How to Choose a Digital Camera
There are literally hundreds of guides available on the internet about choosing a digital camera. But unless you go through forums of photography enthusiasts you are unlikely to find anything beyond the usual "compare optical zoom and megapixels" advice. So this guide will present some more parameters on which you can compare camera's. Please note that this guide is intended for consumer level point and shoot cameras.
- Sensor Size: This is one of the most if not the most important factor affecting the quality of your photographs. Simply put: Larger the sensor, better the quality. But sensor sizes are usually expressed in an archaic and confusing way. You might see sensor sizes expressed as 1/1.8" or 1/2.7". If you think 1/2.7" has a bigger and hence better sensor then you are wrong. It is just the opposite. 1/1.8" is a bigger sensor and the better one. Next one: Which is better 1/1.8" or 2/3". What you should do is calculate the value of the fractions. You can use Google for this quick calculation. 1/1.8 is 0.56 and 2/3 is 0.67. One you have got the values it is simple. Bigger numbers mean bigger sensors. So 2/3" is a bigger sensor than 1/1.8". Sensor size is also one information about the camera that is somewhat difficult to find if you are buying from sources such as Amazon. Google is your friend here.
- Lens Speed: Usually faster the lens better it is. Now lens speed is denoted as either something like 3.5-5.6 or f/3.5-f/5.6. Among the two numbers the lowest number (3.5) determines the maximum speed and the higher number (5.6) denotes the lowest speed. So a 1.8-3.5 lens is better than a 3.5-5.6.
- Optical Zoom: Camera ads often have the maximum zoom highlighted in them. Maximum zoom is useless as a metric as it is usually the sum of optical and digital zoom. What you need to worry about is only optical zoom.Digital zoom serves no real purposes. In Optical Zoom, bigger is better but keep in mind that at large zoom lengths even the minor shakes of your hand can spoil your picture by blurring it. So to effectively use large zooms you might have to use a tripod.
- Image Stabilization: This is to reduce camera shake and blur. It is usually denoted by IS. Image stabilization can be achieved through many means. Among these optical image stabilization is considered to be the best.
- LCD screen size and resolution: A bigger LCD screen helps you to compose your photos better. Resolution is important to make your images look sharp and crisp on the screen [This does not affect the photo in any way, just how it is presented on the screen]
- Swivel LCD: If the LCD screen can rotate and swivel [ex: like Canon A630 ] you can hold the camera above your head or at waist level and can still compose the shots using the LCD screen. Also a rotating LCD screen is invaluable for taking hand held self/group portratits.
- Memory Card: make sure your camera supports SDHC cards as it is the most commonly used cards. SDHC cards are also small, light and as there are no pins unlike CF cards they are more durable. SDHC cards have become quite cheap these days with a Sandisk 8GB card retailing for as little as $16 on amazon. That is the most basic model. Sandisk also markets models under the Extreme III brand which have faster read and write speeds. A faster card is better normally as it allows you take photos in quick successions. But how fast you can take photos depends mostly on the camera (the property is called the shutter lag of the camera).
- Batteries: Make sure your camera supports AA batteries. Rechargeable AA batteries are cheap and you can always keep spare ones around. But if your camera has inbuilt batteries then having a spare battery is mostly going to cost more. Also even if you don't have spare ones, in the case of AA batteries you can always buy a pair from the nearest shop but that option is not available in case of inbuilt batteries.
- Manual Controls: If you want to learn photography make sure you get a camera with both manual and automatic mode. In manual mode you should be able to control fous, aperture and exposure. Canon powershot series usually has manual controls.
- Megapixels: Unless you are planning to print large posters anything over 5 megapixels should server you fine.
- Size and Weight: The bulkier the camera, it is less likely that you will carry it. If a camera fits in your jeans pocket, there is greater probability of you havin the carea with you when you see something photo worthy.
- Brand: Canon has great cameras in the point and shoot section. Other notable camera brand are Nikon, Fuji, Olympus and Sony. Some Sony's are great while others are just average. If you want a brand that is consistently good, it will be Canon.
- Read Reviews: Read the reviews available on the net and especially on Amazon. Amazon is an exceptionally good source when it comes to reviews and each popular model will have many many reviews.
- Buying Cameras: In the US amzon is good resource and starting point. For buying a camera in India JJmehta is very well known and a reputable dealer. Ebay.in is also a good resource but you will need to stick with sellers who have very high reputation. Please watch the shipping rates if you are ordering from Ebay.in. Some sellers reduce the prices of their good quite a lot and then charge you an exorbitant shipping fees.