If you need a good camera while on the go, I'd recommend that you start by comparing compact models. They're easier on the wallet and fit into a pocket or purse. Compact cameras typically range from 2 to 7 megapixels of resolution. Their picture quality can be outstanding, but they usually don't offer the array of features and controls that larger models do. The zoom lens tend to be 3X, which translates into 35-105mm for most models.
After you listen to this week's podcast, use this handy checklist to help you, or a friend, find the right digital camera. I recommend that you print it out, then mark the features that are important to you. Then bring it with you to the store.
Compact Camera Features Checklist
- ( ) 3-5 megapixels -- great snapshots, quality enlargements possible up to 8" x 10"
- ( ) 5-8 megapixels -- quality prints possible up to 11" x 14", ability to crop and still have enough resolution for decent sized enlargements
Memory Card (Spare Recommended)
- ( ) Are the read and write speed specifications of your spare memory card matched to camera for maximum performance? This is particularly important for cameras that have robust burst modes and high quality video capture. Generally speaking, you'll need a spare 256MB card for 3-4 MP cameras, 512MB for 5-7MP cameras, and a 1GB card if you plan on shooting any video.
Batteries (Spare Recommended)
- ( ) Rechargeable Lithium -- most common these days. Designed specifically for the camera by the manufacturer
- ( ) Rechargeable NiMH AAs -- Are more bulky, but you can always use regular AA alkalines in an emergency
- ( ) Charger included in camera kit?
- ( ) Charger compact and easy to pack?
- ( ) Fixed back -- Mounted to the back of the camera
- ( ) Vari-angle -- can swivel screen, and sometimes rotate. Versatile viewing options for shooting low angle compositions or for holding the camera about your head.
- ( ) Screen size -- 1.5" to 2.5" Bigger is better if you like to show others your pictures on the camera's LCD monitor
- ( ) Image quality -- sharp, smooth motion, rich colors
- ( ) Magnification -- allows to "zoom in" on recorded images to study detail. Very useful function, but some cameras implement this better than others
- ( ) Data viewing -- enables to review settings such as white balance, ISO, and flash
- ( ) Settings for built-in flash easily accessible
Shooting and Exposure Modes
- ( ) Continuous or Burst mode -- How many frames can be recorded without pause to write to memory card
- ( ) Subject shooting modes -- predefined settings for action photography, as well as portraits, nature, low light, and close-up
- ( ) Self-Timer -- Some models have 2 sec and 10 sec settings
- ( ) Remote Control -- Is a remote control included in the kit or available as an accessory?
- ( ) Macro -- How close can you focus?
- ( ) Are settings easily accessible?
- ( ) Is there a good variety or white balance presets?
- ( ) Is there a manual white balance setting for tricky lighting situations?
- ( ) Is the exposure compensation setting easy to get to, or buried deep within the menu?
- ( ) Movie mode -- records QuickTime video at 10, 15, or 30 frames per second and/or at 160x120, 320x240, or 640x480 pixel dimensions
- ( ) Panorama mode -- provides visual guides in the LCD viewfinder for aligning overlaping frames for panorama images
- ( ) Special effects -- usually includes Black & White mode, sepia, and vivid colors
- ( ) Audio annotations -- enables to add short voice recording to images
- ( ) Weather resistant -- provides for photography in rain or sometimes even shallow immersion. Is there an underwater housing available for your model?
- ( ) Bundled software -- How good is the included software for special camera functions such as creating panoramas?
- ( ) Will your new camera work with your existing photo software?
Listen to the Podcast
Hope you enjoy today's audio show titled, "Compact Camera Buying Tips" You can download the podcast here (46 minutes).