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Camera Buying Guide For First-time Photographers
Shopping for a digital camera is not an easy task. It is easy to be lost in the wilderness as there are endless numbers of cameras to choose. It is not uncommon for many stores to stock upwards of 100 models from across 8 or 10 well-known brands from around the world. If you are shopping for a camera in store, don’t expect to get all the help from the salesman in choosing the right camera for your use. There is no room to despair however.
If you are able to understand your requirements clearly, shopping for the right camera can be really pleasant.
The first step is of course breaking the whole process into a series of factors – image quality, expectations, form factor, style & appeal, ergonomics and your current skill level. Don’t forget the price – it plays a major part in the decision process. Not everyone will want to spend a fortune.
Options to Explore
Broadly digital cameras are classified as: compact, ultra-compact, super-zoom, professional or D-SLR.
Compact Digital Cameras: They are definitely not for the professionals who may want to use for it for industrial or fashion photography. Still don’t dismiss it off. For the amateur or for people new to photography, it can help them to get the feel of shooting pictures. Modern day digital cameras are quite capable of taking reasonably good photos and have features that may be amazing. Most digital cameras in this genre have LCD display and even perform reasonably well for general use.
They are called compact because they are easy to carry around and will easily fit into a woman’s handbag or a man’s trouser pockets. If your emphasis is on price, you should consider compacts because its value for money. Don’t however expect top-features. It is made for first-time users who just want to a snap.
Ultra-compact Digital Cameras: It is more of a toy-like cameras. It has all the settings to be used in social context and some will even fit the palm. Considering its size, it can still have great features – high megapixels and acceptable picture qualities for an amateur. The form may not allow the user to take photos comfortably but still good enough for many. Don’t however expect to see top features or style. They are for many people just a step higher than a toy camera.
Professional Digital Cameras: Professional digital cameras should be preferred by users who want superior quality of photos for industrial and fashion photography. Professional digital cameras are scaled-up version of compact cameras with the difference that it allows for both manual as well as automated controls. With these types of cameras, users get superior manual control and hence are able to produce large size images.
Professional digital cameras abound with features. It may include high zoom capacity, faster shutter speeds, higher resolutions and white balance. This camera is really a compromise category for those who would other go in for D-SLR camera that cost quite a fortune. Though not in the same league as the more feature-filled D-SLR, professional digital cameras are good enough for quick handling, flexibility and confident handling.
Super-zoom Digital Cameras: Super-zoom digital cameras are actually professional cameras with the most prominent difference being their ability to zoom 10 times or more. It is normal to denote the zoom with a numeral followed by ‘x’. For example 8x means an 8 times zoom. Super-zoom cameras have large lenses and still cost less than a professional camera but more than either compact camera.
Depending on which make or model you choose, super-zooms will have one or more features not normally found in compacts. Some of them are endowed with auto-control features to neutralize shakes.
D-SLR Cameras: This is the ultimate in digital camera ranges and really the most preferred by professionals who have the money to buy one. D-SLRs allow for wide-angle image capturing, fitting of multiple types of lenses and precise control over colour and shutter speeds; all this in addition to other regular and advanced features. In addition to accommodating a wide range of lenses, D-SLRs also accommodate many accessories.
D-SLR cameras produce best quality images almost at par with 35-mm film cameras. These cameras have full automatic controls as well as manual controls for precise setting. Though primarily meant for professionals and photo enthusiasts, it is equally good for amateurs who will want to become professionals.
Understanding Digital Camera Specifications
To understand the specifications of a camera, you will have to read the user’s manual accompanying it for explicit information. If you are a novice to photography, you will find the terminologies too challenging. We will recommend that you read the following most commonly used terminologies that are common to most of the digital cameras. It can help you decide on choosing the right camera.
