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What should I be looking for in a digital camera?

What should I be looking for in a digital camera?

Old Dec 13th, 2004, 10:42 AM
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What should I be looking for in a digital camera?

I'm clueless on this technology. Please help me. I don't want top of the line, but I do want something that is going to last awhile and is good quality for a good price. What do I need in zoom? Megapixels? What else?
yale is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2004, 11:21 AM
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You are a much better judge than any of use on what you need specifically in zoom or megapixels. That said, I'd recommend buying a camera with at least 3 MP and at least 3x optical zoom (digital zoom is a meaningless number, so completely ignore it on any camera packaging or advertising). With 3MP you should be able to print nicely at 8x10 size. But, if you should desire to zoom in on a smaller portion of the picture for printing (cropping out a background or something like that) you'll be limited to smaller printing sizes.

When looking into digital cameras, these are some of the things I considered:

* What size? I wanted small, but not ultra-compact. I carry it in a purse, so pocket sized wasn't important to me. I traded a slightly larger camera for more features and am very happy.

* What kind of batteries? A camera that uses AA batteries will generally be a bit larger, but you can easily carry spare batteries on you for when yours die half way through a day of sight-seeing. Proprietary batteries are rechargeable, but many times cost upward of $50, so buying a spare is expensive! You can buy rechargeable AA batteries so that you always have some charged on hand and don't have the cost and waste of disposables.

* How manual do you want to get? Pretty much all basic digital cameras have an automatic setting (or several). But some also allow you to have more manual override if that matters to you. If you don't care, then don't worry about this. But if you think composing the perfect picture is fun, look into one with more manual features.

* Do you want it to also shoot video? With sound? To me this is a wonderful feature of a small digital camera! No need to lug a video camera around, but you can shoot short video (typically less than 3 minutes, sometimes even shorter). Most digital cameras do shoot video, but many don't have sound, so be sure to look for this if it matters to you.

I researched a lot and decided on the Canon A70 (a couple years ago). The A75 is the latest reincarnation of this camera, and the A80 (or maybe 85) is the 4MP version.

If you want really, really small the Canon SD200 is a great camera as well!

Two wonderful sites for comparing cameras are www.dpreview.com and www.dcresource.com. Both of these sites have forums where you can ask more "camera expert" people for opinions, but read through the posts there before posting your own question. It may have already been answered.
jlm_mi is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2004, 11:38 AM
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Thanks! This helps immensely!
yale is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2004, 12:44 PM
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Another consideration is how the camera fits in your hand. This was big for me because I wanted a camera that was sturdy in my grasp. My husband has much larger hands than me, so we ended up getting 2 different cameras. That's my only suggestion - jlm_mi covered everything else!
jbee is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2004, 01:03 PM
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"What should I be looking for in a digital camera online forum?" While people here are great for camera info, why not go straight to the source?


Do you own a film camera?
Are you current on camera terminology?
The above site will provide a glossary and tutorials to get more comfortable with camera language.

Zoom : Mechanical zoom is preferred to digital zoom (which decreases photo quality). Any photo-editing software will also provide the ability to digitally zoom your photo, once you load the photos onto your computer. Adobe Photoshop Elements is a nicely priced, full-featured program. Thumbsplus by Cerious is available for free trial - this program offers editing and organization features.

Megapixels : Will you ever print the photos? How large will your printed photo be? For a 4x6 print, you'll be fine with 3MP. For 11x17 and such, you can still work with 3MP, however the image clarity and sharpness will be sacrificed. Some people with 5MP cameras rarely shoot at the 5MP setting, often sacrficing image quality at a 2.1MP or 2.8MP setting.
On the European board, please do a search for digital camera for more opinions on this subject.

Batteries : Get rechargeables. Get a second set. I have three batteries. When you're shooting and reviewing and deleting photos to make space on a small memory card, you're consuming battery power. Buy extras. Consider a charger for your car, if you travel by car much.
Proprietary batteries are quickly available in the secondary market for a much better price. Try eBay. Example : my Nikon battery costs from $41.00 to $6.00 depending on the source. Things to look for in a good secondary market battery : it will have the same or higher mA rating and will be made with Japanese cells.

