As a professional photographer I often get asked for my advice when people are considering a digital camera to buy. So I have compiled some practical tips here that might help.Since there are many cameras and options and the technology is rapidly changing it is best to first decide what you own budget is. Think about what you want to spend and how this investment will be used for at least a couple of years. The possibilities are that one camera purchase may suit your needs for a long time, or some technological changes might entice you towards a new purchase within a few years. Either way a budget range or limit should be established first.
Professional or Digicam
There are two basic categories of digital cameras to choose from. The professional single lens reflex or “SLR”, that allows changing lenses, and the more compact and portable category better known as “digicam”. The level of quality and prices between these has become more similar so you need to look at which better fits your lifestyle and objectives. Ask some basic questions such as, “Do you want the most simplicity, portability and completely automatic operations?” Or do you see yourself as the more advanced hobbyist that likes exploring the technology and advanced creative opportunities.
If you prefer the compact and portable fully automatic operations a digicam is the best choice to make great photos with no hassles and lots of fun.Conversely you will need to look into the SLR category if you need greater flexibility and are more willing to spend the extra time needed to take advantage of advanced operations and creativity.The secondary consideration in the SLR category is that you are not just buying a camera but also buying into a complete system. There are many lenses and accessories within the system that can aid in creative explorations. Amongst the professional systems available on the market it is my opinion the two main brand choices are Canon and Nikon. Both provide a complete range of choices from semi-professional to the highest quality professional and have proven reliability and consistency for many years now.
You’ve already begun the next step. Research online to see what is available in your price range and has features for the type of use you have chosen. There is an abundance of information available including: manufacturer’s web pages, professional review pages, and consumer review pages. Some questions to answer are: Do you need a waterproof camera? Does it need to be small enough for a pocket? Try to find a balance between the professional reviews and some feedback from people who actually have bought and used a camera in similar ways to your plans.Research In the Store
Next go to the store. Not to buy but just to see, touch and feel. It’s important for the camera to feel comfortable in your hands and have good ergonomics. Are the main controls intuitive and easy to use? Try this, examine a camera for a few minutes then close your eyes and attempt to turn it on and snap a picture. It might help you decide which model has the most user friendly design.Ask lots of questions. Sometimes the salespeople have some good information. Of course they have no obligation to be informed or truthful so temper their answers with some healthy skepticism.
The Megapixel MythA special note here about megapixels. The question of “How many megapixels?” is probably the first one you will be asked by anyone that sees you have a new camera. At this point in the evolution of digital camera technology any camera you buy will have more megapixels than you actually need. So don’t get hung up on megapixels. It’s become more of a marketing term than an important buying consideration.
Purchase and Use
Time to buy! The great debate whether to purchase online or in an actual store persists and it comes down to personal preferences with a few cautions. First, if the offer seems to good to be true it probably is. For instance if you see one offer hundreds of dollars less maybe it does not include something essential like the battery or charger. Secondly, stick with name brand retailers for online or in store purchases as they have reputations to maintain and at least some customer service. My preference is to do all my research online but purchase in store. Even if it is a few dollars more I like to deal with a real person in a real place.
You might be asked to buy some additional accessories or insurance. My feeling is that neither is essential but sometimes it’s nice to have an extra memory card or camera case or pouch for protection.
One question I have been asked is which is better, a proprietary camera battery or a camera that uses standard batteries available in any convenience store. It comes down to this: most of the manufacturer proprietary batteries now are quite good and will generally last for a full day of shooting. If you think your typical use might be an excessive amount in a day go for the standard battery solution.
Okay now for rule number one in learning how to use a new camera. Have fun! Remember it’s digital so any “mistake” is rectified immediately with the delete button. It costs absolutely nothing to take a picture so just keep shooting. Your friends and family might seem slightly annoyed but will say thanks when you look back at the photos years later.
Every camera, whether professional or digicam will have an automatic mode and it’s the best place to start. Then as you gain some confidence start exploring and press lots of buttons as you can always return to the automatic setting. When you get a chance read the manual and try some new things.Some of the fun creative modes to explore are “macro” and “night” modes. Macro means ultra close-up and is good for things like flowers or some intricate details like a piece of jewelry. Night mode basically lets you take pictures outside at night to capture the flavor of a scene you might experience on a vacation.
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