With such a range of great cameras available, here are some pointers about buying one either for yourself or a loved one.
There are two main kinds of cameras: point and shoot and single lens reflex. The point and shoot – or P&S – is usually a compact unit, often able to fit into a pocket or handbag. It’s usually lower in price and has a fixed lens, as well as a delay between the shutter being pressed and the photograph being taken. A single lens reflex (or SLR) on the other hand, does not have a discernable delay, but costs more and is bulkier.
So, which one is right for you? The short answer is either, depending on how you want to use your camera. If you want a compact unit to keep close to you at all times, then the P&S is going to be the best choice. If you have chosen this, other factors to take into consideration include:
– Are you going to be using it in dark conditions without a flash (you’ll need a high ISO of at least 800)
– Do you want to override the automatic controls sometimes? If so, you’ll want the camera to have manual settings.
– Do you want to take photographs without the subjects being very aware? If so, you’ll want a good optical zoom.
You might want to choose an SLR if you have a little more time and/or don’t mind carrying around something bulkier. Also, because the camera takes the photograph virtually as soon as you press the shutter, it’s often the only reliable way to capture fast-moving babies and children.
If you’re going for this option, not only do you want to choose the right camera, but you also have a choice of lenses. These are what are going to make a huge amount of difference to you. There are two main measurements that you want to take note of. One is the kind of lens it is: wide angle – typically 14-35mm, standard (50mm – based on what the human eye can see) and telephoto. Most SLRs are sold with a zoom lens which covers about 28-70mm.
The other SLR lens measurement that’s very important is its aperture, or how much light it lets in; the lower the number, the more light it lets in. Most zoom lenses will start about 2.8 or 3.5. If you choose a lens that has an aperture of up to 1.4, for instance, it’s going to be able to let in twice the light of the 2.8 lens.
So, if you’re buying an SLR camera, you need to ask yourself:
– Are you going to be using it in dark conditions without a flash (you’ll need a high ISO and/or a fast lens, like a 1.4)
– What lenses are going to suit the kind of photography you want to do? I’d suggest starting with the typical zoom lens it is sold with, and seeing how that works for you before spending anything further. If you need more light, then add a lens with a 1.4 or 2.8 aperture; if you want your subject to look closer, then a telephoto lens, perhaps 70-200mm is worth investigating. If you’re not sure about the investment, you can always hire one for a day or the weekend to check.
Once you’ve decided which direction to go in, you could pick up a camera magazine or website with the latest models to balance your budget against your wishlist in order of importance. One good site for reviews is dpreview.
The camera that is right for you is the one you’re going to use.