Camera Buying Guide

With Mother's Day around the corner *hint, hint, honey...* I thought it might be helpful to give some advice on digital cameras for those that might be thinking of getting one for Mom. I always get the same question..."I want a camera to take photos of my family, but which one is best?" Well, I'm here to help give you a basic outline of the important specifics to keep in mind and some recommendations for which camera might suit your needs best.

Point-and-Shoot vs. DSLR

  • Point-and-shoot: Light-weight, fits in your pocket/purse, lower cost, and preset programs.
  • DSLR: Less compact, higher cost, able to change lenses depending on occasion/need, more manual options, faster start-up times and shutter speeds,  and better photo quality because of their larger sensors.

Megapixels

  • "Megapixels" refers to the tiny squares that make up an image. Therefore, the more the squares, the clearer the image. When a photo is made poster size, you will want more megapixels so that the image doesn't look pixel-y (like just a bunch of squares and rough edges). I would say that if you're wanting to have photos of no larger than 8x10, then 14 megapixels or so should get you by.

Zoom

  • Optical Zoom: Brings the photographer closer to the subject. 3x or 5x optical zoom is good, but 10x optical zoom is better for capturing details.

Image Stabilization

  • Image Stabilization is often called a "life saver". This feature keeps your photos from being blurry because of shaky hands. This is especially helpful when shooting in low-light situations without a flash, using a telephoto lens, or when zooming in.

Battery Life

  • Cameras that use alkaline batteries are useful because you can find batteries for them anywhere, but that can get costly. Other cameras use a lithium-ion battery which comes with a charger.

Flash

  • If you want to take photos indoors or at night time, chances are you'll need a flash. Point-and-shoot cameras come with a built-in flash, and some of the DSLR cameras do as well. Red-eye reduction is another good feature that some will have.

Face Detection

  • Face Detection is where the camera can distinguish a face (two eyes, a nose, and a mouth) and make adjustments to the image settings based on the brightness of the skin and making the face in focus.

So, which camera is best for you? Answer the questions below and decide for yourself!

  1. What do you need the camera for?
  2. What type of photography will you be doing? (portrait, landscape, macro, sports, etc.)
  3. What type of conditions will you be shooting in? (indoors, outdoors, low light, bright light, etc.)
  4. Do you want preset programs or do you want to learn how to shoot in manual?
  5. What experience level do you have with cameras?
  6. What type of features are you looking for (exchangeable lenses, image stabilization, LCD display, etc.)
  7. Size and portability - what matters most?
  8. What can you afford?

Here's a few examples of cameras that might work for you from PC Magazine's list of The 10 Best Digital Cameras, as of February 1, 2013:

  1. Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100 ($609.95)
  2. Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-WX150 ($249.95)
  3. Canon EOS 6D ($1599.99)
  4. Nikon D5100 ($454.99)
  5. Sony Alpha 77 (SLT-A77VQ) ($1479.99)
  6. Olymus OM-D E-MS ($1299.99)
  7. Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5 ($539.99)
  8. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 ($439.99)
  9. Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX30V ($449.00)
  10. Olympus Tough TG-1 iHS ($373.89)

Where to buy it: Adorama, B & H Photo, Amazon.

When you buy your camera, don't forget the extras, like a case and memory cards.

I hope this helps you in your search for the right camera for you. Happy shooting!