Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Quick Guide to Buying a Digital Camera

My small camera collection :x

Since I'm quite into photography, I get asked about digital cameras alot. Which one should I buy? Is this one good?

Most of the time, these people are talking about point-and-clicks and the users plan on taking casual pictures of friends and family.

When it comes to point-and-clicks, it's not too difficult to find a good, cheap camera.
If you follow these simple guidelines, you'll find a camera that is a perfect match for you....

Form vs. Function
The first thing you need to decide when looking for a digital camera is what you value more, form or function?

The more you want the camera to do (manual modes, scene modes, more zoom), the bigger it's going to get.

If you're willing to sacrifice easy menu access and some more advanced features, you can get a smaller and thinner camera.

For most users, form is usually better. Something pocketable is better then a big camera with features you're never going to use anyway.

Megapixels don't really matter
The first thing somebody mentions when they talk about their digital cameras is the megapixel count. Really, this stopped being an issue, like, 5 years ago when 3.2 megapixels was standard.

Why? Because megapixels are there to tell you how big you can print your photos. With 3.2 megapixels, you can print high quality 5x7 pictures (I even printed 8x10's with good results with my old Canon SD110).

According to, 6 megapixels will yield high quality 11x14 prints and 8 megapixels can print whopping 16x20 prints.

Since the few people who actually print their photos usually go with 4x6 prints, they can choose any modern camera, regardless of megapixel count.

Brand Does Matter
When it comes to things like computers and socks, I always say brand doesn't matter. If it has good parts in it, it'll be good.

But when it comes to digital cameras, I find that brand plays a big role.

The main reason is because, unlike computers, which all share parts and software, digital cameras all have unique sensors and software. Some companies make it well, some do not.

I have strong brand loyalty to Canon, especially when it comes to digital cameras. They have good imaging sensors, intuitive software, and they are always well reviewed. So if you were to ask me what kind of digital camera to buy, I would tell you stick with Canon.

However, if you're looking for a more balanced look at digital camera reviews, there are two really great resources: DPReview and Steve's Digicams.
Both have detailed camera reviews and they also have "Best Cameras" lists, which are super useful.

And if you'll notice, you won't see any generic brands up on their lists.

Don't overspend
As I mentioned before, megapixels don't matter. With that said, there is no reason for an average Joe to spend too much money on a camera.

You can pick up a perfectly good camera with lots of features for 250 or less.

That way, if in 2-3 years you want a newer, nicer camera, you won't feel as guilty.

Don't Buy Warranty
One last tip, don't bother with warranties. Most don't cover accidents such as dropping, and repairing individual parts of a camera is almost always too expensive to be worth it. You're probably better off putting the money you would use on a warranty on accessories (memory card, camera case) or save it for your next camera purchase.

So like with most electronics warranties, don't bother.

PS. Buy a 2gb memory card. They're cheap and big enough that you won't ever need to buy another memory card.


Anonymous said...

nice. i need to buy one soon. prob a canon.

Jen Shin said...

I've had my Canon PowerShot for about 3 years, and I love it. Easy to use menu, great resolution, and I bedazzled the front of it. =D