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An Easy Guide To Buying Consumer Cameras

If you have the slightest technical bend or inclination to know and measure the equipment specs. stop now. You should buy a DSLR. But if you just want to buy a camera that shoots good photographs on the press of a button keep reading…

Though cameras come in a wide range and variety, there are two broad kinds – consumer cameras and professional cameras. The professional cameras are meant for the pros who make a living out of their photography work while consumer cameras have a different story.

Consumer cameras are the ones that you feel comfortable handing to your kids to shoot your portrait. They have quite some intelligence built into them (face detection, scene detection, etc) and if all you need is a colorful photograph of yours or your family or holidays or just your pet it’s time to take a look at consumer cameras. Without going into the fine details, the consumer cameras are further divided into small categories; point and shoot are the entry level cameras – losing one won’t hurt. Compacts are slightly larger and bulkier but have more functions while the prosumer cameras allow more control with more features while being bulkier of all. Depending on your budget and your requirements you’ll want to choose one. Here’s what you should look for.

  1. Image Stabilization

    One of the most common faults in everyday photographs is the blur that is introduced by the camera or the hand shake. Don’t trust on your camera holding techniques. Make sure your camera features an image stabilization technique because that’s one thing that will make a big difference to your pictures.

  2. ISO

    This is the sensitivity of the camera or the sensor. A good camera should feature a good range of ISO starting from ISO-100 to maybe ISO-800 or beyond. In a point and shoot you’ll have a night mode instead of an ISO so that you can shoot night scenes instead of fiddling with the ISO.

  3. Zoom

    Zoom is one of the favorite controls which always comes handy. When you want to take a close-up this is what you will need. Cameras rate zoom range in multiples of the original. Eg. 4x means you can zoom in four times. It is common to find cameras which have a 12x zoom good enough to shoot the large moon or a big sun during the sunset.

  4. Picture Transfer

    All digital cameras come with USB port so you can transfer pictures to the printer or the computer. Go a step ahead and look for WiFi and get rid of the cable.

  5. LCD Screen

    The larger the better though you should never trust the LCD screen. You’ll always be disappointed by the dirty details you’ll get to see when the picture is seen full size on the computer.

  6. Red Eye Reduction

    At night when you use the flash, it reflects back from the subjects eyes and comes out red. The final picture looks horrible. Your camera should feature red eye reduction (a common feature nowadays but do check). However, if your camera doesn’t feature one, you can always remove those scary red eyes later in the image editor. Check out the tutorial for same here.

  7. Manual Control

    This is a bit like asking for too much but it’s a good-to-have thing. If you can turn a control and take control of the shutter-speed and aperture and ISO nothing like it. Comes very hands when you have learned the basics (the day won’t be far off) and if you have these you’ll want to hold on to your camera rather than willing to dump it and buy a DSLR.

  8. Battery

    Very important – half the trips turn into disasters when your only battery runs out. Make sure it’s rechargeable or an AA size so that you can get one from the roadside. Always carry backup.

  9. Movie / Video Mode

    Just when you were convinced freezing and framing and immortalizing the sweet moments in life was a good idea that good old friend will ask you “Does your camera shoot movies?” Prepare for that day, and either ways you’ll want to record the moments when your newborn stands for the first time and takes his first stroll — doesn’t happen everyday and you don’t want to miss it.

  10. Fancy Features

    Check what else the camera can do beyond the above. New features like face detection and smile detection are getting common. You may never use them but they are good to have and brag about — you never know who asks.

What else would you like to see in your camera? I’m a DSLR user but I find a consumer camera handy for casual trips so I’m buying one. Which one do you own?

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11 comments… add one
  • John Buck Nov 1, 2011 @ 0:13

    Red-eye is more prevalent in fair-skinned, blondes in dim light, but can occur in just about anyone in the right condition. About dual flash: one great thing about compact flash cameras vs DSLRs is the handy “Night Portrait” scene mode. It works perfectly in pitch black scenes where you want to light the subject but also expose the background light, such as a lit castle.
    It has never failed me and I cannot reproduce this easily with my Canon 5D Mark II.

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