When it comes to cameras, there are two main types. Film or digital. First thing you want to know when you are buying a camera, is that anyone you talk to will tell you a different story on what they think is right. This is because it really comes down to preference. The camera manufacturers do a good job on making cameras for the most part. The main factor is how much you are willing to spend.
Film or Digital?
This is the classic question when it comes to cameras. Each one has their own advantages over the other. I think it's fair to say digital has become really popular in the last few years and it's the most common used now days.
The main advantage of film is that each photo you take is just a negative. This negative can then be processed at pretty much any size you want, from a standard 5x7 to a large 40x40 if you wanted. With digital photos, you will end up losing quailty with enlargements (you can go large but not as large as film). The other advantage of film is that the camera body is usually much cheaper than to a digital camera body. With film you also have the ability to have a little more control over the photo than digital.
The main dis-advantage of film is that you cannot see your photo after you take it. You will have to wait until you develop the film. This is what makes it tough for beginners to learn, because you can't see if you messed up a certain photo until you develop it. Film cameras take film (duh), so you must keep buying rolls of film over and over. Another disadvantage is that most of the time you must print the whole roll off and pay for photos you may not really want printed (unlike digital).
The advantage to digital cameras is that you can see your photos right away. You can see if you accidentally didn't get something into the photo and right away take another photo instead. Another advantage is that it will be arguably cheaper in the long run, because you will not have to buy rolls of film all the time. You only have to print the ones you like (unlike film where you pretty much have to get each one printed). If your camera has RAW mode, it's a lot like a film negative. You will be able to edit the photo later and change the exposure and balances of the photo. Digital photos make it easy to share your photos with others, simply put them from your camera to your computer.
As stated before, you will not be able to enlarge digital photos as large as film photos. You will start losing quailty in bigger prints. Digital camera bodys are generally most expensive than the film model, so from the start it can be more expensive. You generally have a little less control of a digital photo.
Summary of Film vs Digital:
Film is more tradional and allows for top quailty enlargement but is not cost-effective. If you are looking to take a lot of photos or if you are new to cameras, get a digital one.
Digital: Point-And-Shoot vs SLR's
Point-And-Shoot cameras are usually the cheap ones. They usually have mostly all automatic modes, which automatically choose your aperature and exposure values for you. This is great for beginners because you won't really have set anything your self hence point and shoot, you just need to point to the object you want and click the button to take the photo. This is not so good when you want full control over a photo. You won't be able to have more of a creative control of it. You are forced to the cameras choices. They usually have fixed lenses, which means you will not have the ability to upgrade your zooming.
Most Point-And-Shoot cameras have a LCD view finder. This means that you can see in real time everything. The screen is like a video camera screen, in that you can see what you'll be photographing without sticking your face close to the camera. Although, it is convenient, it also wastes a lot of battery. Most of the time you will have re-chargable AA's batteries for your camera, which is nice because you can simply replace your batteries with regular AA's if they go dead. Although, battery life isn't as good as a SLR.
SLR's will give you full control over the photos, but you will pay for that freedom. It's really a must if you are taking photography seriously, as you will be able to experiment with it. The good thing about most SLR's is that it will give you all those manual options or you can still have automatic settings, where the camera will setting everything for you. SLR's will have removable lenses, that way you can upgrade lenses for different reasons like zooming or taking macro photos.
Most SLR's will not have a LCD view finder. Which means you will have to actually look through the 'old fashion' view finder. Although, it may be inconvenient, it will save a ton of battery. Most SLR's come with an Lithium battery. Which is much like a video camera battery and it is re-chargable. You can get great life with it, usually over 500 photos per charge. You can also charge at anytime without running into the 'Overcharge problem' with a non-Lithium battery.
Summary of Point-And-Shoot vs SLR's:
If you don't care to have full control over a photo or are a beginner to photography or don't want to spend that much for a camera, get a Point-And-Shoot. If you want to have full control over all settings or want to become a serious photographer, get an SLR.
