unit? Does it have a viewfinder, or must you use the LCD screen to shoot images?
For that matter, does the viewfinder display the true lens image, or is it one of those old-fashioned ‘holes’ through the top of the camera? Does it have facilities for an external flash? Any of these questions - and many more – need to be answered considering what your personal photographic needs are.
The best bet is to do a bit of research before walking into the store. The internet provides a wealth of information… in that way, you can walk in and ask for a specific brand and model, and know that you will be getting the digital camera that suits your needs perfectly.