Home Cameras Compact Choosing The Right Digital Camera For You
Monday, March 26, 2007

Choosing The Right Digital Camera For You

How to narrow the multitude of options? Consider your photography habits and the features you really need

Sony A100 What Do You Shoot?
Now let's consider common photo subjects and the types of cameras that can handle them best.

People. While you can photograph people with any camera, a D-SLR or compact zoom that includes a focal length of 90mm or thereabouts (35mm equivalent) will yield attractive headshots because that focal length frames a portrait subject nicely at a distance that provides a pleasing perspective. A zoom lens that also includes a wide-angle setting will let you photograph groups of people in tight spaces. Built-in flash isn't the most attractive light source for portraits (although it's handy to fill in harsh shadows in sunlit portraits), so a camera that allows use of off-camera flash units is a good choice.

Action. If you shoot a lot of action subjects, you'll be best served by a digital SLR. Why? Because D-SLRs autofocus much faster than compact digital cameras, which is essential for moving subjects. Today's D-SLRs also start up and wake up from "sleep" mode in a fraction of a second—again, much faster than a compact digital camera—and have much less delay between the moment you fully depress the shutter button to make a shot and the moment the camera actually takes the shot. Another D-SLR advantage is higher top shutter speeds (all current models go to at least 1⁄4000 sec.), better for "freezing" quick action subjects.

Landscapes And Scenics. One of the pocket-sized digital cameras can be a great hiking companion because it's easy to carry anywhere. Another good choice for the hiking photographer is a wide-range zoom camera, one of the compact models with a 10x or greater zoom lens. This will handle just about any situation you'll encounter on a hike, from dramatic vistas to close-ups to distant wildlife.

Pentax K100 Some features to look for in a hiking camera include built-in stabilization (handy for sharp results when shooting while huffing and puffing after climbing a steep hill), weather- or waterproof-ness, and close-up/macro capability if you're into composing tight shots of nature's details (see the section on close-ups).

One advantage of an all-in-one compact camera over an SLR for hiking/outdoor use is that you won't be changing lenses and thus won't risk getting dust on the image sensor when you expose the inside of the camera during a lens change. Of course, you can get a wide-range zoom (18-200mm is ideal) lens for your D-SLR to avoid the need to change lenses in the field, and several D-SLRs have built-in dust-removing features.


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