Digital Camera Buyer's Guide
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Digital Camera Buyer\'s Guide

Gone are the days of photography using films and film cameras. Digital Photography is getting more and more advanced day by day with new cameras and other gadgets released in the market. Like any other product, it is very difficult to resist the temptation of buying the new models when we see an advertisement. With less money we are getting more features in the newer models of all brands of cameras. How do we select the one suited for our use?. One has to do a lot of research before buying a camera doing comparison between similar models of different brands, reading expert reviews about their pros and cons. Never buy a camera by just listening to the salesman describing its features. He has to promote the brand that he deals with and may even say many negative aspects of its counterparts.

What is that we must look for, while selecting and buying a camera model?.

Of course the first and foremost is the purpose and then its utilization factors. You must ask yourselves, for what am I going to use this new camera. Do I want a small one which fits in my pocket or am I ready to carry it with me in my hands even if it is slightly inconvenient at times. The features vary considerably from a compact pocket camera to a highly sophisticated professional camera. You must also ask yourselves how much I am going to utilize this camera. There is no point in spending a lot of money if you are not going to use the camera to its or your potential because, by the time you buy a latest camera and come out of the shop, there may be another one released in the market with more features and less costly. You will feel depressed when you know about it.

Mega Pixels – what is this?. Mega means One Million. Pixel is the smallest square dot, millions of which make up a well defined image. Normally a one mega pixel image will have approximately 1200 pixels wide and 900 pixels high. In cameras, the mega pixel shows the image resolution supported by the camera. The smaller each dot is, the finer the image will be. So, a higher mega pixel camera can give you a better image quality. Now days you get cameras from 5 mega pixels and above, which can give you a super composed image, which will not get distorted even if you enlarge it (up to a great extend).

Cameras come with Fixed Lens and Interchangeable Lens. The functionality and features of a fixed lens camera are limited when compared to an interchangeable lens camera. Accordingly the price will also be more for the higher end interchangeable ones. So, the next consideration must be about the Lens System.

Some fixed lens cameras can be fitted with attachment lens thus bridging lenses. The Image sensor remains the same but the attached lens can give you additional features. This is normally called Bridge Cameras and you need additional lenses to carry with you for different purposes. Then we have the SLR Cameras (Single-Lens Reflex) which basically has a body which can be fitted with a variety of lenses depending upon the requirement. So we can have a normal fixed focal length lens, a variable focal length lens or even special purpose lenses fitted to the body as and when we require them. SLR cameras are generally costlier than the fixed lens cameras (we call it normally a point and shoot camera). They are normally used by professionals who knows how manually control the camera settings according to the requirement. Bridge lenses as well as lenses for SLR cameras need to be carried with you all the time to use in different photographic conditions. SLR cameras are heavier than the point and shoot ones.

Then we have the Battery Type and its Life to be considered while selecting a camera. Now days almost every camera is powered by Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery which are compact and have high life compared to other conventional batteries (AA, AAA etc.) irrespective of whether they are rechargeable or not. They have a very slow loss of charge when not in use. The point and shoot cameras as well as lower end of SLR cameras do not consume a lot of power when operated. But the professional SLR cameras drain their battery very easily and you can see that the camera itself get heated up when operated continuously. Then you need additional batteries or battery packs to help you for long hour photographic sessions. These battery packs or long-life battery options are expensive as much as or more than a normal point and shoot camera.

You need to check whether the camera you buy has a Live View option using a LCD Screen. It is so convenient to compose the picture looking at the LCD Screen rather than viewing the object through the view finder and adjusting the settings accordingly. Those who wear lenses especially bifocal lenses, it may be very difficult to work with view finder and adjust the focus.

The camera you buy must have an Image Stabilizer mechanism to protect against shaky hands while clicking. This is also very much required while capturing a fast moving object. Otherwise, you may end up with object trails visible in the captured photo. Most of the SLR lenses have built-in Image Stabilization mechanisms. If you have a Zoom Lens to take picture of a very distant object and you zoom to infinity, then even the minute movement of your hands will show totally undesirable effect on your captured photo.

To take close-up pictures, you must have a Macro mode on your camera or you must be having a Macro Lens bought separately for the SLR cameras. Close-up pictures must be taken at very small distance from the object and most of the conventional variable focus lenses cannot achieve the perfection of a fixed focus macro lens. The macro lens must be extra silent so that it never disturbs the object (if you are shooting a butterfly, bird, snake or similar living objects) with its electric motor noise. The click sound can also disturb such objects and your picture may not be desirable.

Built-In Flashes are available on all new models. But the range that they are effective depends upon the model. Some allows you to get light only up to a short distance. But external flash units are available for higher performance. This is another investment that you need to consider when you buy a camera whether you will be taking pictures mostly in the night or your purpose is with the normal shooting conditions within a small room.

You will have to use a Tripod to get a perfect picture on many situations. There are cheap as well as costly tripods and monopods which can be used to mount a still camera. This is not sold along with the camera and you have to purchase it separately.

If you need to carry several lenses, then there is a lens carry bag sold separately which is very handy if you do not have a good bag which can accommodate the accessories that you need to carry with the camera.

We have Fully Automatic point and shoot cameras as well as ones with different shooting modes. The new generation cameras will have both automatic as well as adjustable shooting modes specific to specific purposes.

They are as follows.

  • Auto (fully automatic – camera does all settings for you), which is ideal in most situations unless you are a professional photographer
  • Portrait – specially designed for taking portrait photos
  • Landscape – for taking scenery and nature photos
  • Sports – for fast moving objects like a cricket or football match, running race etc.
  • Macro – for taking close-up pictures of flowers, small objects etc
  • Manual – completely manual (all settings have to be done by you)

Except manual, all other modes offer very limited or no control to the photographer and you cannot really showcase your photography talent in these modes. Manual mode gives you the flexibility to adjust the exposure, aperture, white balance, ISO Speed etc to suite your specific requirement, using which you can compose and shoot like a professional photographer.

Latest digital cameras come with Video mode as well. You don’t normally need a separate Video Camera to shoot a moving sequence. But there are limitations in size of the video, format of the video file produced and the medium in which the video can be recorded. The duration of one video can never match the duration available on a digital Video Handy Cam which may give you hours of recording.

Since it is a digital camera, you need to check for availability of connectors to connect to computers, TV and similar equipments to transfer the photos and play any videos you have shot using your camera. Normally, you will have USB and HDMI connectors available on many models. You may also have custom connectors to connect to other equipments.

Last but not the least; you must check the availability of Software that comes along with the camera so that you can establish a connection with other equipments. There is some bundled free software, which assist you in image editing and polishing as well as photo stitching so that you can create your own collages and panoramic scenes.

What if you don’t look for a reliable brand and the warranty? You must make sure that you are buying a popular and reliable brand. You must also ask for the warranty, regions where the warranty is applicable as well as any extended warranty deals are available for the model that you are buying. You should not be left without any support after paying a good amount of money.

There are much more things to be covered for a professional photographer, when he decides to buy a professional camera, which we will look into later. This is for a novice and amateur user.

Enjoy a good photography.


Street Talk

Paul7  

Hello, I liked your article! You are quite detailed about the many options that someone has when looking into cameras. Something that I found interesting was that you mentioned that the era of film cameras is over. There is no doubt, of course, but do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing? There are many who believe that in spite of advances in technology, film delivers a higher quality. What do you think? Are we better or worse for the change?

Reply
  about 1 decade ago

Changes should always be for good. In this case, since the evolution of Digital Cameras, we have seen the fall of Kodak and other companies which were controlling the market. If you look at that angle, this change is bad. But at the same time, when we look at the convenience of the Digitalization, the change is definitely good

Reply
  about 1 decade ago
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