Jerry is an instructor at Emeritus College in Santa Monica, California where he teaches courses in digital photography dedicated to seniors. He also has taught introductory courses in Photoshop Elements.
Today we’re continuing our 2 part series on the 7 major factors to to consider when buying a camera.
CAMERA WEIGHT (AND SIZE) Think about a day of walking around in the sun with a camera hanging from your neck or shoulder should give you a far greater appreciation for considering that point in selecting a camera. Not all pocket cameras are created equal. Some will really fit into a shirt pocket while the others require something more like a jacket pocket. I don’t know if I would be happy carrying around a camera weighing 12 oz or more even in a shirt’s pocket. Smaller camera often mean having that camera with you when you are out and about rather than leaving it at home, in the car, or in the hotel room. Smaller cameras are also less intrusive, less threatening and thus more readily accepted in places where a larger camera may make photo subjects wary and uncomfortable. I have seen this and been the subject to that reaction. It is one of my reasons for having a small camera always with me whenever I travel.
LCD Most LCDs are fixed, they do not tilt or rotate. Some cameras do have tilting LCDs. This feature can be very useful in shooting above a crowd or down low to the ground. Some LCDs can rotate as well as tilt, “fully articulated”. It is a big feature but something that also adds to size and weight. Some of the LCDs may have a touch screen. For some people this is a great benefit but for others it is a real pain. Some LCDs are far easier to use in bright light, others much less so. Almost all current model cameras have LCD with at least 460,000 pixels. By today’s standard, 460,000 pixels should be the minimum you should accept on any camera. LCDs with high pixel (or dot) counts generally means greater ability to use in bright light or at an angle.
MEGAPIXELS-(MP) The number of pixels on the sensor CAN affect how large a picture you can print or crop and print. The more pixels in the picture the more you can crop and still get a printable image as large as 12x18. More pixels also tend to yield a greater dynamic range and should, also in theory, mean sharper pictures. However, packing too many pixels onto a sensor can, and often does, degrade the final image. On some cameras changing the resolution, i.e., the number of pixels being used, can increase the zoom range. Also note: the internal image processors in the cameras also play a large part in image quality and lack of noise at higher ISO levels.
CONTROLS OR SHOOTING PROGRAMS The ability to easily change shooting parameters, such as Program, Shutter speed, or Aperture are critical to some, not so for others. The scene mode options on many of today’s cameras can, to a certain extent, offset that lack of specific aperture or shutter speed controls. As you become more proficient in using a camera you may find the lack of some camera controls frustrating. Most lower priced cameras lack any direct method for controlling shutter speed or aperture.
- Is the camera being considered a back-up or the primary camera? Two cameras from the same manufacturer often have SIMILAR menu systems and shooting modes which makes mastering the new camera faster and life easier especially when traveling .
- Placement of buttons or dials can make using a camera easier or harder. Harder because a misplaced button can accidentally activate a feature and cause confusion.
- Camera construction or weather sealing can be critical for people who may be traveling to moist, humid places.
- Is the camera being considered an older or newer model? Camera prices can drop dramatically a few months before a new model appears.
- If this is going to be your primary camera, and if so, what does it offer that your smart phone does not?
- Do you want to get an interchangeable lens camera to grow with as your ability grows or get a very sophisticated fixed lens camera that will meet current and future needs?