You’re Ready to Buy a Digital Camera … But Which One Should YOU Buy?

Elvis Elvis

You’re probably ready to buy a digital camera if you’re …

… A proud new parent (or grandparent, like me!), shown here with my granddaughter, Ashlyn,

… Someone getting ready to go on the vacation trip of a lifetime,

… A mom or dad who wants great actions shots of your child on the soccer field or at their piano recital,

… An avid gardener who wants beautiful closeups of your favorite flowers to display on the kitchen wall,

… Someone who needs to take digital photos at work (i.e. a realtor, insurance appraiser, contractor),

… An artist who wants to record images of your work,

… The person who’s assigned to take group pictures at the church picnic, or

… All of the above.

I’m going to assume that you’re probably not a professional photographer or a techno-anything, and that you’re most interested in buying a digital camera to get quality pictures of your favorite subjects with the least amount of hassle possible. And you need to have a better understanding of pricing, functions, quality, and all that kind of stuff.

You’ve probably taken photos before – with the trusty old point-and-shoot or the ancient 35mm camera you (or your dad) brought back from Viet Nam. But now there’s this new “toy” out there – this slick new digital camera that everyone seems to be telling you you MUST buy.

Youre Ready to Buy a Digital Camera ... But Which One Should YOU Buy?

Only problem is – you have absolutely no idea which one to buy, how to decide which features you REALLY need, how much you’ll need to spend … and – most frightening of all! – what the heck you do with the pictures once you’ve taken them and they’re stored on something called a Compact Flash card or a Memory Stick.

I’ve been taking pictures for more than thirty years … and the one thing I’ve always hated about talking to other photographers (and photo salespeople) is that many of them seem to fall into a discussion (most often a sermon!) about their favorite technique, or latest trick … or their favorite brand of camera or lens or computer software … when all I really care about is the picture.

Sadly, many “camera people” are much like many “computer people” – they become so caught up in the lingo and fancy hardware – tools and tricks – that they forget about the main objective of taking photos in the first place – getting to the final picture that makes you happy.

So here’s the plain English lowdown:

Digital cameras today fall into two basic categories

“POINT & SHOOTS” (compact)
SLRs (single lens reflex)

There are two primary differences:

1. Point and Shoot cameras are all one piece (body and lens), while SLRs come in two pieces – the body + a lens that you choose to go with it. (In the case of many SLRs available today you have the option of choosing a “kit.” That means a camera body and lens that are bundled together for a single price.)

2. Point and Shoots are smaller, lighter in weight, and, of course, generally less expensive than SLRs.

Does that mean that Point and Shoots are for “amateurs” and SLRs are for “professionals”?

Maybe. Maybe not.

I know more than a few professional photographers who do much of their work with a Point and Shoot. And they obviously get “professional” results, otherwise they simply wouldn’t use them.

Because, to tell the truth, some of the more advanced Point and Shoots are superior in some ways to some of the SLRs out there today, because they offer the finest quality lenses, very impressive zoom ranges and high resolutions (6 or even 8 megapixels). In other words, they provide the functions and quality for some (not all) professional jobs … at a good price.

Case in point: A couple of years ago I bought a Nikon Coolpix 5700 and found it excellent for creating some high quality images that I have sold successfully. That camera – which is no longer being made – had a very sharp 8x zoom lens made of Nikon’s highest quality (ED) glass, and I consistently made prints as large as 12×18 inches with it.

In fact, I wish I still had it. But, as sometimes happens, I had an opportunity to move up to a full-featured digital SLR not too long ago. So that’s what I’m shooting with now – a Nikon D100 .., and I’ve got my eye on the even newer Nikon D200. (Please, don’t tell my wife!)

But that little 5700 was so great! It fit into the front pocket of my photo vest. I carried it everywhere I went.

Okay, okay. Yeah, some of my snooty professional photo friends sneered at me and my little point and shoot. But the people who have photos that I created with it don’t seem to mind. In fact, some of them have paid me quite well for shots I did with my little camera.

So here are the four basic steps to buying a digital camera that’s right for you:

1. Decide how much you want to spend.

2. Do some research. Pay attention to features, quality of construction, accessories, that sort of thing. Then …

3. Get your hands on a few different models and see how they “fit.”

4. Buy from a knowlegable dealer.

But once you’ve done your research go to a REAL camera store to make a purchase whenever possible. There’s just nothing like getting real hands-on information from a person who KNOWS what they’re talking about.

And, in appreciation for all the help they’re going to give you before and AFTER the sale, buy from them.