Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Buyer's Guide 2005: At The Camera Counter
A digital camera buyer's checklist
We've reached a point with resolution where most photographers' needs are going to be met. The 8-megapixel models produce files that you can easily print 11x14 inches and larger with stunning detail and sharpness. They're the way to go if you like to make big prints of your work. The 3- and 4-megapixel models deliver beautiful 8x10s and impeccable 5x7-inch prints, so if you don't expect to make big prints more than 8x10 inches, you might be better served by a 3-megapixel camera. Lower-resolution images take up a lot less space on your memory card and are faster to download.
If you opt for a D-SLR, you can choose from a wide array of interchangeable lenses. Unlike D-SLRs, compact digital cameras have a built-in lens. The good news is that most digital camera lenses have a zoom range of at least 3x. A common range is 35mm-105mm, versatile enough to handle everything from moderately wide scenics to tight portraits. Many compact models also allow you to augment the range of these lenses by attaching optional accessory lenses. The typical 3x range is enough for most photographers, but if you like to shoot extreme telephoto, you'll want a camera with a bigger zoom range or one that can accept accessory lenses.
Most digital cameras are relatively compact, but there's certainly a range of sizes and form factors available. Choosing a camera that's the right size for you is mostly up to your preference, although there's some trade-off when you opt for the smallest cameras.
If you're buying a camera primarily for vacation or spontaneous photography, a small camera that you can drop in your pocket is ideal. You might find that you take a lot more images if the camera is easily carried. The mini-models have less zoom range, however, as it's a technical challenge to fit much more than a 3x zoom in an ultrasmall casing. They also tend to be more point-and-shoot in operation, with fewer top-end controls.
If size isn't a concern, you'll have the most options in terms of features, lenses and resolution. For the ultimate in performance and control, you'll have to accept the camera's size for what it is, although even the bigger digital compact cameras are still small compared to D-SLRs.
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