Cool digital camera?
October 3, 2012 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Fun, artistic digital camera for a gift?

My girlfriend has hinted she wants a digital camera for her birthday this year. I want to get her one but I know nothing about cameras and I'm overwhelmed by the information online! She hasn't had a camera before so I want to get something that's fun and easy to use. It needs to be relatively durable, as she's on the road a lot. She makes a lot of abstract visual art and I have noticed she really enjoys playing with color/distortion/zoom filters to photos on her phone...are there cameras where you can do this on the device rather than in software later? I would like to spend less than $300 but if that's totally unrealistic I am fine with knowing that too. Thanks!

(Anonymous cause she sometimes reads metafilter and I wanna preserve the surprise...)
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
An iPod Touch with a photo app would provide a lot of flexibility, particularly as newer apps bring in newer features. You can get one under your budget.

Current apps offer different kinds of manipulation options. The iOS Photo Apps blog can provide some help with researching apps and features.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:12 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

An iPod Touch cannot compare to a real camera...

I'd suggest checking HERE for hints... just pick one of the better reviewed cameras, and she'll be ecstatic!
posted by newfers at 4:34 PM on October 3, 2012

What you need to do is probe further: you need to find out whether she values flexibility and quality over compactness. Because if she is looking for one, the other will not do no matter how good it is. A pocket digicam isn't going to do arty kinds of photos, and a clunky thing with a giant lens isn't going to fit in a pocket for the occasional happy snap.

I'd probably pick a point-n-shoot with a fairly beefy zoom lens (one that goes super wide). Or one of the new Nikon 1 types of cameras with removable lenses. She already has a pocket sized camera in her cell phone.
posted by gjc at 4:39 PM on October 3, 2012

If, as Blazecock Pileon suggested, an iPod Touch is within your budget, I totally agree.

I have been a professional photographer for over 35 years. My working equipment is all very high end stuff, and I have tons of it. I've also had very nice "walking around and shoot personal stuff" cameras. Really nice stuff!

My recent iPhone 4s purchase has given me more pure fun and creative incentive than I've had in ages.

The beauty of an iOS device, for anybody interested in taking fun pictures, is the absolute TON of camera and post production apps that are not only available, but are either free or incredibly cheap.

Plus, once she's logged on to a WiFi network, she'll be able to share her creations immediately.

I am currently in the process of ridding myself of all of my "casual use" camera equipment, which is in today's market worth a couple of thousand dollars, because I am so totally hooked on iOS stuff for my non-revenue generating photography.
posted by imjustsaying at 4:42 PM on October 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Check out the Fuji W3 - it is a 3D camera with 3D screen (pics can also be saved as 2D)
It has manual controls. Downside is that it's not that durable, you don't want to drop it or get it wet.
posted by anon4now at 4:50 PM on October 3, 2012

I just picked up a Canon SX230hs for traveling that I've been super happy with. I have a full-size DSLR but I was looking for something that would fit in my purse, but that still had good zoom capability (similar to gjc's suggestion above). It's easy to use as a simple point-and-shoot and has a good assortment of features and filters, plus the settings can be adjusted manually as well if she's interested in experimenting more with learning some general photography skills. It also takes surprisingly good video. It's really a great little camera with a ton of flexibility.

You can find it for about $200 online. I'd take the rest of your budget and invest in a few accessories like a 16GB memory card, a spare battery (off-brand is fine, the Canon batteries are way overpriced) and a small carrying bag for it. With all that she should be off and running!
posted by platinum at 4:51 PM on October 3, 2012

I would suggest against the iPod Touch. The older ones have a .7 megapixel camera, which is awful. The new models (not sure if they are out yet) will be 5 megapixel, which is ok, but not great, these days. I would suggest a Canon Powershot ELPH 320 or 520. Good image quality, small camera size, and they should run about $200 to $250. I purchased an older one for my wife a few years back, and she loved it.
posted by The Castle at 4:57 PM on October 3, 2012

When I was looking for a pocket camera, I got myself a used lumix lx3. It has a leica lens and just feels nice in your hand and can be got for under $200. I've heard good things about the canons platinum links to as well.

From my research, the closest thing to a camera that's built like instragram is a Joco vx5/yashica EZ f521. But keep in mind that it's really just a crappy digital camera with built in effects. They LOOK nifty, and I've sure been tempted, but they're probably not worth the price.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:50 PM on October 3, 2012

This doesn't do filters, etc, but if you want a killer digital camera for under $300, I strongly recommend the Canon Powershot S90/95/100. If you're willing to buy used or refurbed, you can get them for under $200--I bought mine at about $220, and would've been delighted at twice the price.

I take ok photos, but really feel like this camera took me to the next level--like now I consistently hit better-than-ok, if not actually good. Even casual snaps that my kid takes come out amazingly well. My mom and I spent a day comparing the shots my camera took to the ones hers did, and mine was the winner every time. It handles low light, quick motion, etc, etc, and it does so remarkably well. Cannot say enough good things about it.
posted by MeghanC at 6:42 PM on October 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

A pocket digicam isn't going to do arty kinds of photos

I'd have to disagree with you there, sailor. Art comes out of the photographer — not the device.

My best photos over the past 25 years have come from handmade shoeboxes, point & shoots, my old hand-me-down Voigtlanders, my ancient Balda, borrowed 4x5s... basically anything that I had in my hands at the time. But most especially my point & shoots. In other words, any camera you give her is going to make her take photos, and the art is absolutely dependent upon HER — not the cam.

Art is one thing you don't have/want to throw too much money/tech at. Offer her the opportunity to work for it. Spend what you can afford, and she'll discover the value on her own; therein lies the real gift.

A point & shoot will help her find her legs. I recommend them for that reason alone. I'm so not a camera snob, at all, because I know where art comes from. Listen to imjustsaying/Blazecock. MeghanC is correct, also; the Canons she's recommending are good.

Her next camera will be her choice. But I'd start her out with a challenge if you want to see art come out of her. She'll love that if she's serious. The equipment, paradoxically, is nearly inconsequential.
posted by heyho at 1:51 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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