If you are going to be buying a digital camera in the near future, read on. If you know someone else who is thinking about buying a digital camera, send them a link to this article.
It happened again this week. One of my friends said “I wish I would have done some reading on your website before I bought my digital camera.”
This happens often enough that I decided I would provide some camera suggestions, especially since it is Christmas and you might be thinking about a digital camera purchase.
I do not consider myself to be a digital photography “expert” (I will refer you to one in a minute), but I do have significant digital photography experience (20,000 photos with three digital cameras in the last two years).
The best advice I can give you is this: DON’T BUY A DIGITAL CAMERA until you read a review of the camera model you have in mind at Digital Photography Review
Unless you have a very good reason to do otherwise, don’t buy a camera unless Phil at DP Review gives it at least a RECOMMENDED rating, or better yet, a HIGHLY
RECOMMENDED rating. Since anyone can log on to this website and make comments about a camera, be sure you are reading one of Phil’s “Full Reviews.”
There are other good review sites out there. You can find them by going to my LINKS page in the section titled “DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT INFO” (lower right side of the page).
Read DP Review first, then Megapixel.net, then any other sites that interest you.
WHAT KIND OF CAMERA?
You can spend from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $8,000 or more on a digital camera. There are all-in-one, point and shoot cameras with either single focal length or zoom lenses. There are digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras with interchangeable lenses. What kind do you need and want? This is where some helpful advice from me comes in.
If you have never tried digital photography, read my intro to digital article.
One of the most important decisions is whether you want a single focal length lens or zoom (multi-focal length) lens. Advice about lens focal length is in this article and it applies to digital as well as film cameras.
My article with suggestions about choosing digital cameras is here. This article and the one that follows are updated once in a while in terms of the latest camera models that have come out. Once again, let me recommend the camera reviews at the DP Review website, plus look at my recommendations below.
EXCELLENT POINT-AND-SHOOT CAMERAS
If you are using a point and shoot film camera now, and are thinking about switching to a digital point and shoot, here are some models to check out. They are mostly Canon because they are the cameras I know best.
For a good basic digital point and shoot with a good feature set and excellent image quality, look at the Canon A70. Two of my friends have purchased this camera at my recommendation and they both love it. It is a 3 megapixel camera. If you want to make prints up to 8×10, 3 megapixels is the minimum pixel count you should get in a digital camera. Cost is less than $300 at the right places.
Used Canon G2
This is a great camera model that was discontinued when the G3 came out. The G3 has a little better image quality and a longer zoom range, but the G2 is still an excellent camera with lots of features. It has a fast lens for taking photos in low light without flash. One of my children uses a G2 and loves it. Read the G2 review at DP Review.
Canon S40 or S45 (new or used)
This is essentially a Canon G3 in a more compact package with a slower lens and a 4 megapixel sensor. If taking pictures in low light without flash is important to you, get a used G2 or a new G3. If not, the Canon S50 will be just fine.
If you don’t understand lens speed or apertures, read my EXPOSURE article in the TIPS section. (Wide apertures like f/2 or f/2.8 let in a lot more light than slower apertures like f/4 or f/5.6 of f/8. Wide apertures let in more light and result in faster shutter speeds.)
This tiny camera in the “Elph” tradition produces 4 megapixel photos. If you are looking for something small and don’t need a fast lens aperture, this could be the camera for you.
This is a wonderful camera with excellent image quality and lots of controls and features. I have taken thousands of photos with this camera. It is what I carry when I am traveling light. It has a fast lens for taking photos in low light without flash. It is referred to several times on my website, including here.
From what I read, the G3 is preferable to the newer model G5. More on this here.
There are other excellent, highly-rated cameras. Here are just a few examples. For more, go to DP Review.
The Sony DSC-F717 is a great camera with a 5x zoom range, a little more more than the Canon models listed above.
The upgrade to the F717 is the Sony DSC-F828 which has a “Preview” at the DP Review at the Preview website. The Full Review will come later.
The Nikon Coolpix 5700 is a highly rated camera with an 8x zoom range.
EXCELLENT DSLR CAMERAS
If you are new to digital, a point-and-shoot (above) may be the best way to go to get your feet wet and see if you like it. If you are using film SLR (single lens reflex) cameras and you are ready to switch to digital, then a DLSR might be just right for you. If you are using a digital point-and-shoot camera now and want the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, then the move to a DSLR might be in order.
