Choosing a Digital Camera: Ask Yourself These Questions

To assist you in buying a digital camera that does what YOU want it to do, ask yourself a series of questions.

What kind of photography do I plan to do?

This Roseate Spoonbill was captured at South Padre Island Nature and Birding Center, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The number one variable is anticipated use. What type of photography interests you?

Will you be photographing landscapes, birds and animals, close-ups of flowers and butterflies, people, or sports? This will determine the focal length of the lens you need and whether you need a wide angle lens, zoom lens, or macro lens.

This will rule in and out many cameras and narrow the field.

Landscape photography requires lighter and less complicated equipment, but it demands skills, lenses, and filters that will capture fine details and resolve contrast issues.

The Sony A57 is a new interchangeable lens camera that uses Sony’s unique Translucent Mirror Technology to offer high-speed shooting and a smaller body size. (Source: dpreview.com)

The Sony A57 is a new interchangeable lens camera that uses Sony’s unique Translucent Mirror Technology to offer high-speed shooting and a smaller body size. (Source: dpreview.com)

Wildlife photography requires a camera body with the ability to capture quick sequences and long lenses.

Close-up photography requires macro lenses and flash.

And the photographer who wants to do everything (that’s me) can expect to carry a very heavy bag and a second mortgage.

There are trade-offs. Even if you can afford it, can you physically handle a heavy, professional camera, and the long, bulky lenses and the tripod they require?

If fast action, distant birds, or special effects aren’t a consideration, almost any compact point and shoot will help with your vacation, family get-togethers, and casual shooting.

If essentially the opposite is the case meaning sports, nature and wildlife, night shooting, and more are your fancy, the obvious answer is a D-SLR.

What matters most to me in a camera?

  • Size?
  • Weight?
  • Number of features?
  • Number of automatic shooting modes?
  • Zoom range?
  • Battery life?
  • Lens aperture (faster is better)?
  • ISO range?
  • Ease of use?
  • Size of dials and buttons?
  • Overall design?
  • Size of sensor?
  • Number of megapixels?
  • Image quality?
  • Type of viewfinder?
  • Video capability?
  • Frame rate (shooting speed)?
  • Interchangeable lens?
  • Color?

How much money do I plan to spend?

Prices vary from under $200 for a point-and-shoot compact digital to over $8,000 for a professional D-SLR. Work out where you fit in and remember to include accessories—memory cards, spare battery, carrying bags and cases, filters, lens, tripod with ball head, sensor cleaning supplies (cleaning fluid, cleaning tissue, microfiber cleaning cloth, brush, and blower), and knee pads.

How easy is the camera to use?

The D7000 is a fantastic step up camera for those who have outgrown entry level digital SLRs or for those who want to upgrade from older mid-range models. (Source: dpreview.com)

Digital cameras come with a whole range of dials, buttons, switches, and shooting modes. Some are much easier to operate than others.

Before you buy any camera, handle it and see if you can get your finger on most of the controls and read the menus (even if you’re not sure what they mean yet). And see how bright the LCD viewing screen is when you’re standing by a window.

You’ll find numerous shooting modes from which to select—automatic, landscape, portrait mode, macro, sports, sunset/sunrise, beach, fireworks, etc. These modes will optimize settings under different conditions. These creative modes, however, do not guarantee creative pictures.

Please Note: This is the fifth in a series of stories on Digital Photography and RVing

Worth Pondering…

Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times…I just shoot at what interests me at that moment.

—Elliott Erwitt

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