Memory Cards : Flash memory is inexpensive now. A little like the cost of gasoline, it fluctuates. You can buy a 512K Compact Flash card for $50-60. You'll pay about $15 more for a SD card. Get the camera first and look at memory cards after.

Waterproof Cases : If you will be traveling in the rain -or- if you want to shoot underwater, cases are available.

Posting Photos Online : Try Ofoto.com, WorldIsRound.com, Pbase.com. For a small annual fee, the last two will host your photos in album format. Anyone can view them online. The first one will display your photos at lower resolution and in small size (thumbnail is the term) and Ofoto wants to sell prints to the people who view the pictures.

For true camera information, continue your quest for info at www.dpreview.com There, you can read professional reviews of every camera available on the market -and- you can ask real world camera users such as yourself to rate their experiences...There are also tutorials available there and other places. Please search that site for more info.

Best regards,
TripleSecDelay is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2004, 01:21 PM
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So far you have gotten good advice. Here are a couple of more thoughts:

Most mid to lower priced digitals are much slower to react than what you are used to. If you pick up the camera and punch the shutter, it takes as long as 1.7+ seconds for the picture to record. This takes some getting used to. Lots of this has to do with the memory card. Compact Flash is the slowest to my knowledge.

Get as many mega pixel as you can afford. Get settings for night if you like those kinds of pictures. IMHO a real bargain right now is a Kodak DX4530 5 MP camera that often comes in a package with a Dock that makes picture transfer very easy. This is a year old, or so, model that can be had on eBay as a complete package new for mid $200's. Original MSRP is high 300's. You can also get it direct from Kodak, refurbished for similar money. Both situations have a 1 year warranty.

I like a camera that uses AA rechargable NiMh batteries. Inexpensive, easy to find and carry.
placeu2 is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2004, 02:07 PM
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I feel like I can hold a camera more steadily when I'm looking through the viewfinder as opposed to holding it away from my body. So, regardless of type of camera, it's important to me that it a nice large viewfinder.
beachbum is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2004, 02:24 PM
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I think the recent reviews in Consumers Reports are legitimate.

I bought a 3.2MPx Minolta Xi in Feb '03 for the size, weight and flat lens.

I still have difficulty keeping my non dominent index finger out of the lens, but that's after 35 + years with many 35mm SLR's.

There is a real transition from great SLR's, but the trade off is probably worth it for most.

mikemo is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2004, 02:36 PM
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And if yours is a camera that uses AA batteries, consider buying 2200 mA rechargeables. About the highest rating available. If the mA is not listed on the package, don't buy them...most likely too low and not competitive technology.

Also, don't try to recharge NiCD with NiMH chargers & the reverse as well.
TripleSecDelay is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2004, 02:39 PM
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Oh, shoot : consider buying a monopod or a tripod. Absolutely necessary for zoomed lens photos. Great for holiday photo of the family when using the timer setting to get everyone in the picture. Makes angle adjustments soooo much easier when trying to fit 23 family members in the frame on the second and third attempts -- as we did last night.
TripleSecDelay is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2004, 03:00 PM
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I had bought a pretty top of the line (for 5 years ago) Sony digital camera a while back. It was smallish, but not tiny (fit in a shirt pocket, but was visible). My complaints about it were the (i) zoom (3x optical and 10x digital) - on a trip down the Pacific Coast Hwy, I kept trying to take pictures of the seals and other animals down the cliffs in the water, but the zoom was wholly inadequate; (ii) speed - there was a great deal of time between pressing the button and the actual photo, so if the subject moved at all, esp. with the zoom, it was blurred; (iii) ability to shoot moving objects (see ii). But the 5 megapixels were great.

I thought of getting a digital SLR in advance of a recent trip to Europe, only to learn that my biggest criteria (better optical zoom) would not be solved unless I bought a range of better separate lenses (which are expensive in addition to the price of a digital SLR).

In my search, I found the Panasonic FZ20 at www.dpreview.com, and found it had 12x optical zoom (best I could find in a digital camera), 5 megapixels, and stability control (which is great, since sometimes I don't hold the camera still). The zoom is awesome, and the stability control came in really handy, but I could still use a tripod for the ultra-zoom shots.

