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How to Choose and Buy a Digital Camera
2005 KenRockwell.com

Please help KenRockwell..com

(I buy mine at Amazon or Adorama)

also translated to Serbian

Hint:

If you are too lazy to read the rest of this page and want a good compact digital camera as of May 2005 get the Canon A510 or a Casio S100. Click the links for more info on them. For just a couple of hundred dollars you'll get all most people will ever want from a compact camera.

If you want to photograph action and use interchangeable lenses get a Nikon D70s or Canon 20D. I explain the differences between the Canon and Nikon cameras here.

I explain the difference between compact cameras and the ones with interchangeable lenses here.

Introduction

Image quality from digital cameras does not vary as much from camera to camera as the people selling them would like you to believe. The number of megapixels is probably the last thing you should worry about (that myth is explained here.) How you use the camera is what defines picture quality, and cameras vary greatly in how easy they are to get the results you want. Thankfully, your ability to get good images out of them does not depend on price.

Photo quality has much more to do with who is using the camera than the camera itself.

The biggest differences between cameras are not picture quality, but 1.) how fast they work and 2.) how easy they are to use. Yes, your current film camera works faster than any under $1,000 digicam!

Today's digicams take time to turn on and wake up, more time to focus and take the photo as you touch the button, and then usually lock up for several seconds while they record the image. It can be very frustrating for photographing kids, not that bad for scenics. If you want to shoot children or sports you will want to consider a real digital SLR like the Canon 20D or Nikon D70.

Ease of use means that with some cameras you'll never figure out how to get to the adjustments that really matter, like color adjustment (called "White Balance" or WB) and honestly, another very visible difference in the photos between cameras is whether or not they have the settings you'll need available in the WB menu. Even some expensive cameras omit the SHADE setting, which prevents bluish photos made in shade on sunny days.

Ease of use also means watch out for batteries. Many digicams come with a rechargeable battery and a charger. This is best. Others use throw away AA or other batteries. This can be a pain, since digicams only run a couple of hours on a charge or on a set. If it uses AA batteries that's OK, since you can go buy rechargeable ones separately at extra cost. Even if your camera comes with one rechargeable battery always buy a spare and alternate them so you always have a fresh one in your pocket, since you always need it. Avoid any camera that requires more than one kind of battery to run, like the Sigma SD-9. With these any time either battery dies, you are dead, and this also means you have to carry around TWO kinds of spare batteries in your pocket. More suggestions for AA rechargeable batteries here (ignore the Nikon F100 specific words.)

Sooooo, what you have to do is go play with the cameras in which you are interested and see 1.) can you figure out how to use them? and 2.) Do they work quickly enough for you? Honest, I read that the $5,000 Kodak 14n takes about 20 seconds to turn on, and it has no "sleep" mode, so you always have to wait 20 seconds before taking any photo since you can't just leave it on all the time. 20 seconds is a LONG time when a subject is waiting. On the other hand, the Fuji S602 I found worked very fast and I loved it.

It is tough for me to stay current with the regular all-in-one point-and-shoot digital cameras since they honestly come and go every six months. Each time I shop for one for a client I also have to start from scratch.

Ignore most of the other "review" sites you're reading. They are not written by photographers and they spend way too much time overanalyzing things that make no difference and completely skip other things important to making photos! I'll glance at these, but they just can't tell you which camera to buy.

Don't fret the megapixel (MP) ratings. Most digicams will work fine for the occasional 8x10" print although few have enough resolution for a full 300DPI at 8x10, so don't worry. All digicams today have more than enough resolution for email and in fact you will probably need to edit the images in order to bring them down in size for email and Internet use. I explain this here.

For most people, an inexpensive digital camera will be able to take the same quality photos as a more expensive one if you learn how to use it properly. If you don't learn, any camera will give bad results. Cameras are like pianos: you have to learn how to use them! They do not play or make photos all by themselves regardless of how much the camera makers would like you to think so.

Where to buy a Digital Camera

As you see they all work differently. Personally I'd buy mine from Adorama or Amazon.com since you can simply return them for your money back if you don't like the results. Camera stores rarely give you that flexibility, although Ritz is unique in their very generous return policy.

I have a page on all the in and outs of buying cameras here.

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