More Than Megapixels; 10 Tips For Choosing Your Digital Camera Page 2

6. Price
Ah, it rears its ugly head. The fact is, once you've got your camera search narrowed down to a few specific models, you'll probably see a wide range of prices for models with similar specs. Why? Expect to pay more for one of the more well-known "marquee" brands than a brand known for selling computers. While they both may give you comparable results, the higher price for the top names is usually worth the difference in construction, optics, software and the other little details that they have been dealing with for years. I always go with the "name" brands--they got that way for a reason.

7. Exposure Control
A critical part of any camera is how much control you have over exposure. Can you live with just auto or program? Do you need complete manual or can you get by with aperture and shutter priority? Does it just have auto white balance or do you have a choice of several modes plus manual? Again, your usage is going to define how much control you need. Holiday photos of the family can probably get by with auto everything but you may want more options to cover that once in a lifetime vacation.

I love bold graphic statements such as this building in downtown Nassau. This was taken at the long end of the telephoto range, about 100mm equivalent. Minor adjustments in levels.

8. Flash
A critical part of any camera is how much control you have over exposure. Can you live with just auto or program? Do you need complete manual or can you get by with aperture and shutter priority? Does it just have auto white balance or do you have a choice of several modes plus manual? Again, your usage is going to define how much control you need. Holiday photos of the family can probably get by with auto everything but you may want more options to cover that once in a lifetime vacation.

9. Viewfinder
This is a very important point. I prefer a camera that has a "real image optical viewfinder" over an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Why? Because if you just have an EVF your screen will usually freeze up after you've taken a picture, meaning if you try to take photos in rapid succession, you won't be looking at what you're taking until after you've already taken it! Also, I've tried taking action photos with one at a baseball game and the EVF can't keep up with the fast motion. On the other hand, most EVF cameras will show you 100 percent of the image, while some optical finders are as low as 80 percent. Again, you decide which is most important to you based upon you picture taking style.

This is an untouched file. I love these kind of views that include a strong foreground to tell a story and add depth.

10. File Sizes
While most of these cameras shoot different size JPEG files, not all of them shoot raw. Decide for yourself if this is important to you and you want to take the needed time to convert and adjust the files. If in doubt, go for a camera that shoots raw; you don't have to use it, but it's nice to know it's there.

My Quest For The Perfect Vacation Camera
Much of the reason for the above article is because I recently purchased a new camera for myself. I grew tired of lugging my bigger DSLRs and lenses around so I started a search for my "perfect" vacation camera. I'll avoid the suspense and tell you now--I bought a Canon PowerShot S60. Now I'm sure you know, because you've already read the enclosed copy, that as great as this camera is, there are many more options out there, and your choice will be based upon your needs. With that in mind, let me tell you my decision making process.

OK, let's start with megapixels. It had to have at least 5. I wanted a camera that would allow me to print very high quality images if needed. No point in taking great photos if you can't use the file to make a quality print. So I set 5 megapixels as the minimum for my needs.

How can you go to Atlantis and not take fish pictures? This ray was swimming in The Dig, the largest marine exhibit outside of the ocean! It represents the "Lost City" and its history.
These photos are all from a recent trip to Atlantis in the Bahamas. All of the images shown were taken in Auto or Program mode. I did have to make a few exposure adjustments for some of the images in tricky lighting situations.

Next, I looked at lenses. My most important criteria here was how wide the lens went. It's hard to make wide angle lenses for these cameras because of the small chip size. Canon has come up with this new lens that is 28-100mm equivalent, most cameras in this class start at about 38mm, a big difference. While I wish the longer end went to about 150, my decision was based on the premise that most "vacation" photos benefit greatly from a wide angle for more sweeping vistas. The camera also has "stitching" ability and software that is child's play to use, again great for scenics.

Next, I wanted a camera that gave me the ability to shoot in raw. Even though I rarely do this, it's nice to know that I can if I have any doubt about getting the highest quality image I can. This camera can shoot raw and JPEGs at the same time.

I then looked at size. If the camera's a pain to carry around, I won't take it. I wanted something I could put in my pocket. I spent a few days on vacation and just shoved the camera in my pocket whenever we went out. It's a great feeling not to be encumbered by a heavy camera and bag but knowing you've got the tools to create high quality images.

It was also very important to me what size media the camera used. I use CompactFlash cards and Microdrives in my two other cameras. Since I already have four 1GB cards and many smaller ones, I didn't feel like buying more cards in a different format. Most cameras come with a card, but it's usually only about 32MB, only good enough for a few photos. I figure I'd have to spend another $150 or more just to have adequate storage, even though I have a hard drive device to download into.

My last consideration was the battery. While I would have preferred to use my AA batteries, the Canon has its own. And now that I'm used to it, I'm pretty comfortable with it. I can easily take 200 photos using flash and checking the finder and the battery charges in 90 minutes so I am not finding this a drawback. Should I need it, I can get another battery for about $65.

Any complaints? Just a few. I'd prefer a faster lens than the f/2.8-5.3 that ships with it. I'm still adjusting to the "hold shutter release until focused, then shoot," I don't have it down smoothly yet. And I'm already saying "shudda waited, the S70
seven-megapixel cameras are now out."

And what pointed me in the direction of this camera? George Schaub's article in a previous issue of eDigitalPhoto. Keep reading!

Miscellaneous. There are a few other factors to consider when making your digital camera purchase. These may include items like image stabilization, an important consideration with those 10x zoom lenses that are equivalent to about a 400mm lens, Macro mode, how fast the camera can keep shooting in fast action, stitching ability, and others. The whole point I've tried to make during this article is that whether it's film or digital, the very first consideration is the intended usage for the camera. So when someone asks you, "What camera should I buy?" you know the first question you'll be asking him. Now do your homework and get that camera!

ARTICLE CONTENTS
Share | |

X
Enter your Shutterbug username.
Enter the password that accompanies your username.
Loading