Check out www.dpreview.com to search for cameras that meet your basic criteria, and then head to a local store that carries ones you like. OR, some camera stores RENT cameras for a day or weekend, so if you'd like to test one before you buy, it can be helpful. Good luck!
kgh8m is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2004, 03:05 PM
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Most people overlook the quality of the lens itself. The quality is measured by a number sometimes on the edge surrounding the lens. 2.8 is top of the line and 5.6 is a low end lens which most cameras have. The lower the lens number the better the lens and the quality of the images. The lens number can be as important as how many mega pixels the camera has.

Most advertisements will not list this number so you have to ask for it.
jor is offline  
Old Dec 13th, 2004, 05:15 PM
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Not wanting to sound anal, jor, but the 2.8 and 5.6 are the maximum aperture openings, and have nothing to do with quality of lens. Of course, with a 5.6 aperture, you need a slower shutter speed than at 2.8, and with a slower shutter, you're more prone to camera shake.
beachbum is offline  
Old Dec 14th, 2004, 01:47 AM
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I believe this was jor's attempt at humor.
TripleSecDelay is offline  
Old Dec 14th, 2004, 06:21 AM
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I just bought a Panasonic 4 megapixal camera with a Leica lens for my daughter for Christmas. I was attracted by the association with Leica, which is a very respected camera/optics manufacturer. The camera is very compact and takes AAA batteries. It came with nimh batteries and a charger. You might want to check it out.
jhk3rd is offline  
Old Dec 14th, 2004, 08:18 AM
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Yeah, beachbum, the aperture numbers can mean a lot about the quality of a lens. It costs more to make faster lenses (smaller numbers), so in general the smaller numbers mean better glass. Smaller apertures in general allow better action photos, because you can shoot with a faster shutter speed or less light. Still, to a casual point-and-shoot photographer, this is all mostly not important.

Compact Flash is not the slowest as someone said. There are different speed ratings of CF (4X, 8X, etc.). But the speed may be dependent on the design of the camera, not the CF card itself.

I know it is out of most people's price range, but I have a Canon Digital Rebel Digital SLR, which you can now get for under $1000 with rebate. This is a terrific camera with interchangeable lenses, quick shutter response (the shutter is mechanical like a film camera's), and a true film aspect ratio of 3:2. And you can get fantastic prints from it, even at very large size. I just printed something at 24"x36" from it and it looks fantastic.

Andrew is offline  
Old Dec 14th, 2004, 08:27 AM
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I know it costs more to make a faster lens, Andrew, but strictly speaking, the maximum aperture opening of a lens has nothing to do with the quality of the glass. Like I said, not wanting to be anal.

About your camera.. What did you have before the digital Rebel? I've got a Canon Elan II film camera, and am thinking of making the move to digital.
beachbum is offline  
Old Dec 14th, 2004, 08:34 AM
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I'd rather take Marilyn and Phil Flash with me on vacation. It would probably be cheaper than buying one of their cameras!

Gotta problem with my 110 Brownie? >
Kal is offline  
Old Dec 14th, 2004, 09:09 AM
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For what's its worth, I just bought my daughter (she's 12) an Olympus D-535, 3.2 mp, 3x optical zoom. Its a Christmas present so we haven't used it yet. But I did some reading on this and this camera seemed to give a lot of bang for the buck for we point and shooters.
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Old Dec 14th, 2004, 09:42 AM
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Good advice above already offered.

If you want something that will last a while, don't go below a 3 megapixel (you can do larger size prints while retaining good quality and even do some cropping and still be able to do fair-sized prints) and I'd suggest at least a 3x zoom (just like regular cameras, it's nice to zoom in a bit).

www.epinions.com has lots of "real people" reviews which can be very helpful. I'm partial to Canon and Olympus, but that's my personal preference. I will say you have a better chance of not hitting a dud if you go with a camera company (and you can throw Sony in that group, too) as opposed to a computer company. Some of their's are great (had good luck with an HP, for example), but it seems you hear more complaints about confusing controls and quality issues from some of their's. (For example, Gateway was selling a 4- or 5-megapixel a while back that was an absolute lemon.) And, as a rule of thumb, if you've never heard of the company at all, stay away.
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