The cameras below take Canon’s vast array of lenses. You can buy one medium focal length zoom lens and use these cameras like glorified point-and-shoot, except you can make bigger prints; and at higher ISOs (digital “film Speeds”) you will get better image quality with less digital noise (the digital equivalent of film grain). When you are ready, you can buy both wider, longer, and specialty lenses to increase your photographic possibilities.
This is a superb camera. Just read the reviews, including my own. I have now taken over 16,000 photos with this camera. The image quality is stunning and I have made excellent 20×30 inch prints from the files this camera produces.
You do need to do everything right photographically to gets excellent prints up to 20×30, just like when enlarging from film. Read this article.
The only downside to the 10D (and most other DSLR cameras) is that wide angle lenses are less wide on this camera than on a film camera. This is because the image sensor is smaller than 35mm film. A 20mm lens on the Canon 10D will give you the same angle of view as a 32mm lens on a 35mm film camera body. The focal length multiplier for the Canon 10D is 1.6, which means you multiply the focal length of your lens by 1.6 to get the equivalent field of view for a lens on a 35mm film camera. This is great for telephoto photography where everything looks bigger and closer, but not so good for wide angle photography. Most other DSLR cameras from most manufactureres have the same blessing and curse.
The Canon 10D will set you back about $1,500 from a reliable dealer.
Canon Digital Rebel
The new Digital Rebel (300D in Europe) gives you all of the image quality of the Canon 10D, but with less features in a lighter and less robust camera body for less than $900. If you get the body with the kit lens, the price is still less than $1,000. Such a deal.
I think the extra features of the 10D are worth the $600 price difference, but I could live with the Digital Rebel if the 10D did not exist. The Canon Digital Rebel is currently the most digital image quality you can get for under $1,000.
Everything you could want and more in an $8,000 package. Ouch!!
Dear Santa, For Christmas I want . . .
Used Canon D60
Unless the price is REALLY , REALLY good (well under $900), get the 10D or Digital Rebel instead. This is a fine camera (read the review at DPReview), but the 10D and Digital Rebel have better image quality.
Used Canon D30
Unless the price is really good (well under $900), get a Canon Digital Rebel for $900. If the price is well under $900, grab a Canon D30. It is a fine camera and fully capable of producing excellent 12×18 inch prints (if, as I said above, you do everything right).
Disadvantages. The autofocus is slow and images are grainier at high ISOs than with the Canon Digital Rebel or the Canon 10D. If you mostly do landscape work at low ISOs, or use flash indoors so high ISOs are not so important to you, then this camera is fine. If autofocus and fast moving subjects are important to you, don’t get this camera.
OTHER DSLR Cameras
If you have Nikon SLR film cameras and lenses, you should look at the Nikon and FUJI DSLR bodies that take Nikon lenses. Other manufacturers are coming out with DSLR bodies for their lenses. These cameras vary in quality. Read the reviews at DP Review and other review sites listed on my LINKS page.
BEST CAMERA DEALERS
The short list of dealers I have dealt with and that I trust are on the LINKS page of my website. Check out B&H Photo first for new equipment. They are my “Alpha Supplier.” If someone has a price that is a lot better than B&H, be suspicious. Several other good new and used equipment dealers are also listed.
Beware of buying “gray market” merchandise unless you really know what you are doing.
Danger! A lot of the camera equipment dealers on the Internet will steal you blind in more ways than you can image. Buyer beware. Don’t deal with anyone you can’t check out. Always use a credit card for Internet purchases. Don’t use a debit card.
Local camera stores may or may not have good prices. Some behind the counter folks at your local camera store may really know what they are talking about, but many do not. You never know when you are being sold an inferior model because the salesperson is getting some special kickback. The situation is even worse when it comes to advice at the big discount electronic stores. I have heard terrible advice at these places. Good prices, sometimes. Advice, no! Buyer beware.
Trust DP Review for camera model ratings. Take Phil’s word over behind the counter clerks when it comes to camera comparisons.
Most of the questions this article will stir up will be answered by one of the article’s on my website.
I hope this helps in your camera quest.
Happy Camera Hunting!