Too Many Cameras, Part One

by the Uncle on July 6, 2007

in Equipment, the Uncle

I am not a professional photographer nor a photo guru- I am a computer hobbyist. What this means is that most of the people I know (often including family members) ask me questions any time they need help with anything even remotely connected with computers, including tech items that can connect with computers. This includes digital photography, of course.

I have the feeling that a large percentage of Snapshot Chronicles readers will already have a camera, but in the hope of helping someone who is still in the process of choosing one, I am going to write a few entries with some of the suggestions I give to people when they ask my opinion about cameras. Normally it does NOT take me long to narrow things down to a range of cameras, but that is “conversation” compared to writing. I’ll try to hit all of my bullet points here.

My first posts are going to address the plethora of available digital cameras and how in the WORLD to pick one.

The first step in choosing a digital camera has nothing to do with the camera itself; it is about how you plan to USE your camera. What you want to do with it, what you want it to be able to do and exactly where your priorities lie. To get the results you want, you first have to well and truly understand what your digital photography goal IS.

The most common photography is the easiest- snapshots. Quick and easy pictures that can be taken with little or no effort and without having to read a 200 page manual. Turn it on, press a button and voila: picture! Digital cameras of this type range widely in price and features but will be easy to use and, with the cameras available now, generally provide good quality at a fairly low price. Digital snapshot cameras range in price from under $100 (USD) to around $300 (USD). Snapshot cameras are similar to traditional film cameras in that they are not so good at action pictures, and will have a “sweet spot” in picture taking range: too close or too far away and the quality will suffer somewhat. Since most snapshots are taken between maybe 5 to 20 feet this will not usually be an issue, BUT- If you plan to do extreme close-ups or a lot of panoramic landscapes you may be better served by a camera with more features.

The cheapest cameras that would be considered “snapshot” cameras usually DO have a setting for either close or distant (usually signified by a portrait or landscape image) but results vary widely. These cameras are the cheapest and fit at the bottom of the category generally called “consumer” cameras.

The upper range of digital cameras are the Professional cameras- the kind photography pros use to earn a living. Pro-level digital cameras are amazing, but have the same caveats that professional film cameras have: high cost and the college course required to operate them…

Kidding, of course but the Pro-level cameras are complex and to really get your money’s worth is likely to take some time and effort. But at least you won’t have to waste a lot of money getting pictures that turn out to be garbage developed while you learn how to use one. 🙂

The middle of the range digital camera is sometimes called “Prosumer” level. Pretty much anything between point-and-shoot and the Pro cameras. Most digital cameras fit somewhere in this category, with style and features varying widely. Choosing which prosumer camera to get is still complex, but if you have a good understanding of how you REALLY want to use your camera it will be a lot easier.

Next post: my “hot points”- the questions I consider most important in choosing a digital camera.

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