How To Buy A Camera
Where and how you will use your camera are considerations as important as its features
Despite the performance advantages of the typical SLR compared to a compact camera, there’s one overriding question you have to answer honestly: “What am I willing to carry?”
The right camera is the one you take with you. If you don’t see yourself carrying an SLR—and maybe an extra lens or two—then you’re better off with a camera you’ll find more comfortable. Most SLR photographers we know have a compact camera, too, for those occasions when carrying an SLR isn’t practical.
Between pocket cameras and SLRs are advanced compacts that typically offer a big-range zoom lens and improved performance compared to pocket cameras. These cameras try to bridge the gap between portability and performance. They’re larger than pocket cameras, though still smaller than most SLRs, and eliminate the need to carry multiple lenses.
HD video is the hot feature in SLRs this year. We expect to see it become increasingly common and find its way into more fixed-lens cameras, as well.
Should this be a deciding factor for you? Maybe. If your primary focus is to capture still images, then the HD video feature in a still camera is a nice extra when you want to grab some motion; but unless video is a big part of what you do, you ought not rule out an otherwise ideal SLR because it lacks this capability.
Don’t think of this feature as a real alternative to a camcorder—at least not at this point in the technology. Clip lengths are relatively limited, focusing is typically manual, and usability, while it varies among models, is generally not as straightforward as what you’ll get with a camcorder. When your goal is great video, use a camcorder. Most can capture multimegapixel still images, too.
How Will You Use The Photos?
Your photos deserve to be displayed. It’s really gratifying to see your images, professionally framed and matted, printed on canvas or made into a coffee-table book. Most cameras today offer more than enough resolution to make big, detailed prints.
Consider, though, that big files mean bigger storage needs and more time spent downloading, sorting and organizing images. If your photos are destined for the web, resolution isn’t your primary concern. Same goes for displaying on your TV.
There’s something else you should know about resolution: More doesn’t necessarily mean better image quality. In fact, the converse may be true. The physical size of each pixel directly affects the quality of the final image because larger pixels collect light better. Cramming more pixels onto the same-sized sensor means making the pixels themselves smaller, which tends to lessen overall image quality.
Weigh all of these factors—speed, lens options, creative controls, portability, resolution—with your personal photography habits and choose a camera that strikes a balance. Don’t feel that you must buy a particular camera simply because your friend has one or because it received a glowing review. Choose a camera that suits your individual needs, and you’ll be more likely to enjoy using it.
|Pros Vs. Cons
• Best speed and performance
• Interchangeable lenses
• Most options for control
• Larger and heavier than other options
• Can seem complicated at first
• Bigger investment
• Good mix of size and performance
• Typically less expensive than an SLR
• Big zoom ranges cover most needs
• Less responsive than an SLR
• Limitations of a fixed lens
• Fewer accessory options
• Ultimate in portability
• Easy for the whole family to use
• Very affordable
• Slowest response times
• Limitations of a fixed lens
• Fewer options for manual control