Digital Camera buying tip

Buying a new digital point and shoot camera can be confusing. If you are an amateur photographer, you will be bewildered by all the funky terms used for marketing. This is a concise and brief guide on how to narrow down your choices into the one digital camera that best suits your need. Make sure you get a basic idea about camera settings before you buy any camera.

Budget

You should fix your budget first. This will help you narrow down your options very much. By setting a budget do not assume you should just set an upper limit. Go for a price range and search for a good camera in that range. Being a starter it is safe to set a $50 range. For example look for cameras in the $150 to $200 category. Once you have set your budget, stick with it.

Which brand?

It is always better to put your eggs in a reputed brands basket. Go for brands like Canon, Nikon, Sony etc. All are pretty good. Once you have narrowed down by price, go to a store front and take pictures on those cameras, see for yourself how they look. In my personal experience which includes around 50 cameras from different brands, Canons have been found to have much better image quality in the point and shoot segment. But do not take my word, go and try some cameras for yourself and find out which is the best one for you.

Ergonomics

As a beginner, ease of use is going to be a primary concern. When you are checking out cameras, switch them on and check for ease of use. Note how easy it is to take pictures in automatic mode, setting flash, setting macro mode, deleting pictures, playing slide show etc. Use the camera to feel where the switches are placed.

How many Megapixel do I need?

Megapixel count is one of the most popular marketing gimmick used in point an shoot segment. People tend to fall for the bigger numbers for obvious reasons. Think about what your primary use of the pictures would be. If your main use would be to share pictures online, you definitely do not need that 12MP camera. Higher megapixel are primarily aimed for printing. There are chances that you will never print 99% of the images you take. Another thing with the higher megapixel count is that as the size of the sensor remains same and more and more megapixel are crushed in, the amount of light per pixel will reduce and can lead to higher noise.

Optical/Digital Zoom

Always look for how much Optical Zoom the camera has got. Do not give a damn about the digital zoom. Always go for a  higher optical zoom. When the optical zoom is more than 3X, its a good idea to have a camera with Image Stabilization (IS). There are two types of image stabilization, Optical and Digital. Most of the time, optical is better.

Movie Capture

If you are going to be capturing videos frequently, get a camera that captures HD movies. The good thing bout cameras that can capture HD movie is that they will also support lower resolutions such as 640x480px and 320x240px. Make sure the camera can zoom and auto focus while the movie is being recorded. If the camera doesn’t have these two features, the HD movie feature is pretty much useless.

Extra Features

Features like extended shutter delay, extended ISO, water proofing and the like can be found in many cameras. Give them necessary points if they help your purpose. Many of the Canon cameras can be feature enhanced with CHDK. You can check it on their website. They allow you to unlock features of your camera without voiding the warranty. And they do not make any permanent changes, it can be reverted any time you need.

Always remember, that great pictures are taken by great photographers, not necessarily with great cameras. The camera is only a tool, you are the one who is taking the pictures. If you have a buddy who is into photography, ask for his help.

Points to note while upgrading to an LCD flat panel display

An LCD flat panel display is much better for your eyes if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer. If you spend a little more money than a CRT monitor you can get a sleek ,light and less power hungry LCD TFT display. I was recently searching for an LCD monitor and finally bought the HP 1908w 19″. So I was forced to do a little research (lol) in the area. I am sharing it because some of you may get some benefit from it.

HP 1908w TFT screen

Size :

If you are using the LCD for daily work and not for group entertainment (like a movie) you will not need much larger than a 19″ screen (or may be 22″ if you go that far).

Aspect ration :

Aspect ratio is the ratio of width and height of your screen. 4:3 means for 4 units of width 3 units of height is taken (like 1024x 768 is 256x4 and 256x3). If you like to use your monitor mainly to watch movies go for a 16:10 wide screen aspect ratio. You can get 16:9 also on some Samsung models. If you plan to use it mainly for document editing and office work it would be better to go for an aspect ratio of 5:4 (10280×1024).

Response time :

Response time would not be much of a concern to you unless you are a die hard gamer. If you are then go for something like 5ms or faster (3ms). The Gray to Gray response time is more of a use to the customer actualy.

Contrast :

To put it in simple terms contrast is the intensity difference between Black and White pixels. Go for higher contrast.

Brightness :

Here also the higher the better. but never settle for anything lower than approximately 280cd/m^2.

Connectors :

VGA the 15 pin connector is a standard. Go for DVI or even HDMI ports. Here even if you don’t have a graphics card that supports DVI you can use the monitor with the VGA cable. (VGA is th 12 pin connector – normally blue that you can connect to the onboard graphics of any computer).

Price :

Here in India you can get a decent 19″ LCD screen for upward of 220 US dollars. If you need more features you got to spend more.

Bottom Line

Go for LCD monitors as they provide you with maximum screen size(viewable) in any size class. If you are a professional designer or something there are only very few LCD TFT screens that can compete with CRTs as of now. Search for more than three manufacturers and in more as many shops as you can. Always ask for a demo of the product if you haven’t seen one of the models before. Use the monitor in a dark room also if possible. Play a movie and also ask for the warranty details.