Megapixel (MP): It is the amount of data that a sensor built in the camera can capture to produce an image – higher the MP greater is the quality of print made on paper. If most of your photograph will be viewed only a computer or a device, MP may not be serious issue, but that is not the case if you will be making prints on plain or photographic papers. Go for higher pixels if you are going to print the images. For uploading on internet or viewing in a computer, this is not a serious issue. It is pertinent to note that MP alone is not a deciding criteria; it should be combined with other camera algorithm to determine the optimum MP for your needs.
As a rule we will recommend that you look at the quality of image than going by the MP of a camera. You should also be concerned with colour fidelity and higher resolution for sharper pictures. 4 MP will be fine for printing on 8x10 papers and 2 MP is just fine for transporting the image on internet.
Aperture: An aperture is the opening in a camera through which the light passes to reach the lens and finally the sensor. Aperture is the same as the iris of a human eye. It opens for a short duration when you click for a photo. Thecamera’s manual will give a description of the aperture size. If the camera has a large aperture then it is considered as more sensitive and if it is small then it will give the image greater depth.
There are digital cameras that can accommodate multiple lenses but these tend to be more expensive and is primarily for experienced photographers. If you are not experienced and will like to make a start, we will recommend you to stay with a standard fixed-lens camera. This is more so when all that you want is a aim and shoot camera.
There are different types of lenses that you can add as an accessory, and if you have the need for them, order it along with the camera. We will recommend that you order your lenses from the same brand as the camera to avoid a mismatch.
The most important point to consider in a lens is the focal length. It should be compatible with the aperture of the camera you propose to order. Image stabilization is yet another factor that plays a major role in shooting good images. Though different brands take different paths to ensure image stability, the primary objective remains the same – prevent image quality deteriorations due to shake. You can consider ordering a camera without image stabilization and add a stabilized lens.
Chiefly you can classify lenses as: Ultra-wide angle, Wide angle, standard (50mm) or telephoto.
Telephoto lens: Telephoto lenses are meant for shooting objects at a distance that you cannot physical get closer to. Typically they find use when you want to shoot wildlife pictures, sports or children running across play fields.
Wide angle lens: As the name itself says, these types of lenses are meant for capturing objects that are too wide for you to move backward and focus on it. Wide angle lenses find use in architecture, landscapes and interiors of rooms where there is little scope for moving away from the object.
Ultra-wide angle lens: It is simply another type of wide angle lens with the difference that it can capture images at wider angles than a standard wide-angle lens. As for usage, what is good for wide angle lens is good for ultra-wide angle lenses too.
Image File Formats:
There are at least two file formats in common use with digital cameras – JPEG and RAW. JPEG is more common than RAW and most cameras sold for consumers use it extensively. RAW is primarily meant for those who want a high quality to the images.
If you are an amateur photographer, we will recommend JPEG for the simple reason that it is less expensive and is more commonly used. RAW format saving cameras are a bit higher in price, but it brings in advantages for professional photographers.
Digital cameras are delicate devices and are prone to damages if not properly handled. They are easily affected by shocks from drop, mishandling and water (moisture). Usually a packaged camera will offer minimal protection accessories, but we will recommend you to buy additional protective cases especially for the more expensive models. You may want to buy a separate cover for exotic lenses if you are adding many to your cameras.
We will also recommend tripods for telephoto cameras to prevent image distortion when shooting at a long distance from the object.
Your choice of camera should be based on one or more purposes. What will suffice for an amateur may not fit for a professional.
Read the cameras’ manuals carefully before you order a camera. You can always visit the brands’ website to get a copy of the manual.
Expensive cameras are not essentially the best for you. The purpose of shooting images is important. A high MP camera is not essentially a guarantee that you will get the best image.
Cameras’ size matter a lot. Professionals may not mind the size because it will be loaded with features, but if you are traveller, you may want a compact camera to make it easier to carry around.
Price matters a lot. Do not go for a particular camera type just because it is laden with extensive features. Chances are that as an amateur you may not have a use for many of those. Compare prices and read reviews before taking the plunge.
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