Sunday, July 12, 2009

What camera should I buy?

People often ask me this. My response, after checking whether they want a digital or a film camera, usually consists of three main points:
  • In the current market, it's hard to go wrong. No camera you buy today (assuming you spend more than about $20) will be a waste of your money. They all work—no, actually, they're all quite good. But some of them won't be good for you, because they won't do what you want. So,
  • Decide in advance what features you want. Do you want a heavy, but flexible and fast, SLR, or do you want a take-it-anywhere point and shoot? Do you want a viewfinder or just an LCD on the back? Do you need to be able to use a tripod, a cable or remote trigger release or an external flash? Does it need to be waterproof, shockproof, childproof, dog-proof? Do you want to be able to take over control of the technical issues, or would you rather trust the camera to figure it all out for you every time?
  • Finally, when you've used your feature set to come up with a short list of possible options, go to a camera shop and actually pick the things up. Try them in your hand for size and weight. Take a few photos: Are you happy with what you see? Is it quick enough for you?
I really cannot stress enough the last point, given how little there is technically between many modern digital cameras. Any decent camera shop will let you play with a demo model before you hand over that much of your hard-earned cash—and you can always find one or two techies on staff who will be happy to answer your questions and help you decide. But please: do consider whether the privelege and service is worth paying a little extra for, before you rush home to buy your camera online for $20 less.

By the way, there's a good list of links to other pages of advice and suggestions in this post by Brian Auer.

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