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What to Consider When Buying A Digital Camera

There are basically three types of digital cameras available:

 a-      Digital Single Lens Reflex  (DSLR) – DSLRs operate like normal 35mm film cameras, have interchangeable lenses, have more features, allow for more image control, and provide better overall images than standard digital cameras (although the lens you use can play an important part). DSLRs produce images as follows - light enters through the lens, then enters a light box (camera body), reflects off a mirror, then reflects off a pentaprism or pentamirror, then exits through an optical viewfinder. When an actual picture is taken the mirror flips up and the light hits a digital sensor.

b- Mirrorless Interchangable Lens Camera (MILC), or Electronic Viewfinder Interchangable Lens (EVIL) - this type of camera is fairly new. It has a large sensor similar in size with entry level DSLRs. It has interchangable lenses, no mirror, and provides image quality close to that of a DSLR. Because it has no mirror the camera and lenses are smaller and lighter than the DSLR system.

 b-     Point and Shoot/Compact – The difference between P&S and Compact cameras are that a point and shoot is basically just that. You point the camera at your subject, click the shutter, and the camera does all the work, from focusing, adjusting the aperture, shutter speed, etc.  Most P&S cameras do allow you to have some control if you want to, such as adjusting white balance. Compact cameras are usually more advanced than P&S cameras. They usually have longer zoom ranges, allow for manual settings, and often allow for filters or additional lenses to be added to the existing lens. The actual camera lens is not removable. P&S cameras are usually smaller than Compact cameras. Compact cameras usually resemble traditional 35mm film cameras in appearance and are also referred to as Super Zooms since many now have a 10x zoom lens, or more.

 There are several things to consider when buying a digital camera. Here are some of the more important ones:

 1.      Price – How much are you willing to spend? This should not only include the cost of the camera, but extras that  you might need or want, such as batteries, memory cards, camera case, additional lenses and filters (for DSLRs and some compacts as well), tripod, lens cleaning kit, software to post process your images.

2.      What are you taking your photos for? Are they just for the web? Do you plan on printing them? If so what size, 4x6 snapshots for grandma, or larger high quality prints?

3.      Does speed matter? If you plan on shooting lots of sports or action shots a DSLR is the way to go. You’ll also need a proper lens for this kind of photography. Most P&S and Compacts have a 1 or 2 second lag time when you turn it on, focus on your subject, and when it actually takes the photo after you push the shutter button. That’s about six seconds after you decided you wanted to take your photo. Even if you leave the camera on it’s still around four seconds. You’ll  miss the shot every time.

4.      What type of photos are you taking? Family and friends, wildlife, landscapes? Will you be needing a 12x zoom, or is a 3x zoom sufficient?

5.      Does the size of the camera matter? Does it have to be small enough to fit into a shirt pocket or purse, or is it ok if you carry it around in a case slung over your shoulder?

6.      What level of a photographer are you? Are you strictly an amateur who is content on letting the camera do all the work? Are you an advanced photographer who likes to control the camera settings? Are you someone in the middle who would like to learn as you go along and use more advanced camera features as your photography skills improve?

There are many good camera review sites on the web to help you make your decision. Whatever you do, don’t rush into buying a camera. Do some research first. If you can, try out the camera before you buy it. Sometimes a camera just doesn’t feel right in your hands. Also, find out if the manufacturer is releasing a new model in the near future. You might want to hold off with your purchase for a month or two. It’s frustrating to buy a camera only to have an updated model released a month later with twice as many features for only a few dollars more. It's happened to me before. But don’t wait forever. Sooner or later a new camera will come out with new and improved features, but that will always be the case.

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