Digital Camera Buying Guide – The rules for buying a camera this Christmas

I know how complex and overwhelming it can be when you are thinking of buying a camera.  There are features and size and price and Mega-pixels and lenses  on and on and on.  Even I get overwhelmed and I supposedly understand this stuff.  Well these guidelines or let’s call it a buyer guide or even  rule book will help you buy and keep the right digital camera for you. The digital camera market has grown exponentially these past few years and there is a huge choice of cameras for the consumer. My advice for you, go through this checklist and by the time you are done with it, you should in the end be able to find the right camera for your needs.

1. Don’t just look at Mega-pixels
Camera manufactures have pushed Mega-pixels as the be all and end all of choosing a camera but they don’t have to be. For the majority of people who want to take family snaps and get them printed at a 8×10 size (or smaller) a 5 Mega-pixel camera will very adequately give you perfect prints. If you want to modify your picture using a software package 7 Mega-pixels and up is recommended.  So Mega-pixels by them selves do not mean image quality.  There are many features that go into play when you are talking about image quality.  More later.

2. Do look at the type of zoom offered
Many manufactures tout a large zoom range but read the small print carefully sometimes this is just what they call ‘Digital Zoom’ – effectively the camera is just cropping the picture and therefore reducing the quality. With any simple photo editing package you could achieve the same result. Our recommendation is that you look for a good ‘Optical Zoom’ and switch off digital zoom on the camera.  A good Optical Zoom in my mind is defined as 10 times or more.  That allows you to even get the detail on the football field or on stage at a play.

3. Do consider when and where you are going to use the camera
Before you buy think about where and when you are going to use the camera. Some of the things to think about are; are you using it at night? Are you going to get it wet? Is going to get dusty? Does it need to fit in your pocket?  Do you want to capture all the action of athletic events in dimly lit stadiums?  Are you thinking of being a Pro some day?  Do you only want to have a small camera so that it is always with you for parties and family events? These will help you pick the camera that fits your needs.

4. Do consider the memory you will need
Most cameras come with a very small memory card. This is usually not large enough to fit the pictures you will need. So make sure you price in the upgraded memory card. The largest cards available are often very expensive so look a buying two smaller cards if you need that much memory it often works out cheaper.

5. Do think about video
Many cameras now come equipped with video recording features. Don’t ignore these, they can come in very useful for that short video you want to record. Just remember to not hold the camera vertically as videos are hard to turn round. Make sure you have a big enough memory card to store any video you want.  But at the same time, if you know you are never going to use video then you can remove that feature from your list.

6. Do look at the battery type
You need to determine if you want to use a camera with a more expensive rechargeable battery or if you want to use cheaper replaceable batteries.  For me, I would much rather have the more expensive rechargeable batteries.. These are high tech wonders and the best last for hours and hours between charges.  But, you need to know the difference and you need to know what your costs may be.

7. Don’t buy without trying the camera
You will not believe how important it is to get the camera into your hands.  The weight and feel of a camera will actually determine how much you use it and enjoy it.  So just like the old adage don’t buy close that you don’t like cause you won’t were them, Don’t buy a camera that your hand does not like cause you won’t use it.

8. Do work out how you will get pictures printed or stored
You will not be able to store all the pictures you ever want to take on the memory card so it is important to think about how you will get the pictures printed or downloaded to a computer for storage. You can easily start taking a lot of pictures so make sure you have enough storage and a way of backing the pictures up.

9. Do think about SLRs
A SLR or DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) looks like the old large film cameras and work about the same way at capturing the image, but they do not store the image on a negative, now the image is stored digitally on a data card.  The reason to consider a DSLR is because they provide for so much more flexibility, creativity and the ability to advance as a photographer.  You can change lenses to do different things, you can change settings to create more artistic effects.  And yes, this is the camera that might move you along on your journey to becoming a pro!

10. Do shop around before buying
Once you have decided what type of camera you want shop around sometimes it’s worth looking at a slightly older model of camera that will give you all the functionality and quality you will need.

11 BONUS – Seriously consider buying a quality used camera.  There are many great cameras out there and many retail camera places that sell quality used equipment.  After you have done your research in steps 1 – 10 you are now ready to know what a quality used camera is and you can save hundreds of dollars doing this.
Well I hope you find this helpful.  Happy Camera Shopping and Happy Holidays!!

waynem

About waynem

As a Minnesota based photographer and artist I have been greatly influenced by the Upper Midwest. I focus my skills and energies on portraits, landscapes, cityscapes, architectural and fine art work. My best work comes from images first painted in my mind. I mull over a prospective image for weeks or months, seeing it from different angles and perspectives, then finally deciding what to capture. The result is images that deeply touch people's emotions and powerfully evoke memories and dreams. My images are used commercially by companies and organizations ranging from Financial Services firms, mom and pop Ice Cream shops and The Basilica of St Mary to communicate their shared vision and values. Book and magazine publishers have featured my images on their covers. My photographs also grace and enhance the decor of many fine homes.
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One Response to Digital Camera Buying Guide – The rules for buying a camera this Christmas

  1. Tom says:

    Great info I espetially like number 11 the bonus tip. You could also throw the word refurbished in there also.

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