Things to look for in Point-And-Shoot Cameras:
You won't really have to worry about the lens with that price range, most of them will be fixed lens anyways. That means you wouldn't be able to take them off and replace them.
You'll want to look for atleast 3-4 Megapixels, right now, that shouldn't be hard at all. The more megapixels the camera supports, the larger demensions you can take photos at (aka higher resolution). Try to find one in your price range with the most megapixels.
As for models, I used to have a Sony Cybershot, it served me well. Canon makes some nice powershots and there A-Series aren't too bad either.
Most point and shoot cameras will have mostly the same shooting features, make sure it has the basic modes; Macro, Night Shot, Portrait, and Sports.
Also, with a fixed lens, you'll want to try and get the camera that has the most zoom. Digital zoom doesn't matter as much as the real Optical zoom. Look for a camera that has atleast 3x zoom, the more the better.
Doesn't matter if your using film or digital it's good to know some of the basic photography terms. Keep in mind, most point-and-shoot cameras only have automatic mode so you really won't have to set any manual settings, every is done for you. With all SLR's you have automatic settings plus full manual setting control, which means you can set the aperture, shutter speed, etc if you choose.
= Is a small hole that in the lens that can change it's size (diameter) to control the amount of light it allows in. Also, the aperture diameter is expressed in f-stops. Which means, the larger the aperture the more light the picture will have.
= The shutter speed is a measurement of how long its shutter remains open when a picture is taken. When the shutter speed is set to 1/120 means that the shutter will be open for exactly 1/125th of one second. The shutter speed and aperture together control the total amount of light reaching the sensor. So the longer you have the shutter speed, the more time light has to enter. This is how you achieve those cool photos you see at night will 'trails of light' all over the place.
= It refers to film speed but in the digital world it will assit you in lighting conditions. Meaning, if it's a dark room, poorly lit room, you can set the ISO speed high (like ISO 1600) and it will 'provide' better lit for the picture. However, the overall quality of the photo will turn out worse the higher the ISO. So for a normal outside during the day photo, you would use an ISO of about 100.
Depth of Field
= The distance between the closest and farthest in-focus portion of a photo. It's also referred to as the focal range. A large depth of field means that a large area both in front and behind your main subject will appear sharp. A small depth of field means that anything other than your main focus point will appear blurred. A smaller f-stop (f2) will create a shallow depth of field. A larger f-stop (f11) will create a greater depth of field.
= This is the total amount of light that your camera captures while taking a photo. Too much light can create an overexposed image while not enough light can result in an underexposed photograph. An overexposed photograph is lighter than it should be and an underexposed photograph is darker than it should be. Exposure is the result of a combination of aperture size
and shutter speed
. Sometimes photos can turn out better if they are a little bit over or under exposed.
= It's a measure of the rate of brightness values that change in the image. A high contrast image has a narrow range of relative brightness values. High contrast means darker colors are darker and lighter colors are lighter. For most images, increasing the constrast can bring out details of the image better. An example of good contrast between objects is, a black cat in front of a white wall. This allows the viewer to focus in on the cat even better. An example of bad contrast would be, a black cat in front of a black (or dark) wall. The two objects would not stick out as much instead blend in together.
= A one to one (1:1) or higher magnification of a subject captured on film. An example would be if it was 3 to one (3:1) the subject in the photo would appear 3 times as big as it is in normal life. Which means the photo is a result of zooming in very closely to an object.
Where to buy cameras online:
When it comes to purchasing a camera you can find some great deals online, most of the time even better than a local store. There are a few sites you can visit and they will give you the lowest prices among all the different stores on the internet.
-- This is my favorite place to search.
-- Another similar search site.
Where to get info on a specific camera:
Once you have a few cameras in mind, you should make sure you read up on it first. Finding out what others thought of the camera is a good thing, could help to narrow down choices.
-- Great resources with tons of reviews on cameras.
Last updated: March, 05 2006