In this post I give you a very short primer on how to choose a digital camera.
I bought a digital camera in the past year, a Nikon D40. It’s been a while since I owned a camera, the last one was a film camera, plus numerous throw-away cameras. I can say that I got lucky, I bought a camera that in retrospect was a good choice based upon my own opinion and followup research.
For research, I mainly read the excellent site kenrockwell.com. In an age of social websites, community generated content, video and everything Web 2.0, this site may seem like an antique from 1998. It is, but the content is excellent. There’s a lot there (really too much), so I have culled the most important information that will be useful to you as well as added some other good links.
- 90% of getting a good photograph is being there when the opportunity arises and having a camera in your hand to take the photo. Buy a camera that you find easy to use and that matches your expectations in size and portability. A fancy camera that sits at home because its too bulky or hard to use isn’t going to get you good pictures.
- Forget about Megapixels. Any camera you buy today will have many more Mexgapixels than you need. A 4MP camera (if you can even find one) is good enough to print quality 4X6 photos, a 6-10MP camera can print photos larger than what most people need. For more information on this, read Breaking the Myth of Megapixels, by David Pogue of the NYT.
- Digital cameras for amateurs come in (2) types: point/shoot, Single Lens Reflex (SLR).
- Point/Shoot cameras are excellent for landscapes, portraits, or images where the subject is otherwise not moving. There’s no reason to buy anything more expensive if you mostly shoot these kinds of photos. See the great images Ken Rockwell shot with a point/shoot camera.
- SLR cameras can shoot action shots and have the most upgradability. The downside to these cameras is that they are missing consumer friendly features such as great portability, filming video and being able to preview the picture live.
- If you want a quick recommendation of some cameras to buy, read what David Pogue recommends. The best point/shoot camera he suggests is the same one that Ken Rockwell recommends.
- Buy a camera (or in some cases, a lense, for SLRs) with a feature that helps to eliminate the blurring effects of camera shake, it really works. This feature will be called ‘Image Stabilization’ or ‘Vibration Reduction’.
- To get a picture sized within your view, you either need to move or the camera can move using zoom. Buy a camera with some amount of optical zoom, the digital zoom that some cameras offer is inferior since it uses software instead of physically adjusting the lens. Some expensive point/shoot cameras have lots of zoom, but their price puts them in SLR territory which overall are superior cameras. These point/shoot cameras also lose their size advantage.
It’s never been easier to take photographs with all the great digital cameras available. Happy shopping.