This article is part of a series which discusses how to buy a digital camera. To read the first article in this series, please see Part One of our Digital Camera Buying Guide.
When I bought my first digital camera, I thought that the number of megapixels was all-important. The higher the better, right? Not exactly. This is actually a common misconception.
Although megapixels can become important if you like to play around with your photos after taking them - if you don’t plan on enlarging, cropping or editing your pictures and all you’re looking to do is email them to family and friends and print in a standard size photo, then megapixels isn’t too much of an issue for you.
Something a lot of people don’t think about when buying a camera is the shutter noise. This isn’t a big deal if you’re taking photos at a party, ball game, or even family portraits. However, for those wildlife enthusiasts, it is something you really should think about.
Imagine this: you purchase an ultra cool camera, which, by the way, wasn’t cheap. You are thrilled about using it for the first time, so you pack yourself up and head into the woods in your ongoing search for the rare and endangered Kirtland's warbler. You’ve been on the hunt for hours now and, lo’ and behold, there it is! Perched on a branch but 10 feet away! What could be better? Your fellow birding buddies aren’t going to believe this! You’ve been searching for years for this bird and now, not only do you find it but you have your brand new camera to capture this milestone forever! You quietly take your camera from the case, perhaps set it up on the tripod, zoom in to frame the warbler, focus, and....the camera’s shutter noise was so loud it scared off your bird and now you have absolutely nothing to show for your efforts.
So, here is a prime example of “try before you buy". Ask the sales person to let you have a go at it, before making your final decision.
The speed your camera takes to go from taking one picture to another can be a very important characteristic for people wishing to take action shots. If a camera takes too long to process the photo you could miss out on some great pictures. The same can be said if the camera takes too long to take the actual photo from the time you press the button. This is also important to consider if you plan on taking photos of children, animals...well, anything that moves, I suppose!
Heavy Weight Champion
If you’re an on-the-go type of person who likes to grab their things and go, taking the size of a camera into consideration may be a wise choice. If you buy a digital camera that is large and clunky, ask yourself if you are likely to bring it along or if it will spend more time becoming acquainted with the walls of your closet.
Digital zoom or optical zoom? As far as I’m concerned, there is no comparison. Optical zoom will use the lens of the camera to bring the subject closer, whereas, digital zoom will simply take a section of the image and make it bigger, losing quality along the way – an action you can do yourself with image editing software.
An important point when looking to purchase a camera – some camera manufacturers will combine both digital zoom with optical zoom, making the customer think they are getting a camera with a great zoom lens. For example, a camera might have 5X Optical Zoom and 5X Digital Zoom. The combined zoom would then be 25X. It can be rather misleading if you aren’t careful.
In addition to the above, you should also consider:
Image Stabilization. Also known as Anti-shake.
Face Recognition. This feature is coming available at a rapid pace. The camera will detect a face and automatically adjust the exposure as well as the focus, allowing for the best photo possible.
Audio/Video. Many digital cameras have this feature built in. Great for the person wanting to take short video’s without the need to pack along the camcorder.
LCD Screen. Size does matter. A larger, better-quality screen will enable you to review your pictures more accurately.
Scene Modes and Menus. A lot of digital cameras have numerous menu options and different scene modes. For example, options to take photos in low-light, portrait, beach, etc. Test drive the camera before buying to make sure the options you’d like to use on a regular basis don’t require you to pull out a 500 page manual, or go through a huge menu list from the camera to get to where you want. It can become quite the tedious task if you want to take a picture in low-light but in order to access the option you have to spend 10 minutes pressing buttons to get there.
Buying a digital camera doesn’t have to be a chore. Take a little time to research, ask yourself some questions, read our digital camera buying guide and hopefully before long you’ll be out and about taking spectacular photos you can cherish